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Tag Archives: Tony Burke

Scrap the digital workhouse. An open letter to Tony Burke.

We know you are new in your job, Tony and face not only the huge demands of your portfolio but a backlog of catastrophic ineptitude and deceit left you by a Morrison government whose criminal negligence of health and welfare was rivalled only by its pandering to corporate oligarchs and its bent for wholesale corruption, but can you, please, reconsider Pbas?

Pbas is the points-based system that the Coalition was keen to inflict on job-seekers, a jobactive revamp it promoted as “more flexible” than mandatory job application. It’s not. It’s Liberal propaganda designed to pillory job seekers for being out of work. Lazy dole-bludgers. Political point-scoring. Baked into it is unconscionable, sadistic cruelty and victim-blaming. It’s the antithesis of everything we’ve come to associate with Labor.

Above all, Pbas won’t work. It’s too complex. It’s discriminatory and opaque. Users are at the mercy of a computer that decides if they’ve earned enough points. Of course, there are numbers to ring and visits you can make but have you ever tried to visit or ring Centrelink? Now Services Australia, another brave new oxymoron, says it is cutting work to outsourced call centres by thirty per cent. It’s as if they’ve set up the new system and Labor to fail. It’s a $7 billion dollar booby trap. You don’t want to crash and burn so soon after winning office.

Clients also are set up to fail. 200,000 people every month had payments suspended in Jobactive. Who knows how they met their rent or bought their groceries? ACOSS warns that Pbas will replicate this cruelty. It takes the Jobactive debacle and makes it worse.

It’s cruel. Pbas will make it harder for the poor and needy to get support, in the same ways that Morrison’s regime restricted access to the NDIS and individuals had their funding cut. Liberals love to scare us into believing that welfare is a crippling financial liability. Yet corporate welfare is vital. Billions are blown in subsidies to wealthy corporate donors. But look after the aged, the disabled, the poor and the needy? A burden we can’t afford. Nonsense. In fact, there are huge economic benefits in being a responsible government supporting and empowering all Australians. Take the NDIS as an example.

The economic benefit of the NDIS in 2020/21 was $52.4 billion, according to Per Capita. It adds economic activity worth $29 billion to $23.3 billion in NDIS spending. $2.25 was delivered to the economy for every dollar spent, it calculates. Conversely, there are huge costs beyond every pension dollar withheld. Consider the harm Pbas does to a jobseeker’s self-esteem. Bad enough you’re between jobs – or that you can’t get enough hours. Now you’re going to incur demerits as you lose points on Pbas.

Imagine the emotional labour and frustration of having to navigate a system so absurdly arbitrary and punitive that it is dubbed “Hunger Games meets Black Mirror”.

No wonder job seekers sampled recently used the word “suicidal” in their responses to how the new scheme could make them feel. Surely Labor could heed the warnings. No-one has forgotten or forgiven Robodebt. Do you really want to go down this path?

Not only will many be set up to fail the test, which favours the more literate job-seeker with resources such as access to a digital device, internet and time, but Pbas fails us as a compassionate, civil society. It fails Labor, too. If Labor still believes in a fair go. Has Labor done any research? Monash University’s David O’Halloran has conducted an online survey. His 447 job seekers were not only worried about getting a hundred points, a key feature of the system, they were afraid they’d be penalised, another design highlight.

Best heed the early warnings. Listen, as the PM promised he would listen to all Australians. Do you really want to continue the welfare terrorism of Coalition governments?

O’Halloran reckons, “ … harm was actually being designed into the system”.

In his view it’s “still based on the assumption, if you’re unemployed, you don’t want to work”.

I know, Labor supported Pbas in the last government. It’s tricky. Small target strategy can mean you snooker yourself. But you are the government. You can scrap it tomorrow. I’ve read your press releases. You’ve “tweaked it”, you say. But you can’t polish a turd. Pbas is hurtful. It’s been designed that way.

The same crew who brought us Robodebt. presents, Robo Task. Ta-Da. Starring a nifty computer algorithm to cut off your funds. Pbas is not a humane welfare system – but a digital workhouse set up to brutalise people in desperate economic need and push them out of the system and onto the street,” warns The Unemployed Workers Union. Bill Shorten uses the same image.

You’ll need to be computer-savvy, too. As ACOSS helpfully points out. “Your payment may be suspended if you do not complete the report for your points at the end of your reporting period. You will need to report these points to stop your payment from being suspended.” But let’s say you get your hundred points. How helpful is the site?

