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MEAA issues wish list over proposed media reforms

The union which oversees its member journalists and others involved with media and creative arts in Australia has issued a list of concerns in conjunction with two major media reform-related actions, less than a fortnight away from the federal Parliament convening for the first time in 2021.

The Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA), in a pair of general statements speaking for the position of the entire organisation, has forwarded its submission for the Senate Media Diversity inquiry as well as a separate submission aimed at the News Media Bargaining Code Bill (2020).

The latter submission – put forth just on the Senate’s closing date of January 18 – has the MEAA playing its part to contend with the presence of digital giants such as Facebook and Google, and ensuring that the Silicon Valley giants pay Australian media providers fairly for running their content.

The flow of funds into directly producing domestic content, via bargaining agreements between any of the digital giants and any single domestic-based media provider, and the fear of negotiations breaking down or not possessing its intended results of renumeration exists as one of the MEAA’s collective fears over the bill.

“MEAA objects to the Code’s incorporation of a two-way value exchange principle will diminish the Code’s effective operation. It is an unreasonable concession by the [Morrison] government,” the union said in its submission.

The MEAA would also like some form of explanation, in economic or mathematical formulas or otherwise, as to how individual media outlets will be compensated by Facebook or Google to run their content.

“MEAA is unaware of any reliable means of rationally calculating the ‘benefits’ of Google and Facebook referring traffic to news company websites. It is an overly-elastic concept that is barely articulated or defined in the bill,” the MEAA says.

“In MEAA’s opinion, this measure will frustrate bargaining and resolution of disputes about the value of news content carried by Google and Facebook. MEAA submits that this concession be dispensed with, or at the very least, critically evaluated during the mandatory review scheduled within one year of the Code’s commencement,” the union added.

In the former submission, the Senate media diversity inquiry to be chaired by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the MEAA provided a list of areas of recommendation that it would like to see covered when the inquiry commences.

  • Amend competition and other laws to prevent mergers that lead to more harmful levels of media concentration
  • The Australian government must urgently progress the Mandatory News Media Bargaining Code and extend the operation of the Public Interest News Gathering (PING) program
  • The Australian government should review and adapt critical measures recommended in the United Kingdom and Canada such as: directly funding local news; offering taxation rebates and incentives; and part-funding editorial positions
  • Government assistance should be reset to ensure funding is available for new media organisations, as well as traditional media companies
  • Public broadcasters must be funded in a way that acknowledges the need to provide comprehensive, high-quality cross-platform media content in all parts of Australia
  • The future of the AAP should be sustained through regular, annual relief grants
  • And the regulation of media content should be strengthened and overseen by a single entity

“2020 [saw] the best and the worst of Australia’s media,” the MEAA has observed.

“Australians have relied on journalists and news outlets [in 2020] in a way that hasn’t been experienced in many years.

“It has shown public interest reporting at its finest,” the MEAA adds.

However, the MEAA, in its dot-points of desires for the Senate inquiry, it observes that a paradox exists where while news organisations are breaking new ground in public interest journalism and reporting, economic declines among news organisations remain a part of a stark reality in the journalism industry, as evidenced in a decade-long trend.

And just like with the News Media Bargaining Code Bill, the presence and impact of digital giants such as Facebook and Google looms large.

Previously, layoffs of editorial positions in the thousands have occurred in the last ten years, and 1000 of those job losses in 2020 alone, which the MEAA has tied into the influence of digital publishing as well as a lack of diversity in the mass media in Australia.

“The loss of these journalists, sub-editors, photographers and other positions – and in many cases the mastheads that once employed them – means fewer outlets are covering matters of public interest and significance. In our view this has led to a dangerous fall in media diversity,” the organisation added.

Moreover, the MEAA is also concerned with the lack of ethical conduct of media organisations, and in the mainstream in particular, and has tied this into the lack of diversity and competition therein.

“The power of the few is not always wielded in a responsible or ethical way. In some instances, it has led to a rise in news coverage where the veracity of content is often untested and where ‘balance’ in news reporting can equate to the publication of meritless or misleading arguments,” the MEAA stated.

The MEAA has also implored that integrity issues – particularly in the reputation around the tabloid culture represented in the mainstream media – need to be discussed in the Senate inquiry, or any debate on media reform.

“In a truly plural media environment, the capacity of one voice to steer public opinion in a particular way is limited. In Australia, getting one powerful voice offside can have damaging consequences,” the MEAA stated.

“Where too few voices dominate the media landscape, journalists have reduced job options and might be forced to stay at an outlet because of a lack of opportunities.

“In order to keep their jobs, some inevitably feel pressured to abide by editorial preferences they might not be comfortable with, or which run contrary to the MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics,” the MEAA added.

The Senate inquiry, as well as debates on the News Media Bargaining Code Bill, could occur at any time after the federal Parliament reconvenes from its summer break as early as February 2, subject to a drafting of an agenda of items.

Nonetheless, these two legislative matters – and the MEAA’s potential to use its influence upon shaping them – illustrate that media reform areas will emerge as a hot-button topic throughout 2021.

 

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Overcome threats, halve insecure work numbers: McManus

While the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) waits alongside the country’s working classes with baited breath on the Morrison government’s resolution bill on industrial relations reforms, it has called upon the federal government to cut the rates of insecure workers in half within the next ten years.

Sally McManus, the ACTU’s national secretary, in an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, outlined in detail the reasons for these demands and goals, and how they can be achieved.

“Many employer groups and some in government have actually refused to acknowledge the facts of the widespread nature of work insecurity and the ways in which it disadvantages people,” McManus told the NPC’s lunchtime assembly in her speech.

“And there are others that even argue that more insecure work is good.

“As a country we cannot hide from it anymore. This is an issue our generation can and must fix,” McManus added.

McManus was also an integral participant in the industrial relations reform negotiations – after forming what was seen as an unlikely alliance in March with federal Attorney-General Christian Porter, who doubles in the Morrison government’s cabinet as its industrial relations minister as well – and she admitted that the government’s solutions to the impasses that resulted in that five-month process earlier in the year are on the way.

“We are told that the government’s IR omnibus bill is imminent,” McManus said, while Porter admitted that the terms of that bill may be coming as early as next week.

Those talks, which McManus has said that the unions and the government entered in a spirit of good faith and thereby has described as “challenging”, do provide a bit of context about how the ACTU can reach their goals towards drastically reducing numbers of insecure workers.

“Two things have happened to unions during this pandemic. Firstly, nearly every union has grown in membership, despite job losses, as workers looked to their union and the union movement for protection and support,” said McManus.

“Secondly, the union movement has had its national role returned to where it should always have been – as a widely accepted part of Australia’s civil society, and a trusted social partner for governments and businesses.

“This consultation and cooperation must not only belong to the pandemic – it must become business as usual again in Australia as it makes us better as a country,” added McManus.

In a sharp, marked contrast to the “Change The Rules” campaign which was run for two years leading up to the 2019 federal election, where it was predicated upon winning upper and lower house seats to affect the government’s balance of power as a more likely pathway towards influencing new industrial relations legislation, the mindset now exists to work with the government in power in good faith negotiations, regardless of whoever is in government.

“Governments and employers may not always like, or agree with what we have to say, but decision making is improved when our capacity, as well as workers experience and perspective are at the table,” said McManus.

“If we are good enough to be relied upon during a crisis, if we are trustworthy enough to have in the room facing a pandemic, if unions were needed to get us through the toughest of times – surely the voice of working people has a place at the table in an ongoing way,” she added.

McManus says that a spirit of “leave no one behind” – which she opened her NPC speech with, citing Australians’ commitment to collectivism as the nucleus behind a social contract – will serve as an essential element to achieve goals around insecure work.

According to the McKell Institute, the statistics around insecure work reflect one in four workers classified as casual workers and as many as four million workers being either casual, part-time, or under-employed, or even as many as 2.1 million workers holding more than one casual job at any time or even throughout the year in an effort to make ends meet.

The ACTU said earlier this year about the state of insecure work:

Employers use casual and other insecure work arrangements to cover entire work functions. For many employers, it’s now a business model. Our work laws have made it more and more difficult to protect permanent work. The result is an emerging class of workers without jobs they can count on. They have no sick leave, no holidays, no job security, little bargaining power and severely reduced capacity to get home loans. Casualisation and insecure work have led to Australia having more inequality now than at any time on record.

“We would rather be working with employers and government on the big issues that help to grow our economy and strengthen the safety net – lifting all Australians up by driving down unemployment levels, by saving and creating jobs, improving wages, making work from home a shared opportunity for employers and employees, increasing workforce participation through free childcare, supporting dignified retirement incomes for workers, and planning for good high skilled jobs in Australian manufacturing.

“A genuine national economic reconstruction plan,” said McManus, regarding the general terms of the scheme which the ACTU is likely to forge to counter the ongoing trends and qualities around insecure work.

However, for as helpful as it could potentially be, the white elephant in the room may also very well surround the government’s bill on industrial relations reform.

It may be a threat to the ACTU’s goals, but they likewise welcome it as a first step forward.

“We are concerned that the industrial relations omnibus legislation, will indeed seek to take rights off workers, that it will punish the very people who have already sacrificed so much,” said McManus.

“Any taking away of rights, any attempt to weaken workers protections is a weakening of our social contract and will be resisted by the union movement,” she added.

 

 

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Aged care’s pandemic reply still a mess, unions say

The Morrison government has failed to respond specifically to the findings of the recent Aged Care Royal Commission and the problem points and issues revealed from it – and the longer which that persists, especially on the findings specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, the longer the crisis over the aged care sector will go on, members of Australia’s union movement said on Tuesday.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) asserted that the government – specifically aimed at Prime Minister Scott Morrison and indicted by association, Greg Hunt, the government’s health minister, and Richard Colbeck, the government’s minister for aged care – will not address shortages and shortcomings in providing responses to staffing levels, training or transparency within the aged care system.

