LGS restores uranium nuclear screening

26 April marks 31 years since the largest nuclear energy disaster in history at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine. The disaster contaminated a huge area of the Ukraine, now known as the Chernobyl exclusion zone covering around 2600 km². The public are excluded from the area, both flora and fauna are contaminated forever and there has been significant animal, fish and human birth abnormalities and deformities. And the area is contaminated forever.

The disaster highlighted the significant risk associated with nuclear energy - as if it needed to be highlighted.

LGS has always taken the concept of responsible and sustainable investment more seriously than the rest of Australia’s superannuation funds - since 2000 when the fund decided not to own tobacco and to develop screening arrangements to reduce investment in nuclear/uranium, businesses with poor forestry practices (like Gunns), gambling etc. etc.

These screening practices have won LGS many accolades from responsible investment organisations, including being ranked number one in the world in the prestigious and authoritative Asset Owners Disclosure Project, twice.

But, despite my reluctance to personalise these issues, pretty much as soon as I had resigned as a director on the LGS Board after 16 years of primary responsibility for the introduction of these responsible investment commitments, a couple of pro-nuclear zealots on the Board thought it made sense to dismantle the Board’s historic screening against uranium and nuclear industries because of the stupid and misconceived understanding that nuclear energy did not produce carbon emissions. Stupid bastards.

We never let go of this, placing a clock on our homepage so that the world could see how many days it had been since that stupid decision was made back in September 2014. It would be a timely reminder of the decision and a constant nagging of the stupid bastards to recognise that the advice they had at the time was right - that there would be no investment advantage and that there would only be reputational damage.

LGS has now announced that the uranium/nuclear screening will be restored. Here is their media release. You will note that it doesn’t say that they should have taken advice from their own investment people at the time, they shouldn’t have behaved like a group of single-issue Montgomery Burns, that seeing nuclear technology as a solution for a low carbon future was one-dimensional thinking at its worst - like thinking that a mass murderer might be okay if they were good-looking and had nice manners. A little bit simplistic and wrong-headed. Stupid bastards.

But, good for them for acknowledging their folly and repairing the damage.

A wasted 965 days, more than two and a half years where people scratched their heads and wondered what kind of loonies had taken over the Board.

Our representative on the Board after the decision had been made, Sam Byrne, pursued this but the decision to restore the screening was a unanimous vote, so clearly everyone had come around to recognise that it was a mistake to remove it. Nice work. There may be a few stupid bastards still involved, but at least they’ve done this.

And we’ve decided to announce this on the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. Just to remind us that nuclear technology is not a viable energy source for a low carbon future when there are so many other renewable energy sources without the disadvantages or risks.

As the Chernobyl disaster happened at 1:24am in the Ukraine (seven hours behind Sydney time) on 26 April, the clock was removed from our homepage at that time.

And in a bit of a scoop and brilliant news for the historic and now reinstated commitment to responsible and sustainable investment, LGS was today announced as the top rated International fund (from a field of 600 institutional investors) in the prestigious and authoritative Asset Owners Disclosure Project.

This means that LGS is, without any doubt, the leading responsible and sustainable investment fund in Australia and it's a fabulous result for the commitment of the recently resigned CEO Peter Lambert who has ensured over more than a decade that the resolve of the Board to do precisely that, has been delivered.

Keep your hands off our super

It would be great for the political sides not to play politics with superannuation. Superannuation is too important, it’s all about retirement incomes for employees and that should be sacrosanct.

But unfortunately politics is played and is played regardless of any arguments about merit, good sense, or evidence.

The Coalition announced before the election their commitment to destroying the equal representational model where half the board represents employees and half the board represents employers. This will be one of the big issues of 2014.

The Government’s strategy to get a proportion of their own people on superannuation boards, under the guise/façade/trick/ruse of there being a need for "independent" directors has nothing to do with competence or performance and everything to do with politics and payback.

There is no evidence of the competence or otherwise of trustees. Funds are well-managed and there is none of the bad behaviour, deception or incompetence famously displayed on company boards. There is considerable evidence about the competence of company directors – the sorts of people you could expect to be putting their hands up to get a gig as “independents”.

