New South Wales elects new Pope

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The NSW Liberal Party this morning conducted a ballot to choose between two highly religious white men to replace Gladys Berejiklian following her resignation on Friday 1 October. Ms Berejiklian resigned in anticipation of an investigation by the ICAC and isn’t the first person to complain that an ICAC investigation into their behaviour was poorly timed.

In a contest that takes us back to the sixteenth century, there were two candidates to become Premier, the current Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet and Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, with Perrottet defeating Stokes 39 votes to 5. Dominic has more children than poor Rob had votes.

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Dominic Perrottet is a conservative, white male Roman Catholic, and is seen as a religious extremist opposed to progressive agendas, who welcomed the election of Donald Trump as “a victory for people who have been taken for granted by the elites in the political establishment for too long”, defended those who question “man-made climate change”, and as an opponent to gender equality.

A little like Gladys, as Treasurer he was able to survive the fiasco of the government’s Workers Compensation Insurer (“I (don’t) Care), and establish the Transport Asset Holding Entity, TAHE, described by former NSW Auditor-General Tony Harris as “a vehicle designed to own Sydney’s rail assets and to hide government rail transport expenses“.

Mr Perrottet has six children, which is a lot by any measure, and if you go to the Liberal Party NSW site for a profile on the Member for Epping, you find that “Dominic is married to Helen and they are the proud parents at Charlotte, Amelia and Annabelle". That must be a bit of a bummer for the other three kids.

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His opponent, former Minister for Planning and Open Spaces, Rob Stokes, is a conservative white male Anglican, with, amongst other things, a Degree in Theology, and is also seen as a religious extremist opposed to progressive agendas. Both voted against decriminalising abortion and will oppose a vote for assisted dying in a Bill being brought before the NSW Parliament by Independent member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich. John Barilaro, the resigning leader of the National Party, experienced the misery of an agonising inevitable death for a loved one, and realised the importance of assisted dying for those who choose it, neither of the candidates are prepared to provide that option, choosing the miserable, lingering agony of death. Lovely.

Hard to distinguish between the two candidates, in the sixteenth century cheeky Catholics took the Pope on and started the Reformation, and while there was a time back in the 1950s and 1960s when careers in the New South Wales Public Sector were affected by whether you were a Catholic or Protestant (or more accurately, a Catholic or Protestant bloke) those days are now well behind us - with the clear expectation that when this year’s Census results are released, we will see fewer than half Australians ticking Christianity. Ours is a changing society, but there was no evidence of that in the Liberal Party meeting this morning - more a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

Meanwhile, 600 years later...

US COVID deaths

Last week in the US, President Joe Biden mourned “the painful milestone” of 700,000 American deaths from COVID-19 - with the worst statistic being that the last 100,000 deaths occurred when the vaccines, which, described by the SMH on 5 October as “overwhelmingly prevent deaths, hospitalisations and serious illness”, were available to any American over the age of 12.

In the National Mall in Washington, 700,000 white flags commemorated those deaths.

The Herald reports, “The Milestone is deeply frustrating to doctors, public health officials and the American public, who watched a pandemic that had been easing earlier in the summer take a dark turn. Tens of millions of Americans have refused to get vaccinated, allowing the highly contagious delta variant to tear through the country and send the death toll from 600,000 to 700,000 in 3 ½ months.” And it shows no sign of stopping.

In lessons for us, if we needed more evidence, 70% of the deaths were in unvaccinated people, “and of those vaccinated people who died with breakthrough infections, most caught the virus from an unvaccinated person.”

Councils moving towards mandatory vaccination

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The last issue of depaNews should not have been confronting or surprising. Everyone was sick of lockdown and we’ve all had five more weeks of it – now over 100 days in Sydney and surrounds. Infection numbers are slowly coming down, we’re all getting desensitised and it’s a positive sign that in NSW Health figures on 5 October, there were “only” seven people who died and we’re down to 608 cases.

