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John Passant

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November 2014



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Deaths at work: from cricket pitches to building sites

Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes died at work. He was playing the game he loved at the Sydney Cricket Ground last week. A bouncer hit him in the carotid artery in his neck, killing him. It was a freak accident, so rare that there have only been one hundred reported cases in the literature ever.

Hughes’ death has been front page news in Australia and across the world. There will be a state funeral on 3 December.  Cricket Australia has, appropriately, and taking into account the players’ wellbeing,  postponed the first test against India, which was due to start this coming Thursday.

All across Australia, indeed across the world,  people have honoured Hughes’ memory. They have put their cricket bats out; had a minutes’ silence at games; retired junior cricketers at 63 rather than the customary 50 and other commemorations.

There has been discussion about the adequacy of current helmets to protect players and even of banning the bouncer.

The treatment of his death stands in contrast to the many other workplace deaths this year in Australia. On the day after Hughes’ death, building worker Jorge Castillo-Riffo died of ‘crush injuries to his head, neck and back [received] on Thursday morning after he became trapped between a scissor lift and a concrete slab above him,’ according to SBS news. No memorials, no outpourings of grief or outrage across Australia, no state funeral, no tears on TV for him from politicians or bosses.

Jorge is not alone. According to Work Safe Australia: ‘As at 18 November 2014, 159 Australian workers have been killed while at work [this year].’ Twenty four have been in the construction industry, well above the total to that date for 2013 of 15.

In November, building behemoth Grocon,  ‘pleaded guilty to a single workplace safety charge over a fatal wall collapse in Melbourne last year’, according to ABC News. That fall killed 3 passers-by.  Grocon was fined $250,000.

By contrast, the union covering building workers, the CFMEU, was fined $1.25 million for organising strong protests against Grocon over safety issues. The ACC is now pursuing the CFMEU for alleged secondary boycotts involving Boral during the Grocon safety campaign. If successful, this could result in the CFMEU being fined $10 million.

There have been no outpouring of grief from politicians, let alone the media, for the 159 workers killed at work. There is no Royal Commission into deaths on building sites or at work more generally. Rather there is one into unions and the clear aim of this kangaroo court is to hamstring unions, in particular strong unions like the CFMEU, from doing their job, including protecting workers’ lives.

When the Howard government set up the Australian Building and Construction Commission, deaths on building sites went up. Why? Because the ABCC threatened workers and unions taking action over safety issues with fines or jail.

According to the CFMEU:

Deaths in the construction industry increased, from 3.14 per 100,000 workers in 2004 [before the ABCC was set up] to 3.86 in 2005, 5.6 in 2006, 4.48 in 2007 and 4.27 in 2008.

Why the difference in the treatment of the death of Phillip Hughes and that of building workers? In a word, profit. Safety on building sites threatens the bosses’ profit. Cricket on the other hand, as a business, reinforces the profit system, and makes its protagonists well known and loved. Workers are generally not well known, (unlike very well paid cricketers) and are the bottom the heap for the ruling class and their media.

Let’s fight for a world in which everyone is safe at work. That means at its most basic more power to our unions, not less.



Comment from Catherine van WILGENBURG
Time December 1, 2014 at 9:34 am

A simplistic view. Indeed profit but also Heroic archetypes who feed the male national ego! A gorgeous young man full of promise – just imagine what he could have achieved for Australia as well as for himself and Macksville High School! Cricketer or soldier, heroes we need to be to get such national TV coverage, ex prime ministerial adulation, national and international sorrow! Also the shock and horror of the unpredictable, making us all vulnerable to the unknown, the unscientific, the wild random punch!

Comment from singletonengineer
Time December 1, 2014 at 9:56 am

I am actually pleasantly surprised to see those workplace death statistics – I had expected double that.

Do those Worksafe Australia figures include farming, in all of its shapes and sizes?

Do they include the three members of the public who died due to Grocon’s now famously under-designed wall?

Comment from John
Time December 1, 2014 at 10:58 am

Yes, Catherine, I agree. I have been prompted by other comments on this (on Facebook) to explore why we need heroes.

Comment from John
Time December 1, 2014 at 10:59 am

Yes, the 159 includes all industries. I’ll try to post their summary. Don’t know if the 3 killed at the Grocon PO site are included.

Comment from Peter Hindrup
Time December 1, 2014 at 2:42 pm

It seems that some people need ‘heros’, — though how a person who hits or kicks a ball is a ‘hero’ beyond me — just as some need their mythical friend.

Nor do I understand how a person in uniform, military, police, fire, etc, if killed is again, a ‘hero’.

Yet somehow a long distance truck driver. killed while driving is never a ‘hero’. Yet s/he does as vital a job as do any of the fore mentioned.

A person who takes a job which entails strapping on a gun each day,because they are killed in the carrying out of that job, is just a likely to have been a bloody fool as a ‘hero’.

What ought always be remembered is that anybody who straps on a gun each day is prepared to kill. We therefore have a self selected group who are very, very dangerous, and as such ought to be under nd very vigilant observation.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time December 1, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Yes, excellent points, John. Something also needs to be done about the relentless push for greater productivity from fewer and fewer workers, also poorly trained workers and those who don’t understand English. These are all drivers of workplace injuries and mishaps.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time December 2, 2014 at 9:55 am

I also recently heard that police officers are expected to purchase their own Kevlar vests at a cost of approximately $1000.

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