Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Reith blasts Abbott on IR reform

Michelle Grattan, The Age

June 28, 2011

FORMER Howard government workplace relations minister Peter Reith has accused Opposition Leader Tony Abbott of dragging his feet on industrial relations reform.

In a stinging criticism of the man whose vote cost him the Liberal Party federal presidency, Mr Reith has compared Mr Abbott's conservative position unfavorably with the bolder approaches on workplace issues taken by Ted Baillieu in Victoria and Barry O'Farrell in NSW.

Writing in The Age, Mr Reith points out that Mr Baillieu and Mr O'Farrell both backed him in the Liberal presidency ballot, while Mr Abbott and Western Australia's Colin Barnett - both workplace relations conservatives - voted for incumbent Alan Stockdale, who won 57-56.

Advertisement: Story continues below ''It seems that the reformers on workplace relations were also supporters for party reform; once a reformer, always a reformer,'' Mr Reith writes.

A Reith campaign for the Coalition to take a robust industrial relations reform program to the next federal election will irk Mr Abbott because it will encourage those within the party who believe the opposition must advocate change. They include senior frontbenchers Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb and a ginger group of younger backbenchers.

Mr Abbott wants to play down industrial relations as much as possible, fearing Labor's ability to frighten voters about a possible return to WorkChoices.

Reverberations from the bitter Liberal presidency contest continued yesterday, with Reith supporters insisting Mr Abbott had encouraged Mr Reith to run. A senior source in the Stockdale camp, meanwhile, said Mr Abbott had indicated several times that he would vote for Mr Stockdale, to whom he showed his ballot paper.

The Liberals are gearing up for a battle over how much to implement of Mr Reith's blueprint to bring more democracy into the party. The blueprint criticises the ''fiefdom'' at the top, with a tight exclusive relationship between the leader, president and party director, Brian Loughnane.

In his article in The Age today, Mr Reith writes that he promised Mr Abbott that, as party president, he would suspend public advocacy of workplace reform, thinking this was the best way he could support Mr Abbott and ''quietly encourage good policy''.

He had been more than surprised to find after the ballot that Mr Abbott had thrown his support behind Mr Stockdale. ''I have no idea why,'' he writes.

The Liberal Party has to take responsibility for labour market reform, Mr Reith writes.

These issues ''are at the heart of productivity and, in the end, about living standards. Australia's productivity performance has been poor in recent years. We cannot pretend that this problem does not exist''.

In a line going to the heart of Mr Abbott's fears, he says: ''Too many people are too worried about WorkChoices.

''If we jump in fright every time Nick Minchin says the ALP is salivating at the thought of the Liberals doing something necessary, then Australia's prospects are not looking good.''

Senator Minchin, backing Mr Stockdale, warned Labor would be able to rev up a damaging campaign on IR if Mr Reith became president.

Mr Reith points out that Mr O'Farrell and Mr Baillieu have not been deterred from industrial relations initiatives by Labor reprises of the WorkChoices bogyman. ''Luckily these two premiers will not be deterred by a scare campaign and they will act in the public

interest. By addressing practical problems with specific reforms, these premiers are demonstrating an approach that Tony could emulate,'' Mr Reith writes. He says Mr Abbott's current policy is that the workplace issue ''is dead, buried and cremated''.

''The ambivalence about workplace relations reform on show at the Liberal meeting is a continuing concern not just for me but for a growing number of Australians running businesses large and small. The Liberals must win at the next election but winning is not enough.

''Let's aim higher than a rerun of the Fraser years. In the same way that Baillieu and O'Farrell have put aside fears about the bogyman the next federal government also needs to be pro-reform''.

He welcomes Mr Abbott's call for the business community to make the case for reform but adds pointedly: ''I hope he means it''.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


SMH, 25.6.11.

Four experts debate the merits of curbing the pay for the state’s nurses, teachers, fire fighters and bus drivers.


One of the big changes in the Australian labour market in the past 20 years has been the shift towards decentralised wage-setting, tailored to individual workplaces and industries increasingly exposed to international trade, new technology and changing patterns of employment.

Against that background the new public sector pay policy in NSW is a step back to the past. Of course, that does not necessarily make it a bad step. Having a centralised wage-setting system was for many years a good policy. It allowed wage increases during inflationary periods to be managed on an economy-wide basis, while providing equity in wage outcomes.

Advertisement: Story continues below So perhaps the NSW pay policy can be justified on these terms – as a way of seeking to control a wage break-out. The data suggests not.

First, there is no indication of rapid growth in public sector wages in NSW. Over the past 15 years, wages of public sector and private sector workers in NSW have moved closely together. Australian Bureau of Statistics data on the average weekly earnings of adult workers in NSW (working full-time ordinary hours) show that in the first time period for which data is available – August 1994 – the ratio of earnings of public sector to private sector workers was 107 per cent; in the last time period available – February 2011 – the ratio was also 107 per cent. In the past two years average earnings of public sector workers have increased at a slightly higher rate than private sector workers, but most of this relative growth occurred a year ago. In the past six months the ratio of public sector to private sector earnings in NSW has decreased.

Secondly, it doesn’t seem that wage increases in NSW overall have been excessive compared with the rest of Australia. For example, in the two years to February 2011, average weekly earnings of adults in NSW (working full-time ordinary hours) increased by 5.1 per cent a year, compared to 4.8 per cent in all Australia.

If there is little benefit to centralised wage-setting for public sector workers in NSW, what are likely to be the costs? There may be several. If you try to hold wage increases of public sector workers below the size of increases obtained in the private sector, you will lose talented workers to the private sector.

Also, a uniform wage increase for all public sector workers reduces the scope for responding to particular circumstances in specific public sector labour markets, thereby reducing efficiency. Where workers respond by adjusting their effort and working hours to what they think is fair based on their wages, you also get a lower quality of public services.

Jeff Borland is professor of economics at the University of Melbourne.


When setting pay for public sector workers the NSW Industrial Relations Commission has performed its function professionally and effectively.

Contrary to assertions from NSW Treasury, there has been no public sector wages ‘‘blowout’’. Research by Yury Andrienko and Serena Yu at Sydney University’s Workplace Research Centre confirms that when factors like education levels and time in the job are considered for NSW public sector workers, they are paid almost identical wages as their private sector counterparts.

Research I have undertaken shows that senior teachers, police officers and nurses are paid roughly the same as their interstate colleagues. If this policy had been in place since 2000, people in these positions would be between $9000 and $17,000 a year worse off. And this in a state with one of the highest costs of living in the country.

The courts give great weight to treating like cases alike when settling disputes. Consistency in the treatment of people in similar circumstances is widely recognised as the key feature of a civilised society that values fairness.

Allowing Treasury and not the independent umpire to set wages is unfair. More importantly, it is inefficient. Fair wages are crucial for maintaining motivation and underpinning a sustainable approach to recruitment and retention.