I just did a search on your new Jobactive 2.0 website. Guess what? As with everything else Morrison, it’s a dud. There’s not a single job in our regional town of around 9,000 people. Petrol is up to $2.20 a litre in town but there are a few jobs if you travel an hour each day. That’s just if you are lucky enough to get an interview. The bigger centres have plenty of locals on their books and an industry of job agencies. But PBAS is more than a website, of course, it’s a points system masquerading as self-help in that unctuous, patronising, condescending tone trademark of the Morrison horror-show.

Here’s a sample.

“Do you want to improve your English, reading and writing skills? Improving these skills could help you find a job or lead to other study or employment opportunities. The Skills for Education and Employment program is a free program that can provide you with training to improve your reading, writing, maths and digital skills.” Of course, it will. It will also improve the bottom line of the Pbas tutorial agencies that will pullulate, like mushrooms in the dark, all over the country, overnight.

The SEE program will help you overcome obstacles and achieve your career goals. You’ll gain new skills and confidence and learn alongside others with similar experience. The training is flexible to suit you, so you can do full or part-time, in a classroom or at home. You can even gain a certificate-level qualification through the SEE program. To see if you can join, contact your Employment Services Provider or Centrelink.”

Life’s hard enough if you’re one of the 1,360,100, the ABS reckons are unemployed, underemployed or unlucky enough to be retired but too young to go on the pension. You must make do on a pittance that is below the poverty line.

There is a full-blown crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of Australians who face vegetable price rises of 27% annually, pro-rata over the first three months of this year. Basics such as baked beans and sausages are up 20%-30%.

The penurious amount paid to Centrelink pensioners is a national scandal that governments are able to ignore because they are marginalised and voiceless. Helping is a Murdoch-led media which is keen to scapegoat those out of work as bludgers. Yet steep rises in the cost of food, rent, power and fuel are turning crisis into catastrophe. You own five houses, Tony, You enjoy a high salary, generous allowances, a top superannuation scheme and you’ve just had a 2.75 per cent pay rise. Can you even begin to imagine what it’s like to have to get by on fifty-four dollars a day? (With rental assistance.)

We have a clear idea because our wonderful 37-year-old daughter has to do just that. Matilda’s degenerative bone disease means she’s in continuous pain. She’ll need two new hip replacements shortly. It’s seven months to see a pain specialist.

Centrelink puts hurdles in her way. Her pain can only get worse yet Matilda must continuously get certificates from a GP to be exempt from applying for jobs she’s got no show of ever getting, let alone doing and which are scarce enough in a regional town. Fifty-four dollars if you qualify for rent assistance looks pitiful against the $291 per day that you can claim for accommodation in Canberra. It’s more if you have to stay in other cities. Unlike your job, Tony, with your accommodation and your travel allowances, there’s no fringe benefits in Matilda’s job. Matilda doesn’t get enough hours at her workplace where she’s worked for seven years without sick leave or benefits because she’s a “permanent casual”, an oxymoronic term embracing up to a quarter of the workforce.

The way workplaces are run these days means that more and more Australians are working casual shifts. It saves the boss a fortune but work itself becomes ever more precarious. And stressful. Along with many other young workers with special needs, our daughter has difficulty coping with change. I’m our daughter’s nominee in dealing with Centrelink but there’s been no warning of the change. It starts July 1st. Granted, no-one will be penalised in the first month but it will take all of that to get over the shock of having the rules changed so suddenly and without any consultation, whatsoever, with prospective users. The PM promises a government that will listen. How hard would it be to consult those vulnerable men and women who must suffer your grand design? At $7 billion dollars, Pbas is an unwarranted extravagance for any government let alone a Labor government which has its origins in looking after workers and their families. It’s just another costly way to punish the 548,100 unemployed and the 821,000 the ABS tells us are underemployed. (It’s far more than these statistics show given the way data is collected.)

You are not unemployed for example if you live on a family farm or are part of a family business and do one hour’s work a week unpaid. You do not enter unemployment statistics if you have given up looking for work. Or if you have given up on the system altogether because it’s all too hard. Is that your aim, Tony? Save the welfare spend by getting the poor job-seeker to drop out? We hope not. But if you continue with Pbas that’s what will happen. Not to mention the confusion, suffering and distress you will inflict on some of our most vulnerable by proceeding with a points-based system that is unworkable, unfair and downright cruel.

A society can be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable members. So far, Labor is breaking its election promise to be a government for all Australians by proceeding with a job-seeker system that discriminates against the powerless, poor and marginalised worker who has too few hours or who, increasingly, may be unable to find work. Would the women and the young people who voted for you, have done so had they known you were simply going down the Morrison government’s road of punishing the poor and vulnerable? You say it’s too late to change. It’s not. You’re in government. You can halt Pbas immediately. Dismantle the digital workhouse. Jobseekers, the aged and the disabled don’t need more ways to make them feel they are a burden. Take the $37 billion you are going to give to the rich. Use it to help create fair and liveable pensions instead.

