Friday, January 22, 2016

Bill Shorten turns a blind eye to his militant union masters

In February 2013, the West Australian secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, Chris Cain, addressed the union’s "militancy conference" in Fremantle and told the assembled gathering that "laws need to be broken, you’re going to get locked up".

The next day the conference was addressed by Bill Shorten, who said: "There’s no other place I’d rather be today anywhere in Australia and I mean that with all my heart … I wish we could bottle a bit of the spirit here and spread it on perhaps some members of the Labor caucus … I was proud to be invited to come here by Chris Cain today."

Shorten was paying homage in his capacity as the then minister for workplace relations, the minister responsible for upholding the integrity of the very workplace laws that Cain had just pledged to break. This background is important in understanding the context of the recent unlawful MUA blockade of the ship MV Portland.

Last year Alcoa decided to decommission MV Portland, a vessel almost 30 years old, and source shipping services from elsewhere to transport alumina from Western Australia to its smelter in Portland, Victoria.

When the ship was due to sail for the last time from Portland, MUA members on-board refused to sail or allow others to do so.

The dispute ended up in the Fair Work Commission, which found that the actions of the MUA members were unlawful industrial action. The commission ordered them to return to work. The MUA appealed against the commission’s order — and lost.

The MUA continued to ignore the commission’s order. The company then sought to have the order enforced in the Federal Court, where Justice North upheld the order and again directed union members to return to work.

Once again, the Maritime Union of Australia ignored a decision by an independent umpire.

For Australia’s industrial relations system to operate effectively, all parties must comply with orders of the commission and courts, even when they lose.

The MUA’s attitude that "laws must be broken" is typical of its culture and that of other militant unions such as the CFMEU. They pretend to support "fairness" in the workplace and the role of the independent umpire until the umpire rules against them.

Next, the MUA took legal action in the Federal Court, trying to undo the licence that had been granted under the Coastal Shipping legislation allowing Alcoa to obtain a replacement vessel for the MV Portland.

This tactic revealed another distinguishing trait of militant ­unions. While they will not hesitate to ignore the law when they believe it suits them, they have no hesitation in using every trick possible in the legal system to frustrate their opponents when it is expedient to do so.

The Coastal Shipping legislation the MUA was now objecting to in the Federal Court was introduced by the previous Labor government. The Federal Court dismissed the MUA’s application. That makes two court decisions and two Fair Work Commission decisions against the MUA. Yet in a demonstration of union militancy, the MUA refused to allow the MV Portland to depart.

As is always the case when unions break the law, the big losers are not just the companies involved but other innocent workers. Australian jobs at risk due to the MUA’s actions included not only those directly and indirectly connected to Alcoa’s operations but also the wider Portland community.

The MUA’s action in keeping the ship in port held the local Portland berth to ransom, putting at risk the arrival of thousands of tourists on cruise ships which needed to dock at the small port.

It is deeply concerning that in a society supposedly governed by the rule of law, we still have ­elements in unions such as the MUA, who believe they are above the law and can ignore the law with impunity.

The law clearly needs to be strengthened. After the 2013 election the Coalition government introduced relatively modest legislation to impose the same obligations on officials of unions that apply to directors of companies. The Labor opposition and Greens refused to support this bill.

Since then, the Heydon royal commission has recommended even stronger legislation to ensure there are effective consequences for officials who repeatedly break the law.

Under the corporations law, if company directors break the law or ignore court orders they can be banned from being company directors. This happens regularly in corporate Australia.

Yet there is no equivalent sanction available to ban union bosses from union positions if they repeatedly flout the law. The royal commission recommends just such a reform and it is something the government is now considering. No responsible political party could do otherwise — which leads me to the Labor Party and Bill Shorten.

Many sensible and responsible Labor leaders have urged Shorten to act decisively and stand up to the militant unions that currently determine his party’s policies.

Former Labor minister Martin Ferguson has branded the MUA a "rogue union" and supported the government’s legislation to clean up the building industry.

Former ACTU leaders Bill Kelty and Jennie George have also urged reform to deal with workplace corruption and expressed alarm at the damage that such corruption is doing to the union movement. More recently, former ALP president Warren Mundine has declared that "unions should be subject to the same rules of governance, transparency and financial disclosure as public companies".

None of this advice has been heeded by Bill Shorten, who has ignored the findings of the royal commission and was last week meekly repeating the MUA’s lines on the MV Portand — like a puppet on a string.

Bill Shorten’s relationship with militant unions is defined by career dependency and wilful subservience. In both form and substance, the relationship is akin to that between Mr Smithers and Mr Burns in The Simpsons.

As we have observed in numerous episodes, such a relationship is corrupting and demeaning for both parties.


Australia, not UN, has final say on Syrian and Iraqi refugee intake, Peter Dutton says

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says the Federal Government will have the final say on who is resettled in Australia as part of the intake of 12,000 additional refugees.  Key points:

    Australia taking an extra 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq

    Resettling to cost $900 million

    Immigration Minister says Australia, not the UN, has final say on who comes

The former Abbott government agreed to the one-off intake of those displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq, with the first people arriving late last year.

Mr Dutton said the resettlement program would focus on persecuted minorities, including Christians and families.

