December, 2018

Why we must fight for the right to strike

Since January, hundreds of Hunter workers have joined the The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).
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I want to welcome them to a union with a proud history, and a movement that has won important victories for working people.

I first joined my union as an apprentice fitter at Tubemakers, now part of OneSteel.

I joined because I wanted to change the way apprentices were treated and being a union member gave us the strength to win better pay and conditions.

You don’t join a union so things stay the same.

We organise to create change, whether that’s better pay and conditions in your workplace or a better deal for working people in our society.

Across the country, the union movement is leading a campaign to end trickle-down economics and rewrite our workplace laws to give power back to working people.

The Change the Rules campaign is set to be the largest and most significant union campaign since Your Rights at Work.

Which is why I think it is time that our country has a conversation about the right to strike.

The simple fact is that the right to withdraw your labour, to go on strike or take other forms of industrial action, is the most effective way you can create change in your workplace, and our current laws are designed to prevent you from using it.

The debate about the right to strike is really about who gets to make the decision to take industrial action.

We believe that that decision belongs to the workers, not to a commission that is stacked against us and certainly not employers and their representatives in parliament.

Our current system takes that decision away from workers, instead giving them a bureaucratic system that strips workers of their rights.

Even when workers have gone through the appropriate steps to go on strike they can be overruled by the courts on the basis that they might “cause economic damage”.

The result of this system is that we currently have one of the lowest rates of industrial action in Australian history.

And while some may say that this is a good thing, especially employers and their friends on the conservative side of politics, there are larger consequences of preventing workers from going on strike.

Strikes are often inconvenient.

They are difficult, especially for the workers who decide to go on them.

But without them, workers never show employers how powerful they really are.

I think of strikes as a tool: a way that working people can shape the world around them.

More than that, they are a way for working people to think about the kind of world they want.

In most cases that will mean changes to their workplace: better pay and conditions, better safety standards or better job security.

And anyone who has gone on strike knows that it changes the relationship between you and your bosses, how they talk to you and how they treat you on the job.

That power has an effect that goes beyond your workplace, because strike action can create change outside our factory gates.

The 38-hour week for metal trades, won by the AMWU in the early 1980s, was won through strike action.

So was the eight-hour day, won by stonemasons in 1855.

So was long service leave, superannuation and just about all of the workplace conditions that we take for granted today.

Unions have even held strikes to support social or political demands.

Australian Unions have taken industrial action to support the end of nuclear weapons, enforce boycotts against apartheid South Africa, to defend public housing and historic buildings through the Green Bans, and for the universal healthcare system we now call Medicare.

This idea seems radical because we are told by many parts of the media that working people shouldn’t think or talk about the big picture, that it should be left to men and women in suits who went to the right schools and have the right jobs.

But that has never benefitted our working-class communities, only the very wealthy.

Workers have the right to think about issues that affect their lives.

They should be able to use their industrial strength to change it.

And if that appeals to you, you should join your union.

Steve MurphySecretary of the AMWU NSW and ACT Branch


Totally rubbish

BAG FLIP: The transition hasn’t been easy, but people need to move away from lining their bins with plastic shopping bags.The plastic bag apocalypse has forced me to learn origami.
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Like many Australians, I was in the habit of using my turtle-choking, single-use plastic shopping bags to line my bin. But that ended recently when Coles and Woolworths banned the bags. Then Coles bag-flipped and made them available again. Now I know why I pick Woolies.

Aldi too, if I’m gonna be honest, because they really broke me into the habit of reusable shopping bags. But reusable shopping bags don’t make goodbin liners. Probably because you have to pay for them. (Unlike the damage plastic bags do to the environment!?)

I didn’t say the psychology of consumer behaviour isn’t complicated, nor slightly scary. Anyhow,necessity is the mother of invention.

Confronted with a lack of plastic bin liners I discovered a new value-added application for journalism. The origami bin liner made of newspaper. In light of recent media mergers, some might say that’s appropriate. But that’s not the point. The point is, unlike journalism, the plastic’s gone, and the bin need’s lining. Or does it?

Convention dictates you don’t chuck rubbish into an unlined house bin and then tip thatinto the wheelie bin and then clean the house bin. Because that’s a hassle, and hassle is garbage heresy, apparently. Total garbage if you ask me.