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What’s the go, Albo? (Part 1)

OK, Albo’s no Italian stallion – despite the euphoria of love on the rebound – especially after our abusive relationships with a series of cads, war criminal Howard, then “me myself and I” – Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison-too much in love with themselves to brook any rival – whose neoliberal religion sees people as mere consumers; or commodities in a transaction. So it’s not quite love at first sight yet and we’re not quite over the moon, however wonderful it is to see a normal human being become Prime Minister.

Barely a month has passed since amateur DJ, Albo moved his shaving kit into The Lodge bathroom and stashed his Midnight Oil, Spiderbait and Powderfinger amongst his trove of classic vinyl into the spare room yet we’re wondering about the new bloke. OK. He sounds decent, speaks sense and doesn’t lie his head off. That’s refreshing.

But is it enough? Did anyone expect Albo to be in such an oil-fired-nuclear-powered hurry to kiss Biden’s arse? Suck up to Soekarno puppet, Joko Widodo? Where in the pre-nups does it say that, We the People, agree to turn Darwin into a US Marine Base of over 2000 troops on a rotational basis? Whatever that means. The Marines are part of a Top Secret Plan in which Australia helps the neo-con hawks in the Pentagon goad China into a nuclear war over Taiwan. Soon. What could possibly go wrong?

Madeleine King certainly strikes a bum note when she calls for coal to step up to fill the void to push power prices down. There is no void. But our generators can play funny buggers with the supply if they want to create a crisis. Hold a gun to our heads. We know that Australia is a carbon capture state but King still shocks us.

Has Labor learned nothing from the Teals’ performance at the last election? Does it want to alienate the very MPs it will need to support its legislation in the Senate?

And who isn’t blind-sided when Albo dons the Morrison cloak of a secret National Cabinet – or COAG on stilts? Doesn’t he know that the cloak is a poisoned robe like the shirt of Nessus? Look what it did to Bulldozer Morrison.

COAG is a Keating stunt from 1992. It doesn’t need re-heating. There are already calls for local councils to participate. But why stop there? Those at home, such as age pensioners who must choose between paying the power bill and eating could join those who will now be sick with worry that they won’t even get Jobseeker.

All could rack up points just by logging in. Amazing Julie Bishop didn’t think of it. In 2015, her DFAT was gutted but she did get her hipster innovation Hub? A “gorgeous little funky, hipster, Googly, Facebooky-type place” it was supposed to come up with clever ways to run foreign aid on no money. Yep. Look where we are now.

The poor and needy will just have to eat less. So the minimum wage is lifted by 5.2%. An extra $20 per week? Whoopie do. It won’t even cover the rise in the price of petrol. With inflation tipped to hit seven per cent by market whisperer, the superbly reserved, Phil Lowe, by this time next year, our lowest-paid workers will suffer a cut in their real wages. Phil’s the lad from the Reserve Bank, an outfit from 1960, who knows we’ve all forgotten that nowhere in its charter is the notion that it will control inflation.

It can’t. You can’t control inflation caused by external causes including Putin’s genocide in Ukraine and the global Covid pandemic that, with the blind eye of authorities, is on track to kill 15-18,000 of us before the year ends. Our COVID case and death rates are one of the highest in the world. Super news, for all of us but Rupert who controls our mainstream news, seems to have kept the facts away from his newshounds.

You wouldn’t read about it in any mainstream news, including our ABC, which Morrison’s captain’s pick, Ita Buttrose, decides needs an entirely redundant Ombudsman to report directly to its Liberal-stacked Board. It’s a slap in the face for hard-working investigative journalists such as Four Corners, even if they do get Matthew Carney to replace Sally Neighbour. OK. Joel Tozer from Sixty Minutes gets 7:30 but he’s ex-ABC.

Covid is your own responsibility now, kids. Inflation? Think of the economy, (amen) as The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss reminds us, “while high inflation is bad news for the budgets of 10 million Australian households, it’s good news for the bottom line of the commonwealth budget. While rapidly rising prices for groceries, coffee, petrol and building supplies mean tough choices are being made around Australia’s kitchen tables, those same price rises mean government revenue from the GST are set to surge.”

Those left jobless, by the recession we’re rushing into, carrying a trillion dollars in debt – thank-you Josh Frydenberg – will be further pilloried by the seven billion dollar Morrison scheme of requiring job seekers to rack up points before getting forty dollars a day to live on or $200 a fortnight below the Henderson Poverty Line.

Can’t be fixed now. Tony Burke tells us he’s inherited a war on the poor that’s too late to end. Far too hard to raise Jobseeker above the poverty line? What’s the go, Albo?