People with good teaching, nursing and policing skills are in high demand. If the NSW government does not reward them competitively, we will have big trouble staffing schools, hospitals, police stations and a host of other services with the personnel needed to provide quality public services.

The global financial crisis proved treasuries around the world are incapable of delivering policies that achieve sustainable, stable economic development. Why should we believe they have the answer on public sector pay?

There are problems in our economy today. It’s time to get serious about ending systemic tax avoidance. The tax support provided to high income earnings with private superannuation now costs more than all government expenditure on the public pension. Fiscal problems arise from problems in taxation as much as from public expenditure.

Arbitrarily capping wages is an easy way of saving public money in the short term. But at what long-term cost? Let’s have an informed, widespread debate on how to meet budget challenges and move beyond ill-informed, simple-minded public sector bashing.

Dr John Buchanan is director of the Workplace Research Centre at the University of Sydney Business School.


From a government’s perspective, this question is about cost and efficiency. Is the issue wage levels or the rate of increase? Should the discussion extend to more highly paid professional and technical staff, as well as senior executives in public service?

There is a significant diversity of jobs in the public sector, from senior executives, professional, technical and administrative staff providing community services through to operating business enterprises. Many of these roles require well-trained and dedicated people deserving of fair pay and recognition of their contribution to the national good.

From the perspective of cost and efficiency, the challenge is broader than base-pay levels or pay increases and embraces terms and conditions of employment, including rostered days off; overtime payments; productivity; and the quality of leadership.

A key weakness of tribunals adjudicating on this diversity of public sector employees is, just like the private sector, that one size does not fit all. If a pay increase of 2per cent, 3per cent or 4per cent is considered appropriate for the least well-paid to meet living costs, should that flow through the entire workforce?

At what level of pay should performance be a more significant determinant of wage levels and wage increases?

Productivity is clearly a challenge in the public sector. If a commitment to efficiency and continuous improvement is not an embedded principle in government workforces, taxpayers are often paying more than they should for service and other outputs. As in the private sector, budget constraints lead to an audit of resources and an examination of staff performance.

Given the pressure on the Australian economy, with low unemployment, some of these cost pressures and wage challenges may well be addressed by the government considering the outsourcing of contracts and the sending of jobs offshore, releasing public servants to pursue more satisfying opportunities in the private sector.

Clearly one of the challenges in the public sector is meeting round-the-clock demand when employees have two to five weeks of RDOs available, plus personal carer’s leave, plus public holidays, plus annual leave. In a national workforce of one million this is likely to require governments to employ an extra 100,000 people, adding between $5 billion and $7 billion to the nation’s wages cost.

It is unlikely the challenge is one of wage levels or wage increases alone but more likely to be one of quality of leadership, clarity in government of accountability and training to ensure efficiencies are comparable to the best-run private companies.

John Egan is an adviser on executive pay.


It is an attack on rights at work.

Public sector employees are no different from the rest of the workforce.

They are teachers, nurses, bus drivers, firefighters, park rangers, office workers and the countless others who keep public services in NSW running. And they face exactly the same cost of living pressures as everyone else.

The latest measure of employee living costs from the ABS shows these rose 4.9per cent in the past year.

An arbitrary cap on wages – whether public or private sector – bears no relation to the economy, nor to the necessity of maintaining the real value of earnings.

Imagine if your employer came to you and said: “Next year, I’m capping your wages at below inflation. No ifs, no buts, no negotiation. Take it or leave it.”

That’s effectively what the O’Farrell government’s 2.5per cent public sector wages cap will do. It will result in pay cuts for hundreds of thousands of people and their families.

But let’s not be fooled. The O’Farrell government’s Industrial Relations Amendment (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Bill 2011 is not a wages policy. It is not a fiscal policy. It is an attack on rights at work, dressed up as a wages policy.

And for this reason, reversing these laws matters to every Australian worker and their family.

The O’Farrell government has been eager to portray its changes as identical to the wages policies that state Labor governments also adopt.

But this is a con job because it glosses over a crucial and central distinction. Unions regularly have stoushes with state governments – Labor and Liberal – over pay. And similar disputes are taking place in Europe and some US states over government austerity programs.

But it is a long accepted principle – and a requirement of international law – that the final outcome of any wage claim is a matter of negotiation and bargaining.

The O’Farrell government is not sitting down with their workforce to reach an agreement. It is changing the law – not only to dictate wage increases below the cost of living but also to cut important workplace conditions.

In no other state or territory has the government sought to implement a wages policy by stripping away workers’ rights.

No person or party who cares about working people, about Australian jobs or about the services in our community could support these laws.

Jeff Lawrence is secretary of the ACTU.


Blind to the suffering

Paul Daley

June 26, 2011 Sun Herald
NOT too many years ago as you emerged from the English Channel on the Eurostar at the French town of Calais you would see them - hordes of men, and a few women, milling close to the giant security fences beside the railway tracks.

They were would-be asylum seekers - people who had come to live in squalid camps all around Calais from all over the globe, and who were willing to risk anything for a chance to get across the channel, somehow, to Britain.

A few days ago, while en route to the European Western Front of the First World War, I looked out the window as the train screeched out of the darkness. But I couldn't see any of the desperate people who had previously been such a familiar sight.

Had they stopped coming?

No. They are still living, in increasing numbers and desperate circumstances, in Calais and the surrounding countryside. But increasingly intense security (even more so after discussions this month between French and British ministers) means that none get anywhere near the tunnel these days.

Well that's the theory, anyway.

Last year 6535 asylum seekers arrived in Australia by boat compared with just 1553 this year. More than 34,000 unauthorised entrants sought asylum in Britain last year. Last year French and British authorities thwarted 10,000 illegal attempts to cross the Channel. So far this year 3500 such attempts have been thwarted.

Many more are arriving, having escaped brutal regimes in Libya, Tunisia and Syria. Now that is a genuine, large-scale asylum seeker problem.

Australia has a refugee issue. But the only crisis that exists is the inability of Australian politics to deal with it honestly, maturely and compassionately. But hey, it's not all the politicians' fault. Maybe they're just giving us what we deserve. Others are, thankfully, less willing to let public and media sentiment shape political response.

The member for Chisholm, Anna Burke, said recently: ''I've received thousands of emails about cows and sheep and their terrible treatment … I haven't received thousands of emails concerned about people getting into leaking boats and drowning. So I just find it a funny debate where people don't get things into I suppose the perspective I have on them.'' Well said.

Like so many who watched ABC's Four Corners program that exposed the terrible treatment of our livestock in Indonesian slaughterhouses, I felt sick and angry.

The program sparked a viscerally emotive reaction of the type rarely seen in Australia. Our politicians had to react meaningfully. It's worth pondering here precisely what would have happened had the Gillard government not done so, albeit somewhat tardily. My bet is we'd have seen protests in the street.

The government acted because it correctly read the mood and sidestepped the public emotion that it knew would quickly transmogrify into political destruction.

