Sunday, October 20, 2019

Labourers working on Victoria’s West Gate Tunnel raking in $110,000 for 36-hour weeks

Union rip-off that reduces what can be built

Labourers working on Melbourne’s West Gate Tunnel are earning up to $200,000 a year, the Master Builders Association of Victoria has claimed. According to the industry group, young, “entry-level” tradies working on the project are raking in $110,000 per year — in exchange for a 36-hour week.

But those with more experience who work the industry-standard 56-hour week are making a staggering $200,000 per annum.

“Site allowance” payments on the project have also soared to $9.25 per hour, which pushes up a labourer’s wage by more than $24,000 each year.

Master Builders Association CEO Rebecca Casson told out-of-control wages hurt everyday Australians.

“Big projects paying unsustainably high wages come at a painfully serious cost that’s often unclear to taxpayers, who foot the bill,” she said.

“That infrastructure is critical for Victoria, but a sustainable wage framework means we can also afford to build schools, aged care facilities and hospitals that make a huge difference in the lives of Victorians.”

She also told The Age workers on the project were getting paid more than many professional employees. “An entry-level labourer, working no overtime, on a six-figure salary is probably getting paid more than a teacher or other workers,” Ms Casson told the publication.

“It’s these incredibly high site allowances that really push wages up; these are payable regardless of any of the environmental factors on site.”

The organisation claimed the incredibly high wages were the result of a deal struck by the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) — and that taxpayers were paying the price.

“ … eventually the cost is actually borne by the people of Victoria because the costs are passed on,” she told The Age.

“The economic health of Victoria depends on the building industry … and we would like to remind people of how many projects that improve lives, like child care or aged care facilities, could be built if we had a sustainable wage framework in place.”

According to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures, the average weekly ordinary time earnings for full-time adults in Australia in May 2019 was $1634, or $1608 for Victorians specifically.

That means even the most junior labourers on the site are earning well above the average Australian’s salary, while some are earning more than double.

Australians have reacted to the out-of-control wages with shock and outrage, with many taking to social media to voice their frustrations.

“This is madness,” one Twitter user posted, while another said it was an example of “typical government contract overspending and lack of oversight”.

However, others argued there was nothing wrong with being rewarded for hard work. “Sweet gig if you can get it …” a Twitter user posted, while another said: “Good on them it’s none of your business what someone else earns.”

But despite the backlash, Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan argued transport building jobs were helping the Victorian economy.

“Projects like the West Gate Tunnel, Metro Tunnel and level crossing removal are essential transport projects that contribute to Victoria’s economic growth,” Ms Allen told The Age.

The West Gate Tunnel is a 5km toll road being constructed in Melbourne, which will link the West Gate Freeway at Yarraville with the Port of Melbourne and CityLink at Docklands via twin tunnels beneath Yarraville.

It is expected to open in 2022, and the construction site of the $6.7 billion project is one of the biggest in the country at the moment.

It is being constructed by a consortium of John Holland and CPB Contractors.


ALP turns up central beating

LABOR'S last-minute move to declare a "climate emergency" has sparked anger and accusations from within of virtue-signalling and blowing up its chances in central Queensland.

Despite not having an emissions policy, federal Labor yesterday revealed it would attempt to declare a climate emergency in Parliament on Monday. It left Labor vulnerable, with the Prime Minister Scott Morrison immediately saying it meant "the full shutdown of all coal mining".

One Labor MP said that it was "motherhood stuff", which left them open to attack from the Government. Another prominent Labor politician said that declaring a climate emergency would "go down like a lead balloon" in central Queensland.  If it wasn't already hard enough to win seats in Queensland, this will put more lead in our saddle bags," the source said. "If we spend our time virtue-signalling like this, my fear is we'll continue not to win seats in the state."

Labor has been battling to reconnect with central and north Queensland after its electoral wipeout in May, partially brought on by its rhetoric on the Adani mine and the coal industry.

Queensland's Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stood by her comments from last week when she said she would not declare a climate emergency, citing instead her government's ambitious 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.

Mackay State Labor MP Julieanne Gilbert said it wasn't necessary to declare a climate emergency "because we've done so much work to work towards having the right balance of industry and having the right balance also in the power that we produce for Queenslanders", she said.

Labor's motion to declare a climate emergency does not define the emergency or what action needs to be taken, other than meeting existing Paris targets.

'Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese yesterday was unable to say what Labor's climate change or emissions policy was, only saying one would be developed. Senator Matt Canavan said it shows the ALP has learnt nothing from the federal election, in which there were huge swings against Labor in central and north Queensland.

Mr Morrison said that Labor was engaged in a "climate fight club" over what its policy should be.
From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" 16/10/2019

BHP holds out against activist push

BHP chief Andrew Mackeniie has held firm over the mining giant's membership of mining industry associations in the face of pressure from activist share-holders to quit groups seen as opposing action on climate change. Speaking at of BHP's annual shareholder meeting in London on Thursday night, Mr Mackenzie defended BHP's membership of groups such as the Minerals Council of Australia as the BHP board faced down shareholder resolutions aimed at pressuring the company to quit the group and associated bodies such as Australia's Coal21.

In early October the share-holder push — lead by the Australasian  Centre for Corporate Responsibility and backed by the Church of England Pensions Board — attracted the support of one of BHP's biggest share-holders, Aberdeen Standard Investments. Aberdeen holds about 32 per cent of BHP stock and took the unusual step of speaking out ahead of London shareholder meeting on a resolution calling on BHP to withdraw from groups that lobby for policies inconsistent with global climate change limitation goals — a resolution opposed by the BHP board — saying its research suggested industry lobby groups were a major obstacle to political action on climate change.

But Mr Mackenzie used his address to shareholders to defend BHP's membership of industry groups, saying the company's participation helps it "contribute to the more global solutions also required for a more progressive world".

"For example, I lead a task force across the mining industry, and its supply chains, to make our vehicles greener and safer. "This typifies the vast bulk of the work of all the trade associations we join and we work tirelessly to make sure this kind of work is their major and predominant role," he said

"Mining trade associations, especially, deserve our full engagement "The move to renewables demands a multi-fold increase in the prduction of metals in the dcades ahead, which makes mining one of the most vital components of our low-carbon future."

BHP has said it is again reviewing its membership of industry associations, and has made it clear that its membership of Coal 21— a group originally set up to back research into carbon capture technology but which bankrolled pro-coal advertising campaigns — would end if the body does not focus on its original remit.

The comments come as BHP board set a deadline for the approval of its giant Canadian potash project, a key growth project, as the mining giant's operations had a soft start to the financial year.

BHP said on Thursday its board would make a decision on the $US5.7bn Jansen potash project by February 2021, authorising another $US344m in development capital to prepare the deep underground mine ahead of a final investment decision.

While BHP boss Andrew Mackenzie has consistently pointed to the giant fertiliser mine as a key growth plank for the mining giant, positioning the company to counter slowing growth in its other commodities, the value of the project has divided analysts and investors over its cost and whether BHP risks building the massive mine into an oversupplied market.

BHP declared the decision date as its existing operations put in a slightly softer quarter's performance in the September period, which the company attributed largely to planned maintenance across its major operations.

The comments came as new production figures showed total output from BHP's Pilbara iron ore operations fell 3 per cent from the June quarter to 69 million tonnes as it carried out maintenance at its Port Hedland port operations.

Queensland metallurgical coal output fell dramatically compared to the June quarter, down 21 per cent to 16 million tonnes, due to planned major plant shut-downs at its Goonyella, Peak Downs and Caval Ridge — operated in a joint venture with Japan's Mitsubishi.

Thermal coal output also fell as BHP high-grades its Mt Arthur mine in NSW, down 34 per cent quarter-on-quarter to 4 million tonnes. On a quarter-on-quarter basis only BHP's Escondida copper mine and Caton thermal coal mine lifted production for the period, with total production down 3 per cent for the period on a copper-equivalent basis.

BHP shares closed Wednesday at $36.04. Meanwhile Mr Mackenzie said the global economy was being pressured by trade tensions which were "weighing on consumer confidence and have the potential to impact demand" for BHP's key commodities.

"Longer term our view remains positive. Industrialisation and urbanisation, along with decarbonisation and electrification, will generate demand for energy, metals, and fertilisers for decades to come," Mr Mackenzie said.

From "The Australian" 18/10/2019


Emu oil makes a comeback

Old-fashioned Australians have been using it to alleviate sking and joint problems for years.  I had some myself years ago

Australia's emu farmers are ramping up production of oil, with demand increasing as more people become aware of the product's medicinal qualities.