Unfixable is the Morrison-Taylor energy crisis. He may sound a bit dim but don’t be deceived. Angus Taylor’s a smart cookie. There’s not only the family firm that former Water Minister, Barnaby Joyce gave $80 million to in the Watergate scandal, involving the Taylor family’s East Australian Agriculture with an HQ in the Caymans. Plus another firm which sprayed Roundup on endangered native grassland that he has to manage. With a bit of help from a mate. Cayman Islands? It’s all a mystery, but as Gus assures sticky-beaks, such as Fran Kelly, all the best companies do it.

Thank goodness newly appointed US Trade and Investment Commissioner Giovanni Pork Barilaro is able to draft Taylor’s family firm a cool $130,000 in 2018 for a project to prove that it wasn’t poison. Grass has its bad days, too, you know. Best of all, Gus Taylor is able to keep the lights on just until Labor won the election. Doubtless Gus will be cheered to learn that a federal ICAC, an election promise, the PM is determined to keep, will be set up by December.

Well done, Albo – and Attorney General Mark Dreyfus QC. But The Greens want the ICAC up and running before the October Budget. Helen Haines, they argue, already has a model ready to go. And the cross bench will have the power.

So what’s the go with Coal-Keeper, Albo? The Energy Security Board (ESB) is one of a bevy of at least half a dozen, vital to ensuring that coal remains king, while government subsidises the massive profits of largely private companies which don’t pay tax – with the exception of Queensland whose state generators are into profiteering anyway. The ESB claims in its newest report that it isn’t a coal-keeper at all, yet the fine print admits that keeping the coal fires burning – using public funds to subsidise a few fabulously wealthy multinational corporations – just might happen anyway.

The wonderfully named Anna Collyer, chair of the ESB, is in The AFR, Monday, 20 June

“… in the past, the concept of a capacity mechanism has been dubbed ‘coal-keeper’. It is a catchy line, but it is not the intent. The intent is to design a tool that provides more certainty around dispatchable capacity – that is capacity that can respond to a dispatch signal on demand.”

Yet as Crikey’s Bernard Keane notes, the ESB admits that, in the fine print, “a capacity provider may decide to factor in refurbishment or retrofitting costs into their bid and if this is cost-competitive against new capacity, then customers receive the reliability benefit of this asset remaining in the market.”

Now Chris Bowen is shovelling money into the off-shore accounts of our nation’s energy racketeers, paying generators to keep the lights on in a system rigged to reward the big investor while it leaves families in the cold and dark. We’ve shacked up with Labor for at least three years? Single-term governments are rare in Australian politics.

Of course, it’s early days. Of course, we’re jumpy. Years of suffering abuse, neglect and gaslighting in a serial relationship based on lies, the demeaning cruelty of coercive control and gaslighting is enough to give anybody PTSD.

And when the wide boys in power have been milking the till, fiddling the books and colluding in the game of mates behind a thick veil of secrecy – all to enrich the top end of town, almost anyone honest, decent or fair would be better.

Yes. We know Albo’s got to keep his head down. But is it a small Target Strategy or no bottle? Labor won the election. It now holds seventy-seven seats in the lower house and the senate has enough Greens and Independents to be workable. Even with one UAP senator in the upper house. If they don’t stick their heads up soon, the ruling Murdoch-Stokes-Costello-ABC media oligopoly will destroy Labor.

It’s a relief not to see a PM giving out ukuleles to Pacific leaders. But Albo has to be decisive. He is. But it’s all a bit frantic. Nine years too late to put the dumpster fire that the LNP made of our financial aid to our Pacific neighbours.

ScoMo didn’t carry a hose. Albo’s dashing all over our the Pasifika dousing embers. Our formidable Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, is run ragged. But it’s been nine years since Abbott and Hockey slashed $4.5 billion from Foreign Aid, a move they followed up in their second budget raid on Julie Bishop’s kitty with another $3.5 billion “efficiency dividend” of a billion dollars a year over three years.

Much as he may and try to please our US masters who fear that Pacific Islands nations now turn to China after being given the cold shoulder by Australia, it’s a bit late. China has outbid us in the battle for hearts and minds. The China-Pacific Island Countries Common Development Vision is a plan extended to at least a dozen Pacific states.

Granted, Penny Wong is on to it. She says; “China has made its intentions clear. So too are the intentions of the new Australian government. We want to help build a stronger Pacific family.” Is the language right? It’s dangerously close to the patronising duplicity of the previous regime. Island leaders scorn “boomerang” aid that largely benefits the Australian donor. But there’s more, Wong touts more of Kanaka 2.0 where Pasifika workers fly in and pick our fruit, tend our vines and labour in our vegetable market gardens but she’s got to combat the lived experience of workers who have made the long trip, worked all season only to return out of pocket to their labour contractor.