NSW Health also announced that 88.5% of the state’s eligible population 16 and over have had a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 67.5% are fully vaccinated - tantalisingly close to the 70% fully vaccinated to allow the relaxation of restrictions.

We had a few members unhappy with the message, wanting to reserve their rights to remain unvaccinated and have depa advocate for them when the inevitable mandatory vaccination restrictions are imposed at work. Overwhelmingly the response was supportive. Members from all over the state with one responding, “thank you for your support of mandatory vaccination and for the no fuss no-frills clarity”. “No fuss no-frills clarity”, that should be on the depaNews masthead.

Even an unprecedented thank you and congratulations from one GM who, to be kind, has shared a mutual psychopathic antagonism with us for decades. Odd bedfellows, indeed.

There was lively debate, someone who should have known better defended their position by saying “I note the NSW Health Orders don’t currently allow local governments to require the whole of our workforce to be vaccinated” (which was wrong), some flimsy defence of the right to remain unvaccinated, “I know people with side effects from jabs, I am yet to meet someone whose (sic) had Covid”, some confusion about what our role was, emphasised like this “ Are you for real, you represent me, not the Council. I pay YOU the union fees. NOT the Council!” Noting the employer’s onerous obligations under the Work Health Safety Act, and what that will mean for employees, is not representing the Council, it’s recognising the reality.

And some sensible discussion as well, with one poor person complaining that already in social situations they’re being asked about their vaccination status and finding it uncomfortable - so life was going to get increasingly more difficult for that person.

Councils are well-advanced in how to deal with the inevitable return to the office. While we’re not briefed on all councils, there are substantial steps being taken with surveys of staff to test their attitude on mandatory vaccination and their anxiety about allowing unvaccinated people to mix freely with those who are vaccinated. It’s only a matter of time now before councils, based upon overwhelming support from their workforce, lock the unvaccinated out.

The NSW Supreme Court last week heard arguments from a mixed bag of opponents of mandatory vaccination and a decision is reserved. But the argument in favour of mandatory vaccination is increasingly compelling.

It’s all about the law, about safe workplaces, and last issue we provided a copy of our barrister’s legal advice to us, and here you can see his compelling and overwhelming presentation circulating in the legal profession, councils and unions, providing even more support.

depa supports mandatory vaccination

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depa supports mandatory vaccination

depa supports vaccination before a return to work.

depa supports disclosure of vaccination status.

Today the Premier announced a new record of Covid Delta cases across New South Wales of 1290 - making the projections of epidemiologists that failure to contain the Delta variant could mean 1500 or more a day as people fail to comply with the rules. It’s out there, and we didn’t contain it.

There have been 20,061 locally acquired cases reported since 16 June 2021, when the first case in this outbreak was reported and today there are 840 COVID-19 cases in hospital, with 137 in intensive care and 48 being ventilated.

Too many people are dying, hospitals are at capacity, there are not enough nurses in to manage the ventilators available for those who can’t breathe without assistance, and everywhere we look, those making the decisions are just too bloody slow.

It seems a long time ago now, but first it was the Ruby Princess, where at-risk travellers were set loose by NSW Health and the Federal agencies (who are still squabbling about who was most at fault) infecting as they went. Then it was the failure to have Public Health Orders to require a limo driver driving international flight crews to the eastern suburbs from the airport to be vaccinated, or even to be wearing a mask - an irresponsible action by both the employer and the driver that has now had thousands more people subsequesntly affected.

And the NSW Government, boasting of its “gold standard” tracing regimes was overwhelmed by their own smugness and mismanaged the need to shut down Sydney earlier when it became obvious that the Delta variant was out of control. They can hardly claim they weren’t aware, the Federal Government had months earlier banned flights from India due to the risk of the Delta variant arriving on our secure little island.