For some reason, possibly related to landfill, convention has dictated we line bins with plastic, mainly because it catches the gooey stuff. But now the plastic’s gone, we need an alternative.

Given I have a surplus of newspaper in our newsprint-subscribing household, and I no longer use it to line the kitty litter trays since the cats died once I read it, paper seemed a logical option.

So I went online and I re-discovered origami, and how spatially dyslexic I am.

Like religion, it origami takes practice.

But after after several attempts, I was semi converted.

It is possible to make a passably efficient bin liner out of five sheets of newspaper.

A small tabloid one, mind you.

Broadsheet would be better because it’s bigger but that’s another trend in media we don’t need to go into.

Ultimately, all your doing is making a chip wrapper for your rubbish on it’s journey from disposal to hopefully degradable.

Councils have known for ages, the smaller the bin, the less the waste.

So maybe it passes the logical test. There’s still the psychology of consumer behaviour to overcome. But no one said the war on waste would be easy.

There is a certain sense of satisfaction when everything folds up and holds together.

You might liken it to putting together an air-tight My Health privacy policy.

Not that the government’s come up with that yet.

But I’m trying hard to opt out of plastic bin liners. And if it means trashing my profession for all the right reasons –then ‘bin there, doing that’.

SIMON WALKER: That’s Life archive


Brisbane band Sheppard is top of the pops

HIGH HOPES: Brisbane band Sheppard has world chart domination in their sights. Picture: SuppliedBrisbane band Sheppard have mastered the art of writing a catchy pop hook.
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Brisbane band Sheppard is top of the pops TweetFacebookLet Me Down Easy in 2012, a song that took off on commercial radio in the US and at home. Geronimo followed andtopped the charts. Both songs have featured in television advertisements.

Sheppard performed live on Jimmy Fallon, Ellen and The Today Show in the US, supported the likes of Justin Bieber on tour and won an ARIA for best group in 2013. They were well and truly on their way.

And their latest single Coming Home picks up where Geronimo left off.

Coming Home – SheppardAmy Sheppard, whose siblings Emma and George are also in the band, says sophomore album Watching The Sky –which debuted at number one on the ARIA charts –has defined Sheppard’s sound.

“I think everyone was waiting to see what we’d do after Geronimo, which put us under a bit of pressure but we got there in the end,” she says, laughing.

“Now we know what the Sheppard sound is and Ithink that was what this album was really about. With [first album] Bombs Away I think we were still trying to figure that out and if you listen to the album back to front you can hear that –it wasvery eclectic.

“Now we’ve grown as writers and we know who we are. When we were going through the writing process we found that we’d throw songs away because they weren’t the ‘Sheppard’ sound. It took us a long time to get into the groove and move forward while still maintaining that sound that keeps it cohesive. Butwe’ve got a tonne of songs that we hope other artists might pick up some day.”

Sheppard are about to hitthe road on their largest tour to date, largely dodging capital cities in favour of regional centres, and will perform at Newcastle’s Cambridge Hotel on September 16. Tickets are on sale now.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve visited some of these places and with the album going to number one, we just felt that we needed to say thank you to the people who supported us,” Sheppard says.

“Wewanted to make a point of visiting places we don’t get to very often.”

It could be the last time fans get to see the band play live in Australia for a while, too. They are hoping to capitalise onComing Home’s popularity in Holland and Belgium and perhaps play a few European gigs.

“Anything could happen. That’s what I love about this job, it’s so unpredictable and no two days are the same,” Sheppard explains.

“We’ve got plenty to give still but we are thrilled with where we’re at. We have a full-time career in music, which is the dream. We’re not office-job people. As long as we’re writing music for a living we are going to be satisfied butwe’re going to continue pushing.”

As for the band’s public spat with fellow Aussie singer Katie Noonan when they refused an offer to perform at this year’s Commonwealth Games, it’s a case of water under the bridge. Promoter Michael Chugg is the band’s manager andjust last week told the Courier Mail he wanted to “shut this down once and for all”.

“Oh, he’s a character, that’s for sure,” Sheppard says, laughing.

“He comes on tour with us and he’s so passionate and he’ll stand up for what’s right. We’ve got other things to focus on and I’m glad that’s behind us now.We said what we needed to say and we didn’t want it to keep going but sometimes you can’t help these things.”


