Construction Unions Rally – July 4 2012 Melbourne, Australia

9 07 2012


July 5, the Fin Review covered the rally and cited MUA Victorian Secretary Kevin Bracken’s call for an end to importation of international labour racist. In fact Mr Bracken was pushing for due process of all persons who wish to obtain work in Australia and an end to the 457 visa.

In fact Mr Bracken was calling for an adherence to the existing migration process that protects international workers from abuse by giving them citizenship of this country. He was also speaking for reinforcing skills in this country and said that those skills sould cease to exist in Australia if they were not taught to Australian citizens.

The 457 visa exists exists for companies wishing to extract maximum profit by cutting corners on migration in so called skill shortage areas. However international workers employed on 457 visas have often been subject to wages and conditions that fall far short of Australian conditions and are in breach of Australia’s Fairwork industrial relations law yet the Federal govt has been loathe to regulate the 457 system.

The May 25 announcement of an agreement that would allow Hancock Prospecting to import 1715 457 visa workers to their Roy Hill mine, Federal Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has embarrassed the Federal government into some show of revision.

BOB BIRRELL, MIGRATION EXPERT, MONASH UNIVERSITY: Over the past few years, the Government has systemically rejected any proposals this that there should be labour market testing for 457 visas sponsored by Australian employers, and suddenly on Friday, the Prime Minister says that she now feels that Australian workers should be given an opportunity to apply for work that 457 visa holders intended to do. So if this was the case, it would be a massive change and administrative revolution in the 457 visa regime.

Not embarrassed enough though, to call a halt to the expansion of agreements like Roy Hill with other companies chomping at the bit to get a hold of those low paid workers.

The 7:30 report touched on the issue in May this year.

730 Report on Rhinehart's Roy Hill Mine migration agreement
(29/05/2012 copyright ABC)

KRUNO KUKOC, SENIOR IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL To date we have had four applications for EMA, we have four applications, one fully considered, assessed and before the Minister, three with us at the moment.

STEVE KNOTT, AUST. MINES AND METAL ASSOC.: The number of projects that meet that criteria of $2 billion or 1,500 employees is very small – there’s only about 10 to 13 projects in that category. So yes, there are other enterprise migration agreement programs being considered.

GREG HOY: It is clear from comments made publicly over the past week that it won’t be long before further enterprise migration agreements are announced. The multinational Chevron corporation will today neither confirm nor deny rumours that it’s Wheatstone and Gorgon gas projects off WA are the next in line for such agreements, followed by the Indian GVK and Adani coal projects in Queensland. Unions are angry at the lack of transparency.

And Gina’s position?

GINA RINEHART (from corporate video): Whilst continuing to limit sufficient guest workers, we are not only losing or delaying projects, but creating problems for the future by putting ourselves in an unnecessarily high cost base structure, from which we will be forced to struggle to compete internationally for decades ahead. Both unions and migration experts have long called for greater market testing of availability of Australian workers, including for the closely related 457 visas that have, or will, bring in tens of thousands more skilled workers than will now arrive under enterprise migration agreements.

Gina Rhinehart could not be more blatant in her stated wish to undercut Australian wages and conditions but foisting lesser conditions on 457 workers who do not have rights the same as Australian citizens.

It seems pretty clear too, that such agreements would intentionally undercut Australian Enterprise Agreements and are designed to rid the space of union representation.

Finally the Fin Review should be noted as shark infested media and should note: it is a racist migration scheme in which inherent under-privilege is linked with country of origin.


What is The Union Show?

7 12 2010

The Union Show broadcast on community TV C31 in Melbourne Australia from 2005 to 2009 and is a rich source of information on unions and issues affecting unions in this country. Whilst the program is no longer produced for television, the producers, United Productions maintain both a Union Show blog and the UnitedPro2010 YouTube channel as a means of disseminating union information that would otherwise be lost in time and in the morass of anti-union misinformation that is distributed by mainstream media.

An extensive archive of Union Show episodes is available for viewing at Current union information can be sourced at and at the UnitedPro2010 YouTube channel. There are many other web sources for union information that deal mainly in the written word. One of those sites and perhaps the venerable example is where you will find links to many other like-minded information outlets.

Rigger’s industrial laws fight back in court

14 09 2010

By Candice Marcus

Updated Mon Sep 13, 2010 2:33pm AEST

Ark Tribe

Rigger Ark Tribe arrives for another court appearance (ABC News: Patrick Rocca)

A lawyer for a construction worker charged under federal industrial laws has told Adelaide Magistrates Court the prosecution case is seriously flawed.

