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Archives for February 2014

Martin Ferguson Calls For Further Industrial Relations Reform; Urges Union Rethink

Martin Ferguson, the former resources minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments, says the Abbott government needs to go further than its “modest” reforms to the Fair Work Act.

In a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Ferguson, now the chairman of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, says the current industrial relations system is sending jobs offshore. “We must get serious about closing the competitive gap that has opened up between Australia and our rivals,” he said.

Ferguson

The Fair Work Act was the creation of the Rudd government in 2009. The legislation was introduced by the then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard.

In his speech, Ferguson says: “The objectives of the Fair Work Act need to be examined to make sure they truly reflect the need for Australia to be internationally competitive.”

He added: “It is time that some in today’s union leadership recognised that their members’ long-term interests are aligned with their long-term job security.”

Three weeks after leaving Parliament at last year’s election, Ferguson was appointed Chairman of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association. Critics of his comments today describe him as an oil and gas industry lobbyist.

On its website, the association says: “The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association is the peak national body representing Australia’s oil and gas exploration and production industry. It has more than 80 full member companies. These are oil and gas explorers and producers active in Australia. APPEA members account for an estimated 98 per cent of the nation’s petroleum production. APPEA also represents more than 250 associate member companies that provide a wide range of goods and services to the upstream oil and gas industry.”

Prior to being elected to parliament in 1996, Ferguson spent his early working life as an official of the Miscellaneous Workers’ Union. He was President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions between 1990-96. He served in the Rudd and Gillard cabinets as Minister for Resources and Energy from 2007 until his resignation in March last year at the time of the stillborn challenge to Julia Gillard’s leadership.

Text of Martin Ferguson’s speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

Competitiveness of the Australian gas industry

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you.

Today, I will discuss the Australian oil & gas industry and our national economy.

I will outline the industry’s widely underestimated contribution to our national prosperity and how in coming years it can contribute even more to our economic security. [Read more…]


Victory For James Ashby As Federal Court Overturns Peter Slipper Harassment Decision

The Full Bench of the Federal Court has overturned the 2012 decision by Justice Rares in the Peter Slipper sexual harassment case.

In upholding the appeal by James Ashby, the full bench, consisting of Justices John Mansfield and John Gilmour, said:

“We are satisfied that the evidence before the primary judge did not warrant the adverse finding said to constitute an abuse of the court’s process on the two bases found and did not warrant the rejection by his Honour of the sworn and unchallenged evidence of each of [James] Ashby and [Michael] Harmer.”

Ashby was awarded costs. This represents a severe financial imposition on Slipper.

The court rejected an appeal by solicitor Michael Harmer, who was criticised by Justice Rares over his conduct of the case, but also said:

“Nonetheless, we have concluded that the adverse findings in relation to his conduct, with their flow on affect upon Ashby, ought not to have been made.”

The decision means that Slipper is now likely to face trial on the sexual harassment claims. The abuse of process decision of Justice Rares has been overturned. [Read more…]


Terri Butler (ALP-Griffith) – First Speech

Terri Butler was elected as the ALP member for Griffith at a by-election on February 8.

Butler

Butler, an industrial lawyer with Maurice Blackburn, replaced the former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who had represented the electorate since 1998. Aside from one term from 1996-98, the seat has been represented by the ALP since 1977.

Griffith is a mostly residential electorate in southern Brisbane. The main suburbs include Balmoral, Bulimba, Camp Hill, Carina Heights, Coorparoo, Dutton Park, East Brisbane, Greenslopes, Highgate Hill, Hawthorne, Kangaroo Point, Morningside, Norman Park, Seven Hills, South Brisbane, Woolloongabba and parts of Annerley, Cannon Hill, Carina, Holland Park, Holland Park West, Mount Gravatt East, Murarrie, Tarragindi and West End.

This is Butler’s maiden speech to the House of Representatives.

  • Listen to Butler (22m)
  • Watch Butler (22m)

Hansard transcript of Terri Butler’s maiden speech to the House of Representatives.

Butler

Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (09:59): Madam Speaker, I acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the custodians of the land on which we meet. I pay my respects to elders past and present. I am honoured today to come into this chamber as the elected representative for the people of Griffith, on Brisbane’s south side, so I also pay my respects to the first nations people of that land, the Ugarapul, Yuggera, Jagera and Turrbal peoples. [Read more…]


Government Announces $320 Million Drought Assistance Package

The federal government has announced a drought assistance package worth $320 million.

The package includes more generous income support arrangements, $280 million of concessional loans, $12 million for water infrastructure, $10 million for pest management and $10.7 million for social and mental health services.

The package was announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce at a joint press conference. [Read more…]


G20 Finance Ministers Commit To 2% GDP Growth Target

The G20 Finance Ministers have committed to a collective growth rate of 2% above the current trajectory over the next five years.

Hockey

Speaking after the meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in Sydney, Treasurer Joe Hockey said: “Realistically, these policies could mean an extra US$2 trillion in global economic activity and tens of millions of additional jobs.” [Read more…]


Yvette D’Ath Wins Queensland Redcliffe By-Election For Labor With 16% Swing

Yvette D’Ath has reclaimed the Queensland Legislative Assembly district of Redcliffe for the Labor Party with a 16.1% swing in today’s by-election.