In a desperate pitch, along with “our Pacific labour programs” a modern form of slavery for many, she offers new permanent migration opportunities.” The last bit’s tricky. It may, sadly, be just practical given the rate at which our heavily subsidised fossil-fuel industry contributes to rising sea levels through exported coal and gas. Emissions rise as other countries burn our exported fossil fuels. They are now more than double Australia’s domestic emissions.

But won’t The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun have fun with the permanent migration? Morrison used to go off his chops about “sugar on the table.” Pull factors only in the Murdoch-approved Coalition fiction of events. No hint that people get into leaky boats to escape hell on earth at home.

Rudd stopped the boats, by declaring that no-one arriving by boats would be settled in Australia in his flawed, 2013 Pacific Solution. But expect a re-run of the lie. Already there are images of boats of asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka appearing in Murdoch’s gutter press. The implication that boats are arriving because Labor is soft on borders ignores the worst economic crisis to ravage the nation since 1949, forcing the nation to default on its loans and creating grave political and social unrest.

And as we love-bomb bemused Pacific Islanders, we are doing very little for Sri Lanka, save turning back at least three boats in violation of UN law on refoulement and in repudiation of our obligations under international law.

Hockey and Abbott hollered for years about a debt and deficit disaster and how there was a budget emergency. Then Hockey went on The Nation in New Zealand in July 2014 and admitted he’d been making it all up. Luckily our ABC did the right thing and no-one else in the mainstream media picked it up either. In case you missed it, here’s what he said.

“The Australian economy is not in trouble… There’s no crisis at all in the Australian economy.”

Of course, Sleepy Joe Biden’s got Albo on the hop. The big shock is not that Labor’s all the way with the USA. That’s the Labor path, not that history exists anymore given the eternal present bestowed upon us by Odin’s Eye, our MSM Cyclops, working tirelessly around the clock to produce a virtual national frontal lobotomy. If the past and its study were permitted to exist, we’d know that Labor is very much in favour of the alliance. Or we’d form the foolish notion, even after the publication of Jenny Hocking’s research in the Palace letters, that we are in charge of our own destiny.

And our great and powerful friend, Washington, has never upped the peppercorn rent that we charge for its bases at Nurrungar and Pine Gap that are so handy in guiding its missiles and drones. If we’re squaring off to go to war with China, Pine Gap is critical, according to a couple of high-ranking military types who fired a shot over our bows down under, ahead of the Morrison’s government’s massive loss on 21 May.

Admiral John “Lung” Aquilino, boss of the US Indo-Pacific Command, last year declared that war against China was “much closer than most think,” described Australia as an “extremely high-end partner.”

“Lung” is a hawk and was Trump’s pick for the job in December but after Biden’s victory, he needed to be reviewed. Nice work, Biden.

On backup vocals during the visit, is General James Dickinson, another hawk, head of US Space Command. Australia is a “critical partner” in space warfare, including to monitor Chinese space operations, he gushes – guardedly.

“This is the perfect location for a lot of things we need to do,” he tells London’s The Financial Times. “Things” include going to war with China over Taiwan, another military adventure in which Australia will tag along without any tedious parliamentary debate. Or gesture towards democratic process.

Even Little Britain goes through the process of parliamentary debate. (Not that it stopped Thatcher’s madness in The Falklands, another coup for Rupert’s press.“Stick it up the argies” one tasteful banner screamed. Nor did it impede the neocon New Labour’s Tony Blair from war crimes in Iraq.)

Shooting down China’s hypersonic missiles is also on Aquilino’s list whilst – another “thing”- the US expands its base in Darwin to accommodate storage of 300 million litres of fuel.

Third, what is described as “over two thousand Marines” are now deployed in Marine Rotational Force-Darwin. Could be two hundred thousand as far as we know.

“Marry in haste repent at leisure” my Dad, a Royal Navy veteran, used to say, in that way he had of firing bits of folk wisdom, wise old saws and music hall ditties into the void between us; along with shafts of rebarbative dockside-matey’s wit that you suspected were aimed at you. “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes, son.”

Not that we’re married to Albo or his Labor government. Indeed The Narrative, aka “The National Conversation” on vacuous chat shows like The Drum, refreshed each morning by The Australian, the Pravda of a uniquely concentrated, inbred and incestuous Australian mainstream media oligopoly, says no. Our MEDIUM says we’re having a fling and the Coalition is still the government in exile and eternally newsworthy.

