Liberals dump the future
The “new” government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dumped Malcolm Turnbull’s National Energy Guarantee (NEG) scheme, in effect abandoning Australia’s meagre international commitment to help tackle climate change.
The NEG scheme endorsed the former Abbott government’s pathetically feeble agreement made at the Paris international climate change conference, that by 2030 it would reduce carbon emissions between 25 and 26 percent compared with the 2005 level. The national emission level had begun to fall during the Rudd and Gillard governments’ periods in office, but immediately rose after the Coalition with its climate change deniers took power.
A large proportion of emissions comes from the generation of electrical energy from coal-fired power plants. The National Energy Guarantee was weak, but it included provision for the Paris emission level agreement to be formally recognised in legislation that would (in theory, at least) have encouraged energy providers to generate a greater proportion of power from clean renewable energy sources.
But that was too much for the coal and gas industries, and the pro-coal MPs threatened to vote against the scheme. The Coalition had a one-seat majority in parliament and Turnbull was terrified that the government would fall if the pro-coal MPs crossed the floor of the House during voting, so he postponed implementation of the NEG.
But even that wasn’t enough for the pro-coal faction. Turnbull failed again to reconcile the irreconcilable, and after a short vicious battle he was ejected from leadership of the Liberal Party. His replacement, Scott Morrison, who is infamous for having once brandished a lump of coal and sung its praises on the floor of the House of Representatives, has now dumped the NEG scheme altogether.
Fossil fuels, fossil governments
The Morrison government isn’t denying climate change outright, it’s simply taking no action to deal with it. One commentator recently noted acidly that the members of the government are not climate deniers, they are just climate “do-nothingists”.
That comment is understandable but misleading. By deciding to take no action to mitigate climate change, members of the government are condemning this and coming generations, including their own families, to a very nasty fate. Climate variation is already clearly evident, with heatwaves in northern Europe and other extreme weather events including typhoons and flooding in Asia.
Australia is now having bushfires in mid-winter. This year nationwide maximum temperatures are at a record, 1.36 degrees above the 1961-1990 average. Northern Australia is currently under severe fire warnings, and the eastern states are also in for a summer of terrible danger.
Turnbull’s own son, who has advised the public not to vote for the Coalition at the coming by-election for his father’s old seat, commented bitterly “ ... my father fought the stupid and the stupid won.”
As if to prove the point, Angus Taylor, the new Minister for Energy and avowed enemy of wind farms, has declared that the real issue involved in energy generation is the price and reliability of energy, not climate change, and that a rise in renewable energy generation will result in further price rises.
But there are limits to how much disinformation the public will accept, and for how long. Last Saturday’s catastrophic result for the Liberals in the Wagga Wagga state by-election in NSW was undoubtedly partly due to public disgust over the Liberals’ leadership battle, but public distrust is also mounting over the Coalition’s energy policies.
In fact, despite Taylor’s statements, the rise in energy prices between 2015 and 2017 was largely due to higher coal and gas costs and the closure of some power plants, including Hazlewood in Victoria, according to the Grattan Institute. In recent months the nationwide price of energy has declined slightly at the same time as the proportion of energy generated from renewable sources has increased. The price decline is most notable in South Australia, which has had the nation’s most ambitious renewable energy target.
Coal-fired power generation is also proving unreliable, with 100 breakdowns in the nation’s ageing generators reported this year.
Taylor opposes subsidising renewable energy. But a gigantic double standard is at work there. Big business is no longer interested in investing in coal-fired power stations, which cannot compete economically with renewable energy generation, whose energy source is available free of charge. Some members of the government have therefore expressed interest in former PM Tony Abbott’s proposal to publicly fund the construction and operation of new coal-fired power stations, at stupendous expense for the taxpayer.
Public interest, not private benefits
Abbott has also recommended dumping Australia’s commitment to the Paris agreement emission target level. That would have a devastating impact on the development of privately-funded renewable energy projects.
