August 2023 Guest speaker: Lilia Anderson

Lilia is an Anne Kantor Fellow at the Australia Institute, currently working in the economics team.

She spoke on a range of current issues – stage 3 tax cuts, profit-push inflation, unemployment, and other labour market issues, with back-up from her colleague Jack Thrower.

This was a dynamic session, with a lot of slides to engage with, thoughtful presentation and analysis, and informed questions and commentary from the sizeable number of members present.

Here is just one slide to leave you wondering what is going on here:

To show our gratitude, our convenor, Garrett, gave both Lilia and Jack a beautiful Vintage Reds tea towel.

Lilia kindly sent links to a few important papers:

Here’s the press release for the July 2022 paper “Are Wages or Profits Driving Australia’s Inflation?” And the press release for the February 2023 paper Profit-Price Spiral.

Here’s a video explainer from Jim Stanford, and one by Greg Jericho.

Here’s the original profits vs wages explainer for the graph I showed, and another explainer video.

And last, there were a few questions about the gender pay gap. Here’s an article from Greg Jericho, “Yes, Australia’s gender pay gap is closing. But today’s working women will retire before it is fixed”.

You can sign up to receive the Australia Institute’s newsletter, here.

Refugees in Limbo: 10 Years of Trauma

Vintage Reds have always supported the Canberra Refugee Action Campaign, which has marked “Ten Years of Trauma”.

Ten years ago the Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd announced that from July 2013 anyone arriving by boat to seek asylum would never settle in Australia.

Thousands of people were detained in Nauru and in Papua New Guinea. Conditions were horrific, and there were fourteen deaths under this regime.

The Albanese government has still not changed Kevin Rudd’s policy: its recent decision to give permanent residence status applied only to those who arrived before July 2013.

At yesterday’s rally on Northbourne Avenue, Mostafa Azimitabar (“Moz“), an Iranian Kurd, spoke movingly of his experience while detained on Manus and in a Melbourne hotel. He was held by our government for 2,727 days in detention for no crime. Now he is in Australia on a temporary bridging visa. No permanent settlement.

On Manus Island, Moz had only coffee and a toothbrush to paint with. When he was released he made a self-portrait, “KNS088”, the number he was given instead of his name when he was a prisoner, and submitted it for the 2022 Archibald Prize, where it was chosen as a finalist. It is painted with coffee and acrylic paint.

Moz: “Life is very precious. Never give up.”

After ten years of trauma, it is time to end this cruelty. The Albanese government must grant permanent visas to all refugees, remove the ban on resettlement and end offshore detention once and for all. It is time to give those who have been stuck in limbo for up to a decade, a permanent home right now!

Canberra refugee action campaign

Letters to the Editor

Vintage Reds members are prolific and thoughtful contributors to the Canberra Times letters page, as well as other media organisations further afield.

Keeping a record of every one of these letters would be an onerous job; here is a recent selection, dealing with the Ghan, Robodebt, cluster bombs, and the Voice to Parliament.

This first letter was in response to an article by Malcolm Knox, ‘When you change the government you change the country’. Today, it’s the other way round”, published in the Canberra Times on 15 April 2023.

Canberra Times: 16 April 2023: Labor can end inequality and bring back the ‘fair go’

Knox’s article is profound. The increasing stress of uncertainty, loss of control, degradation of values, rampant acquisition, and the loss of maning and purpose are now th norm. Capitalism has foregone our sense of belonging, the need to care for one another. We have forgotten what it means to be human.

Judy nicholas, Kambah, ACT

SMH Traveller Letters: 7 July 2023: Shower with praise

After reading the article about the Ghan (Traveller, June 25) and the recent letter (Traveller Letters, June 17) suggesting that before one travels abroad first enjoy the wonder of the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth, that is what I did. I was then inspired to economy ride the Trans Siberian Rail Beijing to Moscow where I experienced great food, beautiful vistas and unforgettable cultural memories. However, one shower per carriage of 16 passengers proved challenging. I placed my name on the list outside the shower with my preferred time of day only to find interlopers frequently took my choice. The Ghan’s room, comfortable bed and own shower were definitely superior.

Judy Nicholas, Kambah, ACT

Next is a letter from our colleague Albert, with some text restored (it must have fallen on the editorial room floor) to give the full content and flavour of the inimitable White style:

Canberra Times: 12 July 2023: Cynical and ironic

[Surely the cynical] irony of the Royal Commission’s conclusions is that while top bureaucrats and politicians were sucking-up to PwC partners, [hence, vicariously, to billionaire, tax-evading, global behemoths,] the same cabal were mercilessly sacrificing Australia’s penuriously less fortunate to technology’s algorithms [(Robodebt ‘failures’ of APS, CT, 8 July, p.1/6)].