Good governments do that. Not that the Gillard government deserves, by any measure, to be termed good. But its response on this occasion was, initially at least, appropriate.

By the same token, good governments should steadfastly refuse to be moved by public sentiment when the principle behind that mood is ill-founded or morally abhorrent.

Which brings me back to Burke and her comments that, I believe, held a mirror up to a not altogether palatable truth about Australians.

For many years there has been a compassionless and caustic edge to the most vocal proponents of the toughest punitive measures for asylum seekers. I'm no longer sure if they are just a vocal minority. I can't tell you the number of conversations I've had with politicians and opinion-makers who have said that the penny dropped for them when the Four Corners show went to air.

Why? Because it coincided with the latest episode in our unedifying tough on law and order-style political auction on asylum seekers.

''I really started to wonder if we actually care more about animals than we do about asylum seekers. I realised when I saw that show that we as a country have really lost our way,'' a senior Liberal told me.

Many Australians were deeply upset by the tragedy at Christmas Island last year. Some blamed the government. Some rightly blamed the people smugglers. But a number of politicians will confide that they also detected, with great unease, a hard of heart sentiment among some that the asylum seekers themselves were to blame. Serves them right, right?

Desperate, uninvited human beings? Abused animals? For whom do we care more?

Ugly question, that.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Tom Allard, SMH, 25.6.11

A YOUNG Burmese refugee was rounded up, sent to prison for three months and lashed three times with a rattan cane last year even though he possessed a coveted refugee card supposed to offer protection from persecution in Malaysia.

Kap Lian's account of his arrest, incarceration and punishment, the first by an actual holder of a refugee card, raises new questions about the federal government's guarantee that no asylum seeker it sends to Malaysia will be abused under its proposed refugee swap deal.

Malaysia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees insist protections of refugees have improved substantially in recent times. In a significant development, it was announced on Thursday that the feared volunteer corps, known by its Malay acronym RELA, has ceased operations against irregular migrants since March.

Advertisement: Story continues below But Mr Kap Lian's nightmare occurred when the UNHCR was supposed to have an arrangement with the police and immigration authorities that any genuine refugees would not be detained, let alone punished with caning.

It all began, Mr Kap Lian tells the Herald, when RELA cadres stormed his apartment block in Kuala Lumpur in the early hours of March 11 last year.

''There were 20 of us picked up and six of us had UNHCR cards,'' says Mr Kap Lian, a quietly spoken 20-year-old from the persecuted Chin ethnic minority. ''We showed them the cards, but they just took them from us and kept them … and then took us to prison.''

After 14 days, Mr Kap Lian was taken before a court. But, he says, they had no legal representation and could not understand what was happening because they did not speak Malay. ''The sentence was three months and three hits with the cane. It was the same for all six of us.''

Trussed up and naked except for a blindfold and a small piece of cloth to cover his genitalia, Mr Kap Lian said he took three hits across his buttocks from the long rattan cane. The pain was like no other he had experienced.

''It was very bad,'' he says. ''For one week I couldn't sleep. For two weeks, I couldn't sit down.'' He was given medicine just once.

Mr Kap Lian's story could not be independently verified with the UNHCR but the young Chin bears the scars of his ordeal. He explained he couldn't contact the UNHCR because his card, which contained a hotline number on the back that he could call for help, was confiscated. Guards at the detention centre also refused to let him call community leaders who might have been able to help him, he said.

As a 14-year-old, Mr Kap Lian says he was intermittently pressganged by Burma's military, and forced to serve as a porter. At 18, told he would have to serve full-time, he left to join 40,000 other Chin in Malaysia.

As he waits for resettlement, he works illegally as a construction worker, earning about $15 a day.

''If I could come to Australia, well, it would be better than Malaysia,'' he says. ''Even better, though, would be if the government changed in Burma and I could go back.''

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Refugees shouldn't be locked up and should live in the community, argues Susie O'Brien.

Source: Herald Sun, 21.6.11

LIFE isn't easy in the outer suburbs. There's not much work, little public transport and nothing much to do.

Everywhere is more expensive, and it seems like everyone is trying to rip off hard-working families.

Racism is an issue, because there's lots of pockets of new Australians who don't speak much English, and don't seem to want to fit in.

And so we lash out at the most desperate, pathetic group of foreigners of all - those who arrive here by sea seeking refuge.

But don't blame these asylum seekers, who are doing nothing more than coming here lawfully, seeking a better life.

They're nothing more than scapegoats in boats.

What do you think? Blog all day with Susie at The Big O

Instead, blame successive governments for not doing enough to help Aussie battlers get by.

And blame them for creating fear and loathing in our community towards asylum seekers.

It's a political con, and too many Australians - particularly those living in multicultural outer suburbs -- are falling for it.

And so we believe it when they tell us that these foreign dark-skinned people are going to harm us if they're allowed to roam free in the community.

It's got so bad that we don't want them in our suburbs, and so we lock them up in our deserts. And we're going even further with offshore processing, now making sure they don't even make it here in the first place.

Sadly, the scare campaign is working and 85 per cent of Australians in a recent poll said they didn't want Australia to allow more boat arrivals.

But I don't blame individuals, I blame successive governments who have used asylum seekers as political pawns.

It's no wonder many people - especially those who are doing it tough themselves - are scared of asylum seekers and what they represent.

We're told we're being swamped by boat arrivals - even though we're not.

We're told they're getting more generous welfare handouts than us - even though they don't.

We're made to feel like they're a threat to our Aussie way of life - even though most of them are just people like you and me who need somewhere safe to live.

We're told they're queue-jumpers, even though there are no orderly migration queues in war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq, and only 1 per cent of refugees worldwide are in UN "queues".

But trust me, everyone looks like a criminal when they're viewed from behind razor wire in the middle of Australia's most hostile locations.

However, during Refugee Week, I think it's time to get smarter than that, and to expose some of the myths and lies circulating about asylum seekers. And we need to end the twin evils of mandatory detention and offshore processing.

FACT: Mandatory detention isn't working as a deterrent, so why do we persist with it?

In 2001, 43 boats containing 5516 asylum seekers arrived. In 2000, it was 2939 people on 51 boats, and the year before that, 3721 people on 86 boats.

Clearly, mandatory detention, brought in by the Keating Labor government in 1992, hasn't been any sort of real deterrent for boat arrivals.

Yes, the number of boats coming to Australia is high at present, but the number of refugees around the world is at a 15-year high.

FACT: Offshore processing isn't reducing the number of boats coming to Australia.

The number of unauthorised boat arrivals dropped after 2001, when the Howard government introduced offshore processing. But that doesn't mean it worked. The policy continued under Labor, and in 2009 the number of arrivals suddenly jumped from 161 in 2008 to 2726 in 2009.

The simple fact is that the number of onshore arrivals has waxed and waned over the years according to the wars, famine and conflict around the world.

FACT: Genuine refugees from the Middle East don't pose any safety risk to law-abiding Australians.