He told Macquarie Radio the department had been working with Syrian Christian leaders and the United Nations, but the latter could only make suggestions.

"Ultimately we want to make sure that we're bringing the right people," he said. "People who can integrate into our community, that can get a job, can speak English, can give their kids the opportunity to go to school, that don't treat women appallingly."

Mr Dutton said "Australia will decide who we accept".  "The UN can make referrals and if we're not happy that person satisfies our criteria, they won't be settled in our country," he said. "The Prime Minister has been as adamant about that being the case as prime minister Abbott was."

Mr Dutton said significant checks were being undertaken, including the searching of US databases.

Security concerns have been raised by some in the Federal Government, but fears have been downplayed by ministers and coordinators for the resettlement.

More than $900 million has been allocated to resettling the refugees and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection last year doubled its staff numbers in the Middle East to enable quick processing.

Syria has been embroiled in a vicious civil war since a popular uprising against dictator Bashar al-Assad in 2011, with increasing violence being inflicted at the hands of Islamic State militants.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke on Australia's role in the conflict earlier this week, telling a Washington think tank that an enduring victory against militant forces "must be won and owned by the people of Iraq and Syria".

"The destruction of ISIL requires military action including boots on the ground but they must be the right boots on the right ground," he said.


Now honey is bad for you

Australian honey is the most contaminated in the world and contains cancer-causing toxins as a result of lenient food-safety standards, according to new research.

All but five Australian honey brands tested had more contaminants which would not be considered safe or tolerable in Europe.

Research published in the Food Additives and Contaminants scientific journal reveals the majority of honey sold by leading brands in Australian supermarkets have the highest level of this poisonous toxin.

This poison is known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), which has liver damaging toxins that have serious health consequences for animals and humans when consumed in high quantities.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) have sent out a warning to anyone, including pregnant or breast feeding women, not to consume more than two tablespoons of honey a day and to avoid that made from the plant Paterson’s Curse.

FSANZ told Yahoo7 there is no way to remove the poison from honey, so the action they take is to lower it's count in honey by blending and diluting it.

"Currently there are no methods for removing PAs from honey and removing source plants is not feasible for many areas where apiaries are kept," a spokesperson said.

"Contaminants should be kept as low as achievable. Therefore, blending is the most practical way of reducing the levels of PAs to the lowest achievable."

According to other food authorities around the world, this blending is deemed as an unrealistic solution.

The European Food Safety Authority consider 0.0007 micrograms of PA per kilogram of body weight, per day a safe intake to be consuming.  Whereas Australia's standards restrict the recommended intake to 1 microgram.

Australian toxicologist, Dr John Edgar, claims eating these poisons "could be a significant cause of cancer", Fairfax reported.

"Reducing the contamination in foods such as honey, teas, salads, flour, dairy and herbal products could result in a significant reduction in cancer cases worldwide."

Although, PSANZ sent out a warning to not ingest Paterson’s Curse honey, the government agency told Yahoo7 the levels of PA found in Australian homes is unlikely to pose a health risk.

"For people who eat small amounts of honey, the levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids should not be a cause for concern," the spokesperson said, adding that the toxin in Australia has a lower toxicity than the standard used overseas.

"The predominant PA in Australian and New Zealand honey, echimidene, is of a lower toxicity than the PA used as a standard to set values by some authorities," a FANZ spokesperson said.

Dr Nadine Chapman, from the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney, researches Australian bees and says the industry is aware of the issue and are finding ways to mitigate it.

"To say that Australian honey is the most contaminated in the world is an exaggeration and it depends on the contaminant," she said. "As Australia does not have the Varroa mite and a number of other pests and diseases, we use less chemicals to manage our bees; we also try to minimise exposure to pesticides."

In regard to the outcomes of this expert, FSANZ said they will still "reconsider whether the setting of a tolerable daily intake is appropriate for PAs in Australian and New Zealand foods".

SOURCEBee keepers disagree

Stop using these words right now

I am pleased that I cannot remember using any of these words -- JR

ARE you passionate? Motivated? Strategic? These are the 10 most overused words you have to drop from your vocabulary.

Professional network LinkedIn has released its list of the Australia’s 10 most overused buzzwords, with "passionate" once again topping the list.

"Motivated" has taken second place again, followed by "leadership", which has edged out "extensive experience" for third place this year.

LinkedIn analysed the profiles of members in Australia to determine the words and phrases most commonly used by professionals to describe themselves.

Compared globally, Australians use the majority of the same buzzwords with the exception of "track record", which places ninth on the Australian list but does not appear in the global top 10. The top 10 buzzwords in Australia for 2016 are:

1. Passionate

2. Motivated

3. Leadership

4. Extensive experience

5. Strategic

6. Creative

7. Driven

8. Successful

9. Track record

10. Dedicated

LinkedIn’s Shiva Kumar said members should steer away from cliches and show — not tell — their achievements.

"In our everyday conversations we would naturally stray away from using buzzwords to describe ourselves, so why do it on your LinkedIn profile?" he said.

"We’re encouraging our members to steer away from cliches and show off achievements on their LinkedIn profile through photos, presentations and other work to demonstrate how they are ‘passionate’, ‘successful’ or ‘creative’ rather than use tired old buzzwords."


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