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Issue #1736      June 22, 2016


At the Sydney opera House during his campaign launch for the 1987 federal election Bob Hawke said: “By 1990, no Australian child will be living in poverty”. A noble goal which unfortunately has failed to materialise even 29 years later. A landmark study into the rights of Australian children, The Child Rights Progress Report, has accused successive governments of failing to support the most vulnerable – its young. In 1990 Australia agreed to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and since then has repeatedly breached it. The study found 70,000 children receiving support from homelessness organisations, 43,000 lived in out-of-home care and young asylum seekers spent an average of 457 days in detention. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were highly over-represented in out-of-home care and were 26 times more likely to be in juvenile detention. “The present report makes it clear that these and many other deficiencies have not been remedied and in many ways the situation may have even worsened,” commented Alastair Nicholson, a former chief justice of the Family Court of Australia and chairman of Children’s Rights International. The Child Rights Progress Report made recommendations on child protection, education, poverty, health and criminal justice.

Last week’s Guardian had a story of an Indonesian man who was taken into police custody for wearing a hammer-and-sickle T-shirt at home. This week we are sharing a story which happened here, in a very democratic country with freedom of speech and expression … sort of. Workers on the Ichthys LNG project in NT were told that they could be sacked for wearing union stickers on their hard hats. Fair Work Building and Construction (FWBC) “regulates workplace relations laws in the building and construction industry through education, advice and compliance activities”, according to their internet site. FWBC conducted an audit of the LNG plant to assess compliance with the 2013 national building code. “In the course of the audit, the FWBC identified what it described as ‘serious breaches of section 15 of the building code’, arising from the display of union paraphernalia in the form of … flags, posters and stickers affixed to personal protective equipment,” wrote Ian Baker, the site’s project director to the CFMEU. CFMEU Construction secretary Dave Noonan said that there were no laws preventing workers from wearing union stickers. “To have your livelihood threatened because you choose to wear a sticker on your hard hat is another appalling example of the behaviour of the FWBC. The FWBC has refused to tell the workers or the union whether they have threatened to blacklist the company from federal government’s projects if the stickers are not removed, or the workers sacked. The union hopes that the FWBC is not trying to engineer a dispute as part of the Coalition’s election campaign. It should be remembered that the Government’s wish to expand this agency’s powers by reconstituting it as ABCC was the trigger for this election,” he said.

Next article – Culture & Life – Mohammed Ali and US gun violence

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