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Archive for July, 2019

19 July
Comments Off on Deadline draws near for unions commission

Deadline draws near for unions commission

The trade union royal commission has announced it will hold its final public hearings in November, marking the completion of a controversial inquiry that has run for almost two years.

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On Friday the commission concluded hearings into the Australian Workers’ Union, which was headed at national level by federal Labor leader Bill Shorten before he entered parliament in 2007.

The Labor leader said the commission had been “a waste of time”.

“It’s been a political smear,” he said on Friday, echoing frequent criticisms from the ALP and the union movement.

Mr Shorten was also the AWU’s Victorian branch secretary until 2006, when he was succeeded by Cesar Melhem, who held the post until entering the Victorian parliament in 2013.

Both men faced the commission – Mr Shorten in July and Mr Melhem making his second appearance before the commission this week.

On Friday, Anthony Sirsen, an executive of engineering corporation Downer EDI, was asked about a $25,000 invoice he authorised to be paid to the AWU in 2012, when the union was holding a picket that disrupted a project Downer EDI was working on in Victoria.

The AWU was picketing an Essendon heliport over the dismissal of two workers – union employee representatives who were made redundant two weeks before the end of a job on a gas platform in Bass Strait.

Mr Sirsen said the payment was for the training of eight workers and denied evidence to the commission by one of the sacked workers that the money was paid to make the picket “go away”.

Mr Melhem told the commission this week that he was aware of the dispute at the time but had no involvement with the invoice being listed for “health and safety training”.

He said he believed the payment was a settlement for the two dismissed workers and did not pay attention to the description.

“I should have paid more attention but I don’t read every single email,” Mr Melhem told the commission.

Commissioner Dyson Heydon, the former High Court judge appointed to the commission by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is due to hand up his final report to the government by December 31.

Since starting in May, 2014, with an investigation targeting an AWU slush fund operated by former PM Julia Gillard’s ex-boyfriend, the commission has held more than 170 public and private hearings around the country and called almost 500 witnesses.

Its original one-year time frame was extended to two years in late 2014.

The royal commission will hold hearings in Sydney on October 29 and 30 focusing on the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

Its final public hearings, on the NSW branch of the National Union of Workers (NUW), will run from November 4 to November 6.

Previous hearings involving the National Union of Workers focused on its relationship with a fundraising organisation, IR21, that raised money for union elections and the Labor Party via functions featuring speakers including Ms Gillard.

19 July
Comments Off on No action taken on Gordon’s NSW DV claims

No action taken on Gordon’s NSW DV claims

NSW police are not taking any action against scandal-prone Queensland MP Billy Gordon over claims he abused his former partner while living in the state.

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Kristy Peckham told Channel Nine in April the Cook MP – her former partner – was physically and emotionally abusive and locked her in a house in Dubbo.

NSW Police says inquiries have been made.

“However, due to a lack of evidence, no further action has been taken,” a representative told AAP.

Ms Peckham said she would try to have Mr Gordon prosecuted in NSW after police north of the border cleared him of domestic violence allegations.

But the latest comments may come as little relief to the MP, who has lost all but one of his staff from his main office this week.

Queensland Parliament Clerk Neil Laurie said there were no allegations the two employees had resigned because of misconduct on Mr Gordon’s behalf.

Their positions have been filled on an interim basis, while Mr Gordon’s second office – in the Torres Strait – has not been staffed since he was elected early this year.

The MP has not talked to the media in person since numerous women began going public with claims he sent them explicit photos through texts and social media.

Police are looking into the claims, and one woman has been charged with extorting Mr Gordon over at least one image she allegedly received.

Mr Gordon was forced to quit the Labor Party in February after failing to disclose his past criminal convictions.

He was also in hot water for unpaid child support.

Another former partner has also made domestic violence claims to Channel Nine after Ms Peckham spoke to the network.