Everything gets done too late. The Federal Government started it, setting a gold standard of their own for bumbling, misunderstanding, misperceiving the risk and general ignorance - a disgraceful mismanagement of vaccines, not available when promised, still not enough, and confusing and inappropriate advice by a flustered PM in a late-night news conference that put the frighteners on people over AstraZeneca. Bloody hell, there’s much higher chance of dying from sex than AstraZeneca. Or even driving to get vaccinated.

The NSW Premier has done polite, preachy, imploring and begging, but only now is coming to grips with the urgency of appropriate mandatory vaccination. First, health and aged care workers, then teachers and school staff, Qantas called it early with lead-time sufficient to allow their staff to be vaccinated and providing bonuses to passengers who are vaccinated as well. Bunnings advertises staff holding up vaccination cards.

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Let’s talk about work and let’s talk about local government

It’s now more than two weeks since LGNSW and the three unions met to put together a joint statement to the industry providing guidance and leadership - just like we had when Covid burst onto the scene in 2020, when it was easy and we were all in agreement. No pussyfooting then. At that meeting we’d provided advice from our go-to barrister Ian Latham from Denman Chambers because the employment issues hinge on whether the employer can provide lawful directions for employees to be vaccinated before they return to work.

There have been cases where ill-informed individuals argued that the flu vaccination, being forced upon them in their healthcare role was a conspiracy, or some other fantasy, just like the anti-vaxxers we see in this argument. A series of cases have found it to be a lawful and reasonable direction. It is a reasonable expectation that the out-of-control spreading COVID can only provide a more compelling reason for employers to lawfully direct employees to be vaccinated before they return to work.

depa supports mandatory vaccination, with a reasonable timetable, given the difficulties in supply of the vaccine, and four weeks should be sufficient. We know there are councils providing access to vaccination for the employees, and those councils will be able to make it mandatory with a lesser period of notice.

depa supports councils making vaccination mandatory before a return to work and we will support councils responding to individuals deciding they won’t be vaccinated, by not allowing them to work until they are. Employees can take their own leave but there are no other payments available.

depa does not support individuals having the right to refuse a vaccination if they want to return to work, because they put at risk their workmates and safety in the workplace.

Employers have a huge risk to manage. The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 imposes onerous responsibilities on New South Wales employers and massive fines for failures to provide safe work and a safe workplace.

In the absence of some statements and leadership about what is appropriate and allowable from LGNSW, councils are being left to their own devices, and the more courageous councils are looking after their own staff and their own communities. Stop pussyfooting around, kill the virus off once and for all.

More than two weeks later there is still no agreement, and maybe we will never get the joint statement, but there are councils already making mandatory vaccinations for employees covered by Public Health Orders, working in child care and other services, those classified as authorised workers and out and about on construction sites, and other areas of important local government work where services need to be provided but employees protected.

We have members as authorised workers, and for those who weren’t vaccinated already, we’ve provided links to a specialist and targeted vaccination regime for those workers who do need to be at work.

Universal vaccination is the only way to kill the virus once and for all. Members of our Committee of Management are either fully vaccinated or in the process of being vaccinated and we urge you to get vaccinated. And apart from anything else, like making sure your friends and family are safe, when it comes time to return to work, or to the office, the Council may not let you in unless you are.

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Three quick questions for the undecided

Three quick questions for the undecided 

Question 1          If you are going to be in the car with someone, would you rather they be vaccinated, or not?

Question 2          if you’re inviting a friend to a family gathering with your much-loved family and grandparents, would you rather they be vaccinated, or not?

Question 3          If you’re going to work, would you rather those surrounding you be vaccinated, or not?

Let’s face it, only someone with a death wish is going to choose the risk of the unvaccinated.

Building Commissioner targets the most dodgy private certifiers

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The Building Commissioner has announced they are after the “most risky” New South Wales Private Certifiers. In an article in the SMH on 30 August, the Herald reported “almost a dozen certifiers considered the “most risky” in NSW will be put under intense scrutiny by the state’s construction watchdog as it attempts to instil public confidence in apartment buildings following the Opal and Mascot Towers sagas two years ago.”

The NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler announced the regulator had begun audits of eleven of “the “most risky certifiers” linked to 59 building projects suffering the most number of defects in Sydney and centres such as Wollongong, Newcastle and Tweed Heads”.

These dodgy certifiers have been ordered to submit all details of projects which are nearing completion and the Herald reports the regulator “researched more than 36,000 documents to help decide whom to audit”.

What a pity the Building Commissioner hasn’t got the staffing and resourcing we called for when David Shoebridge’s Committee looked at this in 2019.  Or the sort of resourcing the Upper House Committee called for. Useful timing, given that there is another Upper House Committee, chaired by the inimitable and tenacious David Shoebridge, starting later in the year.

We can think of a good number of our favourite private certifiers who should be nervous. How do you have struck off certifiers still running businesses and employing other people to carry on their historic standards?

A mixed bag

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OLG Model Social Media Policy - consultation draft

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The Office of Local Government has released a model social media policy for consultation across the industry. They say it has been developed using “best practice from social media policies of a diverse range of NSW councils, as well as from Commonwealth and State Government agencies.”  The Draft Model Code is relevant for all employees, whether they use a council’s social media, or social media at work for private purposes (which we don’t recommend) or social media for private purposes at home, but may identify themselves as council employees.

We’ve seen it all as desktop computers took over the workplace in parallel with access to the Internet. People using common sense understood the benefits (and more importantly understanding and managing the risks) and foolhardy people using Council communication systems for a whole range of inappropriate purposes.

In those days, Sydney City had such difficulties with employees accessing porn and unacceptable images that they introduced a skin screening filter which stopped everyone circulating or receiving pictures of their family, the kids or their Mum.

There can’t be many more potentially distressing experiences for a union official than attending a meeting with the CEO, accompanying a member who had been given a “Show Cause” letter about why he shouldn’t be sacked because of his consistent breaching of guidelines, with a member who doesn’t quite get it. This is an opportunity the City provided in the past to metaphorically get down on your knees to save your job.

Patient schooling of the member before he threw himself at mercy of the CEO, encouraging him to explain how, while he was suspended over this, his wife had sent him to the other bedroom - and surely never to return. When you’re sprung, we all know it’s about contrition and acknowledgement. It’s one thing to expect that the member is going to do those things rehearsed but it’s another one when they surprise you and immediately say to the CEO, “come on, we’re all adult men here, aren’t we”... The idiot must’ve thought he needed to show cause why he should be sacked. He was.

And there were plenty of those experiences. Everyone has grown up a bit, everyone understands now that it’s the Council that owns the system, and you use it under their rules.

This Draft Code will be the rules across the industry. Submissions close this week but the OLG will accept late submissions, as long as it’s not too late. We will be submitting a submission of our own. An employee’s private use is found in Part 8 and submission or comments go to .

We think it may prejudice those of you who use LinkedIn, but this is a document worth reading and responding to the OLG. And quickly, too.

NSW Building Commissioner putting the frighteners on developers, and their certifiers

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If you go to the Office of the NSW Building Commissioner’s website, you will see a pretty bold call  that they are “Leading a once-in-a-generation reform of the design and building industry”. Considering the Office has been operating for only two years, with a handful of staff to start, their action and achievements so far are most impressive.

We’re always very interested in who was the Private Certifier for these jobs, something not easily found but normally known to our members as building certifiers in the relevant council area. As a plea, first of all, we’d be delighted to hear who the certifier was every time we hear the news of stop work or prohibition orders. Please let us know.

We don’t have a contact in the Office of the NSW Building Commissioner, we have no information at all about who works there, how they operate on site, whether they are ex-employees of local government and therefore probably, once upon a time, members of ours, how many of them there are, or how many of them there will be.

If you know, or are connected, please let us know.

