Allan West

Teaching in PNG
At our April 8 meeting, Terry Jones introduced Julie Moon, City Organiser for Canterbury-Bankstown TA and the 20,000-30,000 casual/temporary teachers in NSW, and a former editor of Education. Julie spoke of how, while she was walking the Kokoda Track in 2012 to honour her godfather, who fought in the area, she had an “epiphany”.

After her return, she wrote curriculum for healthcare workers and, through the aid of the Kokoda Track Foundation (KTF), has seen a modest training college built and two cohorts of trainees completing their Diploma in Primary Teaching. Ron Denham thanked Julie for her inspiring presentation. The $100 donation will go to the KTF to purchase four teachers’ resource packs.

ACPSRO report
The Australian Council of Public Sector Retiree Organisations (ACPSRO) sent a letter on March 9 to Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge on the impact of the “10 per cent cap” on defined benefit pensioners, asking several questions. A report in Hansard stated that, as at January 1 this year, 46,366 income support recipients had had their pension rate reduced by an average of $86.46 a fortnight and 1572 recipients had their payment cancelled.

The Superannuated Commonwealth Officers Association held a meeting on March 4 with Dr Peter Hendy (Liberal), Member for Eden-Monaro, and on March 23 sent him a suggested approach to grandfathering the measure to soften the impact. ACPSRO sent a submission to the Treasury on April 5 on the objective of superannuation (to provide income in retirement to substitute or supplement the age pension).

CRUMA report
Ron Denham reported on the last Combined Retired Union Members Association (CRUMA) meeting.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) — not the employer — through enterprise bargaining agreements, has worked to provide its members with expensive safety gear and clothing.

Sydney construction sites are suffering a scarcity of skilled tradespersons because big money is earned working on city construction sites. A building apprenticeship trade course has been reduced from three years to two and costs $2000 upfront.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) said some members have not had continuous work for three years and are having difficulty paying union fees. Offshore drilling platforms around the Australian coast are all crewed by overseas non-unionised workers.

CRUMA members distributed pamphlets at Burwood and Strathfield railway stations and outside the electoral office of Federal Minister for Macquarie, Louise Markus (Liberal) about the government’s proposed changes to Medicare.

CRUMA urges RTA members to assist in pamphlet distribution.

State Super meeting
On April 4, Barbara MacGregor, John Inman and Allan West and Dan Gocher of environmental investment group Market Forces met State Super SAS Trustee Corporation officials John Livanas (CEO), Lisbeth Rasmussen (Chief Investment Officer) and Carl Baum (Complaints and Complex Correspondence).

John Livanas stated State Super’s $42 billion fund invests about 50 per cent in equity, 25 per cent in infrastructure and 25 per cent in properties. Currently, only 66 per cent of members’ assets are available (due to the NSW government disposing of some funds for transport infrastructure), and as the government has told State Super that this must be built up to 100 per cent by 2030 the fund is compelled to achieve about 8 per cent profit on trading each year.

The RTA was told that as a member of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (John is on the Board and Lisbeth is a member of the Council), State Super conforms to Australian Council of Superannuation Investors environment, social and governance principles but has not signed the UN Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer; State Super monitors the voting patterns of investment managers at shareholder meetings; State Super considers labour laws in foreign companies before investing (40 per cent is invested overseas).

John Livanas agreed that about $4 billion is invested in companies involved with fossil fuels; there is no current likelihood of divestment but it remains a possibility. Mr Gocher commented later that our best hope is to gain a commitment from companies to disclose their carbon intensity (the underlying emissions of the companies they own), their progress and comparison with peers; a plan to achieve a CI of zero in 15-20 years would be ideal. John agreed to another meeting next year. We agreed to send letters of thanks to Market Forces and to John Livanas after we receive Market Forces’ formal report.

Government condemned
Shirley Bains moved that the RTA condemn, in the strongest terms, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s recent proposal to have states take over the funding of public schools whilst the federal government remains responsible for private schools. His proposal was not enhanced by the remarks of one of his ministers that the states only wanted the federal government to “do their dirty work”. As retired public school teachers who educated many of the prominent Australians at present working in this country, we take umbrage that dealing with public education is considered “dirty work”.

Australia is a federation and although states at present have responsibility for the day-to-day running of schools, the federal government has the duty of overseeing the education system as a whole. Our PM’s desire to maintain funding of private schools whilst depleting public schools of their funding is elitist in the extreme. We totally support the NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, in his efforts to have the federal government commit to the final years of Gonski funding.

AFTINet report
Peru will be the first country to vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The RTA submission to the Senate inquiry into the trade pact has been received but the inquiry could be delayed by the federal election. The effect of the TPPA on pharmaceuticals is not certain but is a worry.

PACER-Plus (Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations) negotiations with Pacific Island workers reveal some receive only $60 a week in Australia. Negotiations on a bilateral agreement with India have slowed. Indonesia is trying to make a bilateral agreement. The European Union-Australia free trade agreement is close.

Allan West is the Secretary, NSW Retired Teachers Association and can be contacted on (02) 9484 5693