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 http://theunionshow.blip.tv. Current union information can be sourced at www.theunionshow.com.au 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 www.labourstart.org.au where you will find links to many other like-minded information outlets.


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

Why Vote Greens?

20 08 2010

Bob Brown spoke yesterday at a Greens re-election rally to campaign workers and Greens supporters.

“This is a terrific moment in Greens history” he said, “because we are on the cusp of electing both a Greens senator out of Victoria into the national parliament, and a Greens representative out of Melbourne into the house of Representatives.”

Mr Brown also outlined the case for voting Green regardless of major party election outcomes.

“Julia Gillard has said this is a cliff-hanger election. This time Sunday we may have an Abbott government. What could be better than Adam Bandt, this person of integrity with the intellect he has, on the floor of the parliament, taking it up to an Abbott government for the next three years. And what could be better, if there is a Labor government, than not just having another Labor back-bencher in the house, but having a Green front-bencher, able to introduce legislation for a carbon tax, to tax the polluters and green the Australian economy.”

Workchoices never again – but who does stand for Fair Work?

13 08 2010

The VTHC has passed a motion to support both Greens and ALP candidates in the seat of Melbourne. The motion followed a previous motion by the Council Executive to support ALP in marginal seats. However the seat of Melbourne Greens candidate Adam Bandt is supported by several affiliate unions in preference to ALP candidate Cath Bowtell.

Both candidates spoke to the chamber at the Council meeting last Thursday as exponents of workers rights. Both candidates have a history of union employment and advocacy. They do however stand opposed to each other on Fairwork Australia.

Ms Bowtell was employed at the ACTU for 15 years and was the lead ACTU negotiator in the development of the Fair Work Act introduced by Julia Gillard. She replaces Lindsay Tanner and was the clear frontrunner to replace Mr Tanner in the marginal seat, with the support of key state and federal ministers. Mr Bandt is an industrial and public interest lawyer. He was previously a partner at Slater and Gordon and has more recently worked on legals for both the UFU and the ETU where he has been an architect of the successful CEPU representation to the ILO on the contravention of ILO conventions on workers’ rights by Fairwork Australia.

The VTHC unequivocally supports changes in Fairwork Australia and it is largely acknowledged that the Gillard Fair Work Act 2009 saw only the partial return of rights lost under Howard’s Work Choices legislation; with the retention of the ABCC, the continued outlawing of “pattern bargaining”, and considerable restrictions on union right of entry in the workplace.. Most unions have spent the last year or so adapting to the Fair Work Act, the so called Award Modernisation process and OHS ‘harmonisation’. All very time consuming and often frustrating.

The ACTU leadership has made a few brief statements about the need for a second term IR agenda in the lead up to the federal election.
At the recent ACTU Executive a comprehensive pre–federal election resolution was passed. It included strengthening workers’ rights and extending collective bargaining: “The Executive recognises there is more work to do to secure and improve the rights of working Australians.”

New Federal IR Minister Simon Crean told a recent ACTU Executive (20/7/2010) that he believed the Federal Government had ‘got the balance right’ on IR and that the Fair Work Act was not up for more changes. Victorian unions are united for change to the Fairwork legislation. Both Melbourne candidates cite support for the union position on workers rights.