Veteran emu farmer Wayne Piltz said the market has grown significantly in recent years, but production has not risen with it.

Mr Piltz, now the only emu farmer in South Australia, currently has about 1,000 chicks at his Moorook farm in the state's Riverland region.

"It's just got to the stage where there's a lot of it being exported, a lot of it's going into local products, into cosmetics and therapeutic goods," Mr Piltz said. "We're basically short of oil throughout Australia.

"I know the other suppliers over in Victoria, they're struggling to have enough oil, so it's in pretty good demand … which keeps the price very attractive for us."

Although Mr Piltz breeds the birds, he does not process the oil himself, instead sending his stock to a facility in north-west Victoria.

He expects to send up to 400 birds to the interstate facility in coming weeks. "It's an added expense to get birds over there for slaughter, but it's certainly worthwhile," he said. "Because the slaughterhouse at Wycheproof has also got a rendering and refinery facility to do the oil."

The benefits of using emu oil

Postdoctoral medical researcher through the University of Adelaide Dr Suzanne Mashtoub said medical trials have showed promising results for the reparative qualities of emu oil.

"It's been most effective in terms of wound-healing and repair of the intestinal lining," she said.

"Emu oil has been used for thousands of years by Indigenous Australian people, and they used it topically for wound-healing and for treatment of inflamed joints and burns."

Dr Mashtoub said the oil has high levels of omega-9, which is an anti-inflammatory fatty acid.

"Initially, it was thought that [the oil] was predominantly used for it's anti-inflammatory properties, but we also discovered that it has antioxidant properties," she said.

"There is evidence that's been published that emu oil is efficacious in psoriasis and eczema."

Research into the medicinal qualities of emu oil are ongoing, and this year will see a world-first clinical trial on humans take place in South Australia.

Dr Mashtoub will lead the study at the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide, and said the patients in the trial will be children with ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease.

She said once these trials are complete, doctors can begin prescribing doses of emu oil for medication.

"At this stage we don't make any recommendations in terms of a dose that [patients] can take," Dr Mashtoub said.

"We simply say we have very promising results from our pre-clinical studies and we are hoping that will translate into the clinical setting in humans."

Talyala Emu Oil director Mia Murphy agreed, and said her customers use the oil to help manage skin conditions and dryness.  "Most of our customers use emu oil to help with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and joint pain," Ms Murphy said.

Despite demand increasing and awareness for the product growing, Ms Murphy said there is still room for the market to develop further. "Where we see those surges in demand are when there's a bit of publicity," she said.

Mr Piltz agreed, and said producers can also help tell the public about the oil's health benefits.

"It's one of the only natural oils that will not clog the pores of the skin, it's got very good dermal penetration, so it goes into the deep layers of skin where it's beneficial," Mr Piltz said. "[The oil] has very good therapeutic and skin repair properties, medicinal properties."

Mr Piltz hopes to increase his emu production to keep up with the demand for oil. "We've got facilities here that we can breed up to, well 600 or 700 birds or maybe more a year," he said. "We're not up to that stage yet, but it wouldn't take long.

"We like to hopefully average between 8.5 and say 9 or 10 kilos of fat per bird...if we can average over 8 [kilograms], we're happy."

Ms Murphy said she hopes more producers will be encouraged to enter the industry for sustainability reasons. "As farming goes, emus are actually a really sustainable crop, they don't take a lot of resources," she said.

Despite this, the drought has had some impact on emu numbers in recent years. "It depends on the drought conditions … this year, 2019, there was a very, very small harvest of emu oil just because we didn't have that many birds," Ms Murphy said.

"Only a minimal amount of birds were hatched because we couldn't get the grain for feeding."

But she said it is looking promising for the years to come. "[A Victorian producer] is really, really increasing the amount of of chicks he will hatch out for next spring," Ms Murphy said.  "Producers in Victoria are absolutely anticipating that the industry is going to continue to grow.

"We would love to see some of those farmers who are struggling with their current crops, look at their land and go, 'right, yeah, we could run emus here'."

Mr Piltz also had high hopes for his farming future. "I hope [the industry] continues to build, and I can't see why it won't, because you're utilising a native ingredient from Australia," he said. "Our biggest native bird has produced some very good products for cosmetics and therapeutics and eating."


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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