Albert White, Queanbeyan, ACT

Canberra Times, 18 July 2023: Do the right thing

I’m glad Albo has reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to the international convention against cluster bombs at the NATO summit. If the US cannot be persuaded to abide by the international rules-based order, Australia should seriously consider severing its ties with NATO.

Peter Ellett, Scullin, ACT

Canberra Times, 19 July 2023: Compassion is genius

Albert Einstein was concerned with the great social issues of the day.

The unwritten laws of the Jim Crow era were enforced by the lynching of any African American who refused to obey them. In 1946 Einstein joined the American Crusade Against Lynching, resulting in criticism from anti-Semites and an investigation by the FBI.

[“Be a voice and not an echo”], Einstein’s plea to his fellow Americans to join him in fighting lynching, is eerily relevant in today’s Australia.

Australians have a choice. We can be a Voice for reconciliation, tolerance and unity. Or we can echo the hateful rubbish put out by ultra-conservative commentators on pay TV and their acolytes on social media.

Noel Baxendell, Holt, ACT

Canberra Times, 20 July 2023: Who are we?

If we don’t support the Voice to Parliament, what kind of country will we be?
If we don’t pass this referendum, there will be despair in the hearts of many people.
People like the respected Elder Pat Anderson, who is exhausted from begging for things to be done differently:
“…every time there is a change in government; a change in minister… a new head of department…We have to sit down and go painfully over everything all again … we are going back to ground zero every single time.”

The Voice is a small thing but whatever its form, it will not divide us, it will enrich us.

The dreadful figures on aboriginal people’s lifespan, health, family trauma, are all indicative of one thing: we are not doing things right in this country.

The Voice is a gift from Aboriginal people to the rest of us, a chance to be a better country.

How will you feel if the No vote wins? We will look like the very worst of us, a backward leaning, frightened people, easily persuaded by cynical and organised and deliberate attempts to confuse us.

We are better than that.

Please, for all of us, vote Yes to the Voice.

A. A. Gunn, O’Connor, ACT

Launch of “YES 23”

On the first day of NAIDOC week, Sunday 2 July 2023,
Salthouse Community Centre, Ngala Windbreak, Canberra

The Australian trade union movement is unequivocally supporting the Yes campaign for the upcoming referendum on a first nations Voice.

There were politicians, federal and local, and of course a fair number of union members past and present, in the crowd this morning in Braddon. We were treated to an impressive line-up of speakers, beginning with Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Violet Sheridan, and including another well-known Canberran, our 2023 Canberra Citizen of the Year, Katrina Fanning.

Katrina was also the ACT’s 2020 Australian of the Year, her many years working in government and indigenous affairs recognised when she was awarded a Public Service Medal in 2015. She is currently a director at Coolamon Advisors, which supports the design, management, delivery and evaluation of government policy and programs, particularly in indigenous areas.

Speech by Katrina Fanning AO PSM

Katrina spent quite a few years playing rugby, including with the Junee Diesels (aged 10), and later 26 appearances for the Australian women’s team, the Jillaroos (including two World Cups), and she was unwilling to risk her knees getting up onto the speaker’s rock. So in this photo she is almost invisible in the sea of people who had come out on a cold winter’s morning to support the launch of the “YES 23” campaign.

Katrina acknowledged the Ngunnawal people, traditional owners of the land we met together on.

She thanked the many hundreds of people in the audience for coming to support YES 23.


I am a Wiradjuri woman from Junee NSW. I have had the pleasure of living here and being part of the Canberra community for more than thirty years.

I am voting YES to the referendum.

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June 2023 Guest speaker, David Lee: AUKUS & the Quad, and where they take us

Garrett welcomed David, a former long-time member of the Dept. of Foreign Affairs & Trade, and now at the University of NSW Canberra (ADFA).

David unfurls his complimentary Vintage Reds tea towel
(blurry photo by an anonymous member).

David’s most recently published article ties into today’s talk: “AUKUS and the Labor Tradition: Has Albanese completed or betrayed the Curtin tradition?”, one of seven articles dealing with AUKUS in Arena Quarterly, no.14, June 2023.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, “Quad”, began in 2007 as a security agreement between Australia, India, Japan and the US. The agreement was seen as a diplomatic and military counter to China. Kevin Rudd distanced himself from it; but Malcolm Turnbull reestablished it.

Now we have AUKUS, a product of the Morrison government. $368 billion has been allocated by Australia to the AUKUS deal over three decades. This will get us eight nuclear-powered submarines and various side benefits.

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Quite a lot has changed over the Covid years, including at UnionsACT, where Vintage Reds is an affiliate. Here is a brief look at the people who are leading the fight for improved working conditions and a better life for us all.

Kasey Tomkins is the UnionsACT Secretary. She has a background with United Voice (now the United Workers Union). She worked in childcare and had planned to train in midwifery, because her wages were so low, before making the leap into union work. Kasey took over at the end of last year from Matthew Harrison, who visited Vintage Reds meetings on a number of occasions.