The Coalition vigorously opposed the introduction of the SGC, the introduction of industry superannuation funds and the subsequent increases in the SGC. At every significant social advance for employees and their retirement incomes, the Coalition was predicting the sky would fall, companies would go broke and the economy would suffer. They were wrong and now Australia with its compulsory superannuation system and the way it is managed is the envy of the world.

Philosophically the Coalition hated the idea of even equal representational superannuation funds (even though half the directors on those boards were representing employers anyway) managing money that should be managed by their Tory mates, in businesses that are established, not out of any interest or commitment to the retirement income of members, but to make a profit - to skim a nice big slice out of retirement incomes.

Hard to imagine how the big banks and insurance companies, with their primary purpose being profit, can satisfy that overriding provision in the SIS Act on the sole purpose being retirement income for members. That's not why they exist.

But now it's time for the Coalition to get square and get their mates’ snouts in the trough.

Leaving aside that under the SIS Act, all trustees are obliged to act independently (something the Coalition either doesn't understand or want to acknowledge), what they don't realise is that being a trustee on a superannuation fund is onerous, demanding both emotionally and intellectually and a rapacious devourer of time. It's not simply a sinecure.

As a trustee on LGS, directors are paid around $44,000. For a fund with around $7.4 billion FUM this is a fairly standard payment. For that, trustees are required to attend a monthly meeting with an agenda that can vary between 400 to 700 pages, meetings of the investment committee or the audit committee with agendas of up to 400 or more pages every second or third month. Trustees can't risk missing anything.

FSC licensing requires a significant contribution to training and it would be a fairly standard arrangement for trustees to attend three-day conferences like CMSF and/or ASI, and/or ASFA as well as a number of short courses and lunches over the year. That is a significant contribution for people who have other jobs. In my time, that sometimes meant three or four days out of the week away from my normal job but still trying to manage that remotely.

Tory mates who believe they were born to manage money and grow rich from it wouldn't dream of getting out of bed for $44,000 a year let alone make a contribution like this.

So, let's not confuse an ideological and political initiative with a concern about the competence of trustees. A review of what's missing and what could be provided in the current trustee system would be a useful first step. The Government won't find in the equal representational funds anything approaching the problems of the boards at HIH, Ansett, Centro, or Hardies, for example. And gee, hasn’t Qantas done a good job, starting from the time when the Chair and the CEO tried to strip it down and sell it to private equity sharks, and look at it now.

So, set up an enquiry and get some evidence first but I'd bet with greater certainty than picking what the ASX will be on 1 July, that it won't be a lack of independence.

Maybe we’ve got Brad Hazzard wrong …

Here was the bloke we accused of being a hypocrite in depanews in June because we had some fabulous comments he made in Parliament on 17 October 1997 when the concept of exempt and complying development was created and yet, 16 years later in moving from Opposition to Government, he was intent on introducing a new planning regime about which all of his comments made in 1997 would equally apply.

We even gave him the opportunity to respond to try and explain to us what had prompted his about-face.

But now, maybe we have got him wrong. Leaving aside the planning stuff, with its commitment to sideline environmental and heritage concerns and the interests of the community and their right to have some say about development around them, the government of which he is a member has a pretty poor history of putting the boot into workers’ rights.

Slashing into workers’ compensation and removing journey claims, imposing restrictions on the role of the Industrial Relations Commission to participate in managing government wages policy for the public sector and now the virtual decimation of the IRC with the early retirement of some great judges.

Clearly, if there is a weak spot in this list of unpleasantness, it must be that Brad thinks workers taking leave is important. Being on leave mightn’t have helped Chris Pearce but only one day after depaNews announces that I’m going on leave for three weeks, and I hope everything is okay in my absence, Brad Hazzard decides that he won’t introduce the White Paper until I come back!

The three-week delay will allow continued brawling with LG New South Wales and the Better Planning Network and its 400 plus affiliated community groups and all those other NGOs interested in the protection of the environment and our heritage. He might even think it makes sense to scrap this hopelessly flawed legislation.

I would have taken holidays earlier if I thought I could rely on the NSW Government being so accommodating.

We should never forget that we have annual leave and long service leave as conditions of our employment because unions fought hard, over a long period of time, to improve the rights of workers.

