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Industry woes linked by EBA questions

It seemed like a good idea at the time: blame the trade unions for Holden leaving Australia and for the Abbott government’s decision to reject a $25 million plea from SPC Ardmona.

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But Treasurer Joe Hockey pushed the argument over the edge this week when he revealed details of a private meeting he had with Toyota’s Australian president Max Yasuda in December.

Hockey let it be known the car maker was “very concerned” about the employment conditions and union militancy at its plant in Melbourne.

Toyota was having none of it, issuing a statement a few hours after Hockey made his comments. It had never privately or publicly blamed the union for its decision to quit making cars in Australia from 2017, the company insisted.

It said there was no single reason for the decision to close its local manufacturing operations.

Labor and the unions, unsurprisingly, seized on the difference, casting it as proof the government is waging a campaign against manufacturing workers.

But the government is not on its own in suggesting the unions have to shoulder some of the blame for Toyota’s decision.

Industrial relations consultant Grace Collier, who spent eight years in the trade union movement, reckons Toyota is leaving Australia because it knows there is no hope of changing its “terrible” enterprise bargaining agreement.

And the company must share some of the blame, along with the trade unions because, she argues, it locked itself into a substandard, expensive and restrictive agreement many years ago.

“It was a pay-off to the unions for getting it taxpayers’ money,” Collier said in the immediate aftermath of Toyota’s decision to quit Australia.

Like Hockey and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, she is also scathing of the enterprise bargaining agreement SPC struck with its workers, saying the ailing fruit processor’s management had lost its leadership position.

The unions had been allowed too much control and were now in the driver’s seat.

“Until there is major change the business is doomed; the union will drive it into the ground.”

Qantas boss Alan Joyce faced a similar situation in 2011 before he controversially grounded the airline during a long-running dispute with unions over the outsourcing of jobs, and pay and conditions.

Coincidentally, Joyce was in Canberra this week talking to government MPs about the company’s future. He said that taking on the unions was part of a transformation that reduced unit costs by 20 per cent over four years.

He also defended his decision to ground the airline, saying it was necessary to make sure that Qantas was not locked into industrial arrangements that would prevent it from modernising.

And he flagged more hard decisions for the airline in the future.

“Few of the decisions we make will be popular,” Joyce warned.

Collier also laments the influence of trade unions in the construction sector, where “jump-up” clauses in EBAs are used to set and control high wage levels on all big projects.

Independent contractors wanting to win contracts on those projects are required to pay their own employees the same rates big construction companies negotiate with the unions.

The sector is in strife because it is rife with businesses telling other businesses what they have to pay their staff, Collier argues.

All the big employers are union compliant and use their commercial power to force their sub-contractors to comply.

“Our entire construction sector runs on the basis that employers collude with unions to price fix labour and impose that price fixing on other businesses,” Collier says.

The end result of this routine price fixing was that consumers and the taxpayer pay too much for apartments, hospitals and roads.

Boral boss Mike Kane knows a thing or two about the power of the construction union.

His cement company is collateral damage in a spat between the CFMEU and builder Grocon group in Melbourne.

Since the middle of 2012, the union had run an orchestrated and very costly campaign against Boral, Kane said this week.

“We have refused to give in to demands by the union that we stop doing business with one of our long-standing clients.”

As a result of what Kane says is an unlawful secondary boycott, Boral’s trucks have been stopped and its workers harassed and threatened.

“Many of our clients in Victoria have had a friendly visit from union officials essentially warning them not to do business with us,” he wrote in the Australian Financial Review this week.

On many occasions, Boral trucks turned up at sites and had been barred from carrying on their lawful business by “union heavies” at the gates, supposedly on health and safety grounds, he says.

“It also means there are many other occasions where we have simply missed out on work because our traditional customers don’t want to take on the union,” Kane says.

Boral estimates the union campaign has cost the company more than $10 million in lost sales and legal fees as it battles the CFMEU in court.

CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan declined to comment on Kane’s claims because the matter is before the courts, but he did take a swipe at Abbott and Hockey for blaming over-generous EBAs for the problems at Toyota and SPC Ardmona.

He noted both companies had refuted the claims.

“I won’t call them a liar, because those companies already have,” he said.