But the history of the last few years proves that the private sector is unable to meet the challenges of climate change. The situation has become highly critical. A recent editorial in Renew Economy pointed out:
“To prevent temperatures rising above the upper 2 degrees limit of the 2015 Paris agreement, it is no longer possible to follow a gradual transition path. We have left it too late; emergency action, akin to wartime regulation, is inevitable. Market-based measures alone are insufficient.”
But emergency regulation will not be brought in by the current conservative regimes in Australia and the US. They and the pro-coal commercial media “shock-jocks” are still promoting coal-fired power generation. Australia is one of the world’s biggest exporters of coal and gas, major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet the federal government is supporting a proposal by the malignant mining corporation Adani for construction of the world’s biggest coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, which will probably contribute to the eventual destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. During the recent conference of Pacific Island nations the Australian delegates refused to support a statement advocating the adoption of renewable energy generation with the greatest possible speed.
In the US, President Donald Trump recently made the astonishingly stupid claim that coal is a superior energy source because renewable energy generation infrastructure is vulnerable to enemy attack, whereas coal is totally invulnerable. Of course, coal-fired power plants are just as vulnerable to enemy attack as wind or solar energy plants, and as energy sources the sun and wind are just as invulnerable as subterranean coal.
A US company backed by transnational oil giant Shell has also developed a method of converting captured carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power stations into synthetic fuels and gases. They claim the process is carbon neutral because combustion of these products would produce no more carbon emissions than during the original combustion of the coal.
They ignore the fact that carbon emissions are unlikely to be captured during combustion of the synthetic products, and that high cost has made carbon capture and storage an uneconomic process for coal-fired energy generation, even without the added cost of carbon conversion.
Pouring resources into such projects is likely to worsen the impact of climate change, because it will delay the implementation of really effective steps to deal with climate change just when speed is of the utmost importance.
Meet the challenge
To meet the challenges of climate change we need to nationalise the energy industry, rapidly transfer to renewable energy generation and phase out coal mining, phase out the production of vehicles powered by fossil fuels and support the introduction of electric vehicles, prevent land clearing and promote reforestation, scientifically predict the impact of climate change, adopt more efficient and more appropriate agriculture, boost water conservation, update medical practice and procedures to deal with new conditions, promote understanding about public responsibility, and develop scientific methods to facilitate all of the above.
That sort of program will never be implemented by Australia’s conservative Coalition.
The Liberal Party leadership struggle illustrates that in order to preserve the economic dominance of the coal and gas industries their representatives in parliament and the commercial media have been prepared to bring the Liberal Party, the national defender of capital itself, to its knees. The Party is certain to lose the next federal election and is in severe danger of splitting apart.
Multiplying disasters lie ahead if we don’t take serious and immediate steps to tackle climate change.
The government believes that the working class is not as united as it once was and the Australian Labor Party, in which so many workers have traditionally placed their trust, is torn by factional strife and the promotion of anti-worker policies. On many important issues, the right-wing ALP leadership agrees with the policies of the Liberal Coalition.
Employers have never let up in their attempts to weaken and destroy militant, class conscious trade unions.
The aim now is to destroy all unions.
The big corporate bosses are the driving force behind the coup-like push to entrench the fascist-minded right into the Liberal-National Coalition leadership.
This includes top-of-the-list priority to introduce total deregulation of the conditions covering the employment of workers.
The government plans include:
A further savage attack on awards and the complete removal of penalty rates for weekends and overtime
Reduce workers rights under enterprise agreements
Smash laws covering unfair dismissals
Wipe union right of entry provisions
Further curtail any ability to take strike action
Reduce annual and sick leave
Cut the minimum wage
Aggressive pushing of individual employment arrangements
Continue the attacks on unions, foremost shipping and construction
Undermine the existing State systems reducing workers’ rights, pay and conditions.
It is going to require the full might of a highly organised and united trade union movement along with support from the broader community and left and progressive organisations to defeat the employer offensive.
The Australian people have a great track record of standing up to attacks on democratic rights. Workers have rallied in huge numbers to defend democratic rights and to defeat attacks on them by the conservative forces.