Taking that leave is important. Not just because it’s good for our well-being and that of our families, but because if people don’t take the leave for the purposes for which it was originally provided, some nasty employer group will come along and claim that the reasons for its original establishment no longer exist, and it should be wound back.

And we know that the Federal Government would do little to get in the way.

Take some leave now and come back feeling relaxed and recharged.

It just keeps getting harder for old blokes running businesses

 

It just keeps getting harder for old blokes running businesses. It was so much easier in the middle of the 20th century when you went to work and you worked and the boss didn’t have to worry at all about the niceties of how your family was, whether you had kids or not and whether they needed your attention, or anything else.

Then people started to get entitlements for mourning and funerals of family and friends when many an ignorant old boss would think you should just get back to work and get over it. At Ballina, some people would be irritated that you got more time off from dead relatives that they did, and want the entitlement removed entirely. (See April depanews)

Then flexible working hours crashed into the workplace in the 1970s and spread through local government in the 1980s against the sort of resistance we now see in some councils for parents wanting flexibility to accommodate their family responsibilities.

But life in the 21st century is different. Governments of both mainstream persuasions accept that employees are only employees for the part of their life. For the rest of it they are parents, or grandparents, children, or carers of some other sort - part of families and part of an overall community. In a way the mainstream political sides are competing to be regarded as better acknowledging these expanded responsibilities.

For the sake of the argument, leaving aside a fascination with a woman’s capacity to breed, how else can you explain Tony Abbott’s/ Federal Coalition’s maternity leave initiatives?

Managing flexibilities for child care, in particular, can be very difficult. Usually made more so by rigidity of mind and a failure to recognise that a workplace that provides flexibility for parents to accommodate their child care needs is going to be a workplace where parents are more capable of doing the job properly because they can balance their work and family needs.

Some councils handle this well and others (like Ballina) handle it badly - adopting rigidity when flexibility would serve them better and if that means a variety of different arrangements to accommodate different needs on days of work starting and finishing times, then that needs to be managed.

The announcement on 7 April by the Federal Government of a commitment to a two-year trial of the plan to pay living donors for the time involved in recovering from organ donation surgery extends the acceptance of our responsibilities and care into another dimension.

This extension will be unsettling for the old guard and the rigid-minded, but a modern workplace is a modern workplace and the momentum in society and in public policy is currently unstoppable.

The Government’s announcement is to be welcomed. The offering of an organ to a friend or relative, with all that is associated with the surgery and the recovery, is an act of generosity and kindness beyond the imagination of the miserable. Those offering their generosity and kindness are welcome to arrangements that mean that unlike the pain of surgery and recovery, they need suffer financial hardship and disadvantage from the process no longer.

Peace on Earth, goodwill to all and a lower carbon future...

What better way to end 2012 than a cheery, goodwill-laden message wishing everyone the best imaginable Christmas/New Year break? And I mean everyone - even those in local government trying to make the life of the employees less pleasant than it really need be.

Looking back over Robbo’s Pearls there has been a bit of ranting and raving - whether that be over freeloaders, private certifiers sneering at local government, the tragedy of Meredith Hellicar not (yet) going to jail, observations about human misery, and on and on.

But the end of the year is always the end of the year - not just one day followed by another day, there is something symbolic about the change. It’s great to get a break and then come back to the new year fresh and re-charged for the challenges ahead. Whether it’s Christmas or Xmas, or simply a collection of public holidays doesn’t alter the fact that it is a good time to spend with your nearest and dearest, appreciating the things that are important in life and trying to refocus your priorities for 2013.

Here is a picture of an anonymous young comrade I’ll be spending the time with, just to keep reminding you about the need for us all to be well-rounded and balanced people, acknowledging our family and friends as well as being committed to our work.

Time with your nearest and dearest does make you realise that it’s important to get our priorities right. No one on their deathbed worries that they didn’t spend enough time at work - it’s always about the regrets and lost opportunities that seemed a lower priority at the time because work and the demands of work somehow seemed more important than they really were.

