Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Unions caught out hiring guest workers
Good old Leftist hypocrisy. They have been been energetically opposing use of such workers by others
Unions representing some of Australia's lowest-paid workers have been caught out using imported labour, with United Voice employing nine people on 457 visas.
Two other unions - the Australian Education Union and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employee-s Association - have also hired staff on the temporary skilled work visas.
The industrial movement has long demonised the visas, including once labelling them as a "form of slavery''. Unions are seeking to scuttle the China-Australian free-trade pact because it allows for the use of 457s on large-scale projects.
It seems the union hierarchy is making use of the visas themselves, however, to hire overseas workers to fill their own jobs.
The Immigration Department has revealed that "workplace relations adviser is the most frequently- sponsored occupation'' among unions, "with the other sponsored occupations being copywriter, organisation and methods analyst, database administrator, and training and development professional''.
Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Michaelia Cash told The Australian "the revelation that multiple unions have employed subclass 457 visa holders is an act of incredible hypocrisy and duplicity given the long-term campaign the union movement has waged against the 457 program''.
Most of those on union-sponsored 457 visas are from Britain and the US, with workers also coming from India, The Netherlands, Canada and Singapore, answers- to a Senate inquiry into Australia's temporary work visa programs revealed.
The average salary is $72,497, the minimum salary is $52,080 and the highest salary is $118,502.
"The occupations . targeted by unions employing overseas workers as workplace relations advisers and copywriters gives a clear insight into their double standards,'' Senator Cash said.
"On the one hand, we have -unions employing foreign workers to do the frontline agitating of Australian unions.
"Equally ironic is the employment of copywriters as 457 workers directly employed by the union movement to help orchestrate the misleading and damaging campaign- against foreign labour provisions in the China-Australia free-trade agreement.''
Unions argue the ChAFTA will allow Chinese workers to have free access to the Australian -labour market, and undercut wages and conditions, a claim the government denies.
Departmental records reveal that in the past five years, several unions, including from the Maritime Union of Australia and the Transport Workers Union, have sponsored 41 workers on 457 visas.
"It is time for the Labor opposition and union movement more generally to stop their duplicitous nonsensical campaign against foreign workers,'' Senator Cash said.
"Not since John McTernan was employed as a communications director on a 457 visa in Julia Gillard's office, from where we witnessed a political campaign against 457 visas, have we seen such blatant hypocrisy from the union movement. I call on each union to provide evidence of the labour-market testing they undertook . to demonstrate there were no Australian workers able to undertake the roles.
"Australians would find it difficult to believe there are no Australians qualified to undertake the role of workplace relations adviser or copyrighter."
In 2013, Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon accused some employers importing 457 visa workers of a "form of slavery''.
United Voice workers at Parliament House will take action today in their battle for fair pay, banning the cleaning of toilets.
PM Tony Abbott right to rain on irate rainbow parade
YOU can measure suburban grassroots support for Tony Abbott in inverse proportion to the vehemence of his opponents. And his opponents are feral at the moment on gay marriage.
Virtually with one voice the media establishment and the political class have condemned the Prime Minister for his plan to allow the public to vote on such contentious social change. Even some of his more image-conscious cabinet colleagues confidently proclaim he is on the “wrong side of history”. When have we heard this said before about Abbott?
On the republic. On climate change. On both issues he stood firm, was denigrated for it and eventually was shown to have been on the right side of history.
In the first case, a referendum on a republic was resoundingly defeated, despite elite opinion and almost every media outlet shamelessly barracking for it, and decrying Abbott, the monarchist activist, as being hopelessly out of touch.
In the second, Abbott’s defiant stand against the Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme in 2009 won him the leadership of the Liberal party from Malcolm Turnbull — and subsequently an election.
Time will tell whether gay marriage will give Abbott the trifecta. But there was a clue in the overwhelming 2:1 majority in the Coalition party room — even stronger among the back bench — during Tuesday night’s marathon meeting which rejected a “free vote” — a.k.a. a “conscience vote”, a.k.a. a proxy vote — for same sex marriage.
But right now the sore losers in his government are running around briefing journalists against him or, in the case of Senator George Brandis, openly decrying a referendum.
It’s a puzzle. If the advocates of gay marriage are as confident as they claim that close to three quarters of the public is with them, then why are they so upset about the decision of the Coalition party room to allow a public vote? Either they have been lying about community sentiment or they have nothing to fear.
The only way to legitimise such a contentious and important re-engineering of the foundational institution of our society is to allow a public vote. A democratic endorsement of gay marriage by a majority of Australians will put the matter to rest in a way a stitched-up deal by politicians with a variety of obscure motivations never will.