These struggles include the Eureka Stockade, the struggles against conscription, the defeat of the cold war ban of the Communist Party, the 1967 “yes” vote in the referendum for Indigenous Australians to have the right to vote and to be counted in the census, the defeat of the infamous penal clauses imposed on the trade union movement which culminated in mass industrial action in 1969, the defeat of the attempt to destroy the Maritime Union in 1998.
The time has come to launch new struggles to defeat the attacks that are again being made against the trade union movement and the democratic rights of the people generally.
At the centre of this struggle must be the working class and its organisations. The trade unions must mobilise like never before without concern for craft or industry divisions or for individual gain. The rights of all are under severe attack.
The CPA is of the view that the building of a powerful united front of all trade unions and working class political parties and their supporters is needed to overcome these attacks on the trade union movement and the rights of workers. The union movement will be pivotal in building this united force.
A great educational campaign needs to be launched to explain what the government and employer policies of “individualism”, “competition policy”, “choice” and “privatisation” really mean and that on the other hand the trade union movement and workers’ organisations are built on “collectivism”, “cooperation” and “mutual solidarity”.
Industrial actions taken by workers need to be strongly supported by helping workers and unions establishing pickets, printing and distributing literature to other workers and the community, establishing support groups and fighting funds for striking workers and their families, and lobbying for the widest support from political parties and community organisations.
The formation of groups of activists to act in solidarity with workers who are under attack could help to reinforce pickets established by workers and their trade unions. A magnificent example was given by the huge community support for the MUA during its 1998 dispute with Patrick
Above all, it is necessary to bring about a united front of workers, trade unions and labour movement activists irrespective of political affiliation, all directed to defeat the government’s dangerous offensive and implement policies that are in the interests of the working people.
The CPA strongly advocates these measures and declares its willingness to assist with its resources in every possible way.
The assault can be stopped if the initiative and creativity of workers is unleashed with the organised labour movement playing a central role.
Biggest ever walk off
Seven thousand early childhood educators, from 350 centres across Australia walked off the job from lunchtime last Friday to call on the federal government to fund equal pay.
This was Australia’s biggest early education walk off. This is unprecedented action from the sector, and the fourth walk off in 18 months.
Educators are mobilising to send a message to the government. Time’s up. For too long the government has ignored and failed educators by not funding equal pay. Educators are making equal pay an election issue.
Queensland-based early childhood educator Kirstie Fildes says: “We are qualified professionals doing crucial work in our children’s earliest years, yet we are paid as little as $22 an hour. Early childhood educators have had enough of this Government caring more about their own jobs than our work educating Australia’s next generation.
“Time is up for this government, we need equal pay now. A responsible government would have funded this already.
“We will be taking to the streets, holding political rallies in every state and territory to demand our politicians fund equal pay and recognise the importance of quality education. The current government has shown time and time again that they don’t care about our work, and they refuse to address this issue. In the lead-up to the next election, whenever that may be, we will be out there.”
Helen Gibbons, assistant national secretary of United Voice, the early childhood union and a former educator says, “Time’s up on the sector’s wages crisis. In 2018 it’s outrageous that Australia’s qualified early childhood educators are earning $22 an hour. The anger and frustration felt by educators has led to Australia’s biggest ever early education walk off today.
“Today, Australia’s early childhood educators are taking to the streets. We are putting Scott Morrison and this government on notice. Time’s up on their inaction. Time’s up on this government.
“Educators have an enormous responsibility and duty. They are shaping the future, one child at a time. Educators are highly skilled professionals who each have qualifications and work to a national curriculum.
“Every time this government asks more of this workforce, to upskill, to meet national standards, they do it. Yet, despite meeting these demands, pay rates are too low compared to industries with equivalent qualifications. It’s just not good enough for a feminised workforce to be facing such a staggering gender pay gap in 2018.
“We are sick of the buck passing. The job of educating Australia’s young children is too important. That’s why educators are making equal pay an election issue. 100,000 educators will talk to millions of Australian parents about how this government has failed educators on equal pay. This government has not changed funding for early childhood educators. So we will change the government.”