The Committee of Management and Wendy and I wish you all a joyous, safe, fun-filled, relaxed, indulgent and caring break full of good books, good wine, good food, good company, good music and good weather and a 2013 where we all reset our priorities to put the really important things first.

 

What a boofhead

The repercussions of the tragic fire, death and injuries in the Bankstown apartments two weeks ago will take some time to settle. It’s hard not to harken back to the good old days before developers could buy their own certifier and we all had far more confidence when a Council ticked off that a developer had complied with their conditions of consent rather than some flunky on the payroll of the developer.

We will deal with this issue fully when all the facts are known but we understand that the plans filed by the developer to Bankstown City Council which were approved did not have a roof of any sort over the atrium. Some other plans exist (because the private certifier Barry Johnson says he has plans showing opening louvres on the roof and not an enclosed roof) and the status of these plans is uncertain. We know the Council issued fire notices over concerns about fire safety “alternate solutions” and that there may be issues of internal petitioning contrary to the approved plans which were a relevant factor. Still, to be prudent, we make no observations other than these.

Apart from this one - Craig Hardy is a boofhead.

Craig started in local government with an interest in environmental work at Campbelltown. At Wollondilly, he took a day or two off and represented an applicant in a local court matter against colleagues he shared an office with and sneered at their professionalism. This was in the days prior to the 1993 Act and the restrictions on other work under section 353 but his propensity to attack his workmates and his lack of respect for local government employees was clearly evident here.

At Wollongong he was responsible for preparing the council’s exempt and complying development codes and then embraced the opportunities available when the NSW Government decided developers could buy their own certifier in 1995/96.

He conceived and delivered the Association of Accredited Certifiers (in a bit of a scientific first) installed himself as President and has continued in that role since 2003.

Immediately after the Bankstown fire people were lining up questioning the inherent contradictions of the private certifier system and the undeniable challenges arising from a developer paying someone to certify the quality and adequacy of their work.

In Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on 11 September they ran an article under the heading “building a blitz on dodgy certifiers”, the Telegraph railed against the BPB’s flimsy record of disciplining private certifiers – noting that the BPB had only cancelled the licences of five certifiers out of 61 disciplined in the last three years and pointing out that 10 certifiers are serial offenders with between five and 14 reprimands each “including approving a fire safety door that opened inward and a childcare centre without automatic smoke detectors.” Lovely.

But, Association of Accredited Certifiers President Craig Hardy told the Telegraph “private certifiers were tougher on builders than were their Council counterparts.”

Craig, pull the other one. No-one believes that the more reliant you are on the developer as your boss and your income stream, the more likely you are to be tough on them. Everyone knows, regardless of attempts in the legislation to establish some sort of public obligation, that the financial connection makes those charged with certifying compliance, nothing but compliant.

A lot of developers would be disappointed with Craig’s assertion. Most developers like private certifiers because they are beholden to them. That’s why they wanted them in the first place and that’s why they use them now.

But we don’t know whether Craig made that up, whether Craig is basing that on how he used to do the job when he was in local government or whether he really believes it. What do you think?

All we suggest is that next time you see him pedalling his own brand of self-aggrandisement and his contempt for local government professionals at a conference, you give him the recognition and the respect he deserves.  

A final word about union membership - is there no limit to what the freeloaders want?

The Local Government (State) Award requires each Council to have the consultative committee with membership representative of the workforce and with minimum representation of the three unions. There is an option to representation in addition to the union representatives to be agreed locally between the Council and our local representatives.

depa does not support creating positions on the consultative committee for freeloaders. This concept defends those principles that established a requirement for a consultative committee with this representation in the first place and does make you wonder how much people who get everything for nothing can keep wanting more.

In local government whether you join the union or not is voluntary. That's life. Unions need to make themselves relevant and attractive to members in an environment where people sitting next to you, who choose not to be union members, get access to all those things in the Award, or in legislation which the unions have pursued, without contributing to the process.

It doesn't matter what the entitlement is in the Award - everything in the award is in the Award because it was negotiated between the employers and the unions. There are the obvious things like annual pay increases, obligations for annual reviews and potential progression, all the different sorts of leave like annual, long service, sick, carers etc, higher grade pay, training, obligations on the employer in restructuring and entitlements for employees, redundancy benefits, on and on and on with every clause in the Award provides an entitlement negotiated on everyone's behalf by the unions - freeloaders and union members alike.