Turnbull, representing the third-gayest seat in the nation, is upset with the PM, because he claims a free vote would have taken gay marriage off the table so the government could get back to talking about jobs.
But the only way this debate gets off the table is if the gay marriage lobby wins. They are relentless. In the past decade there have been 16 attempts to redefine marriage, according to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. They won’t take no for an answer.
They have millions of dollars. They have the media on side. They have had a decade of funded propaganda, networking, and lawfare to prepare the ground.
Claws are still sheathed but you know their tactics will get increasingly ugly, targeting individual MPs, and branding opponents bigots and homophobes.
If you want to know how low they will go, you need look no further than Peter van Onselen’s contribution after the Coalition party room vote. The Sky news presenter declared that young homosexual Australians will “commit suicide between now and when the government finally gets its act together”.
Using suicide as a political weapon is despicable, but it’s now the official line of the Marriage Equality crowd, who say a people’s vote is “potentially dangerous”.
All the defenders of traditional marriage are asking for is a respectful, fair hearing, in which their benign advertisements are not rejected by television stations, in which bishops are not threatened with legal action for upholding Catholic teaching in Catholic schools.
A referendum to change the definition of marriage in the Constitution would resolve the issue. This binding vote would oblige the government of the day to act, one way or the other. It would also allow for equal funding of both sides of the debate. It is the option most vehemently opposed by the same-sex marriage lobby.
But if a majority of Australians and a majority of states don’t want the definition of marriage changed, what right does the political class have to override their wishes?
After all, one of the main bludgeons for change is the inevitability argument, citing polls since 2007 showing majority support for same-sex marriage has climbed to 72 per cent. What are the lobbyists afraid of?
They were cock-a-whoop when the nominally Catholic country of Ireland voted for gay marriage in a referendum, yet want to deny Australians the same opportunity.
It’s too expensive, they say. It’s unnecessary. It will cause suicides. Are they listening to themselves? The commentary is insane. On Tuesday every Coalition MP had a chance to air their views in a respectful, constructive way before the vote was taken.
What could be more democratic than that?
But the sore losers have described it as chaotic, and a threat to Abbott’s leadership. The opposite is the case.
Bill Shorten's climate-change policy a one-way ticket to energy hell
If you want to know what the lead-filled sock of fate has in store for us, look no further than Labor's -climate-change policies.
With barely one per cent of global emissions, Bill Shorten would have us mandate a share of renewable energy two times greater than that aimed at by the world's largest emitters.
The threat that poses to consumers, who would face dramatic increases in power bills, is obvious; but the mere possibility of so -irrational a policy - which would squander an amount equivalent to the sum of the budget deficits over the forward estimates - must compound the sovereign risk that is already damaging Australia's international competitiveness.
Of course, the renewables lobby has beamed with joy ever since Shorten announced that "Labor's ambition is to see 50 per cent of our electricity energy mix generated by renewable energy by 2030". And however poor renewables may be at actually generating power, that lobby's capacity to generate spurious arguments would make the sun shine at night.
We have, for example, been told that far from raising prices, the Renewable Energy Target reduces them. However, that is only true for so long as the growing stock of renewables adds to overcapacity in the National Electricity Market, forcing prices in that market down to the cash costs of keeping plants going. In addition to being inherently inefficient (since it makes no sense to aggravate a capacity glut), any benefit to consumers must be short-lived, as prices will rise once the surplus plants leave the market.
But it is even worse than that. In most markets, when supply exceeds demand, it is the highest cost suppliers who get knocked out, cushioning the price increases associated with a return to balance. In this market, however, the exact opposite is occurring, as the renewables mandate ensures the costliest capacity remains while cheaper capacity is prematurely scrapped.
That process is already apparent, with expensive renewables accounting for 98 per cent of the 1100 megawatts of capacity added last year to the NEM, while coal plants, which have low operating costs, accounted for 90 per cent of the 4500 MW that have been withdrawn or whose withdrawal has been announced.
Were the renewables target nearly doubled, as Labor proposes, the distortion would be even more severe. Quantifying the impacts involves myriad assumptions; but a reasonable estimate (derived using a model developed for the Minerals Council by electricity specialists Principal Economics) is that increasing the renewables -- target would raise the costs of power by $86 billion, which amounts to $600 per household per year.
Given that the average family has an annual electricity bill of some $1600, adding $600 is hardly trivial. Nor could anyone claim $86bn is small change for the Australian economy as a whole: not only is it more than twice this year's budget deficit, but it exceeds the total deficits forecast over the period to 2018-19.