The vast majority of those arriving by boat are found to be genuine refugees, who go on to be productive members of our community. Around 99.7 per cent of Afghans are found to be legitimate refugees, but only 42 per cent of those from China are.

FACT: Air arrivals are less likely to be genuine refugees.

Only 40 per cent of unauthorised air arrivals will be found to be refugees, compared with 94 per cent of all those who arrive by boat.

But no one is making a fuss about these people who arrive with a valid visa, then are given a bridging visa and allowed to stay in the community until their protection visa has been processed.

FACT: Australia is not being swamped by illegal immigrants.

Throughout 2010, 134 boats containing 6500 asylum seekers came to Australia. Yes, it sounds like a lot, but it's just a fraction of the 400,000 people who come to live in Australia each year from other countries. And it's just a fraction of the world's refugee population.

It's time that Australian people demand an end for the mandatory detention of asylum seekers, and to the policy of offshore processing.

Those who pose a safety risk, or cannot be identified easily, should be detained until their security status can be ascertained. Others should be housed in the community, at a fraction of the cost of detention centres.

We really have nothing to be afraid of.

After all, between 1948 and 1992, when the Keating government brought in mandatory detention, around 450,000 refugees lived peacefully in the wider community while their claims were being processed.

No one wants people to die on leaky boats en route to Australian shores. And no one wants people smugglers to win. But we can do more to crack down on this deadly industry without detaining innocent refugees.

Don't forget: when governments spend most of their time and money fighting an imagined enemy, they're not improving the quality of life for the rest of us.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Red News Readers,

Doug Cameron is not speaking in accordance with Labor Policy here, nor the policy of Labor for Refugees

Jenny Haines

Thousands turn out for World Refugee Day

ABC News, 20.6.11

The World Refugee Day rallies on Sunday saw about 1,000 people protest in Melbourne, another 1,000 in Sydney, 100 in Adelaide and a smaller crowd in Darwin.

In Melbourne, prominent human rights lawyer Julian Burnside warned Australia will take a huge step backwards if the Government's Malaysia solution goes ahead, while in Darwin, a man being held in detention there jumped the fence to talk to protesters.

The single Iraqi father, who introduced himself as Raheem, carried his young daughter to meet the small group of people gathered outside Darwin's Airport Lodge.

The hotel is used to house asylum seekers who do not fit into the city's overflowing detention centre.

Raheem told the group he suffers insomnia after almost a year in detention.

"Ten months. No mother. Problem for baby. No sleep tonight. Problem," he said.

"What have they done wrong?" he said, referring to children in detention.

'Groundhog Day'

In Melbourne and Sydney, thousands turned out to protest the Government's asylum seeker deal with Malaysia.

The UN refugee agency has criticised the deal that will see 800 asylum seekers who arrive by boat in Australia transferred to Malaysia for processing. In return, Australian plans to take 4,000 people already granted refugee status in Malaysia.

Prominent human rights lawyer Julian Burnside told Melbourne's World Refugee Day rally that 10 years after the Howard government's children overboard incident, nothing had changed.

"Welcome to Groundhog Day," he told the crowd.

"Here we are at the start of refugee week about to take an enormous step backwards with the Government's idea of the Malaysian solution."

Mr Burnside said the Malaysia solution was worse than the Opposition's alternative to reopen Nauru "only in the sense that garrotting is worse than hanging".

He said anyone who fled war and was forced to live indefinitely in Indonesia without legal access to a job or schools would become desperate enough to make a dash for safety across dangerous seas to Australia.

He said he wanted to ask Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott what they would do in that situation.

"If (Ms Gillard) were in that position, what would she do? What would you do? Wouldn't you want to make a run for safety? Wouldn't you want to get your kids to safety, wouldn't you want to do what it takes to get yourself to safety and make sure you have a life," he asked the rally.

"If you got an honest answer from (Tony Abbott) ... he might say that he'd make a dash for it as well, because Tony Abbott, like all of us, has the human impulse for survival and that's what refugees are all about.

"So why do we have to mistreat the people who do nothing more than what we would do if we were unlucky enough to be in their shoes."

'Playing politics'

Also in Melbourne, Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt tried to turn the tide by harking back to the golden days of Australian immigration.

"What would Carlton be like if we didn't open our arms to refugees? What would Richmond be like," he said.

He told the rally allowing people to live in the community while their asylum claims were processed was the humane, practical and cheap alternative to detention.

"No-one's ever accused me of being an economic rationalist before but what is very clear is that it's also the cheapest alternative when we have a Government spending a billion dollars on offshore processing while we can't find enough money for schools," he said.

Mr Bandt said now was a great time to have a seismic shift in Australian politics and to end mandatory detention once and for all.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told the Sydney rally the Federal Government should stop jumping at the ghosts of the former Howard government with its asylum seeker policies.

"Don't simply brush this off as another political fight. It's time that politicians started acting with decency, respect, compassion, spine and stopped playing politics with people's lives," she said.

Labor left

Earlier, Labor Senator Doug Cameron reiterated the party's left faction will only support the Federal Government's proposed asylum seeker swap deal with Malaysia if it is backed by the UN's refugee agency.

The Government is still negotiating the terms of the agreement with the Malaysian government and says it is working with the UNHCR to make sure asylum seekers taken to Malaysia are treated humanely.

Senator Cameron says it is vital to get the UNHCR on board.

"What we've said is that any Malaysian agreement must include the UNHCR. They have to sign off on it, it has to be consistent with our international obligations," he told Sky News.

He also dismissed the Opposition's plan to reopen the detention centre on Nauru, which unlike Malaysia is in the process of signing up to the UN convention on refugees.

"Sending people to Nauru, putting them out of sight out of mind for five years until they end up mentally disturbed, is not the way we want to go," he said.


Thursday, June 16, 2011


SMH 16.6.11, AAP

Thousands of furious public sector workers have descended on Sydney's CBD, blocking off the street as they gather outside NSW Parliament House.

Nurses, police, firefighters and other frontline workers stopped worked today to attend the rally, turning Macquarie Street into a sea of flags and banners.

A group of at least 6000 people chanted "Back off Barry" and "Two, four, six eight, Barry O'Farrell you have no mandate".

Advertisement: Story continues below They were also holding banners that read: "Barry O'Farrell workers' rights are human rights".

Earlier, NSW president of the Fire Bridge Employees union, Darin Sullivan, addressed hundreds of firefighters from the top of a fire truck outside St Mary's Cathedral.

"We don't take this sort of action often," he told the gathering.

"We've left ourselves a lot of room to escalate should we need to, this is just the first step."

Organisers revised the number of protesters upwards to 1200 shortly before 12.25pm.

Their ranks were swollen by stonemasons, port workers and other public sector employees who marched from the Opera House.

Premier Barry O'Farrell's controversial industrial relations changes are expected to be debated by the lower house this week, possibly as early as tonight, after they were passed by the NSW upper house yesterday.

