Thursday, 28 March 2013

Build it and they will come - Learn Locals are expected to raise digital literacy in Victoria

Victoria’s Learn Local adult and community education providers are or soon will be providing through the Intel Easy Steps program a consistent approach to improving levels of digital literacy across the state, helping individuals to learn basic computer applications, such as email and word processing, internet search, multimedia, and basic social media skills.

Based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, showing gaps in levels of computer ownership, internet usage and the web presence of businesses, the digital literacy shortfall in Victoria could be estimated at over one million people aged 15 years and over.

It is expected that around 7,000 individuals are expected to enrol in digital literacy courses with qualified and experienced educators through the state’s network of about 300 Learn Local providers.

Clearly, the Victorian Government is working on the idea that "build it and they will come": provide the digital literacy courses and the people will come.  

So to you 7,000 individuals out there - 
get thee to your Learn Local and enrol now.  

Can we set up an international movement to be called BANKERS BEHIND BARS.

Further to this post published last week, it's not only Miss Eagle who wants to campaign for Bankers Behind Bars.  Please go here to read more.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

There's more from the Green Left Weekly Activist Calendar - 2013-03-27

Green Left Weekly Activist CalendarMarch 27, 2013

Marxism 2013: Ideas to challenge the system
Thursday, March 28-Sunday, March 31. Melbourne University. For more info and bookings visit Marxism 2013. Presented by Socialist Alternative. This year the conference is being sponsored by Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly who are presenting two workshops: Saturday, March 30, 2pm: Socialists and electoral interventions & Sunday, March 31, 4pm: Marxism & the ecological revolution.

Public meeting
The People vs Coal Seam Gas
Tuesday, April 16, 6:30pm (meal from 6pm). Resistance Centre, Level 5, 407 Swanston St, City (opposite RMIT). . We have Peak Oil, Peak Gas and climate change. The answer is renewable energy, but instead, companies are drilling for the dirtiest gas. Coal Seam Gas is coming to Victoria and local communities are gearing up to campaign against it. The speakers will discuss the threat of coal seam gas and the campaign against it. Speakers: Mark Ogge (The Australia Institute); Cam Walker (Friends of the Earth); Jess Moore (Lock the Gate, Stop CSG Illawarra, Socialist Alliance). 6:30pm. Entry by donation. Hosted by Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly. For more info ph 9639 8622.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Green Left Weekly Activist Calendar - 2013-03-27

Green Left Weekly Comedy Debate 2013

 photo GinaampClive-colour72_zps68eb808c.jpg
Green Left Weekly Comedy Debate 2013
Gina and Clive should run the country!
Friday, May 10, 6:30pm (for 8pm start). Coburg Town Hall, 90 Bell St, Coburg. Forget Julia and Tony . . . Gina and Clive (and Twiggy et al) should run the country! After all, they are digging up so much of it! A sparkling night of progressive comedy. Master of ceremonies: Rod Quantock with the comedic talents of Carlo Sands, Claire Sullivan, Justine Sless, Matt Grantham, Morven Smith & Sean Bedlam.
Bar and dinner available. Tickets: $40 Solidarity, $25 waged, $12 concession. Bookings essential. For bookings or info visit Comedy Debate or ph 9639 8622. A fundraiser for Green Left Weekly.