Insiders features serial failure, Spud the dud, Peter Dutton while Dave Littleproud bones Barnaby Thomas Gerard Barnaby Joyce, the knight in shining armour and Riverview Old Boy, a loving silver-spoonful, who brags that his parents are “quite rich” is on Sky in his heroic fight for the Weatherboard Nine of Warwick and the shareholders in Santos.

“I didn’t give a toss for where power comes from, but one of the greatest afflictions for people in the weatherboard and iron is they can’t afford power,” he says in 2018. That’s working well for BJ at present, as the other remarkable cartel in all our lives, the electricity generators get the red card from the regulator for withholding supply to bid the spot price up. An industry allowed to set its own regulations by captive politicians

Abusive relationships seldom end well. There are the highs; elation when you discover that your new partner seems to care, like when the Biloela family is allowed to come home. We hope it’s not just a token. Or joy when you see he can lead a team; delegating to capable ministers instead of overshadowing, upstaging, micromanaging and having an affair with his own image in the lens of his personal photographer.

But then there are the lows. Julian Assange? Letting Jobseekers suffer a new set of petty cruelties? Keeping Morrison’s National Cabinet – and keeping it top secret? An energy Minister sucking up to the mining oligarchy? Madeleine King, a coal shill?

When Employment Minister Tony Burke says it’s too late to abandon the Morrison misgovernment’s $7bn point system Pbas to qualify for a jobseeker payment that is well below the Henderson Poverty Line, it’s a worry. Burke says contracts have been awarded. But try telling that to Emanuel Macron. Burke is saying all the right things but it does seem as if the Coalition has booby-trapped the incoming government; poisoned the chalice of electoral victory.

“What the government’s designed, some of it’s more punitive than actually getting the job done. We want to make sure, and I’ll be changing it over the course of the next week, to make sure that we can have a system that’s designed to get people into work, rather than some media stunt to punish people.”

Burke needs to speak to a few job seekers. There’s enough of them around. Half don’t make it into official statistics. They’ll tell you how demeaning it is to prove yourself worthy of a pittance. It doesn’t matter how much you dress it up or claim you have a system up your sleeve, it’s completely irredeemable. Any civil society worth its salt knows that support for the needy and vulnerable should be unconditional. Scrap it. Put the money into fixing the NDIS which the Liberals have done their best to scupper.

But there are lows and lows, Albo. You dash off to Tokyo like Joe Biden’s bellhop. Far too keen to get your riding instructions as deputy sheriff of our bit of the Pacific. You’d barely been sworn in? Putting Penny Wong on how many charm offensives to counter China’s designs? She’s barely time to re-pack her travel bag. What’s the go Albo?

Snap out of it. Yep, we’ve all got PTSD thanks to being monstered by the fat controller Morrison and his gaslighting, happy clapping bullies, still feted and enabled by the gang of five led by Lizard of Oz.

We all get the face we deserve, but Murdoch’s wizened, fissured mug looks like an elephant’s scrotum, with apologies to David Hockney who on seeing WH Auden said if that’s his face, imagine what his scrotum must look like. One comfort is that having sunk half the family fortunes into Disney +, the patriarch has halved his family’s net worth. Another small consolation is that only about half the population “use news” on any given day. Then, there’s the tragic decline of print media. Rupert’s rags may have to fold. Or they may already be sold. Given News Corp’s secrecy, we’d never know.

Don’t let it spook you, Albo. The Pacific Islanders want us to commit to zero emissions. That’s better than your charm offensive. No matter how brilliant she is, Penny Wong will never match the Chinese budget for aid. War with China? Hold your nerve. Don’t fall for the cock and bull of neocon loonies in the Pentagon. Look where it’s got us in the past. A winnable nuclear war? Mutually assured destruction? MAD. Nah. Just madness.

Hold your fire. There’s heaps to do at home. A Voice to Parliament. Energy. Welfare. Education. Higher Education. Health. Wages. The Arts. Climate. Everything worthwhile’s been neglected under the fossil fuel muppets of the last nine years.

And do bring on the Royal Commission into Murdoch. As soon as you can.

Morrison didn’t just drive the Liberal Party into a mountain. He and his predecessors dismantled our democratic, civil society. You call yourself a builder in the election campaign. Let’s see some of that. So what’s the go, Albo?

Link to Part 2

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Porter’s bills may sink BOOT into penalty rates, warns Burke

Shadow industrial relations minister Tony Burke has warned that Australian workers may lose their penalty rates by the end of January 2022 – not via targeted cuts, but through knock-on effects previously outlined in Attorney-General Christian Porter’s industrial relations reform bills.

