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May 18, 2014

Bank of England governor warns housing market is biggest threat to UK economy

Bank of England governor warns housing market is biggest threat to UK economy

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mark Carney in 2010.
Image: World Economic Forum.

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The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has warned that the state of the housing market in the United Kingdom is the current biggest domestic threat to the country’s economy, due to lack of house building, and regulatory issues.

In an interview to be aired on Sky News today, he said the housing market is the “biggest risk” to the economy and has “deep, deep structural problems”. Of house building he said: “There are not sufficient houses built in the UK. To go back to Canada, there are half as many people in Canada as in the UK, twice as many houses are built every year in Canada as in the UK and we can’t influence that.”

“We’re not going to build a single house at the Bank of England. We can’t influence that. What we can influence […] is whether the banks are strong enough. Do they have enough capital against risk in the housing market?”

Carney also said the Bank of England would look into the procedures used to issue loans and mortgages to see if they were being granted appropriately: “We’d be concerned if there was a rapid increase in high loan-to-value mortgages across the banks. We’ve seen that creeping up and it’s something we’re watching closely.”

Kris Hopkins responded to Carney on behalf of the government, saying the government “inherited a broken housing market, but our efforts to fix it are working”. “We’ve scrapped the failed top-down planning system, built over 170,000 affordable homes and released more surplus brownfield sites for new housing. We’ve also helped homebuyers get on the housing ladder, because if people can buy homes builders will build them. Housebuilding is now at its highest level since 2007 and climbing. Last year councils gave permission for almost 200,000 new homes under the locally-led planning system and more than 1,000 communities have swiftly taken up neighbourhood planning. It’s clear evidence the government’s long-term economic plan is working.”

Earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development called on the UK government to “tighten” access to the ‘Help to Buy‘ scheme introduced by George Osborne and the coalition government in 2013. ‘Help to Buy’ has also recently been criticised by three former Chancellors of the Exchequer — the Conservatives Norman Lamont and Nigel Lawson, and former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling. Darling said: “Unless supply can be increased substantially, we will exacerbate that situation with schemes like Help to Buy.”



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October 10, 2013

Spain sits near the bottom of OECD rankings on adult literacy and numeracy

Spain sits near the bottom of OECD rankings on adult literacy and numeracy

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

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Tuesday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a 34 member international economic organization founded in 1961 that traces its origins back to the World War II-era Marshall Plan, published results on the state of adult skills in 24 countries, most of them European. Spain finished near the bottom of all surveyed countries when it came to adult literacy and numeracy.

Internationally, Spain ranks second to last amongst surveyed countries for literacy proficiency amongst adults. Only Italy has a lower literacy proficiency amongst adults. Spain, at 20.3%, has one of the highest percentages of their population at reading proficiency level 1. This means adults have a basic understanding of what they read, can fill out forms, and can understand the meaning of sentences. When below level 1 is added, the total comes to 27.5% of the population at the lowest reading proficiency level. Overall, Spain’s mean reading proficiency score puts them on par with Italy. Amongst young adults aged 16 to 24 years, Spain ranks second to last amongst surveyed countries, with a mean score comparable to Italy, England, and Northern Ireland, and Cyprus.

Spain ranks last amongst all surveyed countries in numeracy proficiency amongst adults aged 16 to 65 years. The country’s mean score is comparable to Italy. When only 16 to 24 year-olds are included, Spain’s overall relative performance increases by two spots, as a result of beating out Italy and the United States. The performance of this age group is comparable to Ireland, Italy, England and Northern Ireland. Individual performance on numeracy and literacy correlates highly in Spain at 0.887.

The percentage of adults who have completed university in Spain is slightly under the global average for people aged 25 to 34 years, and significantly below average for people aged 55 to 65 years. Spain finishes near the bottom of surveyed countries based on reading skills required at work. Only the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Italy require less use of reading skills at work.

In 2010, roughly 50% of people in Spain had access to the Internet. From 2005 to 2010, there was an increase from around 25% to around 35% in the number of individuals using the Internet to interact with government in Spain. In the same period, business interaction with governments in Spain increased from about 55% to about 65%. Spain’s percentage of foreign-born residents rose from around 3% in 1995 to about 14% in 2009.

The results are based on a survey of 166,000 adults from Australia, Austria, Flanders, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, England, Northern Ireland, the United States, Cyprus, and Russia. They survey was conducted from August 2011 to March 2012, with the exceptions of Canada where data was colected from November 2011 to June 2012, and France from September to November 2012.