Rigger Ark Tribe is accused of failing to attend at the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) to answer questions about a stopwork meeting which was held over safety concerns at an Adelaide building site.

It is the first such case prosecuted.

Tribe’s lawyer Michael Abbott QC told the court that only the commissioner was empowered to form a suspicion that a worker had contravened the laws.

“It always has to be the ABC Commissioner investigating unless he delegates that function, which he never did,” he told the hearing.

“The function of the ABC Commissioner must be performed by him, and him alone, unless he delegates it and he would still have to publish a copy of the instructions of delegation under the legislation.

“The inspectors acted illegally and unlawfully.”

Mr Abbott said much could be read into the fact that Commissioner John Lloyd was not called to give evidence for the prosecution case, when it should have been his investigation.

“We say the silence of the ABC Commissioner is telling,” he said.

Hundreds of union members again rallied outside the hearing to support Tribe.

The magistrate will give a verdict in November and unionists have vowed to take nationwide action if Tribe is jailed.

SES volunteers continue to respond to widespread flooding

7 09 2010

Date: 07 September 2010 Time: 06:00 HRS

SES volunteers continue to respond to widespread flooding across Victoria, with over 300 properties affected so far.
280 properties are at-risk of being flood affected today at Shepparton, Wangaratta and Horsham.
The Shepparton area remains an operational focus as the Goulburn River is rising slowly, and expected to peak at around 11 metres throughout the day. SES has warned the at-risk properties to be prepared to evacuate if river levels threaten their properties.
SES and local government are continuing to monitor the Wilson Road Levee at Wangaratta, with two weak points of the levee posing a potential threat to around 60 homes in the area.
Residents from behind the levee have been evacuated until the threat eases.
The situation at Horsham is being closely monitored this morning, with the Wimmera River levels expected to rise from an estimated 2.4 metres to around 3.5 metres. Some 20 properties are at-risk in this area.
In other areas minor, moderate and major flood warnings are still in place for rivers across the state.
Extensive rural inundation is likely to occur over the coming days along the Goulburn downstream of Shepparton; Murray River from Corowa to Tocumwal; Avoca River downstream of Charlton; Wimmera River downstream of Glenorchy and the Loddon River downstream of Serpentine.
VICSES has now have received over 4350 Requests for Assistance since Saturday and crews will work through Tuesday to complete remaining storm damage tasks.
The Commonwealth Government is providing assistance for the replenishment of current sandbag stocks.
Interstate SES crews from South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland are assisting their Victorian counterparts.

Greren Left Weekly Interview with Greens MP elect Adam Bandt: ‘I’ll give a voice to the movements’

3 09 2010

Friday, September 3, 2010

Adam Bandt, the MP elect for the seat of Melbourne (long considered a “safe Labor seat”), and the Greens’ first House of Representatives member to be elected in a general election has been very busy since August 21. He says he left the triumphant Greens’ election night party at 11pm thinking that he would have to do some media the next day so should get a good night’s sleep. He woke up the next morning and after a couple of hours having coffee and reading the paper, the situation sunk in. “And that was the last two hours I’ve had to myself since”, he told Green Left in a wide-ranging interview conducted on September 2.

After days of negotiations following the August 21 federal election which left neither of the traditional parties of government with the majority of seats in Parliament to form government, the Greens and the Australian Labor Party announced an agreement on September 1. In return for placing a number of items (including a referendum on including Indigenous rights in the constitution, a full parliamentary debate on Australia’s military intervention in Afghanistan, re-opeing the climate change response, expansion of public cover for dental care and electoral and parliamentary procedure reform) on the agenda of a possible ALP minority government, the Greens agreed to support Labor budgetary supply bills and to “oppose any motion of no confidence in the Government from other parties or MPs”.

Since then, progressive independent MP elect Andrew Wilkie, who won the seat of Denison in Tasmania, has made a similar commitment to support an ALP minority government. Wilkie spurning a $1 billion dollar sweetener (in the form of extra funding for a public hospital in his electorate) from the Liberal-National Coalition.

The ALP now needs to win the support of at least two of the remaining three independent MPs in order to have the numbers to form government.

Below is the full transcript of the interview with Bandt conducted by Jody Betzien for Green Left. An edited down version will appear in the next print version of Green Left Weekly.

* * *

In the Seat of Melbourne your primary vote soared to 36% and on two-party preferred terms you defeated the ALP candidate Cath Bowtell by 10%. This large votes goes well beyond the traditional Green vote, what do you think is the significance of this rise in the Green vote in Melbourne and nationally?

