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Politicians want unions to be accountable?

Dyson Heydon and Tony Abbott want union officials to be held as accountable as company directors. Personally I would like company directors also held to a higher standard and I would like to see our politicians held to the same transparency and accountability.

After all, what is the difference between a politician claiming entitlements for dubious expenses and a union official, or a party executive, using a credit card for same?  What is the difference between a company director lying to shareholders, or a union official lying to members, and a politician lying to the electorate?

Government funds are our money. Citizens are the ones who entrusted their taxes to the government to be spent in our best interests – we are the members.

Abbott talks about deals and kickbacks between unions and employers – how about the deals between politicians and big business?

John Howard misled the parliament over meetings he had held with ethanol producer Manildra’s boss – massive Liberal Party donor Dick Honan. It was eventually proved that the meetings did occur, and three weeks later the government increased trade penalties against a Brazilian ethanol producer.

Peter Costello, the Treasurer, appointed Liberal Party megadonor Robert Gerard to the Reserve Bank board despite being told by Mr Gerard that he was involved in a 14-year-long tax evasion dispute with the Australian Taxation Office.

Peter Reith was appointed as a consultant to defence contractor Tenix immediately after resigning as defence minister.

Health minister Michael Wooldridge signed a $5 million building deal for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and days later, after resigning as health minister, was employed by the college as a consultant.

It was the appointment of Alexander Downer as an adviser to Woodside Petroleum in his years after politics that caused a former ASIS operator to blow the whistle on the bugging of the East Timor parliamentary offices. His is one of the passports that has been confiscated by the fearless Brandis and Bishop team who are keeping us safe from terrorism….and scrutiny.

Look at the members of Joe Hockey’s North Sydney Forum and then consider the laws that have been revoked and enacted and proposed since the Coalition came to office.

Today we hear that the government are advertising for new board members for the NDIS.

Laura Tingle, in an article headlined National Disability Insurance Scheme board discovers their jobs are being advertised by reading the newspaper,writes:

“Today’s effort from Tony Abbott is just the latest attempt to erode the voice, advocacy and support for people with disability. Instead of getting on with the rollout of this transformative scheme, Tony Abbott is focussed on getting jobs for his mates in big business.”

When Labor and the unions rightly point out that the China Free Trade Agreement does not explicitly require mandatory labour market testing, they are labelled as racist xenophobes and told to get out of the way, despite both unions and the Labor Party being largely in favour of the agreement. Questions are met with hysterical hyperbole from a government who sees any criticism or concern as an attack that must be shot down along with the questioner.

To be clear here, these are the exact words in the China–Australia Free Trade Agreement that the Coalition government has negotiated. They cover all Chinese nationals in the standard 457 visa program for skilled workers and “installers and servicers” of machinery and equipment on shorter-term 400 visas.

Paragraph 3 of Article 10.4: Grant of Temporary Entry states that Australia shall not:

  1. a) Impose or maintain any limitations on the total number of visas to be granted to natural persons of the other party: or
  2. b) Require labour-market testing, economic needs testing or other procedures of similar effect as a condition for temporary entry.

The Age gives a very good explanation of how Andrew Robb is misleading us.

If the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is implemented as it stands, the Australian government will give up the right to require labour-market testing for all Chinese nationals sponsored for standard 457 visas and “installers and servicers” on 400 visas. It will also give up the right to put any cap on the number of 457 or 400 visas.

The government has negotiated two documents: one is the free trade agreement and the other is a memorandum of understanding concerning an Investment Facilitation Agreement (IFA) for infrastructure projects. The latter is not part of the free trade agreement.

The memorandum of understanding includes provisions similar to Labour’s Enterprise Migration Agreements, none of which were ever implemented. Under these provisions employers on mining construction mega-projects could sponsor semi-skilled foreign workers and skilled workers with lower English language than under the regular 457 visa regulations. These “concessional” 457 workers were additional to the standard skilled 457 workers on these projects.

The memorandum on IFAs accompanying the free trade agreement says the Australian government may require labour-market testing by direct employers on the infrastructure projects before hiring these concessional semi-skilled and skilled 457 visa workers.

In late July the government said all direct employers on IFA projects would have to undertake a version of “labour-market testing”, but only for the concessional Chinese 457 visa workers (not mainstream skilled 457s or 400 visa workers).