“This Government needs to take responsibility for the years of understaffing and low wages in aged care. There have been 685 preventable deaths caused by COVID-19,” said Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s president.

“In the midst of a crisis in aged care which has been exacerbated by a pandemic, aged care workers need more funding, and they need that funding to be tied to outcomes for staff and residents so it cuts through the bloated for-profit system.

“Yesterday, the Morrison Government opposed legislation to require aged care providers to publicly report on how they spend their revenue. Accountability for government funding is long overdue,”

O’Neil and the ACTU were responding specifically to an announcement on Monday from Hunt regarding a $132.2 million investment package which, in representing the government’s official response to the findings of the Aged Care Royal Commission as it pertains to the needs brought on by the pandemic, included a detailed breakdown of spendings on top of a $245 million funding in August.

“This investment directly addresses issues raised by the Aged Care Royal Commission and will improve and support the health and wellbeing of aged care residents most significantly impacted by COVID-19,” said Hunt upon announcing the new package of investment.

“For our aged care sector, the revised plan allows flexibility to manage individual situations in each state and territory [and] also builds on and consolidates the critical and successful work already undertaken by the Commonwealth government,” said Hunt.

Colbeck said that the current updated plan attached to the new investment was created upon conjunction with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s Aged Care Advisory Group (ACAG), thereby meeting one of the Royal Commission’s aims.

“While we hope there won’t be further COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care facilities or in home care, if it does happen, key learnings will inform the future work of the ACAG and be shared with the aged care sector,” said Colbeck.

Previously, Annie Butler, the national secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), said that her union had welcomed the six basic conclusions from the Aged Care Royal Commission’s findings, but still fears that maximum protections for older Australians living in nursing homes and aged care facilities will not be met.

“Nursing homes desperately need additional nurses and care staff to provide safe, effective care outcomes for residents, not just to enable more visitors,” Butler said in October, shortly after the Royal Commission’s findings were released.

“While that is critical for the wellbeing of residents, more staff are urgently needed just to meet basic needs for residents in far too many nursing homes.

“Our members have been on the frontline during the pandemic and have witnessed how it has stretched staff and resources even further, again demonstrating the importance of having sufficient staffing levels and skills mix, to cope with intensified demands and workloads,” added Butler.

O’Neil suggested that the government utilise a quota-based system which possesses a variety of skill sets to suit the needs of a maligned aged care sector, whose shortcomings in a privatised status continue to be greatly exposed during the pandemic.

“The crisis in aged care won’t be turned around by one announcement, this government shows no commitment to the long-term change which it has been told again and again is necessary,” said O’Neil.

“We need minimum staffing levels with a mandated mix of skills on every shift in every workplace. This announcement takes us no closer to this goal.

“Mandated training requirements are urgently needed to ensure that workers and residents are safe. This announcement will do nothing to improve training,” O’Neil added.

Butler suggested that any additional funding, regardless of when it would become available, be used in a targeted budget approach in intended areas rather than a government-based value-for-money tactic would be of better use to the sector.

“We welcome the recommendation for immediate additional funding, but reiterate the need for greater transparency for any additional government funding, because aged care providers must be held accountable – and actually use the money for its intended purpose of employing additional nurses and carers for the depleted sector,” she said.

Ultimately, O’Neil languishes at the likes of Hunt and Colbeck failing to adhere to finding common ground between the Aged Care Royal Commission’s findings and the needs of the aged care sector itself.

“We have been willing to work with the Morrison government on this issue. So it is deeply regrettable that they continue to ignore the expertise of the workers in the sector,” said O’Neil.

 

 

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I Just Want A Sally McManus T-Shirt!

I don’t know about you, but I have not felt like this in a long time! Sally McManus is a real life hero. Sally is a bringer of hope.

It Cuts Deep

Equality and fairness cut very deep for me. I was one of six children and my father was on the disability pension. I was raised in housing commission in a regional town, in Queensland. One thing my Father used to say to me is, “On the pension, you can’t improve. This is it. There is no more money than what they give you.’ I understood life was different for us.

From the moment I could read, I took a keen interest in politics. I would sit at the table and trawl through the Australian and Courier Mail, turning the pages (which were almost as big as the table). Amongst the political stories, I searched for hope.

I would stare intently at photos of Malcolm Fraser and Joh Bjelke Petersen. Through the eyes of a child, they did not even have kind faces. They looked important but uncaring.

Day after day, there were never any stories about hope for kids like me, or for mums and dads like mine. Did they not see us? Did they not know we were here?

A New World of Fairness

One day, I was sitting cross legged in the middle of the lounge room floor (like you do as an eleven-year-old). A man appeared on the television and he was talking about fairness.

The feeling I had inside was overwhelming. I felt very, very emotional. Finally, in the world of huge newspapers and two television channels, here was one of those important men on the television, but I liked him. He was so much different.

I do not remember his exact words, (I am sure there will be a speech somewhere), but this man said that he would fight to make sure everyone was equal. He would make things fair.

I knew he understood us, without even knowing us. He saw us.

I turned around to Dad and said, “Who is that man?”

“That man is Bob Hawke. He was head of the ACTU. He’s a very smart man and by God Ish, he knows what he is doing. Bob Hawke is going to be our Prime Minister one day.”

In the world of six o’clock news and huge newspapers, I finally existed.

I drew his words in.

Finally, I had hope.

I felt hope.

Starved of Hope

As I have travelled through life since Bob Hawke, I have not felt that same moment of overwhelming hope. Of being seen.

My first real understanding of the opposite of Bob Hawke was John Howard and Work Choices. My first real protest was fighting against Individual Contracts imposed on University workers.

The Howard Era for me was an era of oppression. Of really pushing the working class to the floor. Of making sure if something went wrong, it was too bad. Suck it up losers! A world thrust upon us where we could not speak up and find justice if wronged. We just had to ‘cop whatever employers decided to give us.’ Even the sack.

It didn’t matter if you were loyal, or really good at your job and worked hard, the threat of the sack loomed dark over everyone’s heads and you could tell others felt it every day too. They were dark times.

I will never ever forget Work Choices. Ever.

Still Starving

The night Kevin Rudd won office, I was deliriously happy. To cut a long story short, I was still sitting on the footpath at six in the morning.

Although Rudd knocked down the bad guy. I never had that same feeling of hope. No emotions stirred within me. I was not looking up to a man fighting for fairness. The same with Gillard.

Tony Abbott destroyed my soul. Enough said. I don’t need to explain.

Malcolm Turnbull has the personality and empathy of a cardboard box. One thing you pick up on when you grow up poor is fake people. His fakeness – his insincerity demoralises me on a daily basis, because every single day, I think of today’s kids that are kids like I was. He never will understand the world these kids live in.

I was starved of hope again. The desire to feel hope again was strong.

Sally

Fast forward to 2017. The biggest news was Sally McManus was the first female secretary of the ACTU. I had waited all day for her interview on ABC 7.30 Report.

Leigh Sales, a journalist known for interrupting Labor politicians was the interviewer. I felt trepidation. What games would be played? Was the aim to tear down another woman? Did Sales have trick questions up her sleeve? Would Sales cut Sally off to leave misinterpretations hanging in the air?

I watched intently as Sally answered the questions. A calm, clear, steely resolve. An explicit air of knowing her stuff. Of intelligence, higher thought and compassion. A voice of fairness.

Traits I search for in women to admire were before me in abundance. I was stoked!

The emotions that welled inside me, took me back to my childhood sitting on the floor. Here I was sitting, in the lounge room again, watching ABC again and hearing words about the ACTU and fairness again. But this time, it was a woman. How good is this, Right?

Then the words boomed out of the screen….

“It is okay for workers to break unjust laws.”

I drew her words in.

Finally, I had hope.

I felt hope.

I Just Want a Sally McManus T-Shirt

Ever since this day, I have watched intently and Sally McManus is everywhere. Fighting the good fight. Travelling all over Australia. Standing with workers. Speaking words of hope. Fighting for workers. Standing in Solidarity with the unemployed. Fighting for all of us. Knocking down walls. Smashing the insidious thought that has permeated our culture since Howard, that “Workers will get what they are given.”

Telling us to stand together to not back down. A consistent strong unwavering message of hope and fairness, every, single day. Every, single day.

My desire to feel hope is finally fed.

An iteration of Howard and Work Choices will never ever rise again under Sally’s watch.

And that makes me feel bloody good. For me and for kids today who were like kids like me. I feel good for the workers. For the jobless. For everyone doing it tough.

I no longer search for hope. No longer do I desire to be fed. I wake up every day and eat hope for breakfast.

Sally sees us. We exist. She is present.

Sally McManus IS a real life hero.

I echo my Father telling me about Bob Hawke, the man from the ACTU but now about Sally McManus, the woman from the ACTU:

“Sally McManus will be our Prime Minister one day.”

I just want a Sally McManus T-Shirt!

 128 total views

A Pitchfork for Setka. A Soft Kitty for Hanson: A Tragic Tale

As the media chase CFMEU John Setka down the road with their pitchforks, they stop to slip a hero’s cape over Senator Hanson’s shoulders. Our National Conversation is a tale of two cities. One which contrasts how bigots are protected and those who speak up are condemned.

A Soft Kitty for Hanson

Time and time again we hear Pauline Hanson vilify and deride the vulnerable. Media and Politicians alike then protect her derision and hail her as a hero.

The ‘Autism in Schools Debate’ is a mark where the media and politicians aren’t all beating the same drum.

However, there are still a number of commentators and journalists staying true to the traditional mantra. “Pauline has it right” and “This is what Pauline actually meant.”

