The first truck attempting to enter a major Coles distribution centre in Melbourne’s north has been blocked by a picket line of about 200 striking workers this morning.
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The warehouse staff work at Coles’ national distribution centre in Somerton, with their employment outsourced to the Toll Group.

Police are at the scene in case of violence.

The Coles facility is one of the largest warehousing sites in the country, and only one of two national distribution centres in the supermarket’s network.

It is likely the workers will attempt to stop all freight vehicles trying to enter or leave the distribution centre today.

The National Union of Workers represents the warehouse employees.

State secretary Tim Kennedy said Coles, by outsourcing its major Melbourne warehouse to Toll, was refusing to give employees the same conditions enjoyed by other workers at Coles centres around Australia.

Toll Group spokesman Christopher Whitefield said the company would “continue to balance the needs of the business to remain competitive within the industry”.

‘‘What we have here at Somerton is a situation where these workers are not treated equally in comparison to other Coles warehouse facilities that supply Coles Supermarkets,’’ Mr Kennedy said in a statement.

‘‘If a Coles shift worker in a Coles Warehouse gets paid a shift loading… then Toll shift workers doing exactly the same work in a Coles warehouse supplying Coles supermarkets should also be paid a shift loading.’’

About 600 staff work at the Somerton warehouse. Their enterprise agreement expired last week.

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A huge crash between two semi-trailers on the West Gate Freeway has reportedly caused incoming traffic on the freeway to standstill.
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WATCH: Live traffic cam

Up to a dozen cars have also been sidelined on the freeway due to the crash, which occurred between the Shell service station and Bolte Bridge, radio station 3AW is reporting.

VicRoads says two right-hand lanes of inbound traffic have been blocked just after the Bolte Bridge exit due to the collision.

Emergency services are on site and CityLink are on the way to the scene.

Traffic is heavy from as far out as Millers Road, Altona.

Drivers are being advised to allow extra time if travelling through the area.

A VicRoads spokeswoman said that the crash was likely to cause dramas throughout the morning.

‘‘It’s going to take a while to clear and delays are already back past the (Western) Ring Road,’’ she said.

Cameras along the West Gate Bridge show the banked-up traffic and the trickle through on the other side but do not show the actual crash site.

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Talk over whether to preference one party or the other cannot mask the need for an army of volunteers to hand out the how-to-vote cards, knock on doors or fold campaign letters – jobs that so often go to the young.LABOR hopes to prove a modern twist on an old political saying – not to be a Green at 20 is proof of a want of heart; to be one at 40 is proof of want of head.
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This battle for youthful activism is one of many subtexts behind this latest outbreak of animosity between the ALP and the Greens, a frustration over ”cannibalising the progressive vote” as members at the Labor branch meetings grow ever greyer, ever smaller.

All this muscling up in recent days over whether to preference one party or the other cannot mask the need for an army of volunteers to hand out the how-to-vote cards, stand at polling booths, knock on doors or fold campaign letters – jobs that so often go to the young.

A 2010 book by former NSW state Labor minister Rodney Cavalier catalogued more than 100 branches closed over a decade, while opinion polls show growing regard for the Greens among under 40s and Labor elders lament losing a generation of activists to the Greens.

”There is no doubt the Greens do well with youth,” says Michael de Bruyn, president of the Victorian branch of Young Labor.

”But I don’t think they capture the politically active, but more people who are politically apathetic.”

A protest, in other words, rather than a policy platform.

Mr de Bruyn, 26, is of good Labor stock.

His father, Joe, is a powerful trade union boss, who wasn’t always happy to see his son active in politics rather than focused on his university studies.

But Michael de Bruyn joined Labor at 18 and sees the Greens as a fad people will outgrow, similar to the rise of populist activists groups, such as GetUp!, whom he thinks cheapen ”political engagement to the click of a mouse”.

”Flashy stunts, knowing they will never have to govern 20 million people or appeal beyond a narrow base,” he said.

Yet unsurprisingly, Greens disagree, and polls show the experience of two years in minority government has been kind to the junior party, whereas for Labor, it has been scarifying.

”It is not only the Labor vote spilling to the Greens, it’s Labor members spilling to the Greens,” says Johnathan Davis, a 20-year-old real estate agent and soon-to-be Greens candidate in upcoming ACT elections.

Dispelling myths is one of the challenges Mr Davis sets for his party, but he is dismissive of Labor attempts to brand the Greens as extremist, saying the old workers’ movement should focus on its own identity.

Josh Wyndham-Kidd, 21, believes the galvanising moment for the modern Greens in Australia came during the Tampa episode, when Bob Brown, then a lonely senator, slammed the collaboration of both parties to curb the rights of asylum seekers. This same old debate around refugees is driving the present angst.

”Me and my friends have never needed to vote Labor,” he says, ”the Greens have always been there to represent our interests.”

Political engagement is changing, but the Greens cannot claim a monopoly. Labor is adapting, networking, reaching new members. And this is taking place in spite of a general malaise about political leadership.

”What we’ve seen is that in the last two years, we’ve picked up a lot,” says Michael Buckland, NSW Young Labor president.

This year the youth wing has recruited 500 people to the Labor Party since the first week of university classes, he says, and will take 80 volunteers to the state conference to help smooth the running.