There are only two things where the Award distinguishes. The Award provides union picnic day to union members only - although many councils think it appropriate to let the freeloaders have that day off as well - and the only thing that freeloaders don't get is membership of the Consultative Committee.

It does seem odd, doesn't it when you think about it, that all those rugged individualists who believe they can make their own way in life at work (usually because everything they get is already established as an entitlement anyway) that they suddenly feel that it makes sense to collectivise and be a collective group of freeloaders and elect someone to sit on the consultative committee. This can only be a joke.

Leaving aside the issues of principle involved here, there are practical reasons why non-union members ought not be sitting on consultative committees purporting to represent other employees in the workforce. Members of the consultative committee have access to the unions for advice but people who aren't union members don't have this access, so what do they do? Invariably, they do what management wants.

If management wants representatives of non-union members, they can make them management representatives.

Because the Award does allow local representatives to support or reject expanding consultative committee, we regularly tell our members they should oppose it. So do the other unions. But sometimes there is a weak link in a decision to allow a freeloader representative on one Council prejudices our ability at every other council. Please don’t be that weak link.

If you would like a little bit more detail about our policy view on this, here is a letter recently sent to Kempsey where they proposed putting a freeloader representative on their Consultative Committee.

It's a miracle we're not all depressives...


I don’t want to trivialise the black dog, of course, but we work longer hours than we want to. Smart phones mean we can never get away and are always contactable. We don't get to take our leave. The planet is heading for temperature increases of up to 4°, but the "debate" about reducing carbon emissions and moving to a low carbon economy is trite, dishonest and degrading. Carbon capture and storage was always a fantasy to appease the diggers of coal and the big polluters and now this has been recognized, our own modest carbon reduction targets are unlikely. Political leadership is embarrassing, short-term, populist, petty and without principles - the term itself is an oxymoron. Fiscal austerity or the protection of living conditions? The financial markets are chaotic and unpredictable and our superannuation returns are therefore disappointing and dispiriting. We all have to work longer. Leaving home at 6:45 this morning the traffic into the city is still dreadful. What is it with all those fat bastard climate science denying billionaires having to own their own football teams? Too many idiots are in charge of councils. Councils don't have enough money to pay staff properly, recognise market shortages, train people properly or reward performance. And there’ll be a whole lot of new councillors in September. Bloody hell.

How can things be any worse?

Today is World Refugee Day. And if you are a refugee in Africa, you're too busy trying to survive to think that any of that stuff matters. And there are refugees everywhere.

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Go to jail Meredith!

The High Court on Thursday 3 May hammered the final damning nails into the disgraced corporate reputations of seven James Hardie Board members. The Court unanimously held that the seven non-executive directors had breached their duty to act with care and diligence by approving the release of a statement to the stock exchange in 2001 which misled the market about the company's funding of its workers’ compensation liability. The Court overturned a decision of the NSW Court of Appeal which had let the disgraced directors off the hook.

These people are all corporate bluebloods, previously respected by business, government and the market. They are now disgraced and, trying to cut a complicated story short, the Court also referred back to the NSW Court of Appeal the consideration of penalties including disqualification. The High Court makes it abundantly clear that the Board knew the foundation was underfunded and had specifically developed a strategy to restrict news to the finance pages and their narrow sectional interests rather than provide it generally as  news.

James Hardie has killed more Australian workers than most. While Australian workers will continue to die for decades from contact with their products, the damage is not just restricted to anyone employed by them but they've also killed kids, wives, family and friends who came in contact with the dangerous asbestos fibres - fibres  known to be dangerous when mined in ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.

Companies manufacturing asbestos sheeting in our lifetime preferred to employ older workers. They believe this managed their financial liability because mesothelioma symptoms take a long time to appear and if they employed older blokes they are more likely to have retired and die before the asbestos gets them.

It is now up to the NSW Court of Appeal to review punishments. Not being able to operate as a company director again is the least of it and the original fines of $35,000 each for these seven should have a series of zeros added.

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What's happened to the presumption of innocence?