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Police called to inspect Wolf Creek body

The dead bodies of Wolf Creek 2 are so realistic that police were called to investigate “murders” at makeup effects artist Rick Connelly’s home.

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It was 3am when Rick, who runs Connelly Make-up FX Team with his wife Charmaine, arrived home from the Wolf Creek 2 set one morning. With him, were the dismembered body parts they created for one of the movie’s victims, but he decided it was too late to haul them up to his unit.

“I thought I’d leave it until after I woke up,” Connelly says.

When he did, it was quite a sight for North Adelaide locals.

“Carrying these limbs and bags with bits of limbs hanging out, someone saw me and phoned the police,” he says.

“I had banging on the door and four or five police officers saying there’s a report of me carrying body parts.”

Connelly had to invite the officers in and show them the bloody limbs.

“They said congratulations – it looks so real that someone phoned us … I could have done without it, but it was a good compliment.”

It’s the second time it’s happened to Connelly. During the making of 2006 film Jindabyne neighbours thought a body on the back deck of their hotel room was first a nude bather and then a dead person.

On average, it takes about two months to create a body. More, if they’re making a detailed duplicate of a person, like they did with Sam Worthington in croc horror flick Rogue.

While having fake bodies around doesn’t scare Connelly, because he’s knows they’re made of rubber and foam, he says it can affect the actors.

“One of the actors, who we duplicated for Wolf Creek 2 and he kind of loses his head, there was a report that he didn’t sleep that well after he saw that scene being shot, because he saw himself and he didn’t connect that it was just a prop,” he says.

Coming up, Connelly will hopefully continue making babies in bellies for TV series Offspring, but always jumps at the opportunity to work with director Greg Mclean.

Wolf Creek 2 marks their third collaboration together (after Rogue and Wolf Creek) and the director certainly kept him busy this time.

“I wasn’t sure if they were going to go for an MA15+ rating or an R+ rating, because there’s a lot of gory stuff in this,” he says.

“A lot more than the first movie.”

* Wolf Creek 2, rated MA15+, is released in Australian cinemas on February 20.

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Blues batsmen in control at SCG

Scott Henry and Kurtis Patterson fell agonisingly short of posting centuries but have still powered NSW into a strong position in their Sheffield Shield clash against Victoria at the SCG.

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At tea on day two, the Blues are 7-348 to lead on the first innings by 130 runs.

Henry missed out on his maiden first-class ton when he was bowled by Dan Christian for 92 having put on a potentially match-defining 117-run stand with Patterson.

Following the early departure of Ben Rohrer (34) on Thursday with NSW resuming at 2-128, left-hander Patterson came in and lifted the run-rate for the Blues.

He hit 12 fours and a six in his innings before being caught at slip by Cameron White off the bowling of Clint McKay for 94.

Patterson also put on 54 with skipper Peter Nevill, and the captain has since gone on with the job to be 34 not out at the break as he tries to lift the first-innings advantage for his team.

John Hastings (3-48) has been the pick of the bowlers for Victoria, knocking over Trent Copeland and Sean Abbott in quick succession to expose the NSW tail before tea.

Victoria are languishing in last position on the Shield ladder following the Big Bash League break, and desperate skipper Matt Wade has so far used eight bowlers.

A big opportunity was missed when Henry was 79 not out as White and Aaron Finch watched a nick fly between them in the slips.

Young Victorian spinner James Muirhead (0-47), picked in Australia’s squad for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, has gone for more than seven runs an over, with NSW keen to solidify their second-place position on the Shield ladder.

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Footballer turned soldier awarded 100th VC

If not for injury, Australia’s 100th Victoria Cross recipient, Cameron Baird, could have been a professional footballer.

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Instead, he became one of Australia’s bravest and most decorated soldiers.

His bravery and self-sacrifice was recognised on Thursday with the announcement that he would posthumously receive the nation’s highest award for gallantry.

Corporal Baird, 32, died as he assaulted an insurgent-held compound during a special forces mission in the Khod Valley in Afghanistan’s Oruzgan province on June 22 last year.

He was the 40th Australian to die in Afghanistan, the fourth awarded the VC and the first posthumously since Vietnam.

