Thursday, October 24, 2013

Qld. Government road maintenance workers made redundant

Government  roadworkers have long been a conspicuously "relaxed" lot so this is long overdue

WORKERS at RoadTek have been made redundant. The State Government road maintenance workers were given their redundancy slips on Wednesday morning.

One worker, who did not want to be named, said while the redundancies were not a shock, he felt hard done by.

About 60 workers at the Nathan depot were given a redundancy.
"I don't think many people are happy about it," another worker said.  "People have mortgages and everything to pay off." He said everyone had been stressed by the prospect of the redundancies.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Scott Emerson said it had been known that the long-term road asset management contracts would be opened to the private sector since June 2012.  "About 140 people across Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast operations will be given an update on the progress of those tenders and the transition of work to the private sector.  "These are not additional staff changes, but part off the original program outlined in media statements and budget papers since mid 2012," he said.

Staff have access to an on-going program of voluntary redundancies and redeployment.

He said the cost to build and maintain roads in southeast Queensland was increasing and the changes had been driven to give better value.

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk says Mr Newman promised in December last year that there would be no more sackings, past the 14,000 job losses announced last year.  "What sort of Christmas are these people going to have?" she said. "This is not acceptable. It is clearly a broken promise."

The government agreed in its response to the Costello Commission of Audit earlier this year that the work done by RoadTek should be opened to private bidders in southeast Queensland.

The union has come out swinging against the sackings. AWU Queensland Branch Secretary Ben Swan said the move was "senseless".  "These workers have bills to pay, mortgages and families to support, but that doesn't matter to this mob on George Street," Mr Swan said.  "These are hardworking Queenslanders who deliver services night and day to make roads safe for all of us".  He said the government had showed "callous disregard" for people's job security.

"In the last week we have seen an attack on workers compensation rights, the stifling of fair enterprise bargaining and now a direct hit on these workers' jobs".

The State Government introduced controversial new workplace reforms and changes to the WorkCover legislation a week ago.

The winning tenders for more than $400 million in work, to begin in late November, will be announced in the next week.


Twisted logic links the tragic NSW bushfires with the Prime Minister, climate change and abolishing the carbon tax

Gerard Henderson

According to Adam Bandt's logic, the Greens are responsible for the devastating bushfires sweeping parts of NSW. Last Wednesday, the Greens MP for Melbourne accused the Prime Minister of "donning a volunteer firefighter uniform for the media". This was nothing but a slur, since Tony Abbott has been an active volunteer firefighter for more than a decade.

Bandt went on to suggest Abbott's firefighting was a "con" because he was "helping start fires that put people's lives in danger". In other words, the Prime Minister is not only a con artist but also an arsonist. Then, as if to prove when muck-racking the muck can go even lower, Bandt tweeted on Thursday, "Tony Abbott's plan means more bushfires for Australia".

Bandt's attack overlooked two essential facts. First, the Coalition's policy aim on the reduction of carbon emissions by 2020 is the same as that of the Labor Party (which the Greens were aligned to for most of the past three years).

Second, if the Greens had supported Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme in 2009 and 2010, Australia would already have a form of an emissions trading scheme in place. Bob Brown, Christine Milne and their Greens colleagues in the Senate opposed Rudd Labor's reduction scheme and prevented it passing into legislation.

Of course, if Australia had introduced Rudd's scheme it would have done nothing to stop the bushfires. Australia's carbon emissions are but a tiny fraction of world output. Moreover, the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events remains uncertain. NSW experienced record bushfires half a century ago and earlier. It is just that there were no alienated political types around to lay the blame on political leaders. It appears that Labor, under its new leadership team of Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek, is intent on thwarting the Abbott government's determination to junk the carbon tax. This despite the fact that before the 2013 election Rudd said Labor would terminate this tax.

Labor's position appears to be that it will only support Abbott if he agrees to replace the carbon tax with an emissions trading scheme. This overlooks the fact that Abbott went to the election with a promise to junk the carbon tax and not to introduce an ETS.

There are some forthright Labor backbenchers who want Labor to cut its losses and drop its carbon pricing policies - just as the Coalition dropped WorkChoices after its comprehensive defeat in 2007. The South Australian MP Nick Champion is in this camp as is West Australian senator Mark Bishop. But they appear to be in a minority.

Certainly, as backbenchers, Champion and Bishop have a freedom to speak which is not shared by many of their colleagues. However, their approach is politically sound. Rudd lost his way in early 2010 when Labor dropped the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme without replacing it. From that time he was deauthorised and was replaced by Julia Gillard in June 2010.

Gillard at least managed to form a minority government after the August 2010 election. However, the former prime minister also became deauthorised when, in February 2011, she broke her promise not to introduce a carbon tax. Rudd and Gillard are victims of Labor's carbon pricing obsession, which does not enjoy popular support.

Shorten could be heading the same way. If Labor and the Greens defeat Abbott's carbon tax repeal legislation, there could be a double dissolution. Alternatively, the Coalition may have the numbers to abolish carbon pricing after the new Senate takes effect on July 1.