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October 9, 2013

Japanese adults rank high in literacy and numeracy in OECD survey

Japanese adults rank high in literacy and numeracy in OECD survey

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Members of the OECD
Image: Canuckguy and Emuzesto.

Yesterday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a 34 member international economic organization founded in 1961 that traces its origins back to the World War II-era Marshall Plan, published results on the state of adult skills in 24 countries, most of them European. Compared to other countries surveyed, Japan ranks as one of the best-performing surveyed countries in both literacy and numeracy.

Internationally, Japan ranks first amongst surveyed countries for literacy proficiency amongst adults. At the highest proficiency level, level 5, Japan is tied with Sweden and ranks as the fourth highest percentage of surveyed nations at 1.2%. Only Finland, at 2.2%, and Australia and the Netherlands, at 1.3%, are higher. Readers at this level synthesize text, compare and contrast ideas and points of view, and process information across multiple sources. Japan has one of the smallest percentages, at 4.3%, of their population at reading proficiency level 1. This means adults have a basic understanding of what they read, can fill out forms and can understanding the meaning of sentences. Amongst young adults aged 16 to 24 years, Japan ranks first amongst surveyed countries, with a mean score comparable to Finland.

Japan ranks first amongst all surveyed countries in numeracy proficiency amongst adults aged 16 to 65 years. When only people aged 16 to 24 years are looked at, Japan finishes third amongst surveyed nations with an average score comparable to Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, South Korea, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden, and the Flanders region of Belgium.

The correlation between individual performance on numeracy and literacy tests in Japan of 0.846 is below the surveyed average of 0.867.

In proficiency at problem solving, Japan finishes tenth amongst surveyed nations. Adults were allowed to opt out of using computers for this test, and Japan had the third largest percentage at 15.9% opting to do so.

The Japanese data said adult literacy skills did not impact on social inequality, and that literacy is not a barrier to social mobility. This contrasts to other countries like the United States where literacy skills correlate to social mobility.

The percentage of adults who have completed university in Japan is above the global average, particularly for people aged 25 to 34 years. Japan is also below the global average in terms of the percentage of the population who have not finished high school. Japan finishes in the middle of surveyed countries based on reading skills required at work.

The results are based on a survey of 166,000 adults from Australia, Austria, Flanders, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, England, Northern Ireland, the United States, Cyprus, and Russia. They survey was conducted from August 2011 to March 2012, with the exceptions of Canada where data was collected from November 2011 to June 2012, and France from September to November 2012.



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February 25, 2013

Britain loses AAA credit rating due to poor economic growth and continued austerity

Britain loses AAA credit rating due to poor economic growth and continued austerity

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Monday, February 25, 2013

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George Osborne: “Far from weakening our resolve to deliver our economic recovery plan, this decision redoubles it”.
Image: HM Treasury.

The US-based credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service announced on Saturday their decision to downgrade their rating of the United Kingdom economy from AAA to AA1 – stating that lack of economic growth and austerity continuing into 2016 are to blame.

Moody’s Investors Service said in a statement: “The main driver underpinning Moody’s decision to downgrade the UK’s Government bond rating to AA1 is the increasing clarity that, despite considerable structural economic strengths, the UK’s economic growth will remain sluggish over the next few years due to the anticipated slow growth of the global economy and the drag on the UK economy from the ongoing domestic public- and private-sector deleveraging process”.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the move to lower the credit rating was a “stark reminder” of the debt problems that the country is facing and that the government is planning to stick to it’s original deficit reduction plan. He went on to say “Far from weakening our resolve to deliver our economic recovery plan, this decision redoubles it”.

The British economy shrank by 0.3% in the final quarter of 2012 and output remained flat throughout last year – the economy would have to grow in the first quarter of 2013 in order to avoid a recession. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned George Osborne last month that he should slow down the rate of his deficit reduction and austerity programme if Britain entered a triple-dip recession.

The Labour Party has said that the government must reduce the number of spending cuts and focus on growth. Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: “This credit rating downgrade is a humiliating blow to a Prime Minister and Chancellor who said keeping our AAA rating was the test of their economic and political credibility.”



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  • “UK economy shrinks by 0.3% in fourth quarter of 2012” — Wikinews, January 25, 2013

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September 24, 2008

Economic opportunities for women still lagging: World Bank and OECD

Economic opportunities for women still lagging: World Bank and OECD

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

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In a recent study released by the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), economic opportunities for women are still lagging behind opportunities for men in the developing world. Improvements have been made in women health and education, according to the study.