He was also a very humble person who shunned the limelight and would have seen this not as an award to himself but as recognition of all his fellow soldiers, his brother Brendan told reporters.

“As a loving family this is a bittersweet moment as Cameron is no longer with us but we are honoured to have him recognised in this way and through him, all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their beloved country,” he said.

“Lest we forget. Without Warning,” he concluded.

Without Warning is the motto of the 2nd Commando Regiment.

Cpl Baird’s father Doug said he was an outstanding sportsman and junior footballer for the Calder Cannons and could have been drafted by an AFL club if not for a shoulder injury.

So Cameron Baird joined the army at 18, serving with the 4th Battalion (Commando) – now the 2nd Commando Regiment – in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.

During his second deployment to Afghanistan in 2007, he was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for bravery during a close-quarters fight with insurgents.

Following his death last year in his fifth tour, Defence revealed scant details beyond that he was shot and killed during a Special Operations Task Group operation.

Full details of his VC action won’t be disclosed until Governor-General Quentin Bryce reads the official citation when she confers the award on his parents next Tuesday.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott revealed some details to a packed House of Representatives chamber on Thursday.

It occurred as Commandos attacked well-defended enemy positions in the village of Ghawchak.

Cpl Baird charged enemy positions, destroying them with grenade and rifle fire.

“By drawing fire on himself, repeatedly, he enabled other members of his team to regain the initiative,” Mr Abbott said.

In the second phase, he led an assault on an enemy compound.

On separate occasions under heavy fire, he forced the door from a building.

Twice he withdrew to reload and to clear his rifle.

“For the third time he entered the building drawing fire away from his comrades who were able to secure the objective. Tragically, he was killed in this final assault,” he said.

Mr Abbott cited the accounts of two comrades, both probably used to support the VC recommendation.

“Corporal Baird’s initiative, fearless tenacity and dedication to duty in the face of the enemy were exemplary; an absolute inspiration to the entire team. I was witness to the ultimate sacrifice,” said one.

“His repeated attempts to attack that room with six insurgents inside was the bravest event that I have ever seen, in my experience, on two tours as a commando,” said the other.

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Australian insurers offering wedding cover

Worried about your wedding dress being damaged before the big day, your cake supplier going bust or your wedding day being rained out? There’s insurance for that.

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With the cost of the average Australian wedding reaching $54,000, brides and grooms are increasingly taking out insurance.

The products insurers are selling protect the wedding party against such events as severe weather, the bride or groom being struck down with a sudden illness, loss of wedding documents and damage to gazebos, staging, flooring, chairs, tables and so on.

Some products will also protect the bride and grooms’ home contents while away on their honeymoon if the home is burglarised and their wedding gifts are stolen.

Sejal Patel, who moved to Australia from England three years ago, spent about $200 on insurance to cover her destination wedding in Thailand in April.

“In England there’s insurance for everything – wedding insurance is much bigger,” says Patel, who is preparing for her wedding in Phuket.

“I probably got it because of the large cost of the wedding and I’d heard of it. I assumed it was the normal thing to do.

“In Thailand we have the hotel where we are having the wedding and there are multiple suppliers, so in case anything goes wrong we want to be covered.”

“We were also thinking about weather and if something happens to the hotel before we get there we’d need to be covered.”

The insurance is currently offered by a small number of Australian companies.

Online company ourweddinginsurance广西桑拿,广西桑拿网,, which is underwritten by AIG Australia Ltd, details on their site what type of scenarios they cover.

“Cake maker goes out of business. Wedding cake cannot be made. Wedding insurance pays the out of pocket expenses in reordering a new wedding cake.”

Other scenarios include the bride tearing her dress, for which the insurance would cover the repair cost, the groom being struck down with food poisoning so the insurer pays the costs involved in rearranging the wedding day, and the photographer losing the photos, which would mean the insurer would cover the cost of a re-shoot.

But if you’re thinking of taking out insurance to cover your big day, like all insurance, you need to read the small print thoroughly. For instance, if you purchase your insurance in Australia, many products will only cover weddings held in Australia.

And cancellation costs incurred by either the bride or groom deciding not to go ahead with the wedding will not be paid.

“It doesn’t cover you if you change your mind – only if something goes wrong,” Patel laughs.