The problem for Shorten is that even if Abbott gets his carbon tax abolition through the Senate, this issue does not go away while Labor remains committed to a trading scheme. Unless Labor does to carbon pricing what the Coalition did to WorkChoices, Shorten will have to campaign in the election scheduled for late 2016 on a promise to introduce an ETS or some other form of carbon pricing. It is quite likely that neither the US nor Canada will have a nationwide ETS by then. In such a situation, Abbott would be able to paint Labor as the party of higher energy prices that will make Australia less competitive on world markets.

Labor's choice right now is not helped by the sense of urgency engendered by the tragic NSW bushfires and the perception that unusually high temperatures are the cause. Yesterday, a colleague sent me a clipping from the Herald reporting that on October 13, 1946, the temperature in Sydney reached 35 degrees. At least the Prime Minister can't be blamed for that.


"Soft" magistrate who allowed alleged bikie bail was a former Labor Senate candidate

A SUNSHINE COAST magistrate who has defied the Newman Government's crackdown on criminal gangs to release a bikie on bail is a failed Senate candidate with a history of contentious decisions - including ignoring the one minute silence in her courtroom on Remembrance Day.

As well as infuriating war veterans over the snub, Bernadette Callaghan, a former senior union official, has also previously lashed out at police for arresting a man for giving them a rude gesture, and criticised politicians for having "rocks in their heads".

Despite new laws that not only declare bikies illegal but also compel the courts to treat them more harshly, Ms Callaghan let a Rebel with 'FTP' for F... k the Police tattooed on his forehead walk this week, insisting there was not enough evidence to suggest he was a gang member.

A furious Premier Campbell Newman said it was time legal ``insiders" got out of the way of the crackdown.

Police bosses say they will take legal action to overturn the decision.

Mr Newman said it was high time the judiciary understood that Queenslanders wanted criminal bikies behind bars.  "What we need now is for the judiciary, those who run the court system, the insiders, to actually realise that's what Queenslanders want as well," he said.  "And they need to have a look at how they're operating and make sure they protect Queenslanders."

However, it is far from the first time that one of Ms Callaghan's decisions has earned the community's ire.

In 2010, the controversial magistrate failed to stop proceedings during a coroner's inquest for a minute silence on Remembrance Day, sparking accusations she lacked respect for veterans.

The following year Ms Callaghan criticised politicians who supported mandatory sentencing during a case of a motorists who earned an automatic licence suspension.  "Anyone who thinks mandatory sentencing is a good thing has rocks in their heads," she said at the time.


'Cram central' class leaps into the shadow end

It's 9.53pm on a Monday, and inside a fluorescent-lit office in Glen Waverley 16 tired teenagers are shuffling papers, punching at calculators and wolfing down warm pizza.

They have been here since 7.30, sitting on folding chairs at white plastic picnic tables, listening to their teacher, Kevin Xiao, 28, as he dissects the mathematical methods exam they will face in less than a fortnight.

They listen in part because they clearly adore the exuberant Mr Xiao, the founder of this private tutoring college.

But also because of the only adornment on the walls at Breakthrough Education: laminated posters selling a narrative of success. "11 perfect ATARs in 4 years"; "Median ATAR of 97.65"; "1 in 7 graduates scoring 99+".

The students have come in search of those promised scores, paying $45 a class every Monday night since July to try to dominate the written VCE exam period that begins next week.

"Grab a slice, grab a seat, grab a Coke and let's get cracking," Mr Xiao says, launching into an explanation of another unfathomable problem. "Ten is to H, as 2 is to R, so what does that mean?"

Welcome to the expanding world of "shadow education". In 2005 there were 24,000 people working as full-time tutors in Australia. There are now more than 36,000, and demand continues to grow, particularly in "cram schools" such as this one, which caters to 250 students here and in Balwyn and Box Hill.

Mohan Dhall, of the Australian Tutoring Association, said such instruction was found anywhere that "transfer tests" existed, whether for perfect VCE scores or entry into selective schools.

Tutoring was once mainly a remedial tool to give struggling students a hand up, but increasingly parents trying to give dominant students a head start.

Bareetu Aba-Bulga, 18, sits somewhere in the middle. Of Oromian (Ethiopian) descent, she goes to Huntingtower School, Mount Waverley, studies Indonesian and wants to be an accountant. "It's my dream to empower the women of Indonesia through business," she says.

But she struggles with numbers. Group tutoring has helped, although going to school after school is a challenge.  "It's OK for the first hour, but then we hit 8.30 and I start to fall asleep sometimes," she said, laughing. "Maths isn't always exciting."

Students from St Albans and Werribee, Caulfield Grammar and Melbourne Grammar, and even Mac.Robertson Girls High School and Melbourne High School augment their education here.

Janet McCutcheon, assistant principal at Mac.Rob, said tuition had its place, provided children and parents did not think of it as the only way.  "We don't want them being overloaded," she said.


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