The trick to reaching out to a younger membership is to break away from the stale old branch structures, with regular dull meetings running late in the evening.

”I don’t think people have the time to do that,” Mr Buckland says.

”It’s not fun. It’s not as simple as that, and it’s not the way they do their politics.”

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Australian history of the type that is on display at Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill, could be on the way out in secondary schools if a proposed national curriculum is adopted, some educators fear.THE Victorian government has raised concerns about the level of Australian history to be taught to year 11 and 12 history students under the proposed national curriculum.
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Australian history will not be taught as a stand-alone subject in the senior years under the national curriculum, with modern and ancient history the only two subjects to be offered nationwide.

However the federal government said Australian history was a central part of modern history and states could continue to offer their own Australian history courses if they chose to do so.

Victoria is one of several states that offers Australian history as a stand-alone VCE subject, although it struggles to compete with the popular revolutions subject, which looks at bloody events such as the French and Russian revolutions.

Last year just 1170 Victorian year 12 students studied Australian history, compared with 5609 who did revolutions.

”The Victorian government believes the national history curriculum should contain clear and substantial knowledge of Australian history,” a government spokeswoman said.

”While we have some concerns that the current proposal does not meet this standard, consultation on the drafts of the ancient and modern history curriculum is currently under way in Victoria. We look forward to the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority’s response to the consultation and will consider any response in deciding the future of Victoria’s history curriculum.”

The decision not to make Australian history a dedicated subject in the senior secondary national curriculum has divided teachers.

Some argue students will miss out on learning about their national identity in any depth, while others say Australian history is better taught as part of modern history, which covers international conflicts, revolutionary change and Asian and Australian history from 1750 to the early 21st century.

The History Teachers Association of Victoria said it was very concerned there was no dedicated Australian history subject in the senior secondary part of the national curriculum, particularly at year 12 level.

”We believe students need to be able to study the history of their own country in a sustained way at the senior level,” said acting executive officer Ingrid Purnell.

The head of humanities at Genazzano FCJ College in Kew, James Gilchrist, said Australian history needed to be a stand-alone subject to give it the depth of attention it required. He said important themes like the way the environment shapes the Australian character and the development of the early republican idea could get lost if part of a broader subject.

Stephanie Rosestone, the education officer at Sovereign Hill, runs sessions for VCE Australian history students which discuss the impact of the gold rush on Australian history.

She said she hoped modern and ancient history did not replace Australian history in schools. “I see the value of Australian students continuing to the senior years where they can study the subject with more academic rigour and mature focus on issues and context.”

But Trinity Grammar teacher Christopher Bantick said Australian history had been leaching students for years and was better taught as part of global history.

“It’s been so badly taught in primary and junior secondary with kids getting the same old story.”

He said the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority was correct to see Australian history as part of modern history.

Consultation for the draft senior secondary curriculum for 14 subjects including ancient and modern history closes on July 20.

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TREASURER Wayne Swan has dismissed Queensland’s plan to argue against the mining tax in the High Court as ”futile” after the state lent its support to magnate Andrew Forrest’s bid to have the levy scrapped.
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The country’s second biggest mining state yesterday said it would claim that Labor’s tax on mining profits breached the constitution because it discriminated against resource-rich states.

Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the state would make the arguments as part of a legal battle launched by Mr Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group last month, but it would not join the case as a party.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett confirmed WA would be acting in the same way.

With the tax forecast to raise $3 billion this financial year, a successful challenge could threaten federal Labor’s vow to bring the budget back to surplus. But Mr Swan yesterday said he was ”very confident” the government’s position would be upheld in the High Court, and had received legal advice the Commonwealth would succeed.

He also accused Queensland Premier Campbell Newman of wasting taxpayer money to give billionaires a tax cut. ”Campbell Newman says he hasn’t got any money, therefore he’s got to sack thousands of workers in Queensland,” Mr Swan said.

”But he’s got enough money to fund an expensive High Court challenge which will be futile and which would ultimately deliver a tax cut to the likes of [Queensland mining magnate] Clive Palmer.”

Mr Bleijie estimated the challenge could cost Queensland up to $300,000 and said it would not allow Canberra to ”indiscriminately” tax the state.

Mr Palmer – who last week walked away from a plan to contest Mr Swan’s seat in Brisbane – said through a spokesman that he had not spoken with the Queensland government before its decision. Mr Barnett confirmed Western Australia would also appear in the case to argue the states owned the resources, but would not predict the outcome.

”Clearly this is a tax that is flawed economically, it is flawed in terms of the spirit of the constitution. Whether it will be ruled out on legal grounds by the High Court, I could not predict that,” Mr Barnett said.

News of Queensland’s move comes as the government seeks to revive its fortunes by arguing that the mining tax will spread natural resource wealth throughout the community through cash handouts and business tax cuts. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would not be drawn on whether he thought the interventions were appropriate use of taxpayers’ money, but reiterated the Coalition’s plan to remove the mining tax.

”There is no doubt that the mining tax particularly targets the resource rich states and if the states in question wish to challenge it in court, that’s a perfectly reasonable thing for them to do,” Mr Abbott said.

The High Court has not yet granted leave to hear Fortescue’s court case, with a preliminary hearing expected in the coming weeks.

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