Fund Aussie sport or say goodbye to gold

Australia should consider a national lottery to support rising sports stars, John Wylie says.Australians used to seeing their athletes punch above their weight on the world stage might have to settle for watching also-rans unless a new way to fund sport is found.
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The Australian Sports Commission, which has been rebranded as Sport Australia, is considering a national lottery to support rising stars, similar to the United Kingdom.

Sport Australia chairman John Wylie said the UK lottery was directly linked to that country’s rising success in world sport.

“There’s no doubt in the long-term, the Australian sporting system to remain as successful as its been in the past will need more funding,” Mr Wylie told ABC radio on Thursday.

Australian sport is also looking to charity to boost hopes of gold medals and podium finishes.

The Sport 2030 report, released on Wednesday, calls for Australian sport to more than double donation receipts within three years.

More than $44 million was raised through the Australian Sports Foundation in 2017/18, but the report calls for that to be $100 million in 2021 and $300 million in 2030.

Sport Minister Bridget McKenzie has committed to a business plan to revitalise the Australian Institute of Sport.

The announcement came a day after Australian marathon champion Rob De Castella declared the AIS was dead.

Mr Wylie noted the institute’s maintenance bill was $16 million a year but denied it was being hollowed out.

“It’s evolving into being a strategic agency for sport, a system leader for Australian sport,” he said.

The former investment banker warned of rising global threats to sport’s integrity, saying it was important to get on the front foot after a major report into the matter was released.

The review, led by James Wood QC, recommended setting up a new law enforcement agency to police match-fixing and doping in Australian sport.


Hodge gets first crack at Wallabies No.13

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika wants players to change opinions and demand Test selection during Friday night’s Bledisloe Cup trial, which will help settle many selection debates.
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Australia, keen to avoid a repeat of their shambolic start to last year’s first Test against New Zealand, have organised the hit-out against a Super Rugby Selection side at Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval.

The All Blacks scored a record-breaking six tries in the opening half of last year’s Bledisloe opener, building the platform to extend their 16-year run of trans-Tasman dominance.

Cheika hopes Friday’s match will ensure there’s no repeat at ANZ Stadium on August 18, urging every player involved in the trial to show the sort of work ethic and physicality they would produce against New Zealand.

“We’re looking for guys to change opinions and make us say, ‘Yes, this guys has to play’. From both teams,” Cheika told reporters.

“It’s definitely an opportunity for some players to show how much they want to play on the 18th.

“You can’t warm-up into that game and that’s maybe something we’ve been caught up with over the last couple of years.”

Reece Hodge has been named to start the trial at outside centre, the spot likely to cause Cheika more consternation than any other given the injury-enforced absence of Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani.

Cheika reiterated on Thursday his strong preference is to leave Isreal Folau, among the many NSW Waratahs who won’t take part in the trial because of their recent semi-final in South Africa, at fullback instead of shifting him to No.13.

“We’re going to see a few of the (outside centre) suspects on Friday night. Hodge will get some time there,” Cheika said.

“We might even let Jordan Petaia have a bit of time there.You might even see one of the wingers have a go there.

“Then once we get (Curtis) Rona and Israel back next week, we’ll have a look and make some decisions.”

Hamish Stewart, the uncapped 20-year-old from Queensland, will start at five-eighth but still appears some distance off being Bernard Foley’s back-up in the first Test.

Cheika cautioned Stewart has a “fair way to go around understanding the speed of the game”, while highlighting how Australia wanted Matt Toomua back in the squad as “quickly as we can”.

Toomau, who had been playing in England, signed a deal with Rugby Australia and the Melbourne Rebels this week.

“It opens up a new scope around our playmaking options. He’s obviously got a good track record for Australia,” Cheika said.

Cheika has named 13 players on an extended bench and, being a trial, rolling substitutions will be allowed.

“There’s a lot of guys who might be shifting around in positions,” he said.

Wallabies team: Tom Banks, Marika Koroibete, Reece Hodge, Billy Meakes, Jack Maddocks, Hamish Stewart, Will Genia, Caleb Timu, David Pocock (capt), Adam Korcyk, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Jermaine Ainsley, Folau Faingaa, Scott Sio. Res: Tetera Faulkner, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Harry Hockings, Lukhan Tui, Liam Wright, Isi Naisarani, Joe Powell, Jed Holloway, Jordan Petaia, Sefa Naivalu, Jake Gordon.