19 July
Comments Off on ANZ last bank to raise variable interest rate

ANZ last bank to raise variable interest rate

ANZ has joined its rivals in hiking standard variable interest rates, lifting rates for home owners by 0.

苏州半永久眼线

18 percentage points to 5.56 per cent.

Earlier on Friday NAB announced a 0.17 percentage point raise to 5.6 percent to take effect from November 12.

The move comes on the heels of the Commonwealth Bank’s announcement on Thursday to push up its rate 0.15 percent to 5.6 per cent, and Westpac’s 0.2 per cent lift to 5.68 percent last week.

The lifts put pressure on the last remaining major lender ANZ, to take similar action.

A majority of the big four have raised their rates now since Westpac triggered this latest spate of hikes on October 14.

NAB followed the other banks in blaming the increase on tougher market conditions and regulations.

All of the banks have undertaken billion dollar capital raisings in the past few months to build capital to absorb possible losses and to secure their business.

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NAB raised $5.5 billion in May.

“There are a range of factors that come into consideration in interest rate decisions. The home loan market is dynamic, with multiple changes being seen across the industry,” NAB group executive for personal banking Gavin Slater said.

“Today’s decision has not been easy, but we believe this is right decision for the long term.”

NAB’s move fuels further speculation of a Melbourne Cup Day rate cut by the Reserve Bank next month.

Like the other banks, NAB has cited market conditions and requirements to increase capital for the increase, which will come into effect on November 12.

The changes mean owner occupiers with a $300,000 loan will fork out an extra $27 a month in repayments.

CBA’s variable rates on home loans for investors will also jump 0.15 percentage points to 5.87 per cent, its second rate increase for investors in three months.

The hikes are being made to help cover the cost of new requirements for the banks to hold more capital to absorb possible losses and make their businesses more secure.

“We recently raised $5.1 billion to strengthen our capital position in line with new regulatory requirements implemented in response to the Financial System Inquiry,” CBA group executive for retail banking services Matt Comyn said.

“We have now reviewed our home loan pricing in light of these changes.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described the rate increases as “nothing but a rip-off”.

“Westpac and Commonwealth Bank customers have every right to be angry at their banks,” Mr Shorten said in a statement.

The ANZ bank is yet to announce whether it will move on rates.

19 July
Comments Off on Bishop visits haze-blanketed Indonesia

Bishop visits haze-blanketed Indonesia

Indonesia has reached out to Australia as it confronts an escalating emergency in one of its worst-ever seasons for forest fires.

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Foreign Minister Julie Bishop met her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on the sidelines of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) council of ministers meeting in Padang, Sumatra, an island at the heart of the haze crisis.

It was Ms Bishop’s first visit to Indonesia this year, which has been dominated by diplomatic strife over the execution of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, but the pair had met elsewhere four times in the past three months.

Australia has already responded to a request for aerial firefighting support, sending a water bombing aircraft to operate in south Sumatra for five days last week.

Ms Retno said that effort was appreciated, and she looked forward to further work with Australia in the near future.

It’s hoped Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull can visit Indonesia this year, and Ms Retno will visit Australia on December 21 for “two plus two” talks involving the defence and foreign ministers.

“The bilateral relationship overall is in very good shape and both us are very committed to strengthening our bilateral relationship in the future,” she told reporters.

Ms Bishop, who saw Indonesia’s haze first hand when she took her morning run in a grey Padang park, earlier told reporters that any further requests for firefighting help would have to be weighed against Australia’s needs as the bushfire season starts.

Mr Turnbull would meet President Jokowi, as he is known, at international summits next month.

“They had a very constructive and positive conversation upon prime minister Turnbull coming to office and we’re looking forward to establishing a rapport between our two leaders as we continue to work together as neighbours, as friends, as partners,” Ms Bishop said.

Jokowi stopped short of ordering evacuations on Friday, instead mobilising authorities in affected areas to reserve their buildings for residents who must flee their homes due to smoke.