We made a decision to run a campaign based on some positive values and plans. Compassion, sustainability and equality were the three key principles of our campaign. We called for urgent action on climate change. We called for compassionate treatment of asylum seekers and for an end to mandatory detention. And we called for full equality for same-sex couples.

We set out a positive plan for getting Melbourne running on renewal energy within a decade, redirecting federal money away from roads to public transport. I think that in an overwhelmingly negative election campaign, putting forward a positive vision for how things could be better, was well received.

One of the things that we did differently to last time is that we made conscious efforts to get our message to the people on low incomes who live in the electorate particularly in public housing. This is one of the electorates with the highest concentration of public housing tenants in the country.

We took a very strong stance against Labor’s income management proposals, against their plans to toughen welfare rules, and in favour of ideas like making dental care part of Medicare and increasing Newstart [unemployment benefit] payments.

I think those things in combination with a strong grassroots campaign are the reasons for our vote.

A strong contribution to your campaign came from unionists who were angry with Labor’s industrial relations policies, especially the plans to maintain the anti-union Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) under another name. How do you see as your role as an MP in this campaign?

I’ve had a long involvement with this issue. I have represented construction workers before the Royal Commission into the building industry and I have defended many individual unionists and unions against charges brought by the ABCC. And the Greens have had a strong position in favour of the repeal of the ABCC act.

We are now in a position to bring bills before Parliament to abolish the ABCC.

Based on our agreement with the Labor Party, if a Gillard government is elected, we will have the ability to introduce our legislation to Parliament and have it debated and voted on. That is a significant opportunity to ensure that we end up with one set of industrial laws for all workers in Australia, without certain sections being picked off and treated specially.

With a few notable exceptions, the ACTU and affiliated unions backed Cath Bowtell in the Seat of Melbourne, including enlisting staff to ring up members and donating large amounts of money. What is your message to unionists post-election and your victory?

I’m very grateful that a number of unions were able to objectively assess the Greens industrial relations policies and to realise that we had policies that would better protect people’s rights at work than under those of the Labor party.

A few unions did tell their members that our policies were the best policies. I am deeply appreciative of the unions which did that.

Other unions supported the Labor candidate, and that is their right. It was disappointing that the peak bodies chose to intervene on the side of Labor when the Greens had the more progressive industrial relations policies. This was disappointing as many unions had expressed the view that peak bodies shouldn’t take sides in this contest. But they did and showed themselves to be more willing to support the ALP than a party that had better industrial relations policies.

Some people contacted me to say that they had resigned from their union as a result of their union’s funds and ACTU funds being used to run a campaign against a candidate who had a progressive and principled stance on industrial relations.

You would not have won the seat if the Liberals hadn’t given preferences to you before the Labor party. After your victory, a number of business groups and right-wing commentators like Gerard Henderson have called on the Liberal party to stop this practice. How will you counter that possibility in the next elections, including the state election?

In this election one in nine people across the country voted for the Greens and if we had a fair system of proportional representation in the House of Representatives we would have 17 seats rather than the one that we’ve got.

In the system that we’ve got, the people who voted for the Liberals tended to put us second last and Labor last. Those people’s votes were important in the final result.

It wouldn’t surprise me if more conservative employer groups do begin to conduct that sort of campaign. And the fact that conservative employer groups are saying that the Labor party should be preferenced over the Greens shows how far the Labor party has drifted to the right.

How do we deal with it? I think my job is now to increase my vote and to ultimately move to a situation where we can win seats like Melbourne because the majority of the people vote for us.

I also had a large number of people come up to me in the final stage of the campaign saying that they were small “l”liberals who were disappointed with the stances that the Liberal party had taken in particular the increasing role that conservative views in organised religion was playing in politics. They felt that the Liberal party no longer represented small “l” liberal values and they were moving to us for the reason that the Liberal party was becoming more conservative as well.

Electoral reform has been placed on the agenda in the agreement with the ALP but the need for proportional representation in House of Representatives elections, which you mentioned earlier, was not mentioned in the agreement. Was it raised during the negotiations with the ALP and will the Greens raise it as part of your electoral reform agenda?

I think proportional representation is important and a fair way of reflecting the will of the people in Parliament and what we’ve seen very clearly in this election – and it is an increasing trend worldwide – is that people want new new voices that aren’t represented by the two major parties.

Of course there are people in Parliament who don’t want proportional representation, including the major parties and others, so we have got our work cut out for us to persuade the Australian people that we need a system of proportional representation. It is something that we do want and it is something we have raised in previous parliaments and we will continue to raise.

