Monday, September 14, 2009

Green jobs dopey, says union leader

ONE of Australia's most powerful union leaders has lashed out at the push for green jobs, labelling it a "dopey term", and has dismissed environmental campaigns against some of the nation's major export industries as "judgmental nonsense". The president of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Tony Maher, said existing industries such as coal and steelmaking would have an important place in the nation's future economic prospects and in producing a lower carbon future.

He said carbon capture and storage and other hopes for cutting emissions such as solar and thermal, would require massive amounts of steel that should be made by Australian steel workers.

Mr Maher said much of the opposition to major industries - particularly the coal industry - was "well-intentioned naivete". "By mid-century we'll be using twice as much coal and a lot more steel and plastic and concrete that aren't the flavour of the month with environmentalists and green groups," he said.

His rhetoric is at odds with ACTU president Sharan Burrow, who has embarked on a campaign to argue the benefits of green jobs, including joining the Southern Cross Climate Coalition, a joint group of welfare, union, research and environmental organisations that have been lobbying the government to do more to create green jobs. In March Ms Burrow said Australia had to position itself to ensure it had the knowledge and skills to capture at least a quarter of what would be a global green products market worth more than three trillion dollars.

"The challenge is to reskill workers in existing blue-collar jobs to ensure they can manufacture, install and operate new technologies and to educate generations of students and young workers to take up new green jobs," she said.

Mr Maher played down any suggestion of a split with Ms Burrow, saying he chaired the ACTU's climate change group. and that there was merely a "difference in emphasis". But while white-collar workers were more comfortable with talking about green jobs, Mr Maher said he was concerned for his blue-collar constituency, keeping existing industries and fitting them into a restructured low-carbon economy. "A lot of the new jobs will be the old jobs," he said.

There would be a lot of new jobs created such as in recycling and harvesting stormwater run-off, but these would be bolt-on skills to existing trades to cope with new developments. "It's no different when plumbers had to adapt to using plastic pipes after years of using clay pipes," Mr Maher said. "Coalmines aren't going anywhere. Power stations aren't going anywhere."

Mr Maher told a trade publication last week the challenge for business leaders in the emerging green industries would be in attracting staff from other sectors who already had good pay and conditions. "A coalminer or a power station worker isn't going to leave their job on $120,000-plus with well-regulated shift arrangements and decent conditions to install low-wattage light bulbs or insulation," he said.

He dismissed the protest at the Hazelwood power station yesterday as "just silly". Hundreds of protesters gathered at Hazelwood in Victoria's La Trobe Valley to protest against the plant's emissions.

Police arrested 22 protesters after the "Switch Off Hazelwood" protest, which started about 11am with organisers planning a "mass civil disobedience action". Police said protesters became gradually more aggressive, and some wanted to jump over the plant's fences. The protesters were arrested for trespassing, and one person was arrested for assaulting a police officer at the Latrobe Valley station, which activists describe as one of Australia's dirtiest plants.

But Mr Maher said Australia produced the best-quality coking coal in the world, and this was used to make steel. He said it was silly to protest against an industry that produced a substantial proportion of the nation's exports.


Woman sent home from NSW public hospital to miscarry on her own

"Alone, in shocking pain and bleeding copiously, Rose Taylor gave birth to what might have become her third child in the bathroom of her St Helen's Park home, while her husband, son and daughter slept. Despite twice visiting the emergency department of Campbelltown Hospital with obvious symptoms of a miscarriage, Mrs Taylor, 26, was not given the option of admission, but sent home on both occasions - delivering a 14-week foetus without professional support and with only paracetamol to counter excruciating labour cramps.

''It had ears, eyes, fingers,'' she said of the traumatic loss two weeks ago. ''It was a fully formed child. That's an image you don't lose. You can't just flush it away.''

Two years after Jana Horska's miscarriage in a public toilet at Royal North Shore Hospital sparked an inquiry, NSW Health has not published promised treatment protocols for women who lose an early pregnancy, so Mrs Taylor's experience cannot be measured against a standard.

Instead, a spokesman yesterday referred the Herald to guidelines issued by the Australian College of Midwives, saying they were used by area health services ''to develop local policies for the management of patients with complications in early pregnancy''. But Hannah Dahlen, a college spokeswoman, said the advice concerned basic nursing care and did not define appropriate treatment for the one in seven pregnancies that miscarry.