Hanson is prone to Dog Whistling – about well anything now. No vulnerable group is immune it seems.

There are those who like to throw Soft Kitty at the Dog Whistle, to muffle it and silence it.

They do this by taking it upon themselves to falsify the meaning of what Hanson said and then explain it to the public as something good (which she did not say).

Soft Kitty Warm Kitty

Singing Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty, makes everyone feel better. Those who agree with Hanson, don’t need to be ‘labelled’ as racist, xenophobic, or ableist. Those who cling onto the hatred espoused by Hanson, are touted as the ‘thinkers.’ As the one’s who ‘know’, but never say it.’ AKA – The Silent Majority.

From “the conversations we need to have” to “This is what Pauline meant to say. There are those who continue to stroke the shitty opinions of those in agreement, by singing this song:

We do not need journalists singing their readers and listeners a soothing song. We can all cope with discussing the harshness and contempt of Hanson’s words.

No other politician is afforded this type of pandering. None.

Singing Soft Kitty

The “Autism in Schools” debate is peppered with hailing Hanson as a hero who highlights the issue of funding on the basis of inclusion. It was not. It was about exclusion and segregation.

Some consistently falsify the meaning of Hanson’s words to mean something she did not mean. Why?

Insiders on Sunday 25th June (see from 25:10) also put a positive spin on Hanson’s intent.

This example of falsification of meaning from Insiders:

“People got a better sense of Autism from this if there was a positive aspect to it all” (Barry Cassidy)

“…If in a class with an Autistic child or something, it can take up more of the teachers time…..you need an extra teacher or extra resources or staff…. Hanson I think was trying to say all that but it came out all wrong and mean…..it just came out all terrible and that is why everyone jumped ugly on it” (Phillip Coorey).

You can watch the entire ABC The Drum Segment Here.

This example from – The Drum

“……..I don’t think that is what she meant. I think that what she meant was that it is very, very difficult in a mainstream school. If you are not funding the classroom and funding the teacher and funding the aides to take care of large numbers of children with special needs”

These are examples of respected journalists on widely watched programs. They falsify the meaning of Hanson’s segregation speech as one of ‘misunderstood goodwill.’ It was not. So why reconfigure it?

Pauline Hanson knows exactly what she is doing. She knows her words cause division, upset and harm to others. Her speeches over 20 years which poke and prod at minorities are not just a coincidence.

Hanson means every word she says.

Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty, purr, purr, purr…..

Pimping our National Conversation with Douchebaggery

Hanson also said in her speech that “we can’t hold these other kids back” She spoke about the fear of ‘other kids’ missing out on jobs due to kids with disabilities in the classroom getting too much attention. This means “the other” kids will lose their jobs to overseas workers.

Take note from 14:00

Why is it a part of our national conversation that Hanson’s racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and now ableism is ‘because she means well?” Media reporting and discussing Hanson in this manner is simply pimping our national conversation with bucketloads of douchebaggery.

Hanson does not mean well at all. For over 20 years she never has. Never will.

If Bill Shorten or Malcolm Turnbull said what Hanson said, would they have excuses made for them? No. No, they would not.

The constant falsification of “What Hanson said” is delegitimising the experiences of anyone who is offended by Hanson’s words, particularly those who are the target of her words.

*No disrespect to the journalists who actually stand up against trash talk by Hanson.

A Pitchfork for Setka

In a compare and contrast, a Union Official emotional at the high number of worker deaths in construction and angry at the Government implemented ABCC which only makes workplaces more unsafe; is slammed backwards to sideways by all and sundry, for an emotionally laden shout down to ABCC Inspectors.

The media have reconfigured Setka’s words to mean something he did not say. That his main intent was to ‘be a thug’ for the sake of it, rather than highlight the plight of workers.

We have seen Malcolm Turnbull’s rant at the Liberal Love-In this week.

There have been countless headlines condemning Setka, focused particularly for including children in threats and a referral to the Police.

Setka threatened to expose who the secret ABCC inspectors were to family, friends and footy clubs.

“The’ve gotta lead these secret lives because they are ashamed of what they do…We will lobby their neighbourhoods, we will tell them who lives in that house and what he does for a living, or she, and we will go to their local footy club. We’ll go to their local shopping centre. They will not be able to show their faces anywhere. Their kids will be ashamed of who their parents are when we expose these ABCC inspectors” (ABC 23/06/2017)

Setka Clarified his Speech

Setka has clarified the emotion behind his speech.

“But as a family man and father of three beautiful children, if my comments were taken out of context or if they came across in a manner that was threatening, then I truly apologise,” he said.

“We’ve never gone to people’s homes or involved their families and we never would,” Mr Setka said in his statement.

“The thought of anyone going to someone’s home is reprehensible. My speech reflected the depth of anger construction workers feel about the persecution they face from the ABCC.”

What Setka Really Means is…

Imagine if the media treated John Setka the same way they do Pauline Hanson. Imagine if they listened to his accusation that he was deliberately taken out of context. (ABC 23/06/2017)

Imagine if they pandered to Setka and excused him. Just ‘An uneducated do-gooder, who just can’t can’t get his words right.’

What if the media reconfigured Setka’s speech and framed it all about ‘what he really meant?”

Imagine if the media and politicians framed Hanson as a thug whose words threaten and intimidate minorities and may incite hate crimes and insist she is referred to the police – every time.

What If?

What if Setka was just a man “Brave enough to say what the Silent Majority think?”

If only panel shows around the country discussed that, “He meant he was just angry at the ABCC being a tool of the Government – A Government that clearly shows they have contempt for the working class. A tool that provides an enabling environment for more injury and deaths of workers and rendering the Union powerless to prevent them.’

What if they said – Yeh – we should talk about that?

What if Setka was framed as “A well-intentioned man who just wants to highlight that workers deaths are a huge issue and no one is talking about that?”

Imagine if workers, risking lives every day in a high-risk industry, made even more dangerous by the ABCC, were treated as the ‘Silent Majority.”

Imagine if Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese instead of agreeing with Turnbull that the this is just ‘Thuggery’ stepped forward and shouted down the Liberals and the ABCC.

What if they said that they don’t agree with the way Setka said it, but understood the emotion behind it and then insisted the ABCC be abolished and this is what he really meant?”

If only all Labor MPs and media used this speech as the impetus and insisted we need to have a national conversation about safety at work.

What if the Media chased Turnbull with a pitchfork and insisted he explains the high number of worker deaths?

What if….

A Soft Kitty For Setka

If the media and politicians sang Soft Kitty the way they do for Pauline Hanson and spoke about what they ‘assume’ the underlying intention was, then more conversations would look like this, instead of tirades about Unions being thugs and good for nothing else. Workers deaths and Worker Safety would be highlighted as a real issue of national concern.

Bosses threatening Unionists who are trying to ensure the safety of workers on site, dangerous conditions and worker deaths and how to prevent them, would be the topic of talk-back shows and panels all around the nation.

A Tragic Tale

We have heard post the Grenfell Tower Inferno phrases used such as ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ contrasting the treatment of the poor and the wealthy in the UK.

Our National Conversation is also a tragic tale of two cities. One where the powerful bigots with platforms can demean already vulnerable groups. These bigots then have more powerful people cover up their bigotry. They falsify the meaning of what bigots actually say into something ‘nice’ they did not say and then explain “What they really meant.”

Then we have the underdogs, screaming for someone to notice their plight. Trying to highlight what the rich and powerful are doing to those who do not have full agency, who are not empowered, who do not have a voice.

Whether this is workers, the unemployed or asylum seekers or any other vulnerable group. The same powerful people be it politicians or media, cover up this contempt for these groups, and label them thugs, bludgers and terrorists.

Corbyn’s For the Many, Not for the Few – is not a platitude. It has the ability to change life as we know it. It is time we too, looked at our own national conversations through the lens of a Tale of Two Cities, where the powerful reign and the powerless suffer.

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The Racist Agenda Was Made to Destroy The Working Class

The fear of ‘the others’ permeates everything lately. Social media, politicians, commentators and the mainstream media are enabling a culture of stigma and ‘othering’. Fear of people we don’t understand shuffles beneath the surface of individual thought. These fears have a parasitic grip on beliefs, ideas and thought. It channels thought, word and deed through the prism of fear. This fear is a man-made construct, developed by conservatives to destroy the working class. It can be framed as the pre-agenda of the real agenda. The real agenda for the conservatives is as always – to destroy the working class. The pre-agenda is to establish a base, through fear of others, to help them get there.

Racism, Fear and Work Choices

This pre-agenda was first tried in the 1990’s with the aim to support the real agenda. That was to see more people embrace Howard’s Work Choices. In the 1990’s the stigma and fear of Indigenous people and Asian people was developed with a particular aim. That is fear would grip people. They would turn to those speaking out loudest against Indigenous people and Asian people. This would then, see people turn to the Government’s ‘paternalist-guiding hand’ agenda. In other words, stand with the Government to destroy the unions and destroy the working class. Even better if you were working class yourself and you left the union.

It was not going according to plan. To save some face, Howard had to terminate his association with the person he mentored, developed and gave a platform to, to be the voice of the pre-agenda. The agenda of racism. A person so ‘brave’ her voice shook when she spoke. A person dressed as an everyday Australian suburban woman. The mother at school, the tuckshop lady, the shop owner, the corner store worker. The person we don’t really know but feel comfortable ‘having a chat to.’ This person was Pauline Hanson. Pauline Hanson was to be the very voice to create a culture of fear, stigma and racism. This fear was to be so great that people’s attention would divert away from the atrocity of Work Choices. So blinded by fear of others, they would support it.

Work Choices Enabled

As history has shown us, this backfired. It was the wrong time and the wrong targets of racism for longevity. It did work in part. A conservative Government was in for four terms and the biggest defining piece of anti-worker legislation was enabled.