Obviously the agreement that was reached with the Labor party focused on those areas where we were approaching common ground. For instance, we have got the beginnings of some real movement on climate change, we have the beginnings of agreement on an expansion of the dental care system, and the construction of high-speed rail on the East Coast.

What this agreement isn’t is a coalition or an alliance. We have maintained our separate party platforms and this is something we will continue to pursue in Parliament and outside.

One area where we differ from the ALP and we haven’t reached agreement on is the issue of proportional representation and there are many others same-sex marriage, asylum seekers, forests, and many other things that we will continue to push in Parliament.

The Greens-ALP agreement promises to introduce a referendum on including Indigenous rights into the constitution. Are you looking at just symbolic recognition or to entrench some real rights for Indigenous people in the constitution? And will Indigenous communities have a say in developing such a constitutional proposal?

I would hope so. It is now an open question as to what kind of recognition it would be, what form it would take and who will draft it. I would really hope that we end up with something substantive out of it. What we have sought to do is open up a front of discussion in the public sphere about the proper way to recognise Indigenous people in constitution. The Greens are very clear that our preference is to see a treaty and to have Aboriginal sovereignty recognised and to push for self-determination. It will only work if it is a recognition that comes from the bottom up and not from the top down.

In the process that will now unfold, should Julia Gillard form government, there will be opportunity for that discussion to be had and that it doesn’t go the way of the republic debate.

A parliamentary debate on the Australian military intervention in Afghanistan is another part of the agreement. What positions will the Greens enter this debate with?

We have always opposed the war on Afghanistan. We have been the only party in Parliament to do so. We’ve said from the beginning that this was the wrong approach, that there wasn’t a justification for doing it, and that, at a minimum, there should have been a parliamentary debate, which we believe should take place before any troop commitment is made.

During the course of the full parliamentary debate we will make our position very clear: that this is a war that Australia should not have been involved in and that it is time now for an exit strategy.

There is a big disparity between the views of most MP s and that of the Australian public, with 61% according to a recent Essential Poll wanting Australian troops to be withdrawn. Given the position of both major parties a parliamentary debate is going to be a bit stacked against majority public opinion. Do you see the Greens being able to assist the anti-war movement to mobilise pressure on parliament to come into line with the majority desire for withdrawal of the troops?

On issues like the war in Afghanistan as well as recognition of same-sex marriage there is a significant disjuncture between public opinion and the positions of the major parties. Because the two major parties are in agreement about issues like these there hasn’t been the space for debate on them and the disparity has not been brought into the open.

One of the things that we place a priority on is giving a voice to social movements and to that undercurrent of progressive public opinion that is not being represented. The one thing that should come out of a full public debate is precisely how far away the major parties are increasingly from what people are thinking.

Under the agreement the ALP leadership also agreed to re-open the response to the climate change crisis. The Greens have called for placing a price on carbon to implement some form of market solution to climate change. The last plan of that type that the ALP came up with, the so-called Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), gave massive subsidies to the big polluters, and according to some analysts would not even have delivered the modest greenhouse emission reduction targets set by the Labor government. How will the Greens’ market solution to climate change differ?

There were a number of reasons why we opposed the CPRS. They included those you just mentioned. Under the CPRS Australia’s domestic emissions wouldn’t start to fall until 2035 plus it took billions of dollars in compensation away from households to give to the big polluters. It would have set Australia on a path of rising emissions and money going into the pockets of large corporations which would have sent them offshore without any reduction of our emissions.

What the new climate committee [to be established under the Greens-ALP agreement] will do is go back to the drawing board and acknowledge that there needs to be a price tag on pollution. There are a number of ways this could be done, ranging from a straight carbon tax to a fully-fledged emissions trading scheme. The principle we will be advancing is that the big polluters should pay the costs of addressing climate change and it shouldn’t come from ordinary people and consumers. There are various ways to address this problem and this is one of the things the committee will have to look at. Some are more market-based solutions and others are based more on the taxation system.

We’ll now have the opportunity not to play politics with climate change, as was done under the Rudd government, when CPRS was used to try and wedge the Coalition while they refused to negotiate with the Greens over climate change. And it all ended up with what Professor Ross Garnaut described as the worst example of public policy making he had ever seen.

We now have the opportunity to get around the table people who agree that polluters should pay for their pollution and work out a system that is going to stick.

If there is an ALP minority government supported by the Greens, will the Greens commit to assessing and voting on all bills (with the exception of supply bills) on their merits as Wilkie has expressly indicated he will? Will any future agreements made with the ALP be made public immediately, as was done with your recent agreement?