September 5 was Early Childhood Educators Day – a day to appreciate one of the most important jobs in Australia. And a reminder that we cannot have high quality early childhood education in Australia without equal pay. Australia is a wealthy country: we can afford a world class early education system.
Educators are walking off the job with the unwavering support of parents who have chosen to keep their children at home for the afternoon so that their educators can participate in the walk off. Educators fulfil a vital role in early education and families recognise that for this work pay rates should be higher and are supportive of the action. Families value the work educators do: childcare workers are stating that it’s time the government did too.
Educators are walking off with the support of parents and their centres. Parents and carers have been informed in advance about closures.
A new national workforce study has identified an alarming turnover rate of educators of 37 percent per annum. This is roughly double the national average and triple that of primary school teachers.
Turnover is higher in remote areas, at 45 percent. Such high turnover figures are of national concern. It is time for this government to show commitment to the workforce that delivers early learning outcomes and take responsibility for funding professional wages for educators.
An Iraqi refugee who was one of two people left blind in one eye after the attacks on the Manus detention centre in February 2014, has been flown to Brisbane after a court order in Melbourne last week.
Mohammad lost the sight in his right eye in the same attack that resulted in the death of Reza Barati. Unlike Reza, the other man who lost his eye that night, Mohammad was not sent to Australia for treatment. He has been progressively losing the sight in his left eye, until he is now effectively blind.
Mohammad was flown from Port Moresby to Brisbane on Sunday 1 September, for treatment to try and save some sight in his left eye. Like Reza Barati, Mohammed was a victim of the then Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, who tried to cover up the seriousness of the attack, initially claiming the asylum seekers had been attacked outside the detention centre.
Four years later, Morrison is Prime Minister and is still responsible for holding the refugees on Manus and still responsible for Border Force blocking refugees on Manus and Nauru getting badly needed medical help.
It has taken court orders to get Mohammad the help he needed when he was brutally attacked inside Manus prison four years ago.
While millions of dollars are splashed on lavish reception rooms for government officials, the Nauru hospital does not even have the most basic of facilities.
Behind the façade of the Pacific Islands Forum, Nauru administration and services are stretched to breaking point. The IHMS clinic in the detention administration compound RPC 1 is full of refugees, many of them mentally distressed children.
The IHMS senior medical officer left Nauru last week. It is understood that his visa was cancelled by the Nauruan government for showing sympathy to the cases of the sick children.
Organisations Canstruct and HOST staff, have been confined to RPC 1 for the duration of the Forum to make room for the Forum and to prevent any contact with media or international government officials. Canstruct workers had to attend compulsory media workshops last week and have been warned against speaking to any media. A majority of HOST case managers have been sent off the island.
“The media on Nauru could visit the RON hospital or try to get into RPC 1, if they wanted to get the real picture of life on Nauru. Nauru has been turned into an island prison by the Australian government and they are doing everything they can to cover up that reality, while refugees and ordinary Nauruans are deprived of desperately needed services,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“Behind the scenes of the Forum, the human rights abuses, business continues as usual. Even during the week of the Forum, it is expected that the court will make orders for more children and families to be sent to Australia for medical treatment and help that they are denied on Nauru.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have slammed new Prime Minister Scott Morrison for appointing former Prime Minister Tony Abbott as special envoy for Indigenous affairs. Abbott was given the role after being left out of the new ministry, in an effort to heal the wounds of last month’s damaging leadership coup.
Yawuru man and Labor Senator Pat Dodson said the appointment was “yet another example of the Liberal National party playing a game with themselves, placating each other’s egos and trivialising First Nations people’s concerns and long ignored calls for justice and recognition.
“Labor is seriously concerned about appointing the ex-self-appointed ‘Prime Minister for Indigenous affairs’ to the role of ‘envoy,’ given his ignorant, hopeless and frankly offensive track record on Indigenous issues,” Senator Dodson said.
“As Prime Minister, he cut over $500 million from Indigenous programs in the 2014 federal budget. And who can forget his profoundly offensive comments in 2015, claiming that people living in remote communities without adequate services were making a ‘lifestyle choice’ while defending his government’s decision to close up to 150 remote communities?”