It is estimated that $13 billion a year will be needed to improve economic opportunities for women

The study calls for investments totaling over US$13 billion a year to achieve gender equality and women empowerment.

Danny Leipziger, World Bank Vice President for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, said, “gender equality is key for poverty reduction and growth. Progress on women’s education is essential but not enough if we don’t improve women’s access to good jobs and credit lines, to land ownership and to income-generating activities.”

The study Equality for Women: Where Do We Stand on Millennium Development Goal 3? looks at the achievements made by the developing world as laid out by the Millennium Development Goals (MD). These goals are eight international development goals that 189 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. They include halving extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development.

Education has improved in 82 countries out of 122 and are on track to meet their MD goals. However, 19 countries, 13 of which are in Sub- Saharan Africa, are seriously off track to meet their target.

The United Nations will hold a conference on Thursday at the annual session of the UN in New York to discuss the Millennium Development Goals.



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April 5, 2007

OECD releases report on New Zealand\’s environmental performance

OECD releases report on New Zealand’s environmental performance

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released a report on the environmental performance of the New Zealand Government. Although the Government applauds the findings as vindicating its path to sustainability the report makes a wide range of recommendations in order to improve environmental performance. It calls for better protection of water, a clarification and strengthening of climate change policy, an upgrade of waste management and improvement environmental reporting.

The previous report was released in 1996 and a number of improvements have been noted. Thse include minimising harmful substances in agriculture and fisheries, improving drinking water, balancing social and environmental concerns and expanding protected areas.

It is part of a second cycle of peer reviewed reports on the OECD member countries.

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January 24, 2007

Economy center stage in French elections

Economy center stage in French elections

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Nicholas Sarkozy

French Presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to address what he calls the French “moral crisis… of work”. With unemployment for younger people running at alarming levels (15.5% in 2002 for those aged between 20 and 24 according to the OECD) and the memory of the 2005 riots still recent, Sarkozy promised to reign in government spending and implement tax policies that reward longer working hours.

Once a matter of pride, the 35 hour maximum working week is seen by Mr. Sarkozy as contributing to the sluggish growth of the French economy. In previous years France’s aversion to “anglo-saxon” economic and labour policies contributed to the rejection of the EU constitution in a referendum last year.

However, such views are now being challenged by the French right’s main Presidential candidate as he proposes to abolish tax on hours worked above the 35 hours limit as well as proposing to introduce new measures to increase share options for employees outside of the managerial elite.

File:Segolene royal.jpg

Ségolène Royal
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

As well as challenging France’s work ethic he is planning to roll back the boundaries of the State by adopting policies that will reduce the size of State organisations to allow for tax reductions in the hope of kick-starting the economy. The effect of his tax and spend reduction plans on state social provision has not yet been explained.

Reaction from Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal was immediate in describing his proposal as “scandalous” and that tax reductions on the richest on society would aggravate the already existing social divisions in the country. She argues that State spending on public services were essential at a time when such divisions existed in the country.

Mr. Sarkozy is currently pulling ahead in the polls one week after announcing his candidacy for the May poll.

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June 28, 2006

Anarchists clash with police during students\’ rallies in Athens

Anarchists clash with police during students’ rallies in Athens

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Greek police officers and police vehicle (archive photo).
Photo credit: Jimmy Harris

A left-wing student group clashed with Greek police in the centre of Athens during a demonstration organized by university students against new laws which have been proposed by the Greek Minister of Education, Marietta Yiannakou.

The conflict occurred as part of nation wide student protest against the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) attempts to eliminate state funded universities in Greece.

The most serious incidents occurred near the Athens’ Polytechnic and outside the Law School of Athens in the center of Athens where a small number of Anarchists wore masks, caused damage to cars, shops and private properties, and threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police.

Additional conflicts occurred outside the holiday resort of Lagonissi, around 45 kilometers south-east of central Athens, where the OECD is meeting.

Greek university students currently occupy more than 400 faculties across the country, including the two biggest universities of Greece, to protest the OECD’s proposals for privatization of universities.

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November 15, 2005

Hundreds of thousands rally in Australia against IR legislation

Hundreds of thousands rally in Australia against IR legislation

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

An estimated 150,000 protesters in Melbourne fill Federation Square blocking roads in all directions.