There is no greater abuse of the principle of the presumption of innocence than random testing.

Innocent until proven guilty, the presumption of innocence, balancing scales of justice and equal access for everyone to justice are fundamental to legal systems in a civilised country. That presumption will be challenged in discussions about what should happen to the Alcohol and Other Drugs Industry Guidelines after the completion of the trial.

An employee’s fitness for work (of which properly managing drugs and alcohol is only a small part) is a fundamental consideration. Employees are obliged to present themselves to work in a condition suitable to get the job done and discharge their obligations to the employer. And employers are entitled to expect nothing less. Appropriately onerous legislative health and safety obligations mean that health and safety at work is now everyone's responsibility.

The trial of the Industry Guidelines provided no evidence that there is any value in the random testing of employees for drugs. 293 employees chosen at random to be tested and 176 employees actually random tested leaves those supporting a random testing regime short of evidence and grasping at straws. This should be sufficient for the issue now to be dead. But it won't be.

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Would you buy management consulting from Management Solutions?

Management Solutions is a business unit owned and operated by the Local Government and Shires Association. Ordinarily regarded as authoritative and prudent about its observations because of its relationship with the employers peak bodies, a recent report provided to Nambucca Shire should make future clients cautious.

Nambucca is currently going through a process of reviewing its structure under severe financial restrictions and hampered by a preference of the current GM that the two Director structure remain - currently the GM is also responsible for corporate services but he was initially attracted to the idea that he could also do the planning.

So, they contracted Management Solutions to come in and give them advice. In a series of recommendations prefaced by more negative observations than positive ones, the consultants recommended that the GM absorb the role of Director of Environment Planning - something which "has been successfully achieved" at other councils.

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depa golf day is on again

Is there anything better than hitting a golf ball off the tee, the beautiful sound of the ball launched off the sweet spot of the club, a perfect swing, a perfect follow-through and the pleasure of watching the ball arc into a clear blue sky, down the pristine and lush green fairway and so much further than anyone could have reasonably expected!

Buggered if I know, it's never happened to me but golf builds character. Deepak Chopra reckons if you can play golf with the right attitude you can live life with the right attitude. Nice. A bad shot is only a bad shot, the next could be a ripper.

That’s one of the reasons I love golf and the depa Union Picnic Day golf day is on again this year at Blackheath and you can join me on Metropolitan Union Picnic Day, Friday 9 March. We thank Local Government Super for their continued support.

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Enjoy the long weekend? I love long weekends, and who doesn't.

Monday 3 October was Labour Day - a public holiday in New South Wales since 1885 to commemorate the significant triumph of the trade union movement to introduce an eight-hour working day. It wasn't a gift from the employers, who fought it tooth and nail. Like they do every advance.

While I don't want to get into some silly discussion about only people who believe in the purpose of the day being able to take it (like Christians at Christmas or Easter - although both were pagan festivals well before Christianity - monarchists on Queen’s birthday etc) but I think it is important to recognise the origins of the day and celebrate them.

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Man bites dog

From the vantage point of the depa office you can see local government at its worst. Sometimes petty and venal, sometimes punctuated by self-interest and neglect of the community and the environment, sometimes backward-looking and ignoring of the future, sometimes a bit dull and predictable, and sometimes also cringe-worthy and embarrassing in its stupidity.

The point of Robbo’s Pearls is to vent.  We contemplated Robbo’s Rave but that was too limiting. It’s a blog (apparently) and like all blogs it’s meant to be immediate and all about sharing.   

So while we see the worst, we also see the best and we see the tier of Government closest to the community and the tier that in many ways is the one more people rely upon and have higher expectations about.

Even though there are few pleasures to rival nailing some stupid GM or HR manager’s decision in the Industrial Relations Commission, or even the absolute joy of nailing a conga line of incompetents like that at Gosford and reported last month, it’s hard not to also feel defensive about the industry.  You know, the reluctance to wheel in yet another embarrassing decision that makes the industry look bad because some bloke decided to bite a dog.

So we hope Canterbury wakes up to itself and recognizes that simple inoffensive words to describe people doesn’t come within a bull’s roar of constituting a breach of the Code of Conduct and that their insistence that they do can only end in tears. 

