Thursday, July 10, 2014

Royal commission into union corruption: Construction union 'blackmailed building firm'

Victoria's powerful construction union allegedly blackmailed a building company by waging an unlawful boycott in Melbourne, an inquiry into union corruption has heard.

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption is investigating claims against the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

The commision heard Boral was effectively blacklisted by the CFMEU and drawn into a war for failing to abide by a union ban on supplying concrete to Melbourne developer Grocon.

Boral's chief executive Mike Kane told the inquiry that its concrete and building products were banned on more than 70 union-controlled sites in Melbourne, costing the firm $8 million in lost earnings and court cases.

"This is a criminal conspiracy to interfere in the marketplace and to stop our ability to supply our customers," he said.

"It's blackmail, it's blackmail by any other definition that I've ever heard of and it's been effective."
Union heavyweight 'likened builder boycott to war'

Earlier, counsel assisting the royal commission Jeremy Stoljar SC outlined evidence that was to be given by executives from Boral.
The CFMEU's Victoria secretary, John Setka, addresses construction workers in 2013. Photo: Union heavyweight John Setka is alleged to have said the CFMEU was at war with developer Grocon. (AAP: Julian Smith)

Mr Stoljar said Boral representatives attended a meeting with CFMEU Victorian secretary John Setka in April last year.

They alleged Mr Setka said words to the effect, "we are at a war with Grocon and in a war you cut the supply lines and once peace is established, the CFMEU will be at the table to divide up the spoils".

Mr Kane said Boral was being told that there were further consequences that Boral would have to pay "if we didn't accede to the demand to stop supplying Grocon."

He said the purpose was not "to get Boral".  "Boral ... was roadkill. [It] was an accident. We were simply supplying one of our many customers in the Melbourne market and we got this sort of perfunctory advice: 'You no longer supply them (Grocon)'," Mr Kane said.

"It's about power and then other mischief happens.

"We were simply a bystander who happened to be in the way. And then when we didn't agree, we had to be punished as a lesson to other suppliers: 'See what will happen to you if you follow Boral's footsteps'.

"The only solution I know is that the law has to provide a remedy. And currently it can't and it doesn't."

CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan dismissed the inquiry as a show trial and said Mr Kane would have gone to the police if he had any real evidence against Mr Setka.

"What you’ve heard today is not evidence, it is a political speech in the political and economic interests of a large multinational corporation," he said.

If he was fair dinkum about that, and I don't think he's fair dinkum about that, he would have rung Victoria Police, who enforce the Crimes Act."

Australia's competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, confirmed last month it was conducting an investigation into the issue.


Kyrgios gives racism grand slam

CANBERRA teenager Nick Kyrgios gave the lie to claims of Australian racism when he was cheered by fans across the nation and around the world after his historic victory over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon.

Kyrgios, whose father is of Greek origin and mother is from Malaysia, does not look like a whitebread Anglo sort of bloke. Yet not a commentator mentioned his features when applauding his win at the Grand Slam tournament.

Nor did anyone note that Melbourne-born Musa Cerantonio, widely regarded by security forces internationally as one of the most influential ­recruiters for the ultra-violent Islamic State, formerly known as ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, looks more like an average young Anglo-Irish bush dance caller than the spruiker for Middle Eastern terrorism that he is.

But there he was, with his beaming grin shining from a youthful bushy reddish beard on the ubiquitous YouTube announcing his support for the Sunni caliphate, or Muslim state, in the territory seized by the extremist hordes following the black flag of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a militant with a $10 million bounty on his head.

Baghdadi, a delusionary who claims to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad, has been slaughtering all those who are not prepared to convert to Sunni Islam, as he enthusiastically spreads the message of the so-called religion of peace.

Those who cling to the ­failed notion of multiculturalism in Australia and fight to block freedom of speech by supporting the retention of the offensive section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, do so ­because they don’t want their prejudices held up to public scrutiny by the majority. It is their minority view they want to prevail and, under that view, the causes of community dissent can’t be explored, let alone challenged, without ­inviting claims of bigotry.

Part of the dogma of the multicultural industry relies on the false claim that there is at the heart of Anglo-Australian culture an irrational fear of something called the Other — that is, anyone who doesn’t look like a Chesty Bond, blonde beach-loving Aussie caricature. But it was impossible to discern any fear of Nick Kyrgios last week.