The only guarantees we have made to the ALP in this agreement are to support supply and to assist the government if ant motions of no-confidence are moved and that’s it. We will maintain our independent legislative platform comprising the policies we took to the election. There remain many areas where we will disagree with Labor and the other major parties such as treatment of asylum seekers, same-sex marriage, forests and a number of other areas that are not reflected in the agreement precisely because we have different positions to Labor on them.

I will be judging pieces of legislation on two things: one is our party platform and the other is the interests of the people I represent.

What flow on effect to you expect from the federal election outcome to the upcoming Victorian (November 2010) and NSW (March 2011) state elections? There have been concerns in the left and labour movements about suggestions that the Greens may entertain supporting or even contemplate entering coalition state governments with the Liberal-National Party Coalition. What do you say in response to these concerns?

The state elections will be treated as a “clean slate”. There are different issues at play in the state and federal elections.

The Greens are an independent political party. We are not a faction of the Labor party and the Labor party cannot presume that no matter how far they lurch to the right they can always rely on our support.

Having said that I would invite people to look at our record and how we have operated in recent times in balance of power situations. In Tasmania we have Labor and Greens working together in a coalition government with Green ministers and in the ACT we have Greens supporting a minority Labor government.

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Greens and Labor Commit to Agreement

3 09 2010

01/09/2010 – 11:30

The Australian Greens and the Labor Party have signed an agreement to ensure stability for Labor in Government. The Greens will ensure supply and oppose any motion of no confidence in the Government from other parties or MPs.

Labor will work with the Greens to deliver improved transparency and integrity to Parliament and pursue policies that promote the national interest and address climate change.

Read Full Agreement

As part of the agreement there will be regular meetings between the Prime Minister and Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown and newly-elected Lower House MP Adam Bandt.

“There will be a Climate Change Committee resourced as a Cabinet Committee, an investment in dental health care in the next budget and completion of a $20 million study into High Speed Rail by July 2011,” said Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown.

The agreement includes a wide range of measures. These include:

* A Climate Change Committee
* A full parliamentary debate on Afghanistan
* A commitment to work with the Greens on dental health care investment
* Completion of a $20 million High Speed Rail study by July 2011
* Legislating for truth in political advertising
* A Leaders’ Debate Commission
*Establishing a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner
* Establishing a Parliamentary Budget Office
* Restrictions on political donations
* A move toward full three year governments
* Specially allocated time for debate and voting on private members bills and a fixed and fair allocation of questions for Independent and minor party members in Question Time
* Referenda for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians and Local Government
* A commitment for reform to provide above the line voting in the Senate
* Better processes for the release of documents in the public interest in both Houses of Parliament
* Access to relevant departments, including Treasury and Finance & Deregulation for Greens election policies.

Dean Mighell has been appointed to a new Office of Solar Energy

3 09 2010

A new Office of Solar Energy and a $30 million boost to support renewable energy technology will drive new investment and the development of cleaner energy in Victoria, according to Premier John Brumby, who said a $30 million funding boost would support the development of alternative energy technologies.

This initiative is about partnering with industry to develop the technologies needed for the future to deliver clean energy for Victorian households, says the government. The funding will be available for parties interested in developing pilot-scale demonstration projects or research and development proposals for sustainable energy technologies in areas such as solar, wave, geothermal and bio-energy.

In addition to the $30 million fund, Mr Brumby announced a new Office of Solar Energy to bring together under one umbrella the work being done on solar energy in Victoria. The new office will become the first point of contact for industry, small business, the community and educational institutes looking for information about Victoria’s solar potential and work already underway.

Complementing the establishment of the Office of Solar Energy is the creation of a Medium Scale Solar Working Group, which will examine current barriers to investment and what additional measures are required to encourage the use of solar energy in Victoria. ETU secretary Dean Mighell has been appointed to the working group.

The working group will be chaired by Tony Wood, Director, Clean Energy Program of the William J Clinton Foundation, which was set up by former US President Bill Clinton to focus on worldwide issues such as climate change.

Other members include technical experts in the solar and finance industries as well as representatives from the unions, the commercial building sector and the community:

* Ian Porter – Alternative Technologies Association
* Cameron O’Reilly – Energy Retailers Association of Australia
* Andrew Blyth – Energy Networks Association
* Peter Lunt – Vic Super
* Dean Mighell – Electrical Trades Union
* Mark Twidell – Australian Solar Institute
* Mark Clover – ANZ
* Rod Menzies – Clean Energy Council
* Damon Moloney – Green Buildings Council