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.

August 2022 Guest speakers: Mary Yeager, Janine Kitson and Todd Pinkerton

We had an impressive lineup of three speakers, on the general topic of retired unionist groups and how to engage their membership.

Mary Yeager (Unions NSW). Mary worked with Todd Pinkerton on the Federal Marginal Electorates Campaign. She spoke about the value of retired unionists groups and is keen to learn more about how the Vintage Reds operates and the range of issues we get involved with, including State/ Territory and Federal elections. She sees real value in working at the local level and in getting more local VR type groups formed in many areas of Australia. Her current focus is on helping to organise groups in the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, and Robertson.

Janine Kitson (Combined Union Retirees) outlined the work she is undertaking with Mary to refresh and expand the scope of current and emerging retire unionists groups, and to get them to work in a more activist role.

Todd Pinkerton (Unions NSW) thanked the Vintage Reds members who were active during the lead up to the recent Federal elections, especially in the Gilmore and Eden-Monaro electorates. Unions NSW wanted to pursue engaging retired unionists groups in future union campaigns: promoting fair pay, job security and working conditions.

There followed a comprehensive discussion about what the VR had to offer, their campaigning experiences and what worked during the recent elections. Critical issues were raised including some historic information about campaigns in Eden-Monaro working for the 2007 ‘Your Rights at Work’ Campaign. That campaign was well resourced by the ACTU; in Eden-Monaro the ALP Candidate Mike Kelly was elected. It was important for VR activists not to represent a political party when campaigning with unions. A good letter writing campaign and door knocking worked well and gave the campaign more of a local presence – Kelly picked up 4 booths in Eden-Monaro that had not gone to the ALP in the previous election.

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July 2022 Guest speaker, John Falzon, on Homelessness

Homelessness in Albanese’s Australia

Dr John Falzon is well known, in particular for his role as national CEO of St Vincent de Paul from 2006 to 2018. He is a social justice advocate and a member of the Australian Services Union. A man of many talents; on this occasion he joined us to speak about the housing crisis. We also took the opportunity to discuss with him the election outcome.

photo: percapita.org.au

Homelessness is a topic which seems to confound the best and brightest of our policy makers and politicians. Here we post a link to John’s article from January this year, in Eureka Street online, “Homelessness is caused not by poverty but by wealth“.

…You can’t keep society going without working people. We’ve noticed that the people we tend to refer to as ‘essential’ are often actually amongst the lowest paid and the most insecurely employed. We’ve noticed that you can’t do public health if you haven’t ensured that people have safe housing. And that if we can’t expect someone who has just lost their job due to the pandemic to live below the poverty line on JobSeeker, then how can we expect anyone else to?

April 2022 Guest speaker, Tom Greenwell: Waiting for Gonski

Tom is an old friend of the Vintage Reds and we were delighted to hear him speak on his recent book (published last month) which he has co-authored with Chris Bonnor, Waiting for Gonski: How Australia Failed its Schools. (photo courtesy of Canberra Writers Festival)

Tom can be found online, remembering his feelings ten years ago: he was “caught up in the hope and optimism” of the Gonski review.

Here we must confess with regret that notes from this Vintage Reds meeting have not survived. In their absence, here are two reviews of this excellent book:

“There was plenty of excitement across the political divide when the Gonski review into educational funding was released in February 2012.

Led by businessman David Gonski, and commissioned by the then-Gillard Government, the review was designed to reform school funding and lift outcomes for less privileged students through a new needs-based funding model.

It contained 41 recommendations, including an increase of $5 billion per year to schools funding with one third of it to come from the Commonwealth, and a fairer funding framework, including a “per student” funding standard.

Ten years on, some are saying the Gonski review has failed and that, since it was commissioned, educational outcomes have gone backwards.

Anna Kelsey-Sugg, “The Gonski review promised fairer schools funding.
A decade on, these experts say it hasn’t been delivered“,
ABC News online, 28 Feb. 2022

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February 2022 Guest speaker, Roslyn Emmerick, ‘Advocacy for Inclusion’

Vintage Reds were happy to welcome Roslyn to speak on the Disability Royal Commission.

Advocacy for Inclusion is a grassroots advocacy group, located in the Criffin Centre in Civic, providing individual and systemic advocacy, and training services, for people with a disability.

Roslyn is working with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, as an individual advocate for people with disabilities to encourage and enable them to make a submission to the Royal Commission. She outlined how this works and some of the difficulties faced by those wanting to make their views, experiences and advice heard.

The Royal Commission started its work in 2019, has six Commissioners and grew out of evidence of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. The Terms of Reference are broad and the work has been extended to September 2023.

Roslyn’s presentation and her responses to questions were warmly received. There was some discussion about the overlap with the Aged Care Royal Commission.

Photo: Keegan Carroll, Canberra Times, July 2021: Advocacy for Inclusion policy officer Stacy Rheese, ACTCOSS head of policy Craig Wallace, Women with Disabilities ACT chief executive Kat Reed, & Mental Health Community Coalition boss Bec Cody.