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.

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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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.


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.

July 2021 Guest speaker, Dhani Gilbert, on NAIDOC Week

Jane T introduced Dhani Gilbert, an indigenous activist and 2018 Young Canberran Citizen of the Year, who was also more recently named the 2021 ACT Young Woman of the Year. She spoke on the significance of NAIDOC Week.

photo: 2020, HerCanberra

Dhani is a Kalari Wiradjuri woman from central New South Wales. In this part of the country the main river systems are the Lachlan [Kalari], the Macquarie [Wambuul], and the Murrumbidgee; and then further south, the Murray [Milawa]. Dhani spent her childhood living on these traditional lands, and at the Tent Embassy in Canberra. Both her parents are activists and Dhani considers she has activism in her DNA!

Dhani is currently studying at the ANU, in her second year of a double degree in Science and Environmental Sustainability. She is also undertaking a certificate course in Indigenous Culture and Language through Charles Sturt University in Wagga. In her spare time, she is the co-chair of the Aboriginal Youth Advisory Council in the ACT!

This year’s theme for NAIDOC is “Heal Country”. Dhani discussed First Nations ways of caring for country. Theirs are the best ways to manage the Australian landscape. Certain landscapes require particular inputs to thrive. The goal was to work within the landscape to maintain the ecology, especially the rich fauna. Dhani spoke of ‘cultural burning’ vs ‘hazard reduction’ and bushfire, as an example of traditional management of country. ‘Cultural burning’ is a ‘cool burn’ which preserves seeds, allows for green shoot regeneration and provides escape routes for animals. Bushfires are ‘hot burns’, destroying all before them and providing little means of escape for animals, and little feed for those animals which do survive. Like the land, Dhani noted that First Nations people have a lot of resilience.

Dhani spoke of ‘seven generations planning’ – important in today’s decision making, as decisions made today will impact seven generations down the line – good or bad.

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