However, the uptake was not strong enough for people to be blinded to the plight of the worker and the destructive anti-worker policies put forward by the Howard Government.The Rights at Work movement was the light of the working class fighting against the darkness of Work Choices. Good trumped Evil and in 2007 the working class won. We are seeing no such movement today. No such swell of deep angst organising to take up the cause. The ‘fear of other’s’ is blinding people to the real agenda. There appears to be no lessons learnt from the Work Choices era.

The Agenda of Fear Enables Attacks on the Working Class

Prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, racism, hatred and xenophobia suck the life from rational decision-making like an insidious contagious disease. Once it has obtained its grip, this fear underpins and drives people to agree and believe in political ideology and political direction and policies, they would normally not have agreed with or believed in. The fear that we must stay safe from ‘the others’ now underpins agreement. Agreement to attack the worker and demonise and denigrating the poor. Those who choose to do so defend this stance vehemently. They see this as the just thing to do. It does not matter what the consequences are.

The Howard Government, along with the Abbott-Turnbull-(?) Government underpins their policy decisions with the idea that the working class do not know what is good for the country. That is, to allow the free market to flourish, by allowing the owners of the capital to tell the owners of the labour what they will be paid, how they will work and the conditions they will work in. Not to stand in they way of big business.

This is a Disturbing Reality

The fear of others is so great that some of the people who fought against this in the 1990’s are not remotely interested in what is happening to the working class, the jobless and the poor. They are too busy battling the ghosts the agenda of fear has conjured. The conservatives appear to have chosen the right time and the right targets of racism and stigma.

Muslims, in the minds of the fearful, are far more frightening than Indigenous people or Asians. In the 90’s these targets of victimisation were “stealing our social security money, stealing our jobs and stealing our land.” Today, in a nutshell, the belief among the fearful is that Muslims will take over the world and force us to become ISIS.”

Therefore, they must seek solace in ‘the brave’ – find their ‘protector.’ When Pauline Hanson’s voice shakes today it sounds much more brave to fearful ears, as the fear is much more magnified today with Muslims as the target. Hanson is indeed much more appealing as a consoling leader, as she speaks the loudest and the media makes her the centre of attention, which reinforces her words as ‘normal and justified.’ This is a disturbing reality towards the success of the conservative agenda of destroying the working class.

Too Busy Battling Ghosts

Today in 2017, the fear of others is so great that some of the people who fought against Work Choices in the 1990’s are not remotely interested in what is happening to the working class, the jobless and the poor. They are too busy battling the ghosts the agenda of fear has conjured. The fear of things that may never, ever happen and are not happening underpins their decisions to support anti-worker, anti-welfare and anti-community policies. They will even argue that these things are not happening, although the nightly news will tell the stories of what has been passed in parliament and although they can watch both houses live. It is a case of blanket denial, because ‘Pauline stands up for us Aussies against those Muzzie Bastards – Have you even read the Koran?

They will scream, yell, insult and rant at those who are awake to the fact that these policies are being passed and are deeply concerned about their implications, and call them liars or ‘too sensitive’. They are practised at standing firm with everyone who agrees with them and calling it ‘the right’ and those who they shun and don’t agree with them ‘the left.’

For Hanson voters, Attacking Workers Is Pro-Worker

Hanson advocates appear to have a twisted belief that Hanson, a conservative, Christian, nationalist, ex-member of the Liberal party, who shows immense support for the Liberal Party and who wants to abolish all penalty rates, abolish holiday leave loading and voted for the ABCC, somehow is ‘for the worker.’ This would indeed make Hanson ‘left’ on the political spectrum.

Yes, the pro-working class voter of yesteryear, now see being angry at the passing of legislation that will increase worker deaths, where a worker has no right to silence, that removes mandatory employment of apprentices, that sees income ripped from low paid workers and harsh and unjust punitive measures on the jobless, as weak and ‘not concerned enough about ‘the others’ (who will destroy our freedoms). Workers rights have become secondary to many people who are actually good working class people, simply blinded by unfounded fear. That is a disturbing reality.

Right Time. Right Targets

This time, the conservatives appear to have chosen the right time and the right targets of racism and stigma. This is also a disturbing reality.

With so much talk about Australian values lately; attacking the worker and denigrating the poor were conservative agendas that people would fight tooth and nail against. It was against our values. They would rise up and join the struggle to ward off this narrative from becoming the norm.

The narrative of the pre-agenda is, however, strong and it has born an entirely new class of voters. Voters who are now welcoming these baseless attacks on the working class and the poor as ‘the new acceptable norm’. Some choose to ignore the implications, such as anti-worker policy passing both houses. Others see it as a ‘sacrifice’ for the greater good, of staying safe and not letting ‘the others’ destroy us, take over our country, our jobs and our freedoms.

Some of these people are true conservatives. Some are the non-union working class, some are union working class and some are jobless and/or are living below the poverty line. The majority of people within the ‘right wing agenda-Hansonite groupings’ supporting this ‘pre-agenda’ are the very people conservative politics attacks.

The Mini Resistance

The desire to keep fear and prejudice strong within individuals has now formed into a collective, via contagion and has formed into a mini-resistance. It is suffocating the empathy and understanding of the plight of the worker, the jobless and the poor. There are those who were in the trenches with the working class in the 1990s, who are now fighting against the worker, shoulder to shoulder, embracing the enemy of the working class.

There are those who fight by shouting their prejudices and wearing them on their sleeve; angrily scream at anyone who dares to ‘not see the real truth.’ Their truth.

Then there are those who consciously or unconsciously deny their prejudices. They don’t want to say these things out loud. They just want to think them. Pauline Hanson, other conservative politicians, conservative commentators and the media will say these things for them. (She speaks for me). This gives them a new confidence to speak these prejudices out loud for the first time. To speak them gives a sense of reinforcement and belonging. For some, the feeling is almost euphoric. A relief beyond comprehension. They feel they are finally part of a collective. A resistance and that they ‘belong.’

This sense of belonging brings a sense of security and protection. A belief that if the ‘protectors’ – the one’s who are loudest attacking ‘the others’ will keep us safe from harm. However, it is through this false sense of reality, that real harm is being ignored, disbelieved. For some who have made the complete transformation to anti-working class – they embrace it.

The Racist Agenda. A Man Made Construct to Destroy the Working Class

What other anti-worker, anti-welfare policies will dedicated ‘Hansonites’ ignore, accept, condone and defend, all in the name of staying true and remaining loyal to the resistance that fights against minorities and speaks loudly to denigrate ‘the others?’

The racist agenda is a man-made construct developed as a pre-agenda to assist the conservative Government to destroy the working class. In 1996, “Howard’s Battlers” of the working class enabled the biggest onslaught on the working class we have ever seen. In 2017, “Pauline’s Battlers” are on the rise.

People must stop allowing the unrealistic fear of others to underpin and guide their beliefs, opinions, and decisions and take notice of the attacks on the working class. They must make a conscious choice. Support the workers and the jobless. Otherwise, support the Christian-Conservative Nationalist anti-worker agenda of Hanson and the rest of the right-wing parties. Supporting Hanson, the Liberals, The Bernardis, the Xenophons and Hinch, gives zero support to the working class.

Otherwise, this time, the conservatives may win and sustain real longevity. The attacks on the working class may completely destroy everything unionists and the working class have fought for, were jailed for and died for.

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Shorten. Where’s the hope?

Shorten is like your ex-boyfriend who everyone wanted you to marry, but you just weren’t that into him. Your mum thought he was a nice boy. Your friends said he was a vast improvement on the dickheads you dated previously. He was easy to like. He wanted so much to be liked. The more everyone around you told you he was ‘a good guy’ and that you should settle down with him, the more your heart panicked and looked elsewhere. You liked him a lot. You even loved him. But you weren’t in love with him. So you broke up because no matter how right he was on paper, your head just couldn’t convince your heart he was the right man for you.

The electorate’s preference for political leaders is not rational. Just like dating and relationships, love and marriage, political preference is complicated. There are emotions at play when marking the ballot box which most voters don’t even consciously feel. But these emotions make or break political leaders. For example, it is becoming increasingly clear that the country’s emotional reaction to the Labor leadership battles of Rudd and Gillard are completely different from Turnbull’s knifing of Abbott. The news media has a huge influence on this reaction. Gillard was framed as the villain and never recovered her political legitimacy. Turnbull is framed as the hero who slayed Abbott – a leader the electorate had taken a deeply emotional dislike to. None of this is rational. It is politics.

So why don’t voters like Shorten?

As a matter of fact, I seem to be rare amongst Labor voters in that I do like Shorten and I think he would make a good Labor Prime Minister. When he cracks a grin, you see his affable personality shine through. His zingers are clumsily authentic and seem to amuse his audience. He genuinely listens to people. I’ve seen him speak many times to the Labor faithful and he is passionate, erudite and charismatic. He has led a united Labor opposition, without a hint of the disunity of the Rudd and Gillard era. Watching the Labor front bench in parliament, their body language makes it look like everyone is behind Bill. Not just because he’s their leader but because they share his Labor values. As do I. But regardless of how rusted-ons like me feel, and how his colleagues feel, the emotional reaction to Shorten from the majority of voters, left, right and swinging, is tepid. It sometimes seems like I’m watching a different person than the Shorten described by many as ‘beige’. First Dog on the Moon can’t even remember his name.