Other coming events

Until Sunday, June 2
Exhibition: Protest! Archives from Melbourne University. An exhibition of posters, pamphlets, badges, etc. exploring Melbourne University's rich history of protest. 8:30am-5pm weekdays; 11am-5pm weekends. Leigh Scott Gallery, Level 1, Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne. For more info visit Melb University.
Wednesday, March 27
Rally: Our education is not for profit. TAFE cuts, course cuts, student representation slashed. Our education is under attack in Victoria and we need to fight back or we face further steps back. 3:30pm. State Library, 328 Swanston St, City. Organised by the National Union of Students.
Public meeting: Climate game change forum. Concerned about the expansion of Queensland Coal in 2013? Well you should be. Come along to a free public forum hosted by the AYCC with guest speaker Robyn Eckersley to find out more about the threats currently facing our Great Barrier Reef and what you can do about it. 6:30pm. JH Michell Theatre, Richard Berry Building, The University of Melbourne. For more info email AYCC.
Welcome to Lord Mayor Rob Doyle's & Victoria Police's Apartheid Melbourne. Join us on a walking tour of Apartheid Melbourne and light 1000 candles to commemorate the lives of people who have died under the protection, care and treatment of the Federal and Victorian government, Victorian Police and agents of the state (including church Organizations and non-government community and the homelessness/housing industry). 6:30pm. Queen Victoria Market, 513 Elizabeth St, City. This rally has been organised as part of the campaigns: 'Stop the Privatisation of Public Housing. Protect, Defend and Extend' and the 'Unite, Fight Back and Stop the Privatisation of Public Housing'.
Thursday, March 28
Public meeting: Attack of the theocrats: How the religious right harms us all. Visiting from the United States for the Rationalist Society of Australia, hear Sean Faircloth speak to the issues raised in his book. He argues for returning the US to its secular roots. This is a free event. Bookings are not required. 12:45-1:15pm. The Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale St, City. For more info visit Wheeler Centre.
Thursday, March 28-Sunday, March 31
Conference: Marxism 2013: Ideas to challenge the system. Melbourne University. For more info and bookings visit Marxism 2013. Presented by Socialist Alternative. This year the conference is being sponsored by Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly who are presenting two workshops: Saturday, March 30, 2pm: Socialists and electoral interventions & Sunday, March 31, 4pm: Marxism & the ecological revolution.
Thursday, March 28-Sunday, April 21
Comedy Festival: Aamer Rahman: The truth hurts. After years of performing as half of the critically acclaimed duo Fear of a Brown Planet, Aamer Rahman finally appears in his long-awaited debut solo show. Ruthlessly attacking issues of race, immigration and the War on Terror with his trademark aggression, Aamer will pace the stage for up to 55 minutes, ranting about everything that is wrong with the world today. Tue-Sat 8:30pm; Sun 7:30pm. Melbourne Town Hall, Portico Room, cnr Swanston & Collins Sts, City. To book visit The Truth Hurts.
Friday, March 29-Sunday, April 7
Friends of the Earth's Radioactive Exposure Tour to South Australian outback. From Melbourne via Adelaide. For more info ph Gem 0421 955 066, email Radioactive Exposure Tour or visit FoE.
Saturday, March 30
Memorial: ├ôscar Arnulfo Romero. Commemorate 33 years since the assassination of ├ôscar Arnulfo Romero who defended the poor in El Salvador. 3:30pm. Casa Pastoral Centro Americana, 178 Ascot Vale Rd, Ascot Vale. Organised by FMLN-Melbourne.
Tuesday, April 2
Public meeting: Students for Palestine Organizing meeting: RMIT cut ties with BAE militay company. 5pm. RMIT Cafe.
Wednesday, April 3
Public meeting: Global organising. Which way forward? Australia Asia Worker Links has for the last 30 years helped to facilitate links and organising among trade unions and worker organisations in the Asia Pacific region. This forum will look at how best to organise internationally. 6pm. Room 2, Trades hall, cnr Lygon & Victoria sts, Carlton South.
Thursday, April 4
Public meeting: Rally against Rupert Murdoch & Andrew Bolt. Rupert Murdoch & his loyal attack dog, convicted racist Andrew Bolt, will be joining other 'esteemed' members of the 1% for an evening of wining and dining. Murdoch will be speaking at the 70th anniversary dinner of the Institute of Public Affairs, a right-wing think-tank dedicated to preserving and strengthening a pro-capitalist, neo-liberal agenda. Murdoch’s News Corporation owns hundreds of newspapers, websites, radio and television stations and despite a phone-hacking scandal, maintains an increasing clutch on global media and any ideological opinions expressed therein. The voice of the 1% will always be heard, because they own the mainstream media. It's time they heard what we have to say about them. 5:30pm. National Gallery of Victoria, 180 St Kilda Road, Southbank.
Public meeting: Indigenous Social Justice Association. 6:30pm. Solidarity Salon, 580 Sydney Road, Brunswick.
Thursday, April 4-Saturday, April 20
Comedy Festival: Justine Sless: Tomatoes and other stakeholders. 'Acute observations of family life on the north side of the river, intelligently funny.' Tickets: $20/$15. Bookings at Justine Sless. 9pm. Thu, Fri, Sat. LongPlay, 318 St Georges Rd, Nth Fitzroy. For more info ph 0405 329 633. [Justine Sless will be performing at the Green Left Weekly Comedy Debate on Friday, May 10. See advertisement above.]
Friday, April 5
Public meeting: May Day solidarity rally 2013 planning meeting. Open planning meeting to prepare for May Day action on May 1. 6pm. Trades Hall, 54 Victoria St, Carlton South. Initiated by Australia-Asia Worker Links.
Saturday, April 6
Public meeting & photoshoot: Help Solidarity Salon stand up for the Burrup! Event in support of campaign to save the Pilbara's Burrup Peninsula from Woodside Petroleum's massive gas project. Speakers: Davie Thomason (CFMEU) & Alison Thorne (Freedom SOcialist Party). 2pm. Solidarity Salon, 580 Sydney Road, Brunswick. For more info ph 9388 0062.
Comedy Festival: DVD launch of 'Australia, you're standing in it!' Celebrate the 30th anniversary of Australia, you’re standing in it and DVD release with the Comedy Festival's one-off reunion of the cast show featuring video highlights of the series and a significant amount of comic mayhem. Features original cast (includes Rod Quantock). Tickets: $26-$33. Bookings Australia, you're standing in it!. 5pm. Melbourne Town Hall, cnr Swanston & Collins St, City.
Fundraiser: Antifascist benefit for Rocinante. There has been an alarming increase in racist pogroms in Greece over the last several months. These are by organised fascists and the party Golden Dawn has increased in popularity since the austerity measures were introduced. Racists are targeting foreigners as scapegoats for their economic problems. In response to this increase in fascist activity, leftist groups have been organising counter-actions and counter-demonstrations. On September 30, 2012, 15 demonstrators were arrested at such an action and now have legal costs to cover. Funds raised from this concert will be used by Rocinante to help pay for the legal defence of the 15 against the politically motivated charges brought against them. Featuring: ExtinctExist; Faspeedelay; Pretty City; Pope's Assassins; Go Genre Everything. 7pm. Reverence Hotel, 28 Napier Street, Footscray. First band 8pm sharp. $10.
Comedy: Political Asylum's Late Night Riot. Australia's best political comedians all together in one big show! Featuring: Mathew Kenneally; Aamer Rahman (Fear of a Brown Planet); Toby Halligan; Stella Young (Q&A); Scott Abbot (Syd); Jon Brooks (Adel); Damian Callinan; Nelly Thomas. 11pm. Melbourne Town Hall Supper Room, cnr Swanston & Collins sts, City. Tickets: $25/20 [Group (6+) $20]. To book visit Political Asylum.
Monday, April 8
Public meeting: International guest speaker from SYRIZA. SYRIZA is a political party committed to fighting for justice and opposing austerity measures. Kostas Isychos is coming to Australia to share with us the amazing experience of SYRIZA nearly winning the election in Greece. Kostas was born in Argentina, educated in Canada and has been based in Greece since the early 80s. Come and hear about the struggle of the Greek working class. 7pm. AMWU office, 251 Queensberry St, Carlton South.
Wednesday, April 10
Film screening: 5 Broken Cameras. The first ever Palestinian documentary film to be nominated for an Oscar, a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil'in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, the film follows one family's evolution over five years of village turmoil. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost. 'I feel like the camera protects me,' he says, 'but it's an illusion.' 3pm. University Function Room (next to Kaleide Theatre), RMIT, Swanston St, City. Organised by RMIT Students for Palestine.