Photo from UnionsACT: Kasey with activists, including some Vintage Reds, in 2018

Maddy Northam, President of UnionsACT, is the regional Secretary of the CPSU. She stood last year as Katy Gallagher’s running mate in the federal Senate election, and earlier in 2020 was a Labor candidate in the ACT elections in the seat of Kurrajong.

Former UnionsACT Secretary Alex White (2014 – 20) is now working with the ACTU as its Director of Growth.

Many people will remember Jeremy Pyner, former Secretary of UnionsACT (1994-2002), or the Trades and Labour Council as it was in his day. He began his union life with the Building Workers Industrial Union, on the fully unionised Parliament House site in 1986. Jeremy is unfortunately no longer with us; after a long struggle with his health, he died in November 2022.

Kate Lundy, ACT TLC President until 1995 when she was given first spot on Labor’s ACT Senate ticket, started her working life in the construction industry and is another who rose from the ranks of the BWIU. Her time in government led her to the world of information and communications, and she now sits on several boards of directors including as head of the board at the Canberra Institute of Technology.

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Vote Yes! to the Voice

Find out what is happening in the campaign for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

A good place to start, or to recap what you know, is the ABC’s page, “What is the Indigenous Voice to Parliament? Here’s how it would work and who’s for and against it“.

Meanwhile, the list of organisations which have come out in support of a Yes vote continues to grow. Individual unions as well as the ACTU; First Nations Workers Alliance; sporting federations (the NRL first off the line); migrant and cultural community organisations; the list gets longer each day, most recently Qantas adding its name.

The federal government has been busy putting out information for language groups apart from English – you can listen to an explanation of the referendum process in Chinese, Farsi, or Greek, etc., but also in Northern Territory Kriol, or Warlpiri, or Yolngu. Have a listen! It’s a sign of the determination being brought to this campaign, to get everyone on board.

Once we know what’s at stake, we can make a better choice – and vote Yes!

The PM & the hard-working Referendum Working Group
(from a photo by Mark Moore, ABC News, late May)

April 2023 Guest speaker, Frances Crimmins, CEO of Canberra YWCA

Vintage Reds were happy to welcome Frances Crimmins once again to speak to us. She has been the CEO of YWCA here since 2013.

Frances addressed the group on the increase in the numbers of older homeless women. The YWCA turns away many women, as they have no way of coping with the numbers experiencing homelessness. Many are victims of domestic violence and poverty, and like many other homeless people, are accommodated temporarily in the homes of relatives, couch surf with friends, sleep in their cars (some with children).

The YWCA has a strong advocacy role, are pushing for increases in social housing, and are working on lifting pay for the community sector after they had a freeze on funding.

Their focus is on the “missing middle housing.” Their Ainslie housing project will be completed in December. Frances noted that both the Commonwealth and ACT Governments plans for increased social housing are extremely inadequate and will not meet the demand. She also note that the Federal Government’s National Housing Plan will be released before the next election.

The meeting discussed issues affecting housing supply, the exorbitant cost of buying and renting housing.

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March 2023 Guest speaker, Adam Mayers

Modern Cuba and the Southern Cross Brigade

Adam is the National Coordinator of the Southern Cross Brigade. The Brigade is linked to the Australian-Cuba Friendship Society, and has been visiting and working with local Cuban people since 1980. Adam visited Cuba with the Brigade last December – January, and gave an excellent talk about the country’s history. It is not often we get the latest on Cuba and his talk was much anticipated.

The Spanish more or less wiped out the Indigenous population along with their languages. They ruled from 1492 until 1898 when the USA took after during the Spanish-American war.

Adam covered the Cuban Revolution in 1953, and the blockading of Cuba following Castro’s success in fighting for independence 1959, as well as how Cuba is surviving today, and the main issues impacting Cuba now.

He alerted the meeting to the Cuban Latin Fiesta on April 1st, beginning at 6.30pm at the St James Church in Curtin. All were invited to attend and the funds go towards development projects in Cuba.

December 2022 Guest speaker, James McDonald

The Frontier Wars in Canberra

Dr McDonald gave an illuminating presentation to this last gathering of the Vintage Reds for the year. He is an historian of ancient Greece, and has also published on Canberra’s pastoral history (see his article, “A good sheep station ruined“).

[photo: courtesy of The Greek Herald online]

He discussed how Canberra historians have written about the Canberra region, including their claims that there was no problem in the area in terms of massacres. However, this is clearly incorrect. There were mass killings and rapes in the Canberra region during a sort of guerrilla war. For example James Ainslie boasted about killing and shooting a lot of Aborigines.

In 1890-94 influenza killed a lot of Indigenous people, decimating what was already a small population.

James has published his work on this subject, “Canberra and the Frontier Wars“, in the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, no.108, Part 1 (Jun 2022). VR members may ask the convenor for a copy.