Politicians, mayors and possibly magistrates could also have their pay rises capped at 2.5 per cent, as the government attempts to dilute criticism of its crackdown on the wages of nurses, teachers and firefighters.

The government bill strips the NSW Industrial Relations Commission of its powers to set wages and conditions for all frontline public servants.

The mostly male group marching from the Opera House were carrying red and while CFMEU banners and yelling: "What do we want, fair wages, when do we want it, now!"

Paul Connell from Public Works NSW said the conditions under the government's bill, which is set to be rubber stamped by the Coalition-controlled lower house, would not keep up with the cost of living.

"It doesn't keep up with the cost of living which more around 4 per cent and we can't argue for anything more than 2½ per cent," he said.

Mr Connell said without the avenue of Industrial Relations Commission, it would be harder to protect workers' current conditions.

"They are already going after family, community services leave," he said.

Mr Connell is concerned that the changes would make it harder to attract new stone workers to a craft that has already seen its numbers decline.

"There's a limited supply of stonemasons as there is, we find it very difficult to get stonemasons and these changes don't create any sort of incentive for people to work with the NSW government."

The stonemasons and port workers' march was one of several to State Parliament.

Speaking on the sidelines, Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said the NSW government should listen to the thousands of workers rallying and "withdraw" the legislation.

"You can see from the turnout here today that there is a lot of anger out there," he said.

"We've already filled Macquarie Street, this shows how upset and outraged the public sector workforce is about this proposed legislation."

Mr Lennon said the ball was in the government's court.

"The government still has the opportunity to rethink this legislation and withdraw it," he said.

Rain failed to dampen the spirits of the workers, who continued to chant and cheer.

Unions NSW president Marilyn Issanchon spoke to the crowd as the rain pelted down.

"No one is going to rain on our parade," she said to cheers.

"We will fight for our rights at work."

She thanked workers for coming from as far as Dubbo and the Riverina.

"The whole of NSW is represented here today," Ms Issanchon said.

Addressing the swelling crowd on Macquarie Street, ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence raised the unions' successful Your Rights at Work campaign, which led to the death of the Howard government's unpopular WorkChoices laws.

"Five minutes after being elected into government, without a hint to the electorate who voted them in only three months ago, the O'Farrell Liberal government has waged an attack on workers the likes of which we haven't seen since WorkChoices," he told the rowdy crowd.

"We are standing together today because these laws are so wrong. It's in the interests if every working person in Australia to see them gone.

"We can't allow these laws to be passed, and if they are, we've got to continue to fight to get rid of them.

"Every member of Parliament who votes for them today or tomorrow must be held to account."

Mr Lawrence called on federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to lobby his NSW counterpart Mr O'Farrell to scrap the public sector wage changes.

"Tony Abbott thinks he doesn't have to take a stand, he thinks he can hide behind the fact that this is a state issue," Mr Lawrence said.

"I challenge Tony Abbott today to tell Barry O'Farrell to get rid of these laws, and if he doesn't you can only conclude that this is a template for what a coalition government would do federally if it gets half a chance."

Mr Lennon ended the rally by reading out letters of support from union movements in Western Australia and the United States.

He thanked the crowd for their attendance saying it was the biggest worker rally on Macquarie Street "in over 20 years".

Mr Lennon urged workers to continue their efforts until legislation was repealed.

"People have questioned what level of concern there is about these laws," he said.

"Well there's no question today."

He warned that future action would follow, saying "this is not the first time our movement has come under attack".

The workers joined in song to mark the end of the protest, singing in unison "we shall not be moved".


Monday, June 13, 2011


Red News Readers,

The O’Farrell Government is worrying the financial markets not because the government has alienated the public sector so early in its term of government (what do the financial markets care about that?) but because of its borrowing program of $11.5 billion next year to fund infrastructure building. State Treasury is now forecasting that the State Debt will balloon to $80 billion over the next 4 years, up from $60 billion. Apparently what worries the financial markets is that this level of debt is being incurred without it being clear what the O’Farrell Government financial plans are.

Well now we know, at least in part. They plan public private partnerships wherever they can despite the fact that in opposition they were most critical of the Labor Government’s relationships with the private sector. To achieve all this infrastructure building , and repay debt, it seems that public sector wages hours and working conditions are going to be slashed, either by legislative control of wage increases, or contracting out the work of public servants to private contractors, not a worry to the O’Farrell Government as they don’t see public sector workers, particularly unionists, as part of their voting power base. But a very big worry to those public sector workers affected.

In my profession, nursing, how are we going to maintain wages and working conditions that recruit and retain quality staff? This is the big question that plagued the Labor Government and the Industrial Relations Commission over the past 16 years. Awards ratified by the Commission in that time were mostly consent awards between the Government and the Union, intent on addressing the nursing shortage, and the quality of care issues in the health system. The O’Farrell Government has most unfairly placed the blame for what they call the blowout in public sector wages under the Labor Government squarely on the shoulders of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, but the truth of the matter is that as the awards made were consent awards, and the blame , if there is a need for blame, should be sheeted home to the negotiating parties.

All of this means a lot to the 12,000 public sector workers who gathered in Macquarie Street today. It would have been interesting to see how many public sector workers attended had there not been the level of intimidation and harassment in the workplace by managers who instructed public sector workers that they were not to attend the Rally, despite the fact that those workers were members of a union, and entitled under this country’s recognition of the freedom of association to attend. Where did the instructions for this level of intimidation come from?

The O’Farrell Government has started a war with the public sector unions. The Labor Opposition and the unions must be thanking O’Farrell for the organising gift that has been given to the labour movement which will unite and gel around a vigorous defence of the public sector. What the O’Farrell Government needs to consider very deeply, is what quality do they want to have in the provision of services traditionally provided by the public sector? Now that the Government has got the public sector’s back up, they can hardly expect that public sector workers are going to put their noses to the grindstone and make it all happen for a Government that has made it clear that it does not value the public sector. But obviously the big stick that is going to be held by the O’Farrell Government over public sector workers and unions is, do what we say, or we will contract your work out to the private sector.

Jenny Haines

NSW government to reassure backers

Eric Johnston. smh

June 8, 2011
THE O'Farrell Liberal government will attempt to reassure New South Wales's biggest financial backers this month amid growing uncertainty about the scope of its infrastructure spending spree.

The meeting between Treasurer Mike Baird and the bond investors comes as the government pushes ahead with an $11.5 billion borrowing program over the next year, on the heels of last year's record $12 billion debt issue. Much of the latest funding issue is to roll over existing debt.

Figures from the state's financing arm, NSW Treasury Corp, revealed the state's debt is likely to balloon to as much as $80 billion within four years, up from about $60 billion.

Much of the increase is expected to come from increased investment by power generators. As well as raising funds from global and Australian investors to fund the budget, NSW Treasury Corp also raises funds on behalf of government enterprises such as EnergyAustralia and RailCorp.

With the O'Farrell government not scheduled to hand down its first budget until September, investors have expressed concerns about buying debt without knowing what its financial plans are.