The co-chairs of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Jackie Huggins and Rod Little, demanded Morrison retract the job offer to Abbott.
“We, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, have cried enough over you and other politicians responsible for devastating policies and minimising our representation,” Dr Huggins said.
“Let’s reflect on Mr Abbott’s history of supporting harmful, paternalistic policies relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs.
“This is the man who systematically dismantled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy; tried to mainstream service provision; cut over $500 million from our services; attempted to silence the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples by removing its funding: and handpicked his mates for the Indigenous Advisory Council.
“Mr Abbott’s sole accomplishment was robbing our peoples of our right to self-determination.”
However, Morrison said he had travelled with Abbott to remote communities and experienced his passion first-hand.
“I know how passionate Tony Abbott is about changing generationally the life circumstances for Indigenous Australians,” he said. “When you focus on the outcomes, which I know is what Tony is doing, that makes him the right person.”
Indigenous education organisation Stronger Smarter Institute chief executive Darren Godwell questioned how Abbott’s appointment would help achieve additional benefits for the Indigenous community, particularly in regard to education.
“Mr Abbott’s focus on school attendance of Indigenous students is not backed by the majority of research, which shows the strongest predictors of improved educational outcomes are teacher efficacy and student engagement. This is where priorities and resources should lie,” Godwell said.
Senator Dodson said the appointment was an insult.
“First Nations people have been asking to have a voice where their views are put forward themselves rather than by some sort of intermediary whose record, quite frankly, is appalling,” he said. “The suggestion that Tony Abbott could act as some kind of messenger or representative for First Nations people is condescending to the overwhelming number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who support the calls for a Voice to Parliament and a Makarrata Commission to oversee truth-telling and agreement-making – both of which Mr Abbott has not supported.”
Abbott did not respond to interview requests from the Koori Mail but told reporters in Sydney that he’d been to a lot of remote schools, over the years.
“We need to get attendance up and standards up because there is no better thing we can do for kids than ensuring that they’ve got the best possible schooling,” he said.
Some constitutional experts have suggested that accepting the position – even though in one interview Abbott claimed he would not take payment – would mean that Abbott would fall foul of Section 44 of the Constitution, which bans MPs from accepting payment from the Commonwealth.
The Victorian LGBTIQ community has called for improved awareness and advertising campaigns on family violence and more LGBTIQ specific family violence services.
The 2018 Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (VGLRL) community survey found that only 21 percent of respondents were able to identify a LGBTIQ specialist family violence services or organisations.
Further, nearly 30 percent of people when asked, “If a friend said they were experiencing abuse/family violence”, responded “I would offer to support them, but wouldn’t know where to start”.
“We have fabulous LGBTIQ family violence services that have a long history of helping our community, but they need additional support in promoting their services and meeting any increased demand that will follow,” said Dale Park, co-Convenor of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.
“We need to talk more about family violence, promote the services available and ensure no one falls through the gaps.”
In line with recommendations for the Royal Commission into family violence and the GALFA LGBTQ Homelessness Research Project, training for family violence staff and ensuring there is safe and accessible housing for LGBTIQ people was also identified as priority by the community and listed as one of the ten recommendations put forward by the VGLRL in their summary report.
“LGBTIQ people experiencing family violence need to know that there are specialist housing services that will welcome them, respect their gender identity, understand their relationships and are cognisant of the potential discrimination and prejudice they may have experienced.” said Park
The VGLRL is also calling on faith-based family violence services to take a lead role by providing welcoming and inclusive environments for LGBTIQ people.
“It is crucial that all mainstream services are welcoming and inclusive for LGBTIQ people. Faith-based service providers can play a healing role by making explicit statements that welcome LGBTIQ people and publicly stating that they will not use their religious exemptions to discriminate against LGBTIQ people.” said Park.
The annual survey was conducted with attendees at the 2018 Midsumma Carnival as well as hosting the survey online. There was a good representation from across the LGBTIQ community and in 2018 there was an increase in trans people participating in the survey up from 6.6 percent to 13.8 percent and people living with a disability up from 13.3 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2018.