If you click at the top of the page on the right-hand side on “Stop work, prohibition and rectification orders” you are taken to a clear demonstration of the Commissioner’s power to stop work, stop occupation certificates from being issued, or order rectification work to be done, in residential apartment buildings.

As a summary, there’s been only one Stop Work Order, on 8 July 2021 at Bellevue Hill, so someone at Woollahra could tell us about that.

There have been eight Prohibition orders since December 2020 covering Mascot (Bayside Council), Lindfield (Ku-ring-gai Council), Auburn (Cumberland), Asquith (Hornsby), Castle Hill (The Hills), Bellevue Hill (the same development where a stop work order was issued - Woollahra), Manly Vale (Northern Beaches) and Parramatta (Parramatta City).

There have been thirteen Building work rectification orders since November 2020, in the areas of  the councils listed above.

And one Enforceable Undertaking only last week in Castle Hill that, according to the SMH on 27 July (and prompted this article) reported on the Building Commissioner settling with the developer by providing an $11 million safety fund for faults, independent engineering monitoring of the basement for 10 years and the development’s owners’ corporation to receive a twenty year structural guarantee and a ten year commitment to rectify and pay for defects”.

Good job. Imagine what they could do with twice the staff.

More Articles ...

  1. How are the prestigious depa HR awards looking for 2021?
  2. Next issue
  3. Where’s Tim?  
  4. NCAT hears Ian Robertson v OLG
  5. Kiersten Fishburn appointed new Chief Executive of OLG
  6. A lesson for all councils from Bega Valley - you can’t make employees forfeit their rights to progression under the Award
  7. A lesson for all councils from Port Macquarie Hastings - you can’t make employees forfeit their rights to historic employment conditions under council policies
  8. Another variation of the Splinter Award for some dawdlers
  9. We’re in good company in our office in Five Dock
  10. Where’s Tim?  
  11. Covid 19 Splinter Award made for 2021 - and you can get vaccinated in worktime
  12. We make Parramatta rethink charging employees with leaseback cars for parking them in council car parks. Again.
  13. LGNSW disappoints on standard contracts
  14. Office of Local Government hacked by Russians
  15. Building Commissioner issues stop-work orders
  16. Welcome to 2021! Going to work? Going to the office?
  17. 2020 depa awards for the Worst HR in Local Government
  18. Thank you Margaret, and welcome Lyn
  19. That’s it for us
  20. Councillors behaving badly
  21. Transparency vs Confidentiality - a tale of two cities
  22. What’s Lyall been doing?
  23. Resourcing the NSW Building Commissioner
  24. Who has the worst HR in local government?
  25. Just as well we can play a long game
  26. depa v Narrabri Shire Council in historic Supreme Court victory
  27. Next month
  28. It’s the COVIDiots’ fault
  29. Things weren't quite going that well at Bayside
  30. NSW Industrial Relations Commission makes the 2020 Local Government State Award
  31. If the NSW Ombudsman comes to your Council to ask you questions, look out...
  32. “Shoebridge Committee” hands down final report
  33. Let the money flow!
  34. LG Professionals (sic) to the rescue!
  35. And some good news for old council certifiers
  36. The lucky group enjoying fewer constraints under COVID: developers
  37. Local Government State Award 2020 - are we there yet?
  38. Local Government Poseurs want to stand you down –
  39. COVID-19 update
  40. Something to balance all the bad news, we have a new Committee of Management
  41. Finally, something about us - it’s election time
  42. Sydney City can’t help being nominated for our HR awards
  43. Wake up, we’ve found a flaw in Building and Development Certifiers Act 2018 No 63
  44. “It will take two years to fix …”
  45. How are the award negotiations going?
  46. Just as well we can play a long game
  47. And that’s it for us this year
  48. Bumper holiday reading - 2019 depa awards for the Worst HR in Local Government
  49. Premier to announce “the simplest and most effective planning system in Australia”
  50. A word about wage theft
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