In October 2007 the then health minister, Reba Meagher, pledged to respond within a month to an independent report into the Horska case that recommended urgent development of care protocols for miscarrying women. The Government funded extra early pregnancy nursing positions in emergency departments, but did not commit to specific care standards.

Late yesterday the Health Department confirmed it had circulated a draft early pregnancy care policy, understood to detail circumstances in which, for example, women with pain or bleeding in early pregnancy should have an ultrasound or pathology test. A spokesman said clinicians were already using the draft recommendations - which are not available to patients - and the document would be made public this year.

Yesterday a spokesman for Sydney South West Area Health Service, which administers Campbelltown Hospital, offered sympathy to the Taylors, but said: ''Women experiencing miscarriage are not routinely admitted to hospital unless medically necessary''.

Andrew Zuschmann, from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said women in Mrs Taylor's situation should always be offered admission. ''They need access to clinical support and psychological support, and they should be in an environment where they can get that.''


Rudd 'has lost border battle to smugglers'

THE Federal Opposition has renewed calls for an inquiry into Australia's border protection laws, after another boat carrying suspected asylum seekers was intercepted off the northwest coast. Border Protection intercepted the vessel, carrying 83 passengers and four crew, at midnight AEST, Friday night about 80 nautical miles south of Ashmore Island. It is the second boat intercepted this week after a vessel carrying seven passengers was found in the same area on Monday.

Fifty-six Afghans trying to travel to Australia in a wooden boat were also detained in Indonesia this week, a navy official said on Friday.

Opposition spokeswoman for Immigration Sharman Stone said the Federal Government has "clearly lost the battle to people smugglers". It is the 30th boat that has been intercepted since the Rudd government "went soft" on border protection last August, she said on Saturday.

"For the sake of those risking their lives and to better protect Australia's orderly immigration program we must have a detailed analysis of what has gone wrong with Labor's strategy," Dr Stone said in a statement. "Again, I call for an urgent inquiry into the relationship between the Rudd government's softened stance on border protection and the surge in people smuggling in Australia."


Ridicule and hatred are routine hurdles for women rejecting the leftist emphasis on Australian university campuses

Note for non-Australian readers: The major conservative party in Australia is called the Liberal party, which actually makes a lot more sense than the American usage, where "liberals" are big-government devotees, not champions of individual liberty

At the start of her Sydney University orientation, Sasha Uher checked out the political clubs. She found the Socialist Alternative, the Greens, the Marxists, the anti-war party, the Labor Left, the Labor Right. ''I knew university would be more left-leaning but the extreme nature of some of these clubs really concerned me.'' She wondered why the choice was between soft left, mid-left, hard left, far left, lunar left. The Liberals, so important in national politics, seemed not to exist, but Uher eventually found them tucked away in a corner, and decided on the spot to join them.

The abuse started soon after. ''Liberals cop a lot of abuse from the Socialist Alternative, a radical leftist group on campus,'' she told me. ''They label us racist, sexist, homophobic. During an election campaign one socialist came up to me and said 'I campaign against scum like you every day'. There is a particularly strong anti-Israel bias, crossing into anti-Semitism. An insult I've often heard thrown at Liberal students is that we are 'dirty, war-mongering Jews'.

''This is why I am such a passionate advocate for voluntary student unionism. It is a matter that has rallied the Liberals. We strongly believe in individual responsibility … not expecting the government to be the solution to all problems.''

A commerce student, she is president of the university's Liberal Club. Hate speech, Uher says, is not the biggest problem in campus political life because most students are apolitical and steer away from the obsessives and zealots. More insidious, she believes, is the ideological bias of the faculty, and the subtle pressure to conform. ''Lecturers and tutors are predominantly left-leaning and this bias is often reflected in course material and in the way in which class work is marked.''

Every young Liberal woman interviewed for this story said the same thing. ''Unfortunately the only acceptable view within the mainstream of university politics is that of the left,'' said Sarah Constable, 20, an arts student at Sydney University. ''Of course, there is a minority of those who share Liberal values but we are often ostracised. It is pretty tough on campus for us because the minute someone realises you are a Liberal, you are automatically branded a heartless extremist.