People rallied in 300 locations across Australia today to protest the Federal Government’s proposed changes to industrial relations laws, WorkChoices. According to police, around 150,000 people congregated in Melbourne, from where speeches were broadcast throughout the country. In Sydney, thirty thousand gathered in Belmore Park and Martin Place to watch the broadcast before marching to Chifley Square.

Sharan Burrow, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), said that under the changes many working conditions would be under threat, including “penalty rates, public holidays, overtime pay, control over rostered hours, shift penalties, even 4 weeks annual leave.” The government has claimed, despite various expert assesment to the contrary, and opposition from major Australian religious and charity organisations and some concern from its own backbench, that the IR changes will improve the economy and ultimately benefit workers, and dismissed the protests as having “little effect”.

Speeches

Ms Burrow said that the union movement was “standing up for the values that shape the way we care for each other,” and criticised the proposed legislation, calling it “an attack on living standards, community, family life and wages.”

The IR changes were also criticised by a number of church leaders. George Pell, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, said “I’m not a supporter of the radical weakening of the unions,” and Anglican Bishop Phillip Higgins called them “disturbing and unwise.”

Ms Burrow also criticised the Government’s public relations campaign, calling it a waste of money. “They spent $55 million of our money trying to convince us that everything was okay,” she said.

Greg Combet, Secretary of the ACTU, linked the struggle to past wars in which Australia has fought. “They fought and died in wars for this country. They do not deserve to have their rights taken away.” He said that, for many, workplace changes would come quickly, especially for the most vulnerable. He also argued that some employers would be forced by competition to reduce wages and working conditions. “Even the best employers can be driven by competition to lower their labour costs. We will end up with an army of working poor, like the US,” he said.

“We will hold the government to account for the human cost of these laws,” Mr Combet said.

Former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke said that the struggle was about what he called “the essence of Australian character – the fair go.” Opposition Labor leader Kim Beazley declared that if returned to government at the next election, Labor would repeal the legislation. “This legislation is gone with the election of a Labor government,” he said.

Government response

Prime Minister John Howard predicted that the protests would have little effect. “It is my view that after they (the laws) have been implemented for a period of time, most Australians will look back on the criticisms and objections … with a sense of bewilderment,” Howard said.

“The sky will not fall in, weekend barbecues will not be abolished, parents will still be able to spend Christmas Day with their children.”

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, echoed the Prime Ministers sentiments. “Well the Government’s not going to be distracted by rallies and hysterical overreaction,” he said. Mr Andrews defended the Government’s record, arguing that it has been responsible for an increase in wages over the past ten years.

“Well what I would say to Australians, whether they were the people on the streets today or the probably 95% of Australians who were in their workplaces today working, is that firstly, look at the record of this Government over the last 10 years. That record speaks for itself. We’ve seen a 15% increase in real wages and we’ve seen a 1.7 million increase in jobs in Australia,” he said. Mr Andrews also said that the industrial relations changes were about creating the conditions for a strong economy.

“So what we’ve been on about is bringing about the economic conditions that we can have a strong economy which ultimately is the only guarantee of jobs and wages in Australia.”

Debate over proposed legislation

The claims of the Government are highly debated and not supported by some independent expert assesment. Professor Mark Wooden from the Melbourne Institute said, “There is no economic sense in it.” A report issued by 17 independent experts in industrial relations from Australian tertiary institutions stated that there “is no convincing evidence that the proposals will generate jobs,” and that the “claim that individual contracts deliver a higher productivity is highly questionable.”

The IMF said in its 2005 review of the Australian economy that “the implementation of this package of reforms to widen employment opportunities and raise productivity by enhancing flexibility in work arrangements” was important for Australia’s economic future, contradicting Prof. Wooden’s claims.

The OECD also supports reform to the Industrial relations system, claiming in its 2004 Review of the Australian Economy “To further encourage participation and favour employment, the industrial relations system also needs to be reformed so as to increase the flexibility of the labour market, reduce employment transaction costs and achieve a closer link between wages and productivity.”

Melbourne protest

Melbourne, Australia 150,000 turnout for Protest

Before marching to the Carlton gardens, a live video hook-up was established between the major state capitals of Australia, plus smaller regional centres.

Melbourne’s city streets are denuded of traffic to allow the protest against IR reforms

According to police, some 150,000 marched from Federation Square to Royal Exhibition building to protest the proposed IR legislation and voice opinion, vastly in excess of original union estimates of 60,000. Organisers estimated a crowd up to 245,000 while a report from Sky News from aerial observation estimated 175,000 people attending the protest. The crowd spread through as far as the eye could see – a seemlingly endless mass from the ground. The march stretched eight city blocks; when the first marchers had reached the end at the Carlton Gardens, the tail end was just starting.