This could push up the borrowing costs, particularly as problems with some debt-laden European governments are causing global credit jitters.

Economists have speculated that the government's infrastructure spending spree could see its borrowing program over the next year blow out by as much as $5 billion.

''There still remains a high level of uncertainty over the priorities for fiscal policy in the coming year in light of the clear mandate to increase infrastructure delivery at the March election,'' said ANZ's head of interest rate strategy, Tony Morriss.

The government has raised suggestions that it could call in the private sector to help fund its centrepiece project, the north-west rail link, which will cost about $8 billion. But its first step will be to thrash out with banks and finance houses ways of paying for it through a public-private partnership.

Last month the credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's reaffirmed NSW's AAA rating, saying the state was in a sound financial position.

Separately, the new head of the federal government's financing arm yesterday raised the prospect that the Commonwealth could become a big investor in bonds issued by state governments.

The chief executive of the Australian Office of Financial Management, Rob Nicholl, told an economics forum there was ''nothing to prevent us'' buying state bonds once the Commonwealth government started running budget surpluses. Such a move would make it easier for states with big funding needs to borrow.


Unions declare war on Premier

Alexandra Smith, smh

June 13, 2011
Them's fighting words ... unions representing nurses, teachers, firefighters and other public sector workers are preparing to launch a campaign against Premier Barry O'Farrell's wage reforms.

THE national union movement has thrown its weight behind a campaign against Barry O'Farrell's plans to overhaul wages for public servants in NSW and plans a week of protests against the contentious bill.

Nurses, teachers and firefighters will be joined by unions from across the country in a rally outside Parliament House on Wednesday as they step up their campaign before the wages bill goes to a final vote in the lower house this week.

The bill states that wage rises of more than 2.5 per cent will be paid only after they are matched by employee-related savings. The Industrial Relations Commission will be stripped of its powers and will have to abide by the policy.

Advertisement: Story continues below Police were given an exemption from the policy after a deal was reached between the crossbench MPs, who hold the balance of power in the upper house, and the government but the unions have vowed to step up their opposition.

In a letter to Mr O'Farrell on Friday, the ACTU secretary, Jeff Lawrence, said the Premier had no mandate to introduce the changes, which Mr Lawrence described as a ''clear breach of international law''.

"Australian unions will campaign to make sure that all NSW working people and their families know that their rights at work are worth fighting for, and worth voting for," Mr Lawrence said.

He said the bill would remove the right to bargain or take industrial action to secure better wages.

''This would not only be unjust, but it would be a clear breach of international law and Australia's obligation to respect human rights, which include labour rights,'' Mr Lawrence's letter said.

The NSW Nurses Association has warned the government that it should brace itself for rolling statewide strikes after its members voted to start industrial action on Wednesday with a mass rally in Macquarie Street.

The secretary of Unions NSW, Mark Lennon, said unions would not stand by and watch the government's ''outright attack'' on the rights of workers and their families.

"This unfair attack will mean nurses, teachers, firefighters and other public sector workers will have the weakest workplace rights in the nation," he said.

"The ACTU's intervention shows the gravity of the situation. It's heartening to know that the entire Australian trade union movement is behind us as we take our campaign into the community.''

The Greens' industrial relations spokesman, David Shoebridge, said the proposed changes would put pressure on the federal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, to state his position on workplace laws.

''This is a real test for Tony Abbott. Will he distance himself from the NSW Coalition's radical new IR laws or will he embrace them and risk having a fresh federal battle on industrial relations,'' Mr Shoebridge said.

''Despite all its flaws, even under Work Choices unions could approach the Commonwealth Industrial Relations Commission to set minimum entitlements without being threatened with a veto by the government.

''Under O'Farrell's new laws, all bets are off, and the government of the day will get the power to veto wage rises, and cut back on conditions, by simply issuing a regulation.''

A spokesman for Mr Abbott would not be drawn on the issue and said wages for public servants were an issue for Mr O'Farrell but the Premier should ''be supported in doing what he thinks is the best for NSW''.

When asked what Mr O'Farrell's plans meant for the federal Coalition, the spokesman said the opposition had not moved from its position that ''Work Choice was dead, buried and cremated''.

The government maintains it needs to rein in public sector wages and says the legislation will save taxpayers $1.96 billion over the next four years and still allow for fair wage rises if public servants can make more productivity savings.

Monday, June 06, 2011


Unions plan protest rally against new salary cap

Anna Patty, Alexandra Smith

June 6, 2011

PUBLIC sector unions will step up their campaign today in protest against the state government's controversial wages policy, which will cap salary increases at 2.5 per cent.

Unions, including those representing 70,000 teachers, 36,000 nurses and 45,000 public sector workers, will meet today to plan a strategy against the wages policy, which Parliament is expected to pass next week.

The president of the Public Service Association, Sue Walsh, said she would propose staging a rally in opposition to the policy, which will require public sector workers to make savings before any salary increases above 2.5 per cent are awarded.

Advertisement: Story continues below ''There is no doubt in my mind we will step things up and there will be a huge protest against the O'Farrell government,'' Ms Walsh said.

The associaton, which has 45,000 members, has a wage case before the Industrial Relations Commission. Ms Walsh said she expected this would have resulted in an increase of 3.5 to 4 per cent.

The NSW Nurses Association, which has 35,000 members in public hospitals and 1200 in disability services, is also negotiating an increase in penalty rates for night staff. Nurses who work in disability services and aged care will also negotiate a new award this month.

They had expected to achieve the 3.9 per cent already awarded to public hospital nurses this financial year as part of a three-year agreement. The agreement will deliver 3 per cent from July and 2.5 per cent the following financial year.

The general secretary of the Nurses Association, Brett Holmes, said disability nurses faced getting a 2.5 per cent increase ''while their colleagues across the road in hospitals get 3 per cent at the end of this month''.

''We have this bizarre situation where police were able to lobby the Shooters and Christian Democrats, but we didn't get in to see them, so we are not going to have the same rights, it appears,'' Mr Homes said.

Police are the only public sector workers who have been exempted from the 2.5 per cent cap.

The Christian Democrats MP Fred Nile said he pushed the government for the exemption because the police had a wage case before the Industrial Relations Commission. Asked why he had not requested the same exemptions for disability nurses and the Public Service Association, he said they had not approached him.

The president of the Police Association, Scott Weber, said the crossbench MPs had listened to the concerns of police, but the association was not convinced it could take the government on its word.

''Before the election, Barry O'Farrell said we would retain our right to an independent umpire. But less than two months after the election, he tried to take it away,'' Mr Weber said. ''How can we trust this government again?''

The government released a statement on Saturday that said the wages bill had passed the Legislative Council, but a spokesman for Mr O'Farrell yesterday conceded this was premature.