No matter what Shorten does or says, his unpopularity is apparently sticky and the more he tries to get voters to listen to him, the worse it seems to get. He is also suffering from a case of being damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. For example, he is damned for supporting Rudd, then Gillard, then Rudd again. But the only reason he was able to be so influential in these leadership contests was because he has strong allegiances in the party which he is now using to lead a stable team. He spent his career before politics standing up for workers, which you would think workers might appreciate. But low and behold a recent survey shows Australians trust their bosses more than they trust unions. See what I mean about emotions winning out over rationality? And even when the only dirt Abbott’s witch hunt of a union Royal Commission could find on Shorten was that he had good relationships with both workers and business owners, negotiating to make sure an infrastructure project was delivered on time, an outcome in everyone’s best interest, even when he handled himself well under the scrutiny of being in a ‘witness box’ with a Liberal plant aggressively interrogating him, voters are still not interested in what Shorten has to say. It doesn’t mean, by the way, that they hate him. The major problem for Shorten, and in turn Labor, is that Australia’s emotional reaction to him seems to be one of yawning indifference. Ask anyone on the street which policies Labor has released this year and I’m confident most would have trouble naming a single one. But there have been many, and they are good policies. The ABC quoted Shorten recently as saying ‘I believe if Labor keeps working on policies, the polls will look after themselves’. But this view is reliant on the mistaken idea that voters are rational. Human beings are emotional. Australian human beings just aren’t listening to Shorten.

Is there anything Shorten and Labor can do?

There is always hope. I’m not talking about ‘hope’ for Shorten’s career. I mean there is always the emotional reaction to ‘hope’ that Shorten can appeal to. Back in August, when Shorten’s unpopularity wasn’t as big an issue, because Abbott was so unpopular a mouldy onion would have beaten him in an election, I suggested to Labor that their election campaign should be a mixture of hope and fear, encapsulated in a story about how Labor’s brighter future can overcome Abbott’s wrecking ball. Hope and fear are strong emotions and, I believe, are the most important ‘feels’ for political candidates. Shorten is doing his best to stake his claim on a ‘better future’, with forward-thinking policies and all the stats and facts you ever need to explain why Labor’s plan is rationally credible. But what’s missing is Shorten’s personal, gritty, in-your-face appeal to a hopeful tomorrow. He is missing his own emotion of hope. What does ‘Shorten hope’ look like? Shorten needs to tell us about his hope for the future. Shorten needs to be emotional. He needs to put down the rehearsed lines and the market-tested phrases and just talk to Australians about how he feels. He needs to explain how he felt about the Rudd and Gillard years (presumably not great), and how he hopes for a brighter future for Labor now that the stain of disunity is gone. He needs to show the passion and emotion of a man who is hopeful that his policies will make Australia a better place so that we all feel hopeful too. This is not just about getting ‘real’. This is about Shorten wearing his heart on his sleeve and admitting he’s not being heard, and respectfully asking Australians to listen. Asking Australians to give him a chance. Showing that he’s genuinely, emotionally, committed to making a difference. Asking Australians to put their hope in him while he puts his hope in them. Hope for better politics. Hope for better policies. Hope for better outcomes for all Australians. Replace hopeless with hopeful. If Shorten can bring hope, there is hope for Labor yet.

 

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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!

 

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Vote for Tony

By opposing same sex marriage, Tony Abbott has reinforced the notion that homosexuality is “queer” – that members of the LGBTI community are a threat to our society.

By indefinitely incarcerating asylum seekers in offshore detention camps he has reinforced the idea that refugees are not victims but criminals who pose another threat to our society.

By labelling us as lifters or leaners he has reinforced the perception that those on welfare are bludgers, scamming the system because they are too lazy to get a well-paying job.

By calling women who receive maternity leave from their employer “double-dippers” who are committing fraud, he has failed to appreciate the disadvantage women face in the workplace and denied them their workplace entitlements.

By saying he wants Sydney house prices to go up – if people are buying them they must be affordable – he shows an unbelievable ignorance of the housing affordability crisis.

By his perpetual dog-whistling about imminent terror threats from an apocalyptic death cult, as well as brief flirtations with banning cultural dress, he has alienated the Muslim community and made them the target of suspicion and abuse.

By ignoring all scientific evidence about climate change and the dangers of burning more coal, he has destroyed the renewable energy industry and damaged the global effort to avoid catastrophic weather events.

By proposing the deregulation of university fees, despite receiving the benefits of a free education and several of his ministers campaigning against fees when student politicians, he is potentially saddling our children with a huge debt before they even begin their working lives thus precluding large numbers from even considering a tertiary education.

By dismantling FttP NBN, he has made Australia an information backwater, ranked 44th and falling for internet speed. While the rest of the world moves to fibre, we are paying a fortune for Telstra’s copper network.

By stripping people of their citizenship, he is breaking up Australian families and leaving people homeless.

By demonising unions he has robbed workers of their collective voice in preparation for the resurrection of workchoices and the demise of penalty rates.

By slashing over $500 million from Indigenous funding, combined with intemperate comments about uninhabited Australia and lifestyle choices, he has shown a blatant disregard for our First People, their culture, the crisis of Aboriginal incarceration, and our failure in closing the gap.

By defunding NGOs, charities and community groups, he has caused the closure of refuges, crime prevention and mentoring programs, and domestic violence support groups.

By introducing metadata retention and criminal charges for disclosure, he has sanctioned spying on all citizens and overridden the public’s right to know what is done in our name.

By refusing to release government advice and modelling, he is robbing us of the chance to make informed decisions.

By slashing funding to the States he is making it basically inevitable that the GST will go up, greatly increasing the cost of living.

By freezing the indexation on Medicare payments, he will force doctors to make up the lost revenue – a co-payment by stealth. He has also almost entirely dismantled Australia’s national preventive health system.

By slashing funding to the CSIRO and other research bodies, he has caused many promising programs to be abandoned and we are losing our brightest researchers to other more enlightened countries who understand the value of their work.

By being unwilling to undertake economic reform, he has overseen a deterioration in all economic parameters with no upturn in sight.

By insisting on captain’s picks, usually advising his colleagues via the Murdoch press, he has alienated his Cabinet, his party room, the Parliament and the people.

By abrogating our global responsibilities towards asylum seekers and credible action on climate change, combined with gaffes too numerous to mention, he has trashed our international reputation.

But hey, he gave up billions in revenue from the carbon and mining taxes and stopped talking about the boats. And IS haven’t invaded us yet. Surely that’s enough reason to want him as our leader?

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I refuse to live in fear!

The tactic of a bully is to keep their victims living in fear of what could happen so they are grateful when they don’t get beaten or abused. They make their victim believe they are powerless by cutting them off from their support and telling them only the bully can look after them. This is exactly what our own government is doing. It is their tactic of choice in so many areas.

In the past, Australia was a country who willingly offered safe haven to refugees. We recognised their need for a home which complemented our need for population growth. As time passed, the contribution made to our society by those we embraced became obvious and we are the richer for it in so many ways. We are a wealthy multicultural society who used to lend a hand. Those days are gone.

We must spend whatever it takes, and alienate whoever we must, and inflict terrible physical and mental harm, to save the nation from the invading hordes of asylum seekers who will threaten our way of life. They will impose Sharia law, take your jobs, clog up your roads and hospitals, and are just waiting for a chance to kill you. Yes I am sure that’s why they are fleeing their homelands, leaving family and friends, risking their lives on unseaworthy vessels – just so they can come and turn Australia into what they are escaping from.

I do not fear refugees and we can easily accommodate 30,000 a year if not more. We should be welcoming them, assuring them they are safe now, and assisting them to become productive members of our society.

Climate change is real. It is not a conspiracy by bankers for world domination. It is not collusion by scientists to get funding. It is not a fake perpetrated by the IPCC. I refuse to believe the conspiracy theories though I am terrified by the consequences of our inaction. The government has inculcated fear about carbon pricing into the community – Whyalla will be wiped off the map, lamb roasts will cost $100, the cost of living will skyrocket – none of which happened. They tell us that wind farms are bad for our health and when that didn’t run, they revert to they are ugly?

We were told that the mining tax would hinder investment in Australia with investment and jobs going offshore. This scare campaign was also a lie. We have the resources and a stable economy, the investors are banging on our door. The high Aussie dollar caused by the success of the mining industry is what is hurting jobs and sending industries offshore, but Hockey hastened to reassure the miners that they will not have any of their subsidies cut or tax increased. In ‘fear’ of the miners choosing to rape another country instead, we have gotten rid of our environmental protections and given virtually open slather for the short term cash grab of developing our finite resources.

Our country is not broke. Using great big numbers about possible debt in ten years’ time and inflated deficit figures is purely designed to scare us. Why do that? Don’t you want business and consumer confidence? This scare campaign is purely political to exaggerate the problem, blame it on Labor, and use it as an excuse to implement their corporate agenda and social engineering.

People struggling on the old age and disability pensions are terrified about the recommendations from the Commission of Audit. We can reassure the miners but we cannot reassure the pensioners. They have to wait in fear so when they only have to pay $6 instead of the recommended $15 as a co-payment to the doctor they will feel grateful.

We are told that our health system is unsustainable yet the government didn’t ask the people in the industry how it could be improved. We straight away go to the scare campaign of we can’t afford this so you must pay. The experts have said there are many ways that expenditure could be better spent and areas of waste that could be eliminated but starting with preventative health is patently counter-productive.

The same applies to the old age pension. We have now scared everyone by saying they will have to work to 70 yet once again the experts disagree with the fear campaign being spread. Hockey said the number of people aged 65-84 would quadruple by 2050. The ABS says otherwise. They do three predictions – high, low, and medium – their high range estimate is 2.5 times growth in that age bracket. Hockey predicted that only 37 per cent of the population would be of working age in 2050, yet the best available estimates from the ABS show it is in fact between 61 and 63 per cent.