''I cannot quantify the countless times I have been called a fascist because I'm a Young Liberal. Tutorials are some of the toughest times. Politics tutorials in particular are filled with people who, if the name John Howard is mentioned, go into some sort of a frenzy. The worst part is that the tutors are often even more extreme. ''At first I thought it was just the Socialist Alternative-types who were extreme; however I have had to sit through countless America-bashing tutorials.''

She joined the Liberal Club after returning from an extended period living in Britain. ''Growing up under an ineffective Labour government just served to reaffirm my Conservative values. I want to see Australia grow and prosper, so I'll work to see the Liberal Party re-elected.''

Prue Gusmerini, 26, studied law at the University of NSW, was apolitical at university, but came to the conclusion she was being fed rubbish by her teachers after two years of volunteer work for poor children. The work led her, after graduation, to her current job as campaign manager for Give Us A Go, a coalition of indigenous groups from Cape York. The campaign is headed by the Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson.

''I worked in some of toughest neighbourhoods in Australia in an effort to understand how the world really worked,'' she said. ''And let me tell you, that reality rarely accorded to the lessons being taught in university halls. ''The predominance of leftist thinking amongst the arts/law faculty was so strong that it took me almost two years to shirk some of its core teachings. I wasn't political at university, but I realised that the emphasis on leftist ideas divorced students from the political realities at play in the outside world.''

Ideological pressure and unreality within universities is a serious issue, but most universities pretend the problem does not exist. An outspoken exception is the vice-chancellor of Macquarie University, Steven Schwartz. ''Universities once had clear ethical purposes but over the years we have lost our moral direction,'' he said in a speech last month. ''The central ethical premise of universities has changed fundamentally … Postmodernists sneered at the achievements of the West and universities slowly sank into the morass of moral relativity.''

Schwartz believes that theory-dominated universities are divorced from practical realities. He is implementing a radical measure to require all students to undertake volunteer work off campus.

He could talk to Prue Gusmerini: ''My first gig in the real world was tutoring children at the Police Citizens and Youth Club at Waterloo, where most of the children were indigenous or the children of recently arrived migrants. From the get-go, it was obvious to me that there were massive institutional barriers to progress.''

She said she later joined the Liberal Party ''because the party's values complement my own conservative disposition, which is in part an extension of my childhood experiences and an extension of my experiences in indigenous politics and communities''.

She was also offended by the left's sneering attitude. ''Within the left there was a group of Howard haters who had no interest in fighting for a strong set of ideas or principles, which I respect, but were motivated by a deep hatred of and contempt for John Howard. It was this group that irked me the most. They stood for nothing.''

Being a Liberal at university can be politically very lonely. Courtney Dunn, 19, has never knowingly met another Liberal at the two University of Western Sydney campuses where she studies for a combined arts and law degree. ''The most visible political students on campus are the hard left, who the average student doesn't relate to, which is further reason why voluntary student unionism is such a positive thing.

''Our assigned reading materials clearly reflect ['progressive'] views. Texts can be so blatantly biased it can be frustrating. One of my lecturers even had the nerve to claim that Anzac Day is a celebration of war and touted it as a strange tradition. One textbook I had this year criticised the Howard government in almost every chapter and did not question a single Labor policy. It is obviously quite intimidating to challenge the views of your peers and ultimately the views of those marking their papers.''

Dunn's family is largely working-class and Labor-voting. She grew up in Campbelltown, and joined the Liberal Party at 17, much to the dismay of Labor-voting uncles.

''I think one of the dangers facing upcoming generations, including my own, is that we are developing an attitude of 'what will the government do about it?' I think the Rudd Government is sending the wrong message to Australians that we can't function without the Government's help in each area of our lives and I feel that this is fundamentally wrong.''

She expects ridicule for being a Liberal at the University of Western Sydney, but adds: ''No-one should be ashamed of being a member of a political party in a country like Australia, which is a democracy and is supposed to be a fair country. Universities are meant to be centres of critical thought.''


1 comment:

Paul said...

Israelis aren't any problem when it comes to street crime sure, but when it comes to white collar stuff, no one comes close.