In contrast to the planned penalty rate cuts the Turnbull and Morrison governments executed in a three-year interval from 2017 to 2019, workers may see their wages drop markedly across four major summer-based public holidays if the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) results in being revamped upon passage of Porter’s proposed legislation of two bills on industrial relations reforms.

Successful passage of Porter’s legislation, crafted and presented in federal Parliament’s final sitting week of 2020 last month when representatives between union leaders and the business lobby failed to previously come to an agreement on areas of reform, could even see the BOOT halted for any length of time.

“Australian workers could lose between $840 and $1170 from their pay packets next summer holidays if Scott Morrison gets his way and public holiday penalty rates are scrapped,” Burke said on Thursday.

The BOOT – according to the Fair Work Commission – in considering labour and remuneration terms which may be more or less beneficial overall to employees in an individual agreement versus that of a Modern Award for a particular industry, views an overall assessment being made as to whether employees would be better off under the agreement than under the relevant award.

Instead, under Porter’s scheme of industrial relations reform measures, the BOOT could be suspended in particular situations as deemed practical by the FWC, thereby leading to workers’ wages potentially being lost during the summer holidays.

“The Government recognises the BOOT’s importance as a key safeguard for workers,” Porter said last month in promoting his reform bills.

“Given that many industries are still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic, it also makes good sense for the FWC to be able to consider agreements that don’t meet the BOOT if there is genuine agreement between all parties, and where doing so would be in the public interest,” he added.

In a retaliatory blow aimed against Porter’s bills, Burke has taken the difference between the base and public holiday pay rates of typical award workers who work standard eight-hour days across Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Australia Day – four public holidays over a month’s span.

Moreover, Burke has compiled a list of figures taken from the government’s own fair pay calculator to arrive at his conclusions.

“Millions of workers across the economy are vulnerable to attack under Mr Morrison’s nasty industrial relations changes,” said Burke.

And by Burke’s figures, no one industry will be immune to the changes, provided that the reform bills are approved.

“From cleaners to miners, aged care workers to waiters, checkout operators to nurses – all could take a massive pay cut if Mr Morrison is successful in suspending the Better Off Overall Test,” he said.

The list of which workers in each industry could stand to lose the greatest amounts of their wages per December and January public holiday:

  • In aged care – $270
  • Banking, finance, or insurance (Level 3) – $293
  • Cleaners (Level 2) – $263
  • Junior fast food worker – $227
  • Retail – $220
  • Underground miners – $287
  • Hair salon attendants and/or beauticians – $272
  • Registered nurses (Level 5) – $223
  • Hospitality (Level 2) – $210
  • Restaurant waiters – $215

Burke also added that in the other 48 or so weeks of the year, suspension or bypassing the BOOT could potentially see workers losing their weekend, early morning and late-night shift penalty rates as well as those for public holidays.

“If you abolish something called the Better Off Overall Test, guess what will happen: workers will be worse off,” said Burke.

Porter claims that, in a summary of his authored reforms, a re-establishment of enterprise bargaining via a 21-day approval deadline will drive wage growth and gains in productivity, even at the expense of the BOOT on a case-by-case basis.

And if it runs side-by-side with other areas of the proposed legislation, particularly, a simplification of awards in what Porter has specified as the retail and hospitality sectors, it may have the reverse effect.

The union movement remains understandably livid over the possibility of penalty rates being collateral damage in any applications of industrial relations reform.

“When WorkChoices was introduced, employers rushed out to cut wages — the same will happen if this law passes,” Sally McManus, the national secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), said last month in response to Porter’s industrial relations reform bills.

“We believe this is the wrong thing for the country.

“We should be protecting working people at this time in order to grow the economy; you can’t go about hurting working people — that’s exactly the opposite to what you should be doing,” McManus added.

Burke also pointed out that the intentional cuts to penalty rates failed to create a single job, despite government promises to the contrary when the proposals were first floated.

“But now they want us to believe that cutting more penalty rates, cutting overtime, cutting shift loading, cutting allowances will create jobs?” Burke said.

Burke feels that Porter’s industrial relations bills should be doomed to fail – and the Morrison government is lacking priorities to growing the national economy out of recession.

“Pay cuts are bad for workers and bad for the economy. For Australia to recover from the recession we need people with the money and confidence to spend,” said Burke.

“The government says the economy is doing well enough that businesses no longer need JobKeeper. But then they say the economy is doing so badly they need to cut the pay of workers.

“They can’t have it both ways,” added Burke.

 

 

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Insecure work inquiry forthcoming: Tony Burke

With ever-growing concerns among those in Australia’s union movement over rising levels of casual work and under-employment, a Senate inquiry on insecure work will take place in 2021, shadow industrial relations minister Tony Burke announced on Friday.