For the marchers, the consensus was that the negatives of the legislation outweigh the benefits; that it will affect the poorer working class and the middle class long into the future unless the legislation is rolled back. One issue of concern was that the Government has not accepted that the minimum wage needs to rise with inflation, rather its position appears to be to allow for the possibility that the minimum wage could fall in real terms. Another was the loss of the safety net protecting workers from contacts offering less than award conditions.

Public transport was stretched to capacity and car parking was almost impossible to find. Inclement weather ultimately became fine. See the photo gallery for more photos

Sydney protest

March proceeding through Sydney streets

At 10am the estimated 30,000 protestors moved from Belmore Park down Hay St onto George St, chanting slogans and waving union banners.

Led by a fire truck, traditional Korean drummers and the Unions NSW campaign bus, they stretched nearly six city blocks along George Street, chanting their opposition to the changes.

Meeting with the rally from Martin Place, the combined march then moved on to Chifley Square, where another stage was set up, and more speakers were heard, including Peter Garrett, Federal member for Kingsford-Smith.

Garrett spoke mostly about the dispute between Boeing and 28 aircraft engineers at its Williamtown site. The workers are on strike to obtain the right to enter into a collective agreement negotiated by their union, rather than independent agreements. The strike is now in its fifth month.

Up to 100,000 people in NSW took part in 227 separate stopwork meetings throughout the state, linked by a nationwide Sky Channel hook up. The M4 motorway was also blocked off for nearly an hour, by transport workers and police.

More photographs of the Sydney protest can be seen in the Australian Industrial Relations Protest (Sydney) Gallery.

Brisbane protest

In Brisbane, Queensland, organisers have claimed success after more than 15,000 people turned out to protest against the industrial relations laws. Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley joined the workers, including representatives from 40 unions, who rallied at South Bank before marching to the Queensland office of the National party.

Mr Beazley told the South Bank rally that one of the first things he would do as Prime Minister would be to put in place “a fair system”.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said the State Government will push ahead with its High Court challenge to the Howard Government’s proposed changes to industrial laws.

Rallies were also organised for the Gold Coast, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns.

Adelaide protest

In Adelaide, the SA Premier Mike Rann told a rally, estimated by police at 15,000 workers, that the State Government will fight the proposed new laws all the way to the High Court. “This is the most systematic attack on the values of Australian people that we’ve seen since the Second World War,” Mr Rann said.

SA Unions secretary Janet Giles was ecstatic with the response. “40,000 people in a city of one million . . . a sensational turnout. There are people here from every union, from all industries,” she said.

Adelaide images here

Perth

In Perth WA commuters experienced transport disruptions today as the city came to a halt for the Rally. Police estimates put the crowd at 10,000. UnionsWA secretary Dave Robinson told those assembled near the foreshore of the Swan River that it was a historic day. Premier Geoff Gallop, WA Employment Protection Minister John Kobelke and federal Labor industrial relations spokesman Stephen Smith also spoke at the rally.

The government earlier today revealed that Solicitor General Robert Meadows, QC, would lead WA’s High Court fight, mounted in conjunction with Queensland and NSW. Mr Kobelke said the action would seek to save 100 years of cooperative Australian industrial relations based on conciliation and arbitration. Perth images here

Other Cities

According to the ABC, 4,500 people rallied in the Tasmanian city of Hobart. Unions say 3,000 workers have rallied at Thoroughbred Park in Canberra. In Darwin, nurses, teachers, public servants, construction workers and entire families have turned out to show that not only workers will be affected by the Federal Government’s industrial relations reforms. Traffic blocked the roads leading the Fannie Bay Racecourse. Crowds jostled for space to see the satellite fed telecast from the Melbourne rally.

Wellington, NZ also showed solidarity as some 200 people demonstrated outside the Australian Embassy.

Photo Gallerys

Melbourne Gallery

Sydney Gallery

Related

  • “Thousands of Australian workers set to rally against IR reform” — Wikinews, November 15, 2005

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Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Australian industrial relations legislation, 2005
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Australian industrial relations legislation
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Wikimedia Commons has more media related to:
Hundreds of thousands rally in Australia against IR legislation
  • Samantha Baden. “30,000 march in city” — AAP, November 15, 2005 Cites 30,000 as Sydney crowd size
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