The spokesman said the bill would need to return to the upper house for the third reading on June 14 and would then go to a vote in the lower house before it becomes law.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


A policy Liberals love but dare not speak its name

Paul Howes From: The Sunday Telegraph June 05, 2011

AS the saying goes: the more things change, the more they stay the same. And last week, when it came to conservatives and industrial relations, that saying couldn't be more relevant.

First we had NSW's Barry O'Farrell introduce legislation that John Robertson rightly called "worse than WorkChoices" that goes further than even John Howard dared to - and there was not one whisper of it before the election.

Then we had the Liberal's federal workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz announce he would look at reviewing the Fair Work Act in 2012 - despite his own pre-election promise to the contrary.

And, finally, we had the usual suspects from the employer lobby make baseless claims about union "boogy men" and how Labor's IR system was the end of the world as they knew it.

Abetz was responding to yet another policy paper from the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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The chamber, like many other employer lobby groups, blabbed on about how hard it is for employers to be fair and reasonable under Labor's Fair Work legislation and tried to paint a picture of massive industrial unrest because of Labor's laws.

A day after they released their report, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released their own quarterly update of industrial disputes, which showed workplace unrests had fallen to new record lows.

The ABS figures destroy the credibility of employer groups who claim the Fair Work system has given rise to some kind of industrial "anarchy".

Abetz, a man who never lets the facts get in the way of his own twisted ideology, still seized on the chamber's report to announce he will push for a full review of Fair Work in 2012.

That is strange considering the federal election isn't until 2013, but maybe it signals that for the first time the Coalition will be open and honest about its plans for industrial relations before an election.

Despite Tony Abbott's "dead, buried, cremated" promise on WorkChoices during the last election, the reality is the Coalition still wants to return to its beloved policy so the bosses hold all the cards.

And despite there being no mention of changing NSW's industrial relations system during this year's state election, Barry O'Farrell is still trying to ram his own personal version of WorkChoices through the state parliament.

We shouldn't be surprised about O'Farrell not mentioning his plans during the election campaign - after all, John Howard never mentioned WorkChoices during the 2004 federal election, yet he still claimed he had a mandate to introduce the hated legislation less than 12 months later.

Some people may say that such tactics are no different to those used by Julia Gillard over the carbon pollution scheme. But of course, these people are wrong.

There's a big difference between re-negotiating pre-election policy positions in a minority government, as the prime minister has done, to whacking stuff through just because you have a record majority, as O'Farrell has done.

It's the same folly that brought Howard unstuck when he used his Senate majority to push through WorkChoices after the disastrous "Latham election".

I'll give them one thing - these Liberals are as brave as they are silly. Nobody could accuse them of learning from their past mistakes.

Towards the end of last week, Labor and the Greens launched a valiant effort to defeat NSW WorkChoices. MPs warned of the Bill's dangers and how it will rip away the hard-won rights of the state's frontline public servants.

The new laws will deny workers rights "guaranteed" under international law, such as the right to freely bargain and collectively organise. It attacks police officers, nurses, and teachers. O'Farrell thinks they're all overpaid.

But, as we have seen this week, you just can't trust the Liberals when it comes to protecting industrial rights.

Whether they are in Canberra or Macquarie St, WorkChoices is ingrained deep in the DNA and psyche of every Liberal MP.

It's the love that dare not speak its name. It's their very reason for being.

There's a real sense of dejavu in politics at the moment. It feels like 2004 and the "Your Rights At Work" campaign all over again.

But then, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Paul Howes is national secretary of the Australian Workers' Union


Red News Readers,

This is my Tribute to Bob Gould, read at his Funeral on Thursday 26th May 2011. For further Obituaries and Tributes, go to the Ozleft Website.

Jenny Haines

TRIBUTE TO BOB by Jenny Haines

BOB’S FUNERAL – 26.5.11

Thank you all for coming today. Bob would have been really pleased to see friends and foes, Labor, Green and Far Left supporters all in the same room and he would have been trying to figure in his head how it could all be turned in to a political force and not just a gathering at his funeral. One thing he wanted to see in his lifetime was a resurgence of the Left and he could only see it ever happening through supporters of all the parties and groups putting aside their differences and working on the commonalities.

You could go through the dictionary and the thesaurus pulling out adjectives to describe Bob. He was an Australian of Irish Catholic origin and very proud of his heritage, but he never drank beer, smoked cigarettes or went to the footy. Bob’s achievements were of the mind and the brain and the heart. One of his old school mates once told me that they tried to have him play footy at St Pat’s but he was so poorly co-ordinated they had to sit him on the sidelines where he read books, voraciously. Bob had a fierce intellect. He was reading the works of major Catholic intellectuals in his teens, then, as he moved past his faith into political beliefs, he moved into reading Marx and Lenin and Trotsky. Old compatriots of Bob who ended up in other factions of the ALP remember Bob coming to meetings of Young Labor in his school uniform and even then impressing many with his idealism and his commitment.

Bob had many friends and many alliances some of which lasted, some did not. He was an idealist in a post-idealistic world, particularly in his later life. We need more idealists. Bob worked in partnership with Jim and John Percy in setting up the Third World Bookshop in the City, an enterprise that had a stormy relationship with the law over censorship. I remember telling an art historian when I was travelling in Europe in 1987 that the police had raided a store in Sydney in the 1960s and taken away a picture of Michaelangelo’s David as being pornographic. She was stunned with disbelief.

The partnership with the Percys fell apart and Bob went on to take over the book business, building it into an empire. He opened 12 shops and closed 11. On paper at some stage he may have been a millionaire but he never had the cash flow of a millionaire, and in more recent times struggled against the perils of the Global Financial Crisis. Bob put his money where his mouth was, much to the chagrin of his family and friends. But there are thousands of workers and trade unionists across Australia who owe Bob a debt of gratitude for the wise counsel and political experience he gave to rank and file trade union campaigns and party members. A number of those trade union campaigns were successful in obtaining office in a union. One of the campaigns that he was most proud to be associated with was the campaign run by the rank and file in the wharfies union to save the building from being sold for a song to redevelopers, saving union members millions of dollars. He was also proud to be associated with the campaign run by the Nurses Association in the 1980s in opposition to the cuts to mental health funding proposed in the Richmond Report. This was a campaign that the union ran among its members and took to the floor of the NSW ALP State Conference, achieving significant changes to the original proposals with a significantly better funding base than first proposed.

But his greatest effort and greatest achievement was the Vietnam Action Campaign. Mairi Petersen his then wife can tell you stories of their house being turned into a mailing centre. There was no internet then. His role as Secretary of the Vietnam Action Committee, challenging the Communist Party and its friendly organisations, was central to the campaign against the Vietnam War in Sydney. Bob and Wayne Haylen and others, led some of the first sit downs in the streets against the war that gave inspiration to thousands of others later to march against the war. Bob always said that one of the proudest days of his life was the day the North Vietnamese took over Saigon. But Bob had a heart and when the South Vietnamese took to rickety boats to get out of South Vietnam, he welcomed them coming to Australia against the protestations of many in the Labor Party. Some may see that as contradictory, but that was Bob, full of contradictions! And he understood his contradictions and could explain them. He knew that life is full of contradictions that can tear us apart or make us better human beings if we understand them.