And that neither does using strong language in a training course for employees who are going to get abused in the foulest and most offensive ways imaginable on the job because it’s better to know what to expect and how to deal with it.  Particularly where the content of the course is known to management, has been “discussed with our training officer who has supported the training initiative”, has been provided to other councils for a fee, has run without complaint for more than a decade and runs alongside CARM training that also has challenging and confronting role plays where strong language is an integral part.

I can imagine whoever is allocated the dispute, if Canterbury doesn’t wake up to itself, scratching their head and wondering about the folly of the human condition and the negative portrayal of the industry in things like Grass Roots and Rats in the Ranks.

Come on Canterbury, jolly well wake up you (a string of physically descriptive words has been deleted to protect the over-sensitive).

“Attractive” and “petite” a breach of the Code of Conduct?

Have your say in our poll.

Why do some councils find it so hard to carry out a speedy and competent investigation of performance or disciplinary questions?

The hopeless investigation at Gosford, and the biting criticisms made by IRC President Justice Boland, are a timely reminder that some councils find it almost impossible.

In 2006 we represented a member in an investigation at Campbelltown. It was clear very early on that their "Workplace Investigations" policy did not provide an acceptable process and we filed a dispute to develop one.  The Council got Marsdens involved and allocated the investigation to a couple of the directors who showed little interest in complying with their obligation under the award to "properly conduct and speedily conclude” investigations. One of them now manages members of ours at another Council (oh oh) and the other one, for all we know, may still be busily rolling her eyes at Campbelltown.

In the end, the member had nothing really to answer. But the Council did because they committed to reviewing their policy.  In fact, they committed, over and over again, to review their policy. Our member left the Council and we lost interest. There is a limit to how much time you can spend dealing with hopeless people.

And, you know what, five years later they still haven't got one!

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Something from the bottom draw

Some of you are but most of you aren’t, so imagine if you were both an employee and a ratepayer of your Council. As a ratepayer you didn't like the old council and at the election you voted for a group of people who slammed the corruption and incompetence of the current lot and committed themselves to cleaning the place up and introducing a new honesty in politics.

And imagine, when they got elected, they pulled out of the bottom drawer some employment practices that affected you as an employee - which they knew would be so unpopular that they chose not to tell you about before the election.

You'd feel aggrieved, wouldn't you? Cheated, even.

That's precisely the scenario if you are a public sector employee living through changes currently working their way through the NSW Parliament. The Industrial Relations Amendment (Public Sector conditions of employment) Bill 2011 will strip powers from the IRC, change 100 years of conciliation and arbitration practices and provide a ceiling on wages and conditions based on Government policy alone.

I’ve just come back to the office after attending the rally supporting public sector workers and their unions outside Parliament House. What a colourful rally - described by Unions NSW's Mark Lennon as "the biggest union rally in Macquarie Street in twenty years" - not a drop of rain and even a bit of blue sky.

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A sign of what life could be like in the new New South Wales

We reported in April that prior to the election the Opposition gave undertakings that they would make no changes to the Industrial Relations Commission in their first term which would have a negative impact on those employees working under awards or enterprise agreements of the NSW Commission. We hoped that was right and, for a new government, were prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.

But amendments sought to the Industrial Relations Act this week challenged this assurance.

The Industrial Relations Amendment (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Bill 2011 attempts to remove the independent role of the Industrial Relations Commission that has underpinned the successful operation of the Commission for the last 100 years. The Bill will remove the independence of the Commission to the extent that the Government's own wages policy and philosophical commitments on issues like leave will be incorporated into the Industrial Relations Act and leave the Commission only with the power to adjudicate within those guidelines.

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What will life be like in the new New South Wales?

Well, the purge is complete and old Labor has been well and truly dumped.

For us, the critical areas are what will the Government do about the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, local government generally and planning.

We understand from UnionsNSW that the Opposition prior to the election gave undertakings that they will make no changes to the Industrial Relations Commission in their first term which would have a negative impact on those employees working under awards or enterprise agreements of the NSW Commission. That's good news for us because the NSW Commission is extremely user-friendly and has been a great assistance to local government over the decades.

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