To reiterate then, under the free trade agreement, labour-market testing will not be required for Chinese nationals sponsored by Chinese or any other enterprise legally established in Australia for all mainstream 457 visas, and all 400 visas used by Chinese “installers and servicers”.

So, the only Chinese workers who would be labour-market tested are the concessional 457 visa workers on the infrastructure projects.  This is because the treaty provision takes precedence over Australian legislation.

The IFA also sets a very low bar for Chinese worker access to concessional 457 visas on infrastructure projects. The labour-market testing needed to access these visas is not rigorous, because it will allow employers to hire Chinese semi-skilled 457 workers up to 20 months after they stop advertising the jobs.

It seems to me that it is the unions who are telling us the truth here. The shroud of secrecy surrounding FTAs and the increasingly vitriolic abuse of anyone who dares raise a question indicates the government is the one with something to hide.

The government is the one who told us there would be no cuts to health or education or the ABC. They also said there would be no changes to the GST and that they would deliver the NDIS on schedule and in full.

Abbott is pinning his electioneering on “who do you trust”.

My immediate response is certainly not you!

 

25 comments

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  1. babyjewels10

    My thoughts exactly!

  2. M-R

    I hope he sticks to “Who do your trust ?” – he is so patently untrustworthy that it would afford us no end of opportunity.

  3. yackphil

    It has all gone very quiet on the politicians’ expenses review front. I imagine the snouts are still very much in the trough and the recent clamor has been forgotten. What are we to do ….

  4. kizhmet

    Thank you Kaye Lee. These issues need to be exposed. I was appalled by Abbott’s histrionics at Bill Shorten in Parliament. Surely unreasonably denouncing someone as rascist/xenophobic breaches code of ethics/conduct? Too much to expect the newly installed speaker would call for a retraction of such defamatory comments.

    The conditions of the these FTAs scare me witless. Australia’s sovereignty being whittled away one piece at a time. Globalisation will overtake us before we know what happened if these morons stay in.

  5. Kaye Lee

    kizhmet,

    The Speaker ruled it ok under the description “robust”. I find nothing fit and healthy about that sort of ridiculous hyperbole in answer to reasonable concerns.

  6. diannaart

    what is the difference between a politician claiming entitlements for dubious expenses and a union official, or a party executive, using a credit card for same? What is the difference between a company director lying to shareholders, or a union official lying to members, and a politician lying to the electorate?

    The Liars’ Club has double standards?

  7. Kaye Lee

    Lying is rewarded and propaganda pays off.

    “The Institute of Public Affairs is in the running to win an international prize for its role in repealing the carbon tax.

    The rightwing thinktank is a finalist for the $US100,000 (A$142,000) Templeton Freedom award, granted by American non-profit organisation the Atlas Network.

    A glowing description of the IPA’s campaign strategy against the carbon tax – which was passed under the Gillard government in 2011 and repealed by the Abbott government in 2014 – is detailed on the Atlas Network website.

    The report lauded the IPA’s influence in the Australian media landscape. “Starting from the day the tax was announced, the IPA took an active role in the mainstream media to counter the misinformation that advocates of the carbon tax were peddling,” the report reads.

    “The IPA’s research and analysis of the economics underpinning the case for the carbon tax appeared in print media outlets 209 times between Jan 1, 2010, and July 31, 2014.

    “IPA research scholars also featured on radio and television stations around Australia, with 363 radio appearances between 2008 and 2013 and 261 television appearances in the same time frame.”

    The report praised the effectiveness of the then IPA policy director Tim Wilson’s efforts in representing a “contrarian perspective”.

    IPA’s deputy executive director, James Paterson, is quoted in the report saying revenue raised by the carbon tax was used to “grow the welfare state, subsidise politically favoured industries and engage in economy-wide welfare distribution”.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/sep/03/thinktank-institute-of-public-affairs-up-for-prize-for-role-in-repealing-carbon-tax

    I thought the reason they wanted to strip charitable status from environmental groups was because they were engaging in political advocacy. But the IPA is a legitimate research organisation I suppose?

  8. Julianne

    He who shouts loudest – turn him over first.
    “Abbott talks about deals and kickbacks between unions and employers – how about the deals between politicians and big business?”
    Well stated!
    Liberals have their Unions too – “consortium, institute, fraternity, professional association, affiliation, alliance, club, coalition, company, confederation, congress, cooperative, corporation, federation, guild, organization, partnership, society, syndicate, chamber of commerce” and they are just as, if not more corrupt than those of Labor, its just that they currently own the media and the Govt so we never get a chance to put them in front of a Royal Commission.
    Corruption comes with power and money left to its own hidden devices. Therefore the Unions will never get past the annoying stage because they always have Liberal watch dogs on them. Its just politically the done thing to run a Royal commission into them every Liberal Term . Most times it has turned up more Liberal corruption than anything else.