Neighbouring countries are also suffering from severe air pollution and cancelled flights due to the haze, but Jakarta rejected offers of outside help for weeks.

The fires are an annual event caused by slash-and-burn farming, but the dry el Nino conditions and winds have prolonged the situation this year.

The loss is expected to exceed $14 billion in damage and disruption to tourism in Indonesia alone.

At least 12 Indonesians have died from respiratory illnesses, the youngest reported a 27-day-old baby.

Closing Australia’s two-year term as IORA chair and handing over to Indonesia, Ms Bishop announced $3 million to support innovation in aquaculture in Indian Ocean states, and a high-level event for senior women business leaders in Australia in 2016.

In its term as chair, Australia had sought to make the group stronger and more practical, she said.

19 July
Comments Off on Refugees’ 8-year wait for PNG citizenship

Refugees’ 8-year wait for PNG citizenship

Refugees on Manus Island will be resettled on Papua New Guinea’s mainland but won’t be allowed to become citizens or own land for eight years.

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The Australian government welcomed a decision by PNG on Friday to begin resettling refugees processed from the island’s immigration detention centre.

“The PNG government has shown … its commitment to permit those found to be refugees to get on with their lives and have a fresh start in this dynamic nation with a growing economy,” Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said on Friday.

The refugees have been processed under a regional resettlement arrangement negotiated by the Rudd government in mid-2013 and aimed at stemming the flow of asylum-seeker boat arrivals.

Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the arrangement had the biggest single impact on stemming the flow and preventing deaths at sea.

But the fact that not a single refugee had been resettled in PNG was evidence the coalition had mismanaged an important bilateral relationship and failed to actively engage with Port Moresby, he said.

According to a leaked transcript of a video message recorded by PNG deputy chief migration officer Esther Gaegaming, obtained by AAP, none of the refugees will be resettled on Manus Island.

Instead they will be relocated eventually to the mainland.

Refugees will undergo a course called Wei Bilong to build their English and Tok Pisin language skills and understanding of PNG society and culture.

They will be offered opportunities to do voluntary work to “contribute meaningfully to their local community”.

A recruitment agency has been engaged to help refugees find work and they will also be given assistance to relocate.

Initially, they will be housed in guesthouse accommodation and assisted to find long-term housing.

“Accommodation can be expensive in some parts of PNG so initially you may need to share with other refugees or with Papua New Guineans,” Ms Gaegaming says.

Refugees will receive some basic food and household items and will get temporary assistance to cover medical expenses in the first six months.

After refugees find a job they will be allowed to bring family members to join them in PNG.

They won’t be eligible for citizenship for eight years. After that they will be able to vote, own land or run for public office.

The message urged refugees refusing to move out of the detention centre to the transit accommodation centre on Manus Island because of safety fears to “start your journey towards your new life”.

“If you choose not to relocate, you are choosing to deny yourself freedom,” it said.

It reiterates Australian government policy that none of the refugees will ever be resettled in Australia.

Mr Dutton was asked about the government’s provisions for gay asylum seekers resettled in PNG at a media conference in Brisbane later on Friday.

He said the Australian government was “sensitive to situations” where discrimination may occur and was able to provide support to people affected by such treatment.

However, he didn’t elaborate as how it related to refugees in same-sex relationships once they were relocated to PNG.

“But in relation to Manus … the management of the Manus regional processing centre is an issue for the PNG government,” he said.

Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato said his country had a proud tradition of helping people in need.

But there were concerns about refugees taking jobs off locals.

“Settlement of refugees is not easy and we have to ensure refugees are not competing for employment and income earning opportunities with our citizens,” he said in a statement.

PNG’s refugee policy would also cover people from Indonesia’s Papua provinces who had fled the trouble spot years ago.

The PNG government would start assessing more than 2000 applications from West Papuans seeking PNG naturalisation from next month.