And since any abatement it buys could be obtained far more cheaply by other means, it would be wasteful even were cutting emissions worthwhile.
However, the economic costs of Labor's proposal don't end there. After all, Shorten also intends to introduce a tax on carbon. While the details have not been released, it is clear any such scheme would disproportionately raise the costs of the coal-fired generators, accelerating their exit, and so further boosting prices. And by piling a carbon tax on top of the tax associated with the RET, it could make the distortions caused by increasing the RET even greater than the $86bn cited above.
The extent of the additional loss will depend both on the precise nature of Labor's carbon tax scheme and on its rate. But Treasury's modelling of Julia Gillard's carbon tax suggests that, given a carbon tax, the additional loss from raising the RET would (on an admittedly rough estimate) be in the order of $38bn, taking the total cost of Shorten's renewables policy well over $100bn.
Not that the renewables lobby would ever accept those figures. Rather, it argues that the cost of renewables will plummet as their share in the energy mix rises. But those arguments are hopelessly flawed.
To begin with, as the Productivity Commission found in reviewing the original modelling for the carbon tax, Australia's share of global investment in renewables is so small that any scale economies from doubling that share would reduce costs by less than one-tenth of one per cent. Moreover, far from falling, the economic costs of increasing wind capacity are likely to rise, as many of the best sites have already been taken, forcing growth to occur where transmission costs are high and capacity utilisation low and intermittent.
And with massive demand in the developing world for coal and gas plants, technological progress in fossil-fuel generation is at least as rapid as that in renewables, keeping it highly cost competitive.
Little wonder then that in the US, states such as West Virginia and Kansas have now decided to scrap their renewable energy mandates altogether, while Ohio has deferred the steady increases its law originally required. And as data from the US federal Energy Information Administration shows, electricity is 22.9 per cent more costly in those states with renewables mandates than in those without, competition to attract footloose capital and labour seems set to accelerate the trend away from compulsory targets.
Such a move would make even more sense in Australia, given our uniquely abundant resources of brown coal that is costly to transport. Those resources, and the very low power prices they allowed, have long underpinned our prosperity; by throwing what little remains of that advantage away, Shorten's policy, were it ever implemented, would be a one-way ticket to energy hell.
Aboriginal welfare innovation
BILLIONAIRE mining magnate Andrew Forrest has att-acked critics of a new cashless welfare card as useless "hand wringers and pontificators".
But one of the first WA communities to be part of its trial has raised concerns about being unfairly targeted.
Mr Forrest said the Healthy Welfare Card - an idea he created to prevent welfare recipients buying alcohol, gambling and spending money on drugs - could end the "scourge" of addiction.
"For the hand wringers and pontificators who would see our broken system for vulnerable Australians never change, please remember those who, perhaps unlike you, have been subject to the extreme pressure of drug dealers, humbug and alcohol addiction," he said.
"This presents the worst and most insurmountable barriers to education, employment, family unity and health and directly contributes to the high suicide rate and lower average age of mortality."
Legislation for a 12-month trial will be introduced to federal Parliament next week.
Kununurra and Halls Creek, in the Kimberley, are in talks with the Abbott Government about becoming trial sites after Ced-una in South Australia signed-up earlier this month.
The debit card trial has been strongly end-orsed by Aboriginal leaders, but Shire of Halls Creek president Malcolm Edwards said he wanted a guarantee the town wouldn't continue to be singled out if the trial was -successful.
Mr Edwards said an alcohol ban in place in the town since 2009 had led to sly grogging and dangerous binge drinking.
Because authorities believed it had been successful, the harsh measures have not eased.
"In principle I do support (a trial)," he said. "What I'm against is that it just remains in Halls Creek and is not expanded to the rest of the Kimberley. "That's my concern . that it's successful and then it remains for forever and a day."
Ceduna's trial would see all working-age welfare recipients get 80 per cent of their payments on a cashless debit card and 20 per cent in their existing account. It also allows aged pensioners to opt in so they won't be harassed for money.
Mr Forrest warned of the "real risk" the 20 per cent available as cash could be spent on the "debilitating harms of drugs and severe alcoholism". He also stressed that support services were needed to help people coming off their addictions.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Alan Tudge, who is leading the consultations, is in advanced talks with East Kimberley leaders.
"I'd just stress that no decision has been made yet because we do want to consult further and make sure all of the key leaders have had the opportunity to express their views," Mr Tudge said.