The scare campaign about unions is the government’s way of cutting us off from our support. What collective voice do the people have other than the unions? Who offers protection for our workplace rights other than unions? Who can represent individuals other than unions? Reducing the minimum wage or the availability of Newstart is not the best way to tackle unemployment. There are so many better ways like investing in new industries such as renewable energy, and investing in education and supporting research to develop the industries of the future – something we have been amazingly good at in the past.

George Brandis even wants to change the law to protect bigots and bullies. Apparently they have every right to offend and humiliate people. What sort of crazy backward thinking is this, done in the name of freedom? Next, will we be defending the rights of countries to commit human rights abuses? Oh, wait…

We must stand up to this government who consciously, willingly lies to its own citizens to keep them in unnecessary fear. We must point out their crazy priorities where we waste hundreds of billions on fossil fuel subsidies, tax rebates for superannuation and private health insurance, fighter jets, paid parental leave, grants to polluters, Operation Sovereign Borders, lifetime gold passes and entitlements for politicians, political advertising and campaigning and the like, while insisting that our most vulnerable must live in poverty and fear. We must expose their lies about debt, deficit, and the affordability of our health and welfare system.

You are the one who should be afraid Tony – be vewwy afwaid – because I refuse to live in fear and will do everything in my power to make sure the Australian people know the truth so we can protect ourselves from the bully by ending this relationship at the first opportunity.

Bullying-stands-for

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Sack the marching girls

campaigning

Photo: abc.net.au

Tony Abbott has defended the canvassing of political donations from big business as a “time honoured” practice which prevents taxpayers from being forced to subsidise election campaigns.

Why is the only alternative taxpayers having to fund parties? Must we go down the US road of spending millions to buy public office? How about the political parties start recognising that millions spent on buying themselves a job might just be a waste of money. Tell us your policies then let us decide. Do we really need the brass bands and marching girls and letter boxes full of junk mail?

Christopher Pyne wants to ban donations from corporate Australia, lobby groups and unions, and limit it to individuals. Right. So you want to ban any collective voice the people may have and just let Gina, Rupert, Twiggy and Nathan decide who wins?

We own a National broadcaster. Why can’t we give political parties time on the ABC to plead their case during the election?

In the UK, paid political advertising is banned and this extends to lobby groups. When it comes to election time they are all given free air time.

“Political adverts are – and have always been – banned on British TV and radio. That ban has wide support and has helped sustain the balance of views which is at the heart of British broadcasting – and ensures the political views broadcast into our homes are not determined by those with the deepest pockets.”

I am not sure how you control Rupert from giving his party of choice free advertising under the guise of “opinion”. We can only hope that the days of being able to hoodwink people are numbered with the fact check ability afforded us by the internet.

In Canada they have a $1200 limit on donations, whether they be from an organisation or an individual, and they limit campaign spending to a sensibly low amount.

Our democracy is being undermined by allowing those who have the most money to have the most influence. If I felt they were offering altruistic advice then I might appreciate their input and experience. Considering their sole motivation is to maximise their profit by minimising regulations and their taxation contribution, I would say that they should be given no access to our political decision-making, paid for or otherwise.

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To the Future and Beyond!

Image courtesy of couriermail.com.au

Image courtesy of couriermail.com.au

Should the Labor Party sever its long-standing ties with the union movement? In this guest post, well-known blogger Hillbilly Skeleton argues that they might suffer politically if they don’t.

Can we talk?

How can I put this?

I can either try and put this delicately, as some partners try to do when a long-term relationship ends, and hedge around the truth which is usually as clear as day in your own mind, hoping you won’t offend the other party’s feelings, or, you can be brutally honest and believe that by doing so you can have a positive, not negative, cathartic effect.

So, as I have never been one for humming and hawing, let me get straight to the point here.

It’s Time for the Australian Labor Party to cut the ties that bind it inextricably to the Australian Union movement and divorce itself from the overwhelming and over-weaning and disastrously destructive (in recent history) control they have over the parliamentary Labor Party.

“Heresy!!!” I can hear 90+% of you shouting at their computer screens. Also, “Aren’t you a member of the ALP? So, why are you saying this?”

Well, no, and, yes.

No, I don’t think I’m being heretical, and, yes, I am a proud member of the ALP and will continue to be unless they kick me out for this blog. Lol. Which I doubt because I am increasingly not on my Pat Malone in the modern-day ALP. I know this because I have had many conversations with fellow ALP members about this subject, many of them members of unions too, and they agree that a redefining of the relationship needs to occur. Something needs to be done about the overt ALP/Union nexus. Major transformational change to the party scaffolding must occur. Or the ALP will simply bleed to death slowly but surely, as the Unions in Australia (and globally), with membership in Australia at a paltry 13% in private enterprise, are doing right now.

Which is not to say, most definitely and wholeheartedly, that I agree with the presumption of the Abbott government and it’s fellow travellers in the business community and in ideologically-bent union-smashing outfits such as the HR Nicholls Society and the IPA, that the very concept of workers organising for their mutual benefit is anathema and all stops should be pulled out, both legislatively and persuasively via the bully pulpit, to bring about their demise.

Not. At. All.

On the contrary, I fully support the concept of Unionism and collective organisation of employees for their mutual benefit as they attempt to gather strength from their numbers against any employer with the whip-hand who seeks to exploit and capitalise on their honest toil for their own profit, whilst the workers pay, and hard-won but reasonable work conditions languish or die on the vine by neglect and design. More power to the workers in their constant struggle against this and strength to their arms in their fight against the oppressive forces of global and national monopolistic capitalistic enterprise. It’s only fair and reasonable after all and the basis of a cohesive, harmonious, equitable and content society. I’m a Social Democrat, after all.

Nope, what I think needs to be the transformative change that the ALP should, no must, undertake, is that it must change from being a party OF the Unions and BY the Unions, to being a party FOR the Unions, but first and foremost, simply a 21st century Progressive Social Democrat political party, whose narrative encompasses Unionism as but one of the pillars upon which the scaffold of the party is built.

Yes, over more than 100 glorious years the ALP has been the longest-lived, continuously-surviving political party in the land, and it’s a proud history which should be fulsomely embraced. However, times change, situations change, environments change, and relationships, one with another, change.

Such that the cardinal rule of relationships kicks into gear. ‘Adapt or die’.

That’s what the Liberal Party have successfully done, to the extent that they are presently cannibalising their Coalition partner, the National Party, by taking rural seats off them at elections. Also, they have aggressively identified and gone after new constituencies as they have appeared on the horizon, and legislated to accommodate them felicitously, which has been repaid with loyalty to and membership of the party and enough votes to be winning elections more often than not.

New constituencies such as the Tradies, who are now also small businesspeople, the Franchise owners and operators, Small, Micro and Home Businesspeople, and ‘New Professionals’, if I can coin that term, in the Alternative Therapies disciplines. Not to mention their traditional constituencies in Big Business who never desert them.

Yet Labor have doggedly stood by the Unions as this transformation of Australian society has occurred. And turned a blind eye to the canker of corruption, all too obviously on display now and serving to aid the enemy. Not only that, but if you play your cards right, in this Closed Shop, you could end up sitting in a comfy chair in parliament. Not as a result of having any other talent beyond playing the Union Stepping Stone game well.

Well, in the words of that great Monkees song, ‘I’m Not Your Stepping Stone!’

It’s Time for the Australian Labor Party to undertake the necessary structural change that will see it survive and prosper against the Liberal Party in the 21st century in Australia. We need an effective force for good (if you want to cast everything in terms of ‘Goodies and Baddies’ as Mr Abbott does) then Labor are the ‘goodies’ and the Coalition are the ‘baddies’, as so much of what made Australia a utopia in the 20th century is now under threat in the 21st.

Unions are a social good; however, the times whereby workers are herded into unions are gone. Unions should be there for workers to choose them if they want to, and Labor should fight to the political death for unions to be allowed to exist in every workplace, and their practices should be their own best advertisement for the benefits of unions and unionism. And each and every union member should have the choice whether they join and fund the ALP, or any other political party, and thus they should get one vote with one value only in the ALP. The days of bloc votes and union Secretary control and string-pulling must be gone and we should see those ties that currently bind the Unions to the ALP severed. Even if it does upset all the union factional heavyweights to do so. Anyway, if a stronger Union Movement, with broad community support, arises from the ashes, then that can only be good for the Labor Party.

As I fear that if the party isn’t reconstructed along more democratic lines and the pre-selection of candidates not necessarily in a union, but who believe in unions, doesn’t occur, then all those people who recently formed a new relationship with the party after those liberating and refreshing signs of reform which broke out in the ALP after the last election, will come to the same conclusion.

ALP, I’m just not that into you any more. You’re a dud.

 

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Are you being served?

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Democratic governments provide two fundamental functions in the service of a single overriding responsibility. When a government, through the performance of its two functions, betrays the single responsibility it holds, it has lost its mandate to govern. There is a case to be made that our current Coalition government is in exactly this position.

The raison d’etre for democracy, without which the very concept of democratic government would not exist; is to provide a means for the community as a whole to configure the kind of society in which they wish to live. Inevitably this involves winners and losers: government exists primarily to put checks on the powerful and support the weak. Governance is thus about promoting equality. The cut and thrust of politics is about thresholds – how much is too much? How much is too little?

Governments fulfil this basic purpose through the actions of their two primary functions: legislation and national defence. Legislation allows a government to protect its citizenry from internal threats; national defence protects us against external threats. Since coming to power, Tony Abbott’s Coalition government has continued a long history in Australian politics of continuing and sustaining Australia’s military, and in this way the government is carrying out its remit for national defence. Good for them.

In the field of legislation against internal threats to society, their record is not so good.

