Saturday, January 09, 2021

Cosy deal between union and builders

A mutually beneficial arrangement with builders allows the corrupt CFMEU to thrive and expand, writes Des Houghton.

Union thug John Setka and his CFMEU cronies are the beneficiaries, but are not the cause of our fractured industrial relations system.

It’s a sham system that not only fails to block corrupt unions like the CFMEU, but seems to support them.

How else could regular workplace thuggery be tolerated? Why else could the intimidation flourish?

How else could taxpayers be gouged billions extra for vital public works?

Could it be because of a cosy relationship with the top-tier building firms who win all the lucrative jobs, the industry groups like the Master Builders’ Association, and the unions?

Collectively, this group must share responsibility for adding billions to the cost of vital infrastructure like schools, universities, hospitals and freeways.

We can safely call the CFMEU “corrupt” because that is the way it has been described in federal and state parliaments, and in just about every other tribunal in the land.

Setka is not alone, with Queensland home to its fair share of CFMEU bullyboys.

The Courier-Mail recently reported that assistant secretary Jade Ingham, who has a history of industrial unlawfulness, civil disobedience and appalling verbal abuse, was appointed by the State Labor Government to the Queensland Building and Construction Commission,

More recently a court heard another CFMEU organiser subjected a female health and safety officer to “obscene and derogatory abuse” on a Gold Coast site, calling her a “f..king dog c..t” three times and “made a sound like a dog barking”.

So why do we continue to allow the CFMEU, in all its iterations, to thrive and expand?

In his Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill, known as the Omnibus IR bill, the Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, has set the stage for the creation of not one but two CFMEUs.

So construction industry chiefs, and police and the workplace regulators, will now have a two-headed monster to deal with.

I am being picky here, and acknowledge there is much more in the Omnibus bill.

However the lawlessness and union monopoly in the construction industry remains a stain on the nation’s soul. How can we sing “we are one and free” while unionists are given more power than police?

It’s time political parties of all persuasions admitted the “gravy train” arrangement between top-tier construction firms and powerful industry groups that help shape the laws that seem to me to protect wrongdoing.

The cosy arrangements enshrined in Enterprise Bargaining Agreements add 30-35 per cent to the cost of public projects. It means taxpayers have been slugged billions of dollars extra for work.

Stoppages on construction sites like hospitals and universities and other private developments adds tens of millions more.

Later, many of these stoppages are determined by the courts to be unlawful.

So why haven’t governments or big contractors attempted to recoup costs in the civil courts?

With billions earmarked for post-COVID infrastructure, taxpayers are going to be hit again and again and again.

For all his good intentions in stamping out union thuggery, the government seems to have put the problem in the too-hard basket.

It is no secret that Labor governments stack the bureaucracies in the respective works and IR departments, with Socialist fellow travellers who underpin the monopoly mechanism which supports the “gravy train”.

Labor is duly rewarded with electoral funding from unions.

The LNP gets nothing from the union “gravy train” but seems to tolerate the top-tier monopoly for the sake of industrial peace.

Perhaps it’s time for the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to start a fresh Royal Commission into Union Governance and Corruption.

And while they are at it the government should again introduce legislation for a good character test for union officials.

How can we sing our national anthem with any pride before the corrupt pool is drained?

There are fresh fears for the future of the iconic Wollumbin trail

Bureaucratic pandering to Aboriginal superstitions feared

Speculation has been building that the world-famous volcano at Mt Warning also known as Wollumbin – which has been off limits since last March, would stay shut with mounting pressure from Indigenous groups for the mountain to be declared a sacred place similar to Uluru, which banned climbers in 2019.

The NSW environment department insists the closure will be reviewed in May, but a leading climbing advocate who visited the mountain this week believes the summit climb’s days are numbered after the removal of the chain section that helped hikers negotiate the final ascent to the top.

A spokesman for the environment department said the chains were removed due to safety concerns, but Marc Hendrickx, a qualified engineering geologist and climbing veteran, said that could have been easily fixed rather than removing the entire structure.

“It has been neglected for decades and it seems like they (authorities) are just getting ready to shut it down permanently as soon as possible which would be a terrible shame,” he said.

Mr Hendrickx, who has sent a report on the state of the climbing trail to NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean, said he believed sensitive issues raised by Indigenous leaders could be addressed without closing the mountain off for good.

“I know they consider it to be sacred – I consider it to be sacred too,” he said. “It’s a very special place.

“But this argument about its Aboriginal significance has been around since the 1970s – it’s only recently this argument that climbers are somehow causing offence has emerged and as long as people show respect and take their rubbish with them, it should be allowed to continue.

“It is an absolute travesty that National Parks is even considering the notion of closing this beautiful place.”

Since 2010, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and NSW Police have responded to 44 ‘significant’ visitor safety incidents on the summit track, including two fatalities.

Rock and mud slides are common with the mountain regularly closed for repairs over the years.

In a statement, an NPWS spokesman said several factors would determine the fate of the mountain trail.

“NPWS understands that locals and visitors may be disappointed by the extended closure however our main priority is to ensure the safety of visitors and staff,” he said.

“NPWS will now consider the future of the summit track, in consultation with key community and tourism stakeholders, including local Aboriginal Elders and knowledge holders.”

How to get your kid into a prestigious school

DESPERATE parents are going to extraordinary lengths to get their children into private schools, subverting enrolment procedures they say unfairly favour the brightest students.

From donating tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of sporting equipment to lying about their religious faith, nothing is off the table.

Family connections and being enrolled since birth are no longer guarantees in a fight for placements that has become “obsessive”.

Meanwhile, huge sums are being spent tutoring children as young as seven ahead of international exams that pit them against peers in Asia and give them an edge on NAPLAN, key determinants of enrolment success.

“Parents will almost literally sell their souls to get their kids into some schools, and it definitely helps to know how to play the game,” one education insider said.

In an exclusive Courier-Mail investigation, parents reveal how they secured spots for their kids and the “invasive” measures schools employ to vet families and enhance college reputations.

Facebook accounts are checked and financial records requested as schools court parents who are high-performers in industry and sport, with the expectation they will bankroll building programs or coach elite sport, particularly rugby or rowing.

All this is in addition to non-refundable application fees that can exceed $3000, and lengthy questionnaires in which parents must explain how they will support the college. Religious schools also demand references from clergy.

St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace (Terrace) and sister affiliate All Hallows’, with their comparatively low tuition fees and inner-city location, are regarded as the toughest schools to get into, from a prestigious crop that includes Brisbane Grammar and Girls Grammar in Spring Hill, Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie) in East Brisbane, Brisbane Boys’ College (BBC) in Toowong, St Margaret’s in Ascot, and Somerville House in South Brisbane.

Annual tuition-only fees for domestic day students at these schools range from $12,000 to $24,000 for Years 5 and 6, and up to $28,000 for Years 7 to 12.

But no price is too high for many parents, including those who take on second jobs and sacrifice to give their children a private school pedigree. As one Terrace mother said: “The day I ripped open his acceptance letter at the mailbox I screamed and cried, and the builders next door asked if I’d won lotto – I kind of did”.

If an enrolment application is rejected at a top school, having the right connections can have it overturned.

“One minute we were told ‘get lost’, and the next, after a call to the principal from a benevolent old boy who was a close friend, the school rang and said they were excited to announce they had found a place,” one parent said.

Others have hit up politicians to get applications across the line.

Much more here:




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