  9. Mark Needham

    Was Robert Gerard “Avoiding” tax, or had he been advised that sales tax on certain components was not applicable. ?
    There was a dispute, but not what you are implying, Kaye Lee. We, You and I, can have a dispute with the Tax Office. That does not mean, you have done anything illegal. It merely says that you are in disagreement with the Tax Office, doesn’t it?
    Mark Needham

  10. Pingback: Politicians want unions to be accountable? – Written by KAYE LEE | winstonclose

  11. Kaye Lee

    Mark,

    I must admit I know nothing about the case. I was quoting from Senator John Faulkner who wrote a very informative piece on the tenth anniversary of the Howard government about government accountability. Regardless of the tax dispute, appointing party donors to such positions is not a good look.

    http://www.senatorjohnfaulkner.com.au/file.php?file=/news/HQRYPBHXRQ/index.html

  12. Neil of Sydney

    John Faulkner is not to be trusted. He said this

    the rorting of the $500 million Regional Partnerships program, with massively disproportionate grants being allocated to coalition seats

    Unfortunately for Faulkner i have read up on this topic. The Coalition got 70% of the grants in the Regional Partnerships Program for the simple reason they had 70% of the seats in regional Australia.

    Faulkner is not to be trusted.

  13. David Bruce

    Despite what the Australian Government leaders say, the adults are not in charge; the inmates are running the asylum! One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest comes to mind… They even have their own Nurse Mildred Ratched Credlin to take care of them in Canberra! 🙂

  14. Ross in Gippsland

    In regard to any project being undertaken by any foreign consortium in this country the question is what is the project language, meaning the specifications, drawings etc. If the project language was say Chinese few people in Australia would be able to decipher anything. Much cheaper to import labour who can actually read the original drawings.
    When working for a certain major American oil company on international projects the project language is always English or in reality American English. Local workers are required to reach a certain level of proficiency in the English language to work for said American company. This not really a bad thing, wonder if the same applies here for Chinese companies.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Neil,

    Whilst you make a reasonable point about regional Australia, the fund was not set up to be used by Howard for an election campaign. It’s the timing of the splurge and what it was spent on that makes it obvious pork-barrelling.

  16. keerti

    Neil of Sydney, it is not the job of government to provide grants to it’s own electorates, only. All voters in all seats are eligible for a fair distribution of grants available.

  17. Bronte ALLAN

    Sure, “investigate” Unions, but DO NOT stop there! Investigate ALL companies, their CEO’S (especially what they get paid!), how much tax (if any!) they pay etc. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Of course there would be some Unions/Officials who “bend” the rules or whatever, but I bet there are even more CEO’s/companies who bend the rules!

  18. George White

    You forgot Alex Downers appointment as a consultant to the oil company that benefited from his negotiations with East Timor over boundaries – the same negotiations he used Australia’s intelligence services to spy on the East Timorese during the same negotiations

  19. Kaye Lee

    George,

    You must have missed this paragraph….

    “It was the appointment of Alexander Downer as an adviser to Woodside Petroleum in his years after politics that caused a former ASIS operator to blow the whistle on the bugging of the East Timor parliamentary offices. His is one of the passports that has been confiscated by the fearless Brandis and Bishop team who are keeping us safe from terrorism….and scrutiny.”

  20. mars08

    Let’s not forget that ASIO officers seized computers and documents belonging to the Australian lawyer presenting East Timor’s case against Woodside. The documents were to be used as evidence of Australia planting bugs in the wall of the East Timor government’s cabinet room.

  21. concerned

    I reported serious abuses of civil rights in Australia to a number of politicians including senators and NSW members of Parliament. Most of them did not even bother to acknowledge my complaint. Two politicians requested for more information, I provided them with all the documents and that was it, they did not respond. What should I do?

  22. Kaye Lee

    Contact the Human Rights Commission?

  23. concerned

    Kaye, it is a very serious matter. No government agency/department will ever do anything about it. If you don’t mind, I can send you some documents.

  24. Mark

    Who doesn’t want tp make politicians and the parties they represent responsible for their actions?

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