The Big Bad: the Food Industry

There is a growing recognition amongst public health bodies that food manufacturing and marketing in Australia, and the west in general, is promoting unhealthy eating habits and contributing materially to public health issues such as obesity and diabetes. History has shown us that industries acting counter to the best interests of the people eventually face opposition and attempts at control and harm minimisation by societal groups, and that eventually governments come to the party and assist in such opposition. The tobacco industry is the cause celebre but alcohol and junk food are both likely to follow. It is in this light that on 14 June 2013, COAG – the Council of Australian Governments – announced the implementation of a packaging labelling scheme in Australia. This was the culmination of a long discussion and negotiation process beginning in December 2011.

The Front of Pack food star rating scheme is a compromise solution painstakingly agreed and laboriously (and expensively) developed over two years. COAG is the federal council that brings together Australian state and federal governments in a single body. The scheme, initially intended to be voluntary, will provide consumers an easily understood guide to the nutritional value of their foods. The scheme was brokered between COAG and the Public Health Association with ongoing consultation with the food industry. The food industry, represented by such bodies as “Australian Public Affairs” and the Food and Grocery Council, has cooperated in its development despite being trenchantly opposed to the scheme and seeking any means possible to delay its introduction.

The Abbott government has been accused of deliberately delaying the introduction of the scheme until after State elections in South Australia and Tasmania on 15 March, for exactly this purpose, hoping that the composition of COAG would change sufficiently to allow the cancellation of the agreement. Cancellation or amendment of a COAG agreement requires the majority of State and Federal governments and the current makeup of the council is narrowly in favour of the food labelling scheme.

Included in the star rating scheme is a food ratings website that is intended to provide consumer advice on the nutrition of packaged foods. The website also includes a calculator for food manufacturers to use to calculate the star rating for their packaged foods for voluntary inclusion in labelling. The website was completed and went live on schedule, on February 5 2014. Many public health groups and industry groups were expecting its arrival and awaiting its commencement and it seems a minor miracle that such a website, developed over two years by the public service in conjunction with the Public Health Association, should have been completed on time.

Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash personally intervened to have the site taken offline by 8pm the same night.

Nash’s publicly stated reasons for pulling down the website is that “the website will be confusing for consumers as it uses a star rating that is not yet ‘up and running’.” She has also claimed that it was a draft put online by accident. But it was her chief of staff, married to the owner of the business lobby group Australian Public Affairs, who personally intervened to have the site unilaterally taken offline.

Protecting the interests

This is not the first example of Ms Nash protecting the interests of corporations and business lobbies at the expense of public health or public interest initiatives. It’s tempting to make personal judgements that Ms Nash is not an appropriate candidate for the position of Assistant Health Minister, but she operates within a government with a strong track record of supporting business interests rather than public good regulations that limit them.

Democratic government is designed to serve the interests of the People – not individual people, but the community as a whole. Conservative governments are wont to argue that making life easier for businesses allows them to create more jobs and thus serves the interest of the people, and there is some justification for that; however, there are cases where public interest and corporate interest clearly come into conflict. These include areas of workplace health and safety; of environmental protection; and of protection of public health against goods which, in excess, can be harmful.

In a capitalist society, companies are fighting two major opponents. The first major opponent a business faces is its competitors. Companies need to compete against other companies to turn a profit. The role of government in this is simply to be even-handed; to not preference one company at the expense of others. The litmus test should be whether any proposed change operates across the board. If competition is seen as a public good, then sympathetic treatment may be justifiable towards the underdog. The second major opponent a company faces is the community.

Companies are beholden to the public that buys their goods, but are not above manipulating and mistreating those customers. Marketing might sometimes be righteous – if people have an identified need, promoting a product which can meet that need is perfectly legitimate. But in our materialistic society with many competitors for the purchaser’s dollar, much of marketing is about creating the need prior to seeking to fulfil it.

In the context of coercive or manipulative commerce, government’s role should always fall squarely on the side of the People’s interest. Regulations and laws exist to put limits on what companies can get away with, because it will never be the companies themselves that impose limitations.

An emerging pattern

The cancellation of the food star ratings website is a clear case of corporate interests being favoured at the expense of the People, and a clear abrogation of the politician’s responsibilities. However, it is merely the latest in a long line of government actions from the Abbott government that favour the interests of corporations rather than the People. Prominent examples include:

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is the grand-daddy of corporate interests into which both recent governments, Labor and Coalition, have been driving us headlong. Whole articles can be written about the TPP – and indeed they have been.

The National Broadband Network. It has been convincingly argued that the main reasons for the Coalition’s opposition to Labor’s model for the NBN is that it will do harm to entrenched corporate interests.

The mining tax. To attempt to redistribute some of the wealth of the largely overseas-based megacorporations involved in strip-mining this country and put it to use across the community and small businesses makes logical sense, but it goes against Coalition ideology of protecting the corporate interests of those who make profits.

An internet filter. The idea of an internet filter is not new; Steven Conroy was rightly excoriated by the left for this idea that is tantamount to censorship. George Brandis’s vision of the filter, however, is not so concerned with protection of children and our moral virtue; it is aimed directly at protecting the existing media corporations, in the guise of protecting copyright. Whilst this is an issue with some justification, you might think we would have learned by now that protecting the rights of intellectual property holders by draconian regulation always hurts both the eventual consumers of media products as well as innocent bystanders who want to use file sharing for legitimate purposes.

Attacks on unions. The Abbott government’s ideological crusade against trade unions is not really about corruption and they are not really friends to the honest worker. The primary and overt aim of the coming Royal Commission is to damage Labor – both its reputation and its source of funding. But the chief outcome in any conflict between corporations and the unions which exist to protect workers and the community from the corporations’ excesses will always be to the detriment of the community. For evidence of the government’s allegiances in this field, look no further than the recent case of SPC, where the government attempted to push SPC to reduce staff conditions to the minimum allowed by the award before any assistance would be possible. In some strange way, this equates in the government’s mind to being “best friend to the honest worker”.

Credit where credit is due

It must be said that the Abbott coalition government seems to genuinely believe that promoting the interests of corporations will be for the good of Australia; they are not being deliberately harmful to the people they govern. But there does not appear to be any kind of “public good” test being applied to decisions. Corporations have the ear of the government through lobby groups and donations, and it certainly seems that the government’s ear has been turned. But when both government and public opinion can be swayed by the corporations that government ought to be protecting the public against, the very purpose of democracy is being subverted. Whether or not the coalition government (and its predecessor in Labor) are being malicious or merely unduly influenced, whether there is corruption or nobly-held ideals, it is the community that suffers. The only question remaining is how far the imbalance will go before the people wake up to the fact that the People and the Corporations are not on the same side?

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Heads up

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In April 2001 the Minister for Workplace Relations, Tony Abbott, asked the Employment Advocate to provide a report “regarding behaviour in the building industry”. This led to the Cole Royal Commission into the building and construction industry, costing taxpayers $60 million, making it one of the most expensive in Australia’s history.

The Commission was criticised as ‘politically biased and fanatically anti-union’. The Victorian Council for Civil Liberties noted that the ‘perception of a political agenda was reinforced by the method in which the commission gathered evidence and conducted its investigations’. Of particular concern was the curtailment of the rights to legal representation and cross-examination.

Victorian Secretary of the Construction Division of the CFMEU, Martin Kingham, was charged with contempt after failing to produce requested documents detailing the names and personal details of trade unionists who participated in a union training school.

Mr Kingham maintained that he did not have any such documents and did not know if they even existed. He successfully defended the charge and costs were awarded against the Federal Director of Public Prosecutions. Outside the court, Mr Kingham said the political witch-hunt masterminded by Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott had been exposed.

“Abbott and Howard cashed up the Cole Royal Commission with $60 million of your money and mine so it could hunt down legitimate unions and workers,” Mr Kingham said.

“Abbott is so obsessed with his anti-union agenda he’ll go to any lengths to stir up trouble. His agenda is to drag people through the courts, to spend taxpayers’ money to tie up the unions in costly legal actions.”

“This bloke is a joke. He ought to be sacked or at least put on a short leash so he can do as little damage as possible to Australian workers and industry until the whole anti-union mob can be tossed out at the next election,” Mr Kingham said.

Although hundreds of allegations of criminal behaviour were referred to the Cole Royal Commission, they resulted in only one conviction — and that involved an employer.

Recommendations from the Royal Commission led to the setting up of the Australian Building and Construction Commission in 2005 to be, using Tony Abbott’s oft-repeated phrase, the “tough cop on the beat”, and it was given powers that greatly exceeded those given to any police officer in the nation.

“The ABCC can force people to answer questions in secret and to reveal documents that relate to any of its investigations. This negates a person’s right to silence. It also removes their privilege against self-incrimination, a protection that has been described by the High Court as a ”cardinal principle of our system of justice” and a ”bulwark of liberty”.

There are no limits on the type of information that can be sought by the ABCC. A person can be compelled to hand over personal phone and email records, reveal memberships of a union or political party, and report on private meetings.

This can be applied to anyone. Workers can be brought in, not because they are suspected of wrongdoing, but to report on the activities of their co-workers. Family members, including young children, can be told to reveal information about a parent in the building industry.

In case there was any doubt about the scope of these powers, the law says that the ABCC can override the protections that innocent people have under privacy law. The law may well be unique in also allowing the commission to ignore the confidentiality of cabinet documents and to demand secret national security information held by agencies such as ASIO.

The problem is not just one of extraordinary power, but also that the expected safeguards have been stripped away. Unlike other bodies that question people, the ABCC does not need a warrant from a judicial officer or other independent person. The normal grounds of reviewing its decisions have also been excluded, meaning federal law cannot be used to argue that the ABCC has breached the rules of natural justice or made a decision in bad faith.”