Survey participants on the whole recognised the term family violence as being relevant to LGBTIQ relationships and family situations with 76 percent responding that when hearing the term family violence it applies to LGBTIQ and heterosexual intimate relationships and families structures.
The recent death of Professor Patrick Troy means the loss of Australia’s greatest champion of social justice achieved through planning for better cities.
Troy was an important figure in town planning, a man who had a “passion to improve the urban landscape”. As head of the Whitlam’s Department of Urban and Regional Development, Troy initiated many reforms in cities and towns around Australia. “Big parts of [Sydney suburbs] Glebe and Woolloomooloo were bought for upgraded public housing so that working class people could still live in the inner city.”
Troy believed that cities should be more efficient and sustainable. Sadly those ideals have not been sustained in this current era of neo-liberalism.
Mentioning his background, the Sydney Morning Herald said:
“Pat Troy was born in Geraldton, WA, the son of Hilda and Paddy Troy, and then grew up in Fremantle. His dad Paddy was a waterside worker and the best-known Communist unionist in Western Australia. Paddy spent three months in jail for a minor political infringement.”
However, the obituaries in the online Fairfax version and the Canberra Times stated:
“His father, Patrick (Paddy) Troy (1908-1978), founded the Western Australian Trades and Labour Council (1963) and was an ALP ‘hero’ in the period 1935 to 1970, who enjoyed the respect of employers and the trust of his union. Well before his time, Paddy was a strong supporter of Aboriginal emancipation. For these reasons, Paddy was a significant influence and source of pride in his son’s life.”
It is curious how Professor Troy’s father morphed from the most famous communist unionist in WA to an ALP hero, all in the space of the same company’s papers.
Of course this is not new. Many significant social and economic justice gains have been initiated by Communists but later attributed to other groups.
An academic recently said to a member of the 78ers (those who were at the infamous walk by gay men and women in Sydney in 1978), “I suppose you were all Left Labor”. “Oh no,” came the definite reply, “some were Communist, some Anarchist but no one was in the ALP”.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) says it’s time for the top for-profit aged care providers, which accept over $2 billion in taxpayer subsidies, to use the funding to guarantee quality care for all their elderly residents – and for the government to cease what can only be described as “corporate welfare”.
ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler gave evidence at the Senate Economics References Committee investigating the financial and tax practices of Australia’s for-profit aged care providers in Melbourne, telling the Inquiry any taxpayer funding for aged care providers must be made transparent and accountable to the public who provide those funds.
“We understand that for-profit providers, which are publicly listed companies, have a responsibility to their shareholders, but this must not be at the expense of providing safe staffing and quality care for their elderly nursing home residents,” Ms Butler said.
“The big-six for-profit providers (BUPA, Opal, Allity, Estia, Regis and Japara) received $2.17 billion in government subsidies – 70 percent of their total revenue. Yet taxpayers would be alarmed and dismayed to discover that instead of being used for better staffing and better care for their mums and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers in nursing homes, those generous government subsidies are lining the pockets of the Directors and Management Executives of the wealthiest for-profit providers, many of which are foreign-entities. For example, the five non-executive directors of Regis alone, were paid $34,178,473 last financial year.
“It’s only fair that the government stops this corporate welfare. Australians expect their taxes to be put to good use for safe and effective aged care, not to be contributing to millions of dollars in wages and bonuses for directors and key management executives.
“The Tax Justice Network has found that these same top-six providers also use complex corporate structures to minimise or avoid paying tax, even though they keep receiving government subsidies.
“At a time when aged care is in crisis, when family members tell us harrowing stories about the lack of staff in nursing homes, and our members tell us they’ve reached breaking point, the public has a right to ask why their taxes are being diverted away from safe care – it’s clear these providers are putting their profits before people. And the government is doing nothing to stop it.
“The ANMF believes it’s time to end the era of ‘corporate welfare’ and ensure that billions in taxpayer funding for aged care is made transparent and accountable to Australian taxpayers.”
The following articles were published by The Guardian, newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia, in its issue of September 12, 2018.
Reproduction of articles, together with acknowledgement if appropriate, is welcome.
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