On the contrary, much of the nation was delighted to find a new young hero to ­worship. Green-and-gold bedraped Australians at Wimbledon who had never heard of the newcomer a week earlier were seen screaming themselves hoarse with encouragement, and those at home laughed and cried as they learnt that his proud mother, Norlaila, didn’t think her youngster was good enough to beat a champion of Nadal’s stature at the world’s greatest tennis tournament.

While this was delighting the nation, Cerantonio was hitting the anti-social media to step up his recruiting drive for death squads. Early on Wednesday, he announced he was planning to leave his hiding place (believed to be in the Philippines), to join the murderers in the Middle East.

Clearly it is not a case of one race being acceptable and ­another unacceptable, one ­appearance being frightening, another welcoming. It is a case of one culture being benign and one being lethal.

The deadly Islamist culture Cerantonio has chosen is ­undoubtedly Koranic in origin.

In his all-too popular videos, Cerantonio brandishes the Islamic holy book like a banner, exhorting his followers to observe its message.

That message, unchanged since medieval times and ­unquestioned by Islam’s most fanatical supporters and brutally applied by al-Baghdadi and his minions is one of death for those who will not bend to his brand of Islam as the bodies of Christians, Kurds and non-Sunni demonstrate.

It has appealed to a hundred or more young Australians who have travelled to join the extremist militants in Syria and Iraq.

Last week, Attorney-General George Brandis met a group of Islamic leaders in Canberra to discuss changes which will permit the domestic and international agencies ASIO and ASIS to better deal with the threat posed to ­national security by those who have gone or plan to go and join the Islamists in the Middle East.

The good intentions of the imams and community leaders are to be applauded but what is really needed is a thorough examination of the culture within the Muslim community — not a homogenous group by any means — which nurtures and supports individuals such as Cerantonio and Sydney sheik Abu Sulayman, a senior official in the Syrian militant group, Jabhat al-Nusra.

Until then, the anti-social activities of significant members of the Muslim community are deserving of suspicion and will remain so until the majority of Muslims demonstrate that Australian culture, our way of life, is not threatened by these radical extremists


Australian students score well in PISA financial literacy test

The PISA 2012 Financial Literacy assessment is the first large scale international study to assess the financial literacy, learned in and outside of school, of 15-year-olds nearing the end of compulsory education.  In this study, financial literacy is defined as “…knowledge and understanding of financial concepts and risks, and the skills, motivation and confidence to apply such knowledge and understanding in order to make effective decisions across a range of financial contexts, to improve the financial well-being of individuals and society, and to enable participation in economic life”. For a full explanation, see the PISA 2012 Assessment and Analytical Framework.

This is the first time that financial literacy has been a part of the OECD’s PISA, a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-olds.

Eighteen countries and economies participated in the assessment of financial literacy, including 13 OECD countries and economies: Australia, the Flemish Community of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and the United States; and five partner countries and economies: Colombia, Croatia, Latvia, the Russian Federation and Shanghai-China.  A total of 29,000 students participated in the assessment, including approximately 3,300 Australian students from 768 schools.

Some of the study findings relating to Australian students' performance include:

·         16% of Australian students performed at the top level of proficiency (level 5), compared with 10% of students across the OECD;

·         10% of Australian students were low performers in financial literacy (level 1);

·         Male and female students scored at the same level in financial literacy on average;

·         Some 11% of the variation in student performance in financial literacy is associated with socioeconomic status, about the same as the OECD average;

·         Students in metropolitan schools performed significantly better than students with similar socioeconomic status who attend schools in rural areas;

·         82% of students have a bank account and 73% earn money from work, including working outside school hours, working in a family business or performing occasional informal jobs.

As the Australian Government agency responsible for financial literacy, ASIC facilitated Australia’s participation in the PISA 2012 Financial Literacy assessment in partnership with states and territories. The research was conducted by ACER.  The next PISA financial literacy assessment will take place in 2015.


Bogan controversy mayor 'will not stand down'

"Bogan" is difficult to define.  An uncultured and ignorant working class person is about it

Glamorgan Spring Bay Council Mayor Bertrand Cadart has said he will not stand down, even if his fellow councillors declare they have lost confidence in him.

Councillor Cadart is facing a vote of no confidence next week, after making national headlines for calling members of his council area "the most bogan of bogans".

The mayor said his comments had been taken out of context.

"Because English is my second, obviously not my mother tongue," said the French-born mayor.

Some councillors and local residents were upset after the mayor told a magazine that Triabunna [the town at the centre of the Glamorgan Spring Bay area] was ugly and he did not care about the people living there.


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