I first met Bob at a rank and file conference in 1980. He did not impress me much at first, but when he and his then compatriot Paul Ford talked about scientific socialism, it sparked my interest. I went to some of his Sunday afternoon meetings in the George Street Shop where he and George Petersen talked passionately about labor history. Bob and I became close friends and have stayed close friends to this day. Economic rationalism was becoming popular with governments and we set up the Defeat the Health Cuts Campaign, a Labor Party rank and file campaign . This led to nurses, disgusted with the lack of leadership by their union on the health cuts, and award changes, setting up the Nurses Reform Campaign. The Nurses Reform Campaign were successful in the 1982 elections. I was elected Secretary of the Union and Bronwyn Ridgway Assistant Secretary. We stayed in office for five turbulent years, and although we did not achieve all we set out to achieve, those years and the subsequent years I spent as a Delegate in the Nurses Association, candidate in elections, along with the commitment of many, many nurses who were polticised by the events, were important in building the Nurses Union into the leading force that it has become. We could not have done any of it without Bob’s inspiration, and Janet Bonser’s typesetting skills. What we learned from our experience is that unions, like parliaments, need a government and an opposition to thrive. Bland boring consensus kills unions. My old friend Terry Muldoon, now deceased, once told me that after I left office in the union, that my successor Pat Staunton once told NSW Health that they may have thought they had trouble with the Nurses Reform leadership, but she was going to give them hell if they did not concede what she wanted. And if they wanted the Nurses Reform leadership back she could arrange that! They conceded. Good cop, bad cop, and that is what unions need to negotiate effectively.

In his later years Bob wrote as well as read voraciously. He and Ed Lewis set up a website, Ozleft, which is an online record of Bob’s writings. He never did get to write his autobiography that we urged him to write but his online work on Ozleft is a wonderful collection of his writings on politics, society and religion. Ed Lewis his partner in setting up Ozleft, has , in the last couple of days opened some pages on Ozleft where anyone who wishes can place tributes or obituaries. Just Google Ozleft and it will readily come up if you wish to contribute.

I will miss him. We had an unusual life, spending time together mostly in the mornings and then he went to work in the shop and I went to work in nursing and now at the university. When we ate together I could look up and he would have discarded the Murdoch media with disgust, and could be reading anything from medieval history to engineering books to sci-fi novels. One of the signs of his declining health in recent weeks was he stopped reading and just sat with the newspaper. We travelled together, mostly to book fairs where we bought the books that stock the shop, but we tried to take diversions and have a bit of time just away from the city. The 60s and 70s were Bob’s time and he felt brushed aside and forgotten in more recent years, one of the curses of growing older.

I could go on and on but I just want to read a poem that I heard read a couple of years ago and it stopped me in my tracks as it reflected what I thought I would save to say at Bob’s Funeral, whenever it was to be. I had hoped there would be more years of his life before I had to read this , but that was not to be

WH Auden Twelve Songs, National Poetry Day, 7.9.99

Stop all the clocks

Cut off the telephone

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone

Silence the pianos and with muffled drum

Bring out the coffin let the mourners come

Let the aeroplane circle moaning overhead, scribbling on the sky

He is dead.

Put great bows around the white necks of the public doves

Let the traffic policeman wear black cotton gloves

He was my north, my south, my east, my west

My working week and my Sunday rest

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song

I thought that love would last forever

I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now – put out every one

Pack up the moon, dismantle the sun

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood

For nothing now can ever come to any good


Red News Readers,

I started this blog as a means to convey information against the Howard Government's Workchoices. This blog hasn't been as active as it should have been due to my busy life, but it now looks like there is another campaign building against O'Farrell's Workchoices, and this blog is going to need to be revived. This loss for the unions is only the first round, but now the struggle begins for public sector wage justice in NSW.

Jenny Haines

Historic loss for unions

Alicia Wood, smh.

June 5, 2011
BARRY O'FARRELL delivered a historic blow to the union movement yesterday, as the upper house all but passed controversial industrial relations changes that have been likened to Work Choices.

The legislation will come before the Legislative Council again next week, for a final read, before it moves to the lower house.

The Premier said the changes would save NSW about $2 billion.

The move came about after the Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay, invoked an obscure rule, last used in 1906, to torpedo debate on the legislation, which had already run for 29 hours.

Under the government's changes, public sector workers would have their wage rises capped at 2.5 per cent. Higher increases would have to be matched by savings.

The bill removes the Industrial Relations Commission's power to set public sector wages and hands it to the government.

Unions NSW and the opposition called it ''worse than Work Choices'' and said the government should have gone to the election with the policy.

Labor said the legislation would prove the government's undoing. ''The revival of NSW Labor will stem from this legislation passed today … We won't be the lazy, pea-hearted opposition you were for 16 years,'' Labor MP Luke Foley screamed.

The Opposition Leader, John Robertson, said he would speak to workers this week to explain the implications and encourage them to put pressure on their local MPs.

''Workers have fought for more than a century to secure the wages and conditions they have today in our schools and hospitals, our fire stations and other public sector workplaces,'' he said. ''What's taken 100 years to achieve has been overturned by the Premier in a single day.''

The government insisted it was merely implementing a policy devised by the Labor Party.

Unions were furious last night and had begun plotting a campaign of marches and stop-work meetings. ''Everything is on the table right now,'' a source said. ''The level of anger is intense.''

Mr Gay said he ended the three-day filibuster because Labor and Greens MPs were being ''juvenile''.

''I took a historic step, one that I thought long and hard about … they were playing university politics games,'' Mr Gay said.

''We're not shutting them down; we're giving them a chance to analyse the legislation, rather than having boys' and girls' games with who can speak the longest.''

He rejected claims that his move amounted to the last government's proroguing of Parliament to avoid scrutiny into the electricity sale.

Greens MPs David Shoebridge and John Kaye each spoke for almost six hours on the reforms. Five opposition MPs clocked a total of 13 hours.

Mr Gay said the bill was not complex enough to warrant the amount of debate, which began on Thursday. In a move that further provoked furore, the government locked MPs in until the bill was passed.

This led to a stream of formal questions by opposition MPs about when they would go to the toilet, how they would take medication, and what would happen if a fire alarm went off.

The marathon three-day sitting of the Legislative Council tested the patience and stamina of MPs, many of whom slept in their offices on Thursday and Friday nights. The strain was evident, with members on both sides of the chamber trading personal insults.

Labor's Mick Veitch made an emotional appeal to his colleagues, and cried when he said: ''I've been troubled by where we are.''

The Nationals' Melinda Pavey flew her daughter Emily, 8, down from Coffs Harbour on Friday evening when she realised she would not get home for the weekend. Emily slept in her office until after 11pm on Friday night, when debate was suspended.