This inquiry has been announced days after industrial relations reforms measures in the way of proposed legislation announced by the Morrison government and Attorney-General Christian Porter, Burke’s counterpart in industrial reforms matters, was seen by Labor to offer precious little if anything in the way of easing the levels of insecure work.

And as the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has come out to assail the proposed “WorkChoices 2.0” legislation as resulting the cutting of workers’ pay and conditions in addition to avoiding scrutiny of insecure work issues, Burke says that Labor shares the ACTU’s concerns about putting more people into more permanent working positions.

“Some Australians like the flexibility of casual or gig work. But Labor wants to see more people in secure work, with good reliable pay and the highest of safety standards,” he said in announcing the inquiry.

“Insecure work is the pandemic that will stay with us – long after the COVID-19 threat has passed,” added Tony Sheldon, the Senator from New South Wales and former national secretary of the Transport Workers Union who will be chairing the inquiry.

Sheldon hinted that those working in the gig economy – from food delivery drivers and riders, and those operating ride-share services, to any form of temporary contract workers, freelancers, consultants and independent contractors and professionals – would be examined towards reaching more permanent employment solutions for their sectors as well as that of the entire workforce.

The recent deaths of five food delivery riders in Sydney’s CBD since the end of September has also hastened the need to bring the issues of gig economy jobs within the spheres of insecure work as a whole into focus alongside the need to regulate the nature of that type of work, said Sheldon.

“It is not acceptable that an underclass of work has been spawned where workers are denied the basic rights and minimum protections all Australians deserve,” said Sheldon.

In October, in Victoria, the Victorian Council on Social Services (VCOSS) drew links – centred around the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic – between those whose employment was defined as being of an insecure nature and workers’ declining states of health and well-being.

“… our industrial relations framework has not kept pace with changes to the labour market, and neither has government policy,” the report stated at its outset.

Specific to those in the gig economy, the VCOSS report stated: “A safe workforce is a healthy workforce. COVID-19 has highlighted the heightened financial vulnerability of workers in the care sector, a lack of coordination and consistency in training, entitlements and protections, and the fragility of support systems in maintaining consistent, quality care

“Workers engaged in the gig economy, who work across multiple platforms or a mixture of platform and more traditional employment types, have no access, or limited access to sick leave and other entitlements. Wages vary across platforms, and time and travel costs between shifts are not compensated. Health, safety and workers compensation arrangements depend on a worker’s employment status.”

Shadow industrial relations minister Tony Burke, who announced the inquiry (Photo from abc.net.au)

Burke said the inquiry is set to commence under Sheldon’s chairmanship when Parliament returns from its summer break in February, and its investigations stemming from it could take up a majority of the year ahead of a final reporting date of November 2021.

Those investigations may include personal security areas such as in income and housing, as well as dignity in retirement, affecting roughly four million Australians lacking the benefits and entitlements tied to permanent employment.

“If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything it’s that insecure work is not just a threat to the wellbeing of individuals – it’s a threat to the wellbeing of our society,” said Burke.

Meanwhile, Wes Lambert, the chief executive officer of the Restaurant and Catering Association (R&CA), said in October that the lack of legislative definitions over what constitutes a gig economy worker was an area which required addressing.

Lambert, stating the R&CA’s position on the heels of a deadline for submissions into a State of Victoria’s own inquiry on the status of the gig economy and insecure work, said that his organisation seeks to operate within the rules and standards to suit gig economy workers – as long as all parties knew what was expected of them.

“[The] R&CA expressly does not condone sham contracting arrangements, or any other such arrangement deliberately intended to undermine employees,” said Lambert.

“However, [the] R&CA submits that the current laws and workplace protections are not fit for the purpose in the 21st century, particularly as the world of work continues to change in the current and post-pandemic climate.

Lambert added that without any clear definitions in any current amendments of the Fair Work Act (2009), members of his industry sectors could run wild and rampant with interpretations as to what makes up gig economy participants.

“Such an arrangement, in the R&CA’s view, would create opportunities for unintentional mis-classifications resulting in disparate inconsistencies.

“More interestingly, if an employer can prove that they were not aware that the employee was not a contractor, and they were not reckless, they would not be in breach of the Act, nor be subject to any civil penalties,” he said.

So while an industry organisation such as the B&CA views and supports investigations around what next year’s Senate inquiry is trying to achieve, Sheldon says that the practice of insecure work is far from restricted to industries such as hospitality and tourism alone.

“Insecure work is not just found in food delivery and ride-sharing – it is expanding across the economy including the mining, retail, hospitality, health and aged care, university and information technology sectors,” Sheldon said.

“This inquiry comes at a critical time for our economy and for the future of work,” he added.

 

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