Friday, April 12
Book launch: The New Latin American Left: Cracks in the Empire. This provocative, multidisciplinary work explores the dramatic resurgence of the left in Latin America since the late 1990s. Offering a comprehensive account of the complexities and nuances of the shifting political tides in the region, the book provides both a theoretical framework for assessing the state of the left and a set of cases highlighting key movements, successes, and failures. 6:30pm. New International Bookshop, Trades Hall, 54 Victoria St, Carlton. For more info visit NIBS or ph 9662 3744.
Fundraiser: PuNx for freedom for West Papua! Bands: Diploid; Robot Mugabe; Cholesterollers; Rotary Hoes; Mangel Wurzel; Swimsuit Dynamite. 4pm. Bar 303, 303 High St, Northcote.
Cancellation. Red Cinema's screening of Silenced Voices has been cancelled. For more info ph 9639 8622.
Saturday, April 13
Protest: Rally against attacks on single parent benefits. Come join us in our fight against unjust legislation that has place over 100,000 single parents and their families below the poverty line. It is fact that 68% of single parents work, and 38% either work and study. Say enough is enough! Lets show this government that poverty is not on! 12 noon. Federation Square, City.
Sunday, April 14
Fundraiser: These Machines Cut Razor Wire 2013. Massive rootsy line-up including Chris Wilson, Charles Jenkins, Les Thomas, Suzannah Espie, The Stillsons (duo), Jed Rowe, Beautiful Change and more to be announced. We'll be raising our voices and much-needed funds for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. 2:30pm (doors open 2pm). The Thornbury Theatre, 859 High St, Thornbury. $25 (children under 12 free). For more info visit The Thornbury Theatre or ph 9484 9831. Bookings Oztix. Presented by Unpaved/Les Thomas/3CR.
Tuesday, April 16
Rally: Demand RMIT cut ties with British Aerospace Engineering. RMIT's Aerospace Engineering Department is sponsored by the world's third largest military company, British Aerospace Engineering (BAE). Essentially, RMIT is receiving millions of dollars to assist BAE in developing weapons that destroy more lives, more effectively. BAE is one of the major suppliers of weapons to the Israeli Defence Force. These weapons have been used to turn Palestinian and Lebanese villages into rubble. 12pm. State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, City.
Public meeting: The People vs Coal Seam Gas. We have Peak Oil, Peak Gas and climate change. The answer is renewable energy, but instead, companies are drilling for the dirtiest gas. Coal Seam Gas is coming to Victoria and local communities are gearing up to campaign against it. The speakers will discuss the threat of coal seam gas and the campaign against it. Speakers: Mark Ogge (The Australia Institute); Cam Walker (Friends of the Earth); Jess Moore (Lock the Gate, Stop CSG Illawarra, Socialist Alliance). 6:30pm. Resistance Centre, Level 5, 407 Swanston St, City (opposite RMIT). Entry by donation. Hosted by Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly. For more info ph 9639 8622.
Wednesday, April 17
Matt Grantham: Poli-Waffle. Internationally acclaimed comedian Matt Grantham returns to Melbourne following the success of last year's hit show How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb? He gives a non-core promise to deliver more of the same comedy gold in this year's antidote to political correctness. 7:20pm. Fad Gallery, 14 Corrs Lane, City. Tickets: $20/$15. Bookings essential; Bookings at Poli-Waffle or call 9639 8622. A fundraiser for Green Left Weekly. [Matt Grantham will be performing at the Green Left Weekly Comedy Debate on Friday, May 10. See advertisement below.]
Saturday, April 20
Rally: Free Cannabis 4/20 Event. 2pm. Treasury Gardens. March to Parliament House for a 10-minute public announcement and demand that the Victorian government acknowledge that cannabis prohibition is based on prejudice and begin the process of looking towards legalisation.
Thursday, April 25-Sunday, April 28
Refugee rights national convergence in Northam, WA. Refugee rights groups around the country will be converging on Yongah Hill Detention Centre on the Anzac weekend, 2013, to protest against the mandatory detention of asylum seekers.
Conference: Edufactory, disassembling the neoliberal university. The second EduFactory conference is being held on Gadigal country at the University of Sydney over the ANZAC Day long weekend. EduFactory aims to bring together radical education activists from around the country for a weekend of political discussion, skill sharing, and debates on the future of national education activism. This is also an opportunity to organize for the upcoming year's campaigns and develop activist networks. Sydney University.
Sunday, April 28
Rally: Protest at Broadmeadows Detention Centre. Demands: Close Manus, Close Nauru; End mandatory detention, not MITA extension; Justice for ASIO refugees; Don't deport to danger. Organised by Refugee Action Collective. 1pm. Meet cnr Camp Rd & Hume Hwy, Campbellfield (Hungry Jacks carpark) then march to detention centre.
Thursday, May 2
May Day: Wreath laying at the Eight-hour Monument. 5pm. Eight-Hour monument, cnr Lygon & Victoria Sts, Carlton South.
Public meeting: May Day multicultural event. 6pm. Trades Hall, cnr Lygon & Victoria Sts, Carlton South.
Sunday, May 5
Socialist Alliance May Day Toast: Fight for your rights! 10am. Resistance Centre, Level 5, 407 Swanston st, City (opposite RMIT). Presented by Socialist Alliance & Green Left Weekly. For more info ph 9639 8622.
Rally: May Day march. 1pm. Trades hall, cnr Victoria & Lygon Sts, Carlton South.
Friday, May 10
Green Left Weekly Comedy Debate 2013: Gina and Clive should run the country! Forget Julia and Tony . . . Gina and Clive (and Twiggy et al) should run the country! After all, they are digging up so much of it! A sparkling night of progressive comedy. 6:30pm (for 8pm start). Coburg Town Hall, 90 Bell St, Coburg. Master of ceremonies: Rod Quantock with the comedic talents of Carlo Sands, Claire Sullivan, Justine Sless, Matt Grantham, Morven Smith and Sean Bedlam. Bar and dinner available. Tickets: $40 Solidarity, $25 waged, $12 concession. Bookings essential. For bookings or info visit Comedy Debate or ph 9639 8622. A fundraiser for Green Left Weekly.
Saturday, May 11
Rally: Equal Love Rally for Marriage Equality. 1pm. State Library, cnr La Trobe & Swanston sts, City.
Concert: Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School of Medicine. Former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra has dropped word that he will be returning to Australian shores to play his first live band performance shows for 30 years, bringing with him his new musical project The Guantanamo School of Medicine. New album White People and the Damage Done concentrates on gruesome and controversial political topics corruption and media lies and scandal and US foreign policy, Biafra continuing to speak his mind through wise-guy lyricism. 8:30pm. Corner Hotel, 57 Swan St, Richmond. For more info visit Corner Hotel.
Sunday, May 12
Concert: Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School of Medicine. See entry above. 7:30pm. Corner Hotel, 57 Swan St, Richmond. For more info visit Corner Hotel.
Wednesday, May 15
Rally: Forgotten Australians National Day of Action. The aim of this gathering is to peacefully yet firmly protest for the federal government to hold a Royal Commission into the criminal abuse that was inflicted on a large majority of the 500,000 children raised in orphanages/childrens homes, institutions, and foster care during the 1940s, '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s. What we would like to see included in this Royal Commission is an investigation into all forms of Child Abuse. We will also peacefully yet firmly protest the lack of resources available to us, given the torture and abuse of many of us while in the care of the state governments across the nation that has permanently left the majority of us physically, mentally, emotionally and/or psychologically challenged on a day-to-day basis. 10:30am. Parliament House.
Saturday, June 29
Green Left Weekly Solidarity Dinner: An evening with Christine Assange. Defending WikiLeaks & defending the free press is the theme of this year's Green Left Weekly solidarity dinner. Our special guest is Christine Assange, who will discuss Wikileaks, Julian Assange and Ecuador. Doors open 6:30pmpm. St Brigid's Parish Hall, 378 Nicholson St, Fitzroy North. Tickets (includes meal): $50 solidarity / $30 waged / $20 conc. Bookings essential. For bookings or info visit Wikileaks dinner or ph 9639 8622.

Geelong & regional Victoria

Until Sunday April 14
Ballarat Exhibition: 50 years of protest posters. 10am-5pm daily. Ballarat Gallery, Lydiard St Nth, Ballarat. For more info visit Ballarat Gallery.
Friday, April 5
Darnum Public meeting: Coal Seam Gas information night. Learn more about the threat of Coal Seam Gas mining in Gippsland, what your legal rights are as a landowner and what you can do. Speakers: Mark Ogge (The Australia Institute); Dr Jo McCubbin (Doctors for the Environment); Nick Croggon (Environmental Defenders Office). 7pm. Town Hall, Darnum (just off the Princes Fwy). Organised by Baw Baw Sustainability Network & Friends of the Earth. For more information email Ursula or ph 0499 991 324.
Friday, April 19
Geelong Red Cinema: Croker Island Exodus. Documentary by Steven McGregor. In 1942, at Croker Island, as Japanese bomb the North, 95 Aboriginal children and their missionary carers make a remarkable journey to safety 3000 miles across the Australian continent. Followed by discussion. 7pm (meal from 6:30pm). Trades Hall, 127 Myers St, Geelong. $10/$5. Presented by Socialist Alliance & Green Left Weekly. For more info ph 5222 6900.
Saturday, May 4
Socialist Alliance May Day Dinner: 6pm. Downstairs, Trades Hall, 127 Myers St, Geelong. A fundraiser for Green Left Weekly. For more info ph 5222 6900.

Campaign committees

Beyond Zero Emissions Melbourne branch meetings. BZE's monthly branch meetings are a way for current and prospective BZE volunteers to meet up, get to know each other and discuss upcoming events such as presentations, stalls, film nights and discussion groups. Meets on the third Monday of every month at Level 2, Kindness House, 288 Brunswick St, Fitzroy. Active and prospective volunteers welcome. For more info email Vicky Fysh or ph 0401 087 085.
Friends of the Earth's Anti-Nuclear & Clean Energy (ACE) collective meetings. Wednesdays. FoE office, 312 Smith St, Collingwood. For meeting times & more info email Zin.
Melbourne Feminist Action Group. We think it's time to put women's rights back on the public agenda. We've started an open organising group and everyone's invited, from already existing women's rights groups and activist organisations, to women and men who may never have been involved in feminist action in their lives but just want to do something. We want to get together to have that crucial discussion: what can we do, right now, that will give this movement a push? It's open to everyone; anyone who attends can have their say. If you can make it, bring your ideas about what you would like to see happen next. For more info ph 0438 869 790 or email MelbFemAction.
Quit Coal: No New Coal Power for Victoria. A Melbourne-based collective which campaigns against expansion of the coal industry in Victoria. We believe this is important because building new coal infrastructure locks in decades of dirty, old technology, when we should be moving towards clean, renewable energy. Quit Coal meets each Wednesday at 6pm, at FOE, 312 Smith St, Collingwood. For more info visit Quit Coal or email Quit Coal.
Refugee Action Collective (RAC). Established in 2000, RAC is a democratic, grassroots activist collective, representing a broad cross section of the community. It aims to mobilise opposition to Australia's inhuman refugee policies. For more info ph 0413 377 978 or visit RAC.
Victorian Climate Action Calendar. For a comprehensive list of climate action events in our state. The VCAC covers events in Victoria and major events elsewhere and is intended to inform, educate and inspire. To subscribe to the calendar email Monique Decortis. Weekly updates are e-mailed out and online updates are available at VCAC. To add an event to the calendar, please download the Event Template from the website. Feel free to forward the VCAC to other interested people.
Workers Solidarity Network. WSN believes that we, as workers, have the power to improve our working conditions and bring about positive social change. WSN believes that our country is not a real democracy unless we have democratic workplaces where workers have a say. WSN believes that the only way to bring about a fairer share of resources in our society in by forming active unions and community organisations to fight for it. For more info visitWSN.

Eva Cox outlines the costs to individuals of the departure from traditional Labor values

Eva Cox has sent this out to her lists to-day.
I received it because I am on the Women for Wik list.

When did ‘Labor values’ become John Howard’s values?

Missing: true Labor values and an acceptance that structural barriers create poverty and disadvantage. It’s time for the ALP to stop blaming and short-changing individuals.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard makes it clear her government stands for Labor values, but are her positions really that different than the Coalition’s? When it comes to government handouts, the answer increasingly seems to be no — both the John Howard and Gillard governments clearly divide income-support recipients into “deserving” (aged, very disabled, full-time carers) and undeserving working-age recipients with no or inadequately paid jobs.
Over the past six years the government has tightened restrictions on who is eligible for higher-level pension payments, curtailed payments to single parents with children over eight and implemented stricter criteria for receiving disability payments. Since January this year more than 60,000 single parents were moved from parenting payments to Newstart.
Single parents have lost between $62 and more than $120 per week, with the highest losses for those who were already in paid work. As 60% of those who were moved to the lower payment were already earning part-time pay, in accordance with the policy, it is unclear why they were moved and their incentives to stay in paid work were reduced.
I am trying to finish my last year of teaching at uni, and my 12-year-old has just started at high school,” one single parent emailed me. “I am drowning with the changes. Do I leave my studies, or lose my home? My daughter and I have been counting down until I have a job in teaching.”
On  March 22, the Australian Council of Social Service released new figures showing 100,000 people with disabilities now on Newstart were well below the internationally accepted poverty line used to measure financial hardship in wealthy countries. In the same week, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights said:
The committee considers that the government has not provided the necessary evidence to demonstrate that the total support package available to individuals who are subject to these measures is sufficient to satisfy … the minimum requirements of the right to an adequate standard of living in Australia.”
Why are they being kept on a payment that is widely acknowledged as inadequate and is designed as a short-term option?”
One can only assume the government is convinced its regressive income support policies are seen as appropriate by the “working” voters it seeks to reclaim or attract.  By tapping into long-term prejudices against those seen as “dole bludgers”, the government has taken over the “welfare to work” push of the Coalition.
So far indications are it is unlikely the ALP government will make any serious changes to the significant deficiencies of their current income support policies. Despite evidence these policies are not improving the living standards of our most disadvantaged groups, the Labor Party is determined to expand them. The PM’s social inclusion model is very limited, as it is peopled by workers, working families, and more recently, modern families.
This approach is very different from older Labor understanding of the difficulties many have in finding appropriate jobs such as the structural barriers, prejudices and limited job vacancies most face. Gillard seems to confuse the interests of unions with the wider Labor movement, which accepted the structural barriers that create poverty and disadvantage. She and her colleagues accept the neo-liberal view that failures are mainly bad individual choices and lack of personal effort.
This set of assumptions fails to recognise the evidence in the government’s own data on current recipients of the inadequate Newstart allowance. The number of people on the payment in January 2013 was 682 873 in toto, but only 355,178 were also registered as job seekers. This means nearly 330,000 Newstart recipients were officially recognised as having good reasons that exempted them from looking for a job. The incentive to find enough paid work to move on was obviously not effective, as more than half of the job seekers (234,624) had been on the benefit for more than 12 months and that proportion is increasing.
This is not surprising as the competition for jobs for those without recent experience and often appropriate qualifications is very limited. There are, on average, at least four job seekers per vacancy. Many have visible characteristics that raise employer prejudices, with 100,000 people with disabilities now on Newstart Allowance, and this number will increase as the criteria tighten for disability support pensions.
Why are they being kept on a payment that is widely acknowledged as inadequate and is designed as a short-term option? If an ALP government can’t recognise the serious social and institutional barriers, including parenting needs and prejudices against disabilities, then we will see increasing inequalities and poverty. These policy flaws seriously damage claims that fairness is part of Labor values, as well as letting down the most vulnerable people who expect better from this party.

A confusion of Kingdoms

This article was posted by 
my friend Diana Haywood Rankine on Facebook

The relationship of NGOs (well, some of them) and church-run charities to government has bothered me for quite a while. Particularly concerning is the relationship of the latter. My thinking on this topic has been kicked off by my long-simmering anger in regard to the Rudd and Gillard Governments continuation of two dreadful policies of the Howard era: government funding of wealthy private schools such as Geelong Grammar and The Kings School and The Intervention (to me it will always be The Intervention no matter how much the Labor Govt speaks of Closing the Gap and Stronger Futures). 

I was once on the board of a major church charity and I have reflected on this as well. The article below highlights the amount of money paid to CEOs of major charities. I recall an uproar in the media some years ago about the amount of money an incoming CEO at The Brotherhood of Saint Laurence (I have no connection current or previous with this charity) was to receive. I can't recall the exact figure but let's just say HUGE, particularly in contrast to The Brotherhood's clientele. There was a lot of back-pedalling and revising on that issue. But just to give you a look at the intertwining of of government funding and apparently Christian charities operating within government guidelines please go here and study what is written. 
Some of the programs are obviously government connected. Others, if you stop to think about it, almost certainly receive government funding. So while it is easy to criticise on the school funding issue because of Australia's history and politics in regard to sectarian schooling versus public schooling, we don't often think of the government linkages in relation to charitable work. 

There is a difficulty in discussing the charitable work with youth, the aged, the ill etc. This is work has always - well, almost always - been part of the Christian tradition. Rulers in Christian countries have long delivered beneficence to such charitable work. What Christians seem to have a bit of trouble with is Jesus's words about His Kingdom not being of this world. With denominational charities "brand names" supported in the public view by government funding is this a confusion of Kingdoms? Let's have a look at this confusion.

In the Kennett years in Victoria, the confidentiality clause entered into contracts connected with government funding to charities. Policy workers within charity found that they could not criticise government policy and continue to receive money from the government. On the other side of the coin, church charitable empires have frequently expanded their boundaries with government funding. They may find a need and seek funding. They may establish their work in a particular way so that they are able to get a share of existing government funding. 

The relationship between church and state is mutually beneficial. The state can make policy decisions and fund church charities to carry out the work on the ground. The state can be seen to be responsive to community needs in taking up policies and ideas from church run charities. And back again to the empire - the more money the charity receives the more offices, staff, services it can run and a corporate empire has sprung into being before you can say "social services".

Then there is the management of these services. If they are very large they tend to be bureaucratic as corporations and governments and bureaucracies are. Their modus operandi is a fit - one for the other. This is becoming more so now that these charities are seeking corporate dollars as well as public money. So another empire becomes involved in the confusion of Kingdoms. 

Long ago we learned how horrible some of the "worthy" church run charities are - the British WorkHouse idea is usually the first to spring to mind. To-day, we are trying to eliminate bushfires across the world caused by "Christian Charity". 

All these musings are very well, but there are still people in our society who need assistance for all sorts of reasons. The money to do this well needs to come from somewhere. The church/government/corporation, in all likelihood, has to continue. However, can we, as a community, together with those who work on the funding side begin to critique what is actually happening and what sort of models of assistance we are creating?

We know that the corporatisation of government has meant some horrible attitudes to need. Under the Gillard Government we may be seeing an uplift in attitudes to assistance as we see the possibility of how we might help, in a more constructive way, people with disabilities. After all, just because governments have lurched to the right does not mean that communities have forgotten their values. As a practising Christian, I ask are we really as conscious as we should be of the revolutionary and subversive message of Jesus of Nazareth? Do we know the boundaries of the empires and kingdoms? Do we understand why it is that He helped people and we try to continue in His tradition? Because if we don't understand these questions and their answers, we are nothing but money-grubbing do-gooders. We then fail to be the salt of the earth. 

Then comes Jesus's rhetorical question - 
What happens when the salt loses its savour?

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Ballarat Harmony Fest 2013 - Sunday 24 March

Ballarat Harmony Fest is on to-morrow, Sunday 24 March,
12-5pm, Camp Street in the CBD of Ballarat.

Harmony Fest Main Stage Program**these times are a guide only, and are subject to change**

11:45am – Indigenous welcome and ‘Parade of Nations’ along Camp Street
12.10pm – Official welcome and Welcome to Country
12.15pm – Launch of Harmony Fest 2013
12.30pm – King Marong
1pm – Australian Irish Dance Company
1.15pm – Emmaus and St Alipius Children’s Choir
1.30pm – Capoeira Filhos da Bahia
2pm – Archie Roach and Shane Howard
2.50pm – Bollywood Om Music Group
3.25pm – Angels Voices Band
3.50pm – Sol Nation
4.25pm – MASSIVE Hip Hop Choir 
For more information, please go here. 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The Law, The Church, and people with disability

To: Age Discrimination <>

How will the DisabilityCare Australia legislation help an elderly disabled pensioner in Victoria who is about to be evicted without reason by his landlord, the Uniting Church Property Trust, who has been abusing, discriminating and intimidating him for two... nearly three years? 

An early response will be appreciated as the VCAT hearing is next Monday.

Add caption
Support For People With Disability Confirmed In Law Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes of the Australian Human Rights Commission today congratulated the Australian Parliament for passing the law which will enable the establishment of a National Disability Insurance Scheme in Australia.

"This is a red-letter day for Australians with disability, many of whom currently are the poorest and most marginalised people in our community," Commissioner Innes said. "I believe this is the most important reform in the disability sector in our life times."

The law was passed with cross-party support today. It will now go to the Governor-General for signature. The scheme, to be known as DisabilityCare Australia, will commence in four launch sites, in four states on 1 July this year. "The current system of services for people with disability is broken and broke," Commissioner Innes said. "This new scheme will cause transformative change in this area and in the lives of people with disability."


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Close the Gap Day - Thursday 20 March 2013 : Rachel Siewert

Rachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this |  | Hansard source
Thursday, 21 March—in other words, the day after tomorrow—is National Close the Gap Day. I would like to acknowledge all of those who have supported and participated in this event, which will happen around the country. However, the evidence is clear that there are still significant differences in health, education, employment and social outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanderpeople and other Australians. National Close the Gap Day is an important opportunity to promote awareness of these issues and take collaborative action towards improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I note also that Close the Gap Day is a community owned initiative, whereas Closing the Gap is the government's program for addressing these issues. It may sound pedantic, but it is important to point out the difference between the two.
The Shadow report 2013: on Australian governments' progress towards closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (see below to read and/or download the report) outlines some progress in some areas, such as Indigenous child health. Although there has been some progress, unfortunately there is some plateauing in mortality rates in children under the age of five. There has been some progress in reducing the rates of smoking during pregnancy and increased attendance at antenatal care, at least once during a mother's first trimester. Early data indicates that the tackling Indigenous smoking and Indigenous Chronic Disease package initiatives are showing signs of being beneficial for adult health and life expectancy in the Indigenous population, which is very promising.
However, National Close the Gap Day serves as a reminder that there is still a very long way to go to close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians. Most Australian jurisdictions will not meet the Council of Australian Governments' target to achieve equality in life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Australia by 2030. There has been an increasing trend of babies of low birth weight born to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers. We know low birth weight is associated with later health problems, as well as a greater risk of mortality before the age of five. Funding cuts such as those reported in some states, such as New South Wales and Queensland, will have a potential detrimental effect on any efforts working towards closing the gap. There is also a need for further funding for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, which is funded until June this year, but as yet there has been no commitment of funds for the next five-year plan. This is absolutely essential.
One of the issues I have mentioned in this place before, and I believe it is absolutely essential if we are going to close the gap in Aboriginal health expectancy and life outcomes, is to ensure that we deal with otitis media, an ear infection characterised by fluid build-up in the middle ear. Unfortunately, if it is left untreated it results in hearing loss. A lot of work is going on in how to deal with combatting otitis media. I very strongly support that work and the funding for that work, but unfortunately this disease strikes so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly when they are babies. Babies as young as three months old can get otitis media. In some communities, up to 90 per cent of babies are affected by otitis media. So not only do we need to put in the effort to treat and eradicate this disease; we need to put in the funding resources to address the issues of hearing loss and hearing impairment for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
If a child starting their first day at school cannot hear because of hearing impairment, they will not be able to participate in class. Evidence shows that, if children are alienated from day one in the classroom, they will not engage in schooling and will be unable to meet education standards. We also know that hearing loss has been associated with a number of people in juvenile detention and in adult prisons. The evidence is there that this problem can have a devastating impact on communities. So as well as funding the health plan we need to put renewed emphasis on early literacy and also on programs to address hearing loss.

Is Wall Street at last being called to some sort of account?

Last Monday night, ABC's 4 Corners aired a PBS Frontline program from the USA, The Untouchables. The topic was based on the fact that no senior executives from Wall Street had ever seen the inside of a court, let alone a prison, for bringing the USA and the world to their collective knees through the Global Financial Crisis.  Read about the Australian experience here.

On reading this CorpWatch account of more Wall Street goings-on, one wonders if the financial whales are getting closer to facing some meaningful penalties for their seemingly never-ending romance with derivatives.

Wall Street Giants – JP Morgan and SAC – Hauled Up On Fraud Allegations
by Pratap ChatterjeeCorpWatch Blog
March 15th, 2013

2010 protest against JP Morgan. Photo: SEIU. Used under Creative Commons license
JP Morgan - the Wall Street investment bank - and SAC - a major hedge fund - were hauled up Friday for alleged fraud. JP Morgan was questioned at a U.S. Senate hearing about hiding trading losses while SAC agreed to pay $614 million to settle insider trading charges.

The Wall Street bank attracted Congressional interest because of a $6.2 billion loss that the company incurred last year when a trader named Bruno Iksil – nicknamed the London Whale because of the size of his financial bets – was outsmarted by a hedge fund. (See “Whale Wars: Hedge Funds Rob Banks, and the Poor Suffer Most” on CorpWatch) On Friday the company was forced to testify about how that happened after a damning Senate investigation showed that the company ignored its own risk rules, rewrote key documents and hid information from regulators.

Notably JP Morgan took federally-insured money and used it to construct a $157 billion portfolio of synthetic credit derivatives which they proceeded to gamble with. As the portfolio started to lose money, the panicked traders substituted mid-point valuations that looked more favorable.

Chase decided to go into the fiction business and invent a new way to value its crazy-ass derivative bets, using, among other things, a computerized model the company designed itself called "P&L predict" which subjectively calculated the value of the entire fund toward the end of every business day,” writes the always succinct Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone. “If this all sounds familiar, it's because it's the same story we've heard over and over again in the financial-scandal era, from Enron to WorldCom to Lehman Brothers – when the going gets tough, and huge companies start to lose money, they change their own accounting methodologies to hide their screw-ups, passing the buck over and over again until the mess explodes into the public's lap.”

“The (federal investigators) told the Subcommittee that if the Synthetic Credit Portfolio were an airplane, then the risk metrics were the flight instruments,” wrote the Senate investigators. “In the first quarter of 2012, those flight instruments began flashing red and sounding alarms, but rather than change course, JPMorgan Chase personnel disregarded, discounted, or questioned the accuracy of the instruments instead.”

There is clear evidence that the federal authorities failed in their oversight duties of these risks, according to the Senate. While JP Morgan misled the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) by not reporting the increase in the size of the portfolio, it did provide numbers that showed that the bank “repeatedly breached the its stress limits in the first half of 2011, triggering them eight times, on occasion for weeks at a stretch.” Yet nobody at the OCC appear to notice. (Later, in April 2012, risk limits were exceeded a remarkable 160 times!)

Somewhat surprisingly the person who comes through as clear-sighted is the London Whale himself. Iksil – according to the Senate report – repeatedly tried to warn his bosses about the problems but was ignored.

“I know that you have a problem; you want to be at peace with yourself. It’s ok, Bruno, ok, it’s alright. I know that you are in a hard position here,” Javier Martin-Artajo, one of Iksil’s bosses told him at the time.

A key witness at Friday’s hearing conducted by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs was Ina Drew, the former head of the chief investment office in charge of trading in London. "Things went terribly wrong," she said, blaming traders like Iksil, claiming that key facts "were not brought to my attention at the time.”

“Drew, however, was one of the villains in the bank's own account of what went wrong, and you could see the pressure building up in her mind as she declined to answer, paused, or claimed lack of recall,” writes Heidi Moore at the Guardian who watched the Friday hearing. “When Drew was asked if she knew one key and obvious fact – whether JP Morgan had skipped a crucial yearly check on its trading limits – she demurred that she couldn't recall.”

Not only did senior management claim that they had no memory of these problems, they did not mention the accounting changes in an internal bank investigation completed in January 2013. “I don’t believe we called that out in the report,” Michael Cavanagh, co-C.E.O. of JPMorgan’s corporate and investment bank, told the hearing.

Senators were furious. "Firing a few traders and their bosses won't be enough to staunch Wall Street's insatiable appetite for risky derivative bets or to stop the excesses,” said Carl Levin, the chair of the subcommittee. “When Wall Street plays with fire, American families get burned. The task of federal regulators, and of this Congress, is to take away the matches. The whale trades demonstrate that task is far from complete.”

Meanwhile, also in Washington DC, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that a major hedge fund had agreed to pay $614 million to settle charges of insider trading.

SAC Capital - one of the most profitable hedge funds in history with $15 billion in assets averaging 30 percent in annual profits for 20 years running – has been under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for several years. (See “U.S. Prosecutors Build Case Against Steve Cohen, Hedge Fund Billionaire”)

Most of the settlement related to the case of Mathew Martoma of CR Intrinsic Investors (a SAC subsidiary) who approached Dr. Sidney Gilman, then a 73 year old professor at the University of Michigan, for information on a clinical trial for an Alzheimer's drug being jointly developed by two pharmaceutical companies.

At the time Gilman was chairman of a board monitoring trials of the drug. He was persuaded to sell SAC inside information ahead of time that allowed the investors to avoid $276 million in losses by selling stock as soon as they learned that the drug trials were going badly.

SAC Capital agreed to pay $600 million to settle the Martoma case, without acknowledging any responsibility. But the SEC was blunt about the reason. “The historic monetary sanctions against CR Intrinsic and its affiliates are sharp warning that the SEC will hold hedge fund advisory firms and their funds accountable when employees break the law to benefit the firm,” said George Canellos, acting director of the SEC’s enforcement division.

In addition SAC also paid out $14 million to the SEC to settle charges against Sigma Capital Management for allegedly profiting from early information about the earnings of Dell and Nvidia, two technology companies.

Postscript from The Network: 
JP Morgan slashes CEO pay after losses
JP Morgan finds a nasty surprise

Further reading - JP Morgan in Australia & New Zealand

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