D'AthShe defeated the Liberal National candidate, Kerri-Anne Dooley, who stood in place of the former LNP member, Scott Driscoll.

D’Ath was the former Labor member for the federal electorate of Petrie for two terms from 2007 until her defeat last year.

The ALP’s primary vote rose 12.9% to 43.6% whilst the LNP’s fell 14.1% to 35.1%. The Greens vote fell 2.8% to 4.0%. An independent candidate polled 10.6%.

The ALP’s two-party-preferred vote is 56% to the LNP’s 44%.

Redcliffe is an electorate to the north and northeast of Brisbane. It includes the suburbs of Clontarf, Margate, Kippa-Ring, Redcliffe and Woody Point, as well as Moreton Island. Since its creation in 1960, it was held by the Liberal Party until the ALP won it in 1989 and retained it until 2005. The Liberals briefly held it again in 2005-06, before the ALP won it again.

The by-election was caused by the resignation of the former Liberal National member, Scott Driscoll. Elected in the LNP landslide of 2012, Driscoll was accused of misleading parliament over his business interests. He resigned last November.

With all polling booths reporting their results tonight, the two-party swing to the ALP is 16.1%. The ALP won 11 of the 14 polling booths. The swing to the ALP is roughly equivalent to the statewide swing against it in 2012.

D’Ath’s victory increases the ALP’s parliamentary representation to 8 members in Queensland’s 89-member Legislative Assembly. The party lost 44 seats in 2012 and its primary vote fell to 26.66%.

The ALP will portray the result as a vote against Premier Campbell Newman’s administration and its budget cuts. It will also say the result is a warning to the Abbott government ahead of its first Budget. Whilst a win is a win and the swing is substantial, in reality it is foolish to read too much into by-election results.

The next Queensland state election is due early next year, although Newman could opt to go towards the end of this year. The LNP won 78 seats in 2012 but defections and tonight’s loss means it now holds 74 seats. It can afford to lose up to 28 seats without losing government.


Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn Resigns; WA Electoral Officer Also Goes; Casualties Of Senate Debacle

The Australian Electoral Commissioner, Ed Killesteyn, has resigned. The Western Australian Electoral Officer, Peter Kramer, has also quit.

KillesteynKillesteyn’s resignation was announced this afternoon by the Special Minister of State, Senator Michael Ronaldson. He said Killesteyn has taken personal leave until his resignation takes effect on July 4.

The resignation comes a day after the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, formally voided the Western Australian Senate election. The court ruling followed a petition from the AEC that the election should be thrown out following the loss of around 1300 ballot papers during last year’s count.

Killesteyn’s resignation is an honourable move to accept responsibility that will safeguard the AEC against ongoing criticism. It comes just two months into his second 5-year term as Electoral Commissioner.

The resignation of the Western Australian Electoral Officer, Peter Kramer, complements Killesteyn’s and provides a chain of accountability for last year’s events. Kramer was in the final year of a 5-year term. [Read more…]


Operation Sovereign Borders: Morrison Says People Smugglers On The Back Foot

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, says people smugglers are on the back foot, as another week passes without a boat arrival.

At a press briefing on Operation Sovereign Borders, Morrison also revealed the name of the man who died in the disturbance on Manus Island earlier this week. The Iranian man, 23-year-old Reza Barati, had been on Manus Island since last July. [Read more…]


High Court Formally Voids WA Senate Result; No Date Yet On New Poll

The High Court’s Justice Kenneth Hayne, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, today formally declared the Western Australian Senate election void, paving the way for a new election in April or May.

The Court ruled that the loss of 1370 ballot papers during the second count meant that those electors had been denied a vote. It rejected arguments that it should endorse either of the two counts, as well as arguments that it should substitute a “patchwork” of results from both counts.

A writ for the Senate election now needs to be issued by the Governor of Western Australia. By convention, state Governors accept the advice of the Governor-General on when to call Senate elections. This means that the election date, as usual, will be decided by the Abbott government.

The election must be held by May at the latest, in order to allow time for the votes to be counted and a result declared so that new senators can take their place on July 1. [Read more…]


High Court Voids Western Australian Senate Election; New Poll Looms

The High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, has declared void last year’s Senate election in Western Australia, necessitating a new election by May.

Justice Hayne ruled that 1,370 electors were denied a vote as a consequence of the Australian Electoral Commission losing their ballot papers.

The Court ruled that it was precluded by the Commonwealth Electoral Act from considering the results of earlier scrutinies of the lost ballot papers. It found that it was inevitable that the loss probably affected the result of the election since the number of ballot papers lost far exceeded the margin between the candidates at the crucial stages in the count.

“The only relief appropriate is for the election to be declared void,” the Court said.

It is now up to the federal government to decide when the new election will be held. Whilst the writs for Senate elections are issued by state Governors, this is usually done on the advice of the Governor-General.

There must be 33 days between the issue of the writ and polling day which means an election will be held between late-March and mid-May. The government may not desire a Senate election around the time of the May Budget so April seems most likely.

Statement from the High Court.

THE AUSTRALIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION v JOHNSTON & ORS

WANG v JOHNSTON & ORS

MEAD v JOHNSTON & ORS

[2014] HCA 5

Today the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, answered questions of law arising in three petitions which dispute the election of six senators for the State of Western Australia to serve in the Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. [Read more…]