“The ABCC constitutes a frontal attack on basic legal and democratic rights. It can demand that a worker submit to interrogation on pain of prosecution. Its inspectors can enter building sites, interview anyone without a lawyer present, demand documents and force people to provide information relating to industrial action or internal union business. The watchdog also has the power to initiate prosecutions with fines of up to $110,000 against unions or $22,000 against individuals for taking unlawful industrial action. Disclosing the contents of an ABCC interrogation can lead to six months’ imprisonment, as can refusing to attend a hearing or answer questions.”

In August 2008, Noel Washington, a CFMEU official, was summonsed to appear before Geelong Magistrates Court for refusing to comply with summons issued by the ABCC which alleged that Washington had distributed a flyer that made “derogatory” remarks about a Bovis Lend Lease site manager. (Where was Tim Wilson when we needed him.). Six days before his trial, the DPP dropped the charges.

In December, the Fairfax press reported on the case of a Melbourne academic — which it was prevented under the ABCC’s legislation from even naming — who witnessed a scuffle while walking past a building site and found himself under interrogation by the ABCC and under threat of imprisonment if he revealed his interrogation to anyone.

In its 2008 submission to the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations, a consortium of four unions, estimated that since 2003 more than a quarter of a billion dollars had been spent on the Cole Royal Commission and the establishment and operations of the ABCC. This is claimed to be about 10 times more than the sum received during the same period by Cancer Australia and the Australian Law Reform Commission.

The unions pointed out certain facts.

  • The number of deaths have gone up since 2005: from 3.14 per 100,000 workers in 2004 – before the ABCC started – to 4.8 per 100,000 workers in 2007 and 4.27 in 2008.
  • Threats of fines, interrogations by the ABCC and imprisonment make it harder for construction workers to take a stand over poor safety.
  • Construction workers have to be able to prove that ‘there was an imminent risk to their health and safety’ to avoid fines for stopping work over safety matters.
  • The ABCC has a track record of pursuing workers and Occupational Health and Safety Authorities for court investigations where workers take action to defend their safety.
  • The ABCC has never taken an employer to court over breaches of Occupational Health and Safety laws.
  • Research has shown that where there is a strong union presence at construction workplaces, there are fewer serious injuries and deaths.
  • Construction remains one of Australia’s top four most dangerous industries, accounting for 24% – the highest number – of work-related fatalities in 2008, according to the latest available Australian Safety & Compensation Commission report.
  • Australia’s Construction Industry Laws have been condemned six times by the International Labour Organisation.
  • The ABCC will cost Australian taxpayers $165.4 million for the period 2007-08 to 2011-12, under budget forward estimates.

Adelaide worker Ark Tribe was the first union member to be charged with failing to attend a hearing of the ABCC in 2008. Mr Tribe had been summonsed to appear at the ABCC after he walked off a construction site at Flinders University over safety concerns and if convicted, faced a maximum penalty of six months in prison.

Mr Tribe was found not guilty of the charge in November 2010 and, in 2012, the legal saga finally concluded when Commonwealth prosecutors agreed to pay $105,000 for his legal fees.

In 2010, Julia Gillard removed John Lloyd from his position as head of the ABCC. He moved on to become the director of the Work Reform and Productivity Unit at the Institute of Public Affairs, and then, in January 2013, was appointed as Victoria’s new “red tape commissioner” charged with waging a war on red tape to boost productivity and reduce costs for Victorian businesses.

The ABCC was replaced by Fair Work Building Construction in 2012. The Fair Work Act has delivered significant labour productivity growth and low wage growth, with industrial disputation far below the average level of the Howard years, but Tony Abbott has said “To let the militant unions of this city and state know that the rule of law must always prevail we will re-establish the ABCC and finish the job . . . The law must be supreme, no one is above the law.”

In the leaders’ debate in August 2013, Tony Abbott, when promoting his role in creating the Australian Building and Construction Commission, said:

“That led to the achievement of some $6 billion a year in productivity savings and in cost reductions to consumers in the commercial construction sector,” he told the Brisbane people’s forum.

This claim has been labelled mostly false by Politifact.

Abbott sourced the $6 billion figure from a 2010 report prepared by the Canberra consultancy Econtech for the Master Builders Association. Justice Murray Wilcox in 2009 described an Econtech report on construction industry productivity as “deeply flawed” and that it “ought to be totally disregarded.”

Now Econtech has produced a new report that, according to Bernard Keane, “makes that effort look like the gold standard of intellectual rigour”. He goes on to say “OK, so rubbish reports like this are common as muck, true. But this is more significant because it’s on the basis of stuff like this that the Coalition has committed to reinstitute a major attack on basic rights. And that attack will not just be on the rights of construction industry unionists, but all of us.”

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Why Rupert hates unions and Gina loves 457 visas

Image from theconversation.com

Image from theconversation.com

While attempting to clean up my computer, I came across an essay that my daughter wrote earlier this year. I would like to share an excerpt from it.

Marxists see the conflict between the bourgeoisie (those that own the means of production) and the proletariat (those who sell their labour) as crucial to the maintenance of capitalism. Its function is to create an obedient, docile, uncritical workforce who will work to support the upper-class’s lifestyle and the economy. Keeping wages low, or debt pressure high, means workers will be less likely to complain or make demands. As workers struggle to provide their families with all the temptations that a capitalist society offers, they become far less likely to risk their employment, and less able to improve their situation. Even in the unlikely event that an opportunity for advancement should arise, it would often mean abandoning family and friends in order to pursue it. These factors, along with a tendency to marry within one’s own circle, combine to make movement between social classes difficult.

The current political debate surrounding the power of unions, work choices, and the importation of workers on 457 visas, could be regarded as an attempt to disempower employees thus maintaining a compliant workforce. It is difficult for an individual to risk complaining about wages or working conditions, so removing the collective voice and protection of unions means people are unlikely to make waves if, by so doing, they risk unemployment or deportation.

The process of industrialisation in the 19th century led to major changes in family life. Many things that had formerly been produced at home were now produced more cheaply in factories and families eventually became units of shared income and consumption rather than production, private and separate from the public world of business and politics. Men’s place of work was removed from the home and women’s and children’s unpaid domestic labour kept wages low allowing companies to increase profits. Women were increasingly isolated from society and children learned to obey.

Max Horkheimer regarded the family as an essential part of the social order in that it adapted every individual to conformity to authority. He argued that if men are the sole breadwinners, this ‘makes wife, sons and daughters “his”, puts their lives in large measure into his hands, and forces them to submit to his order and guidance’. Marx felt the same way stating that “Marriage is…incontestably a form of private property”. The economic dependence of the family on the father made men more conservative about radical social change which might undermine their ability to provide for their families, while the development of obedience to the authority of one’s own father was a preparation for obedience to the authority of the state and one’s employer.

During the 1960s and 70s the Western world saw a rapid period of social change in which the traditional understanding of the family began to be questioned. Feminist writers such as Christine Delphy, argued that in a capitalist society there are two modes of production: an industrial mode which is the site of capitalist exploitation; and the domestic mode which is the site of patriarchal exploitation. Marxist writers such as Juliet Mitchell examined the exploitation of workers under capitalism, pointing out that women, as they slowly entered the workforce, were doubly exploited through lower wages and unpaid labour at home. Contemporary Marxist writing argues that the family structure socialises children ‘into capitalist ideology’, which ‘prepares them to accept their place in the class structure, provides an emotionally supportive retreat for the alienated worker and so dissipates the frustration of the workplace, and impedes working class solidarity by privatising the household and generating financial commitments which discourage militant activity’ .

The role of the nuclear family in providing, perpetuating and indoctrinating a docile workforce is summarised by the following quotes. Meighan suggests that “For men, the denial of opportunities for excellence under capitalism leads…to a search for power and self-esteem in the sexual arena” Ainsley goes on to explain that “When wives play their traditional roles as takers of shit they often absorb their husband’s legitimate anger and frustration in a way which poses no challenge to the system”, and Cooper states that “The child is, in fact, primarily taught not how to survive in society, but how to submit to it”.

Changes in society have blurred these stereotypical roles. Many more women now are entering the workforce and are far less likely to marry for economic security. The availability of quality education and the explosion of information provided by the internet have made people more informed and less willing to blindly accept what they are told, and for some, it has also provided the opportunity to move from the social class into which they were born. The traditional structure of the nuclear family is also changing with much more diversity in family groups due to such factors as divorce, same sex couples, extended families, and many women choosing not to have children.

There have been other criticisms of the materialist perspective in that its focus was too limited to economic aspects, neglecting the value of and support provided in a loving intimate union, instead concentrating on the oppressive and controlling aspects of families and relationships. It tends to portray people as capitalist dupes without freedom of thought assessing them purely from a labour perspective.

While many of the bourgeoisie would still prefer, and in fact depend on, a malleable, uncomplaining workforce, family power structures are becoming less a factor in achieving this. However, our seemingly endless desire to consume and update means that economic pressures still play a large role. Even with, in many cases, both parents working, employment security usually takes precedence over job satisfaction or working conditions. Children are better informed and largely better educated and therefore have more opportunity to achieve economic independence and possibly change their social class but the rising cost of tertiary education, possible reductions in funding, and competition from overseas students limits the number who can attempt this. The burden is perhaps better shared but the outcome is in most cases the same – be happy with your lot.

Engel’s spoke of the evolution of the family as being both a catalyst for and result of the growth of capitalism. As mankind’s standard of living has improved, our desire to accumulate possessions and wealth to pass on to our families has only increased, as has our willingness to go into debt to satisfy it. Power and control is still exerted by those that own the means of production and they readily use this power to manipulate public opinion. Concentration of the media in the hands of a few like-minded individuals has led to misinformation campaigns that have amazingly ignited the workers to fight for the rights of the rich to get richer at their own expense. Family dynamics may have changed but the willingness of the proletariat to support the bourgeoisie seems alive and well.

 

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