Friday, September 30, 2016

NSWTF – It's time to go the full Gonski

Submitted by NSW Teachers Federation on 28 September 2016

Media coverage on schools funding in the past week shows commentators are not buying into the federal government's spin on schools funding.

Federal Education Minister Birmingham wants to negotiate a new funding deal for beyond 2017 — ripping up agreements with states and territories that apply to the end of 2019. In trying to distract attention from the fact that the Coalition's offer would leave schools $3.9 billion worse off over two years, Senator Birmingham has fixed on the lack of uniformity among deals with each state and territory.

As all state and territory education ministers (bar Western Australia) are opposing the federal government's plan, commentators have challenged the Coalition's direction on schools funding.

"Time to go the full Gonski, for children's sake", the headline for the Sydney Morning Herald's editorial from September 27 reads.

The Sydney Morning Herald challenges the federal government's argument that education spending has risen for a decade but students outcomes have fallen: "It misses the key point: the money went to the children who already enjoyed sufficient resources."

"The ideal of Gonski remains potent for voters, as a fair go for every child, regardless of where they live, family income or school," the editorial also states.

Crikey's politics editor Bernard Keane wrote on September 27: "No matter what its intention are on education funding, the Coalition can no longer be believed when it talks about public schools. It has turned this issue into a toxic mess for itself." Link to article

On ABC TV's Q&A program on Monday night, host Tony Jones questioned Senator Birmingham over the Coalition's promise ahead of the 2013 federal election to fund the Gonski model and then later reneging.

Senator Birmingham said the funding for 2018 and 2019 has never been included in the budget forward estimates.

Tony Jones then asked: "You are saying the promise was never there? Or the money was never there?"

"The money was never there," the senator replied.

In the past week Senator Birmingham claimed Labor corrupted the schools funding model.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

WA: 'Please sir, can I have a job?': Protesters fight against changes to electrical apprenticeships

Three apprentice electricians have become the face of the fight against proposed changes to the electrical industry, donning 19th century-inspired clothing to beg: ‘”Please sir, can I have a job?”

The youths were part of a large group protesting the changes that will see apprentices slugged with the cost of their training.

The ‘Hands Off Our Trade’ campaign was launched in Perth on Saturday as an initiative run by the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).

Protesters holding banners and signs gathered outside the Master Electricians Australia (MEA) national conference in Fremantle to send a strong message: “We won't let them take apprenticeships back to the 19th century”.

The apprentice electricians took a stand in Western Australia. Under the proposed changes, the MEA would introduce flexible learning environments that would allow the trainees to study in their own time. Students would also be hit with a fee.

The ETU said the plans will only damage the standard of Australian electricians.

“Their corner-cutting approach will see skills and knowledge deteriorate. Sparkies will start their careers under a mountain of debt,” the group wrote on their website.

They believe the current system is working fine, allowing young people who "don’t have rich parents" to try their hand in the trade.

“This is a campaign we must win; it is a fight for the rights of Australia's lowest paid workers - apprentices, for the safety of electrical workers and the wider community, for the ongoing value of an electrical licence,” the group said on their Facebook page.

“When progressive unions and the community stand together to take on a campaign there isn't a force in the country that can stop us.”

Menzies and Maralinga Disatster

The British had requested and were granted a huge chunk of South Australia to create a "permanent" atomic weapons test site, after finding the conditions at Monte Bello and Emu Field too remote and unworkable. Australia's then prime minister, Robert Menzies, was all too happy to oblige. Back in September 1950 in a phone call with his British counterpart, Clement Attlee, he had said yes to nuclear testing without even referring the issue to his cabinet.

Menzies was not entirely blinded by his well-known anglophilia; he also saw advantages for Australia in granting Britain's request. He was seeking assurances of security in a post-Hiroshima, nuclear-armed world and he believed that working with the UK would provide guarantees of at least British protection, and probably US protection as well.

He was also exploring ways to power civilian Australia with atomic energy and — whisper it — even to buy an atomic bomb with an Australian flag on it (for more background, see here).

While Australia had not been involved in developing either atomic weaponry or nuclear energy, she wanted in now. Menzies' ambitions were such that he authorised offering more to the British than they requested.

The damage done to Indigenous people in the vicinity of all three test sites is immeasurable and included displacement, injury and death.

Service personnel from several countries, but particularly Britain and Australia, also suffered — not least because of their continuing fight for the slightest recognition of the dangers they faced.

Many of the injuries and deaths allegedly caused by the British tests have not been formally linked to the operation, a source of ongoing distress for those involved.

The cost of the clean-up exceeded $100 million in the late 1990s. Britain paid less than half, and only after protracted pressure and negotiations.

Decades later, we still don't know the full extent of the effects suffered by service personnel and local communities. Despite years of legal wrangling, those communities' suffering has never been properly recognised or compensated.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

NSW – Court finds against Baird government on council mergers

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The NSW Land and Environment Court found government-appointed delegates who recommended mergers for Mosman and North Sydney with Willoughby City Council and Burwood and Canada Bay with Strathfield Council had not followed the Local Government Act. The court found there was "no proper statutory foundation" for either of the proposed amalgamations, given the flaws in the delegates’ recommendations, and set the mergers aside.

However four other councils were unsuccessful in their appeals. The court dismissed the cases of Hunter's Hill, Lane Cove, Ku-ring-gai and Shellharbour, finding their complaints about the amalgamation process were unfounded.

Hunter's Hill Mayor Richard Quinn said the dismissal of his council's case was disappointing as the forced mergers were contrary to the majority views in polls.

"Eighty per cent of people say that they don't want this [merger] to proceed," he said. "We believed from the outset communities should have a direct say in how they're governed.”

The four unsuccessful councils will have a week to consider whether they will appeal against the decision.

The state government has created 20 new councils in its amalgamation program. It has reduced 152 councils to 112, sacked hundreds of councillors and appointed administrators in their place.

ACTU Tax Submission finds cuts go to the wealthiest, costing taxpayers billions

27 September 2016

In a submission to the senate Standing Committee on Economics, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) finds that there is no evidence that the Turnbull government’s proposed corporate tax cuts will generate job growth or improve the living standards of Australians to the level the government, or business groups are claiming.

Recent modelling from the Department of Treasury shows that cutting the company tax rate by one percentage point would serve mainly to benefit company profits, with an increase of only 0.1% to GDP and less than 1% in job growth over the next two decades.

The proposed corporate tax cuts will cost at least $50 billion (with some estimating the cost blowing out to $19.7 billion per annum in 2026-27), money that could be used to invest in health, education, training, innovation, research, transport, communication, infrastructure which are sorely under-funded under this government.

Seventy-five percent of the benefits of the proposed personal income tax cuts (estimated to cost around $9.6 billion over the forward estimates) go to the top 10% of income earners.  Half (47%) of the benefits go to the top 1% of income earners.

The tax proposals will do nothing to help ordinary people and will only benefit those for whom extra assistance will be barely noticeable.

The ACTU calls on the government to abandon these tax cuts and put the more than $50 billion to better use investing in the future prosperity of our economy and our society.

To read the full submission: