States unveil extra year of play school

Victoria and NSW will today unveil a new year of play-based learning for children before they go to school, described by the state premiers as “the greatest transformation of early education in a generation”.

What we know:

  • NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and his Victorian counterpart, Daniel Andrews, will today announce the joint long-term policy commitment (The Guardian);
  • The non-mandatory program will consist of 30 hours a week of play-based learning for all four-year-olds, to be known as “pre-prep” in Victoria and “pre-kindergarten” in NSW;
  • The NSW budget will set aside more than $5.8bn over a decade to introduce the program by 2030, with the plan to expand facilities at schools, pre-schools and daycare centres (SMH); 
  • NSW will start a pilot program that families will have to pay for, but the state plans to eventually make it free;
  • In Victoria, the program will be free from the start, rolled out from 2025 as part of a $9bn overhaul of early childhood education that also makes kinder free for all three and four-year-olds from 2023 (The Age); 
  • Research shows the first five years of a child’s life are critical for school performance, long-term health, and reducing involvement in the justice system.
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Market operator seizes control of grid

Australia’s national electricity market has been suspended for the first time ever, with the market operator seizing control of the supply of power from generators to stabilise the grid.

What we know:

  • The Australian Energy Market Operator on Wednesday suspended the electricity spot market in NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria until further notice (SBS); 
  • AEMO will take control of directing supplies from energy generators to the east coast power grid and set energy prices for every jurisdiction;
  • It comes after generators stopped providing power to the market after AEMO imposed a price cap that is less than the cost of generating power from gas power stations (The Conversation); 
  • High coal and gas prices and faltering coal plants have led to a surge in the cost of generating power;
  • NSW residents have been asked to conserve energy if safe to do so during the peak hours of 5-8pm (SMH); 
  • Staff at Sydney hospitals have been told to take emergency measures to save on power, with workers asked to turn off unused equipment and lights, and to avoid using printers (news.com.au). 
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Albanese welcomes wage boost

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has welcomed the Fair Work Commission’s decision to raise the minimum wage by 5.2%, while business groups rail against the move.

What we know:

  • The FWC announced on Wednesday that the minimum wage would rise by 5.2% to $21.38 an hour from July 1 (The New Daily); 
  • Modern award minimum wages would meanwhile rise by 4.6%, or at least $40 a week — below the current rate of inflation at 5.1%;
  • The award increases will be delayed for industries hardest hit by the pandemic, such as aviation, tourism and hospitality, until October 1;
  • The FWC made the move as real wages have fallen by about 2.5% over the past two years while business profits have jumped by 25% in a year (The Conversation); 
  • Albanese said the decision to award low-paid workers a decent pay rise was necessary as “many of those people who are on the minimum wage are the heroes that saw us through the pandemic”;
  • ACTU president Sally McManus said the wage increase was the result of union campaigning and would make “a hell of a lot of difference for working people”;
  • Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss Andrew McKellar said the increase was a blow to businesses, costing them $7.9bn a year on top of the 0.5% increase in superannuation from July 1 (AFR $). 
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Flood victims swamped in paperwork

The chairman of a parliamentary flood inquiry has accused the NSW government of playing a “cruel hoax” on flood victims.

Service NSW executive director Catherine Ellis faced questioning on why fewer than 20% of applications for a 16-week rental support program had been paid out (ABC). 

Inquiry chairman Walt Secord said to Ellis “flood support and support from this government is a cruel hoax and … you have no intention of providing support”.

Ellis told the inquiry applicants were typically given 28 days to provide documentation to prove they were eligible.

Secord questioned what allowances Service NSW was making to help people who had lost paperwork and electronics to floodwaters, hampering their ability to apply for support.

Just $18m has been paid out from the $248m grant program, which is due to close in nine days.

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Bonza relaxes uniform rules

Australia’s newest low-cost airline will give flight attendants, ground staff and pilots the freedom to mix and match uniforms as they please, regardless of gender.

Bonza will allow staff to mix their outfits, with options including white sneakers, crew-neck T-shirts and tailored shorts (Traveller). 

Included in the new uniform range is a blazer with a purple trim, a purple-striped shirt dress, a purple sleeveless coat, and a black sleeveless puffer vest.

The airline will not ask crew to cover up tattoos, or require female staff to wear a skirt.

“We won’t dictate what lipstick to wear – or whether you have to wear lipstick at all," said Bonza chief commercial officer Carly Povey.

It stands in contrast to other carriers, some of which dictate the appearance of staff right down hairstyles and the shade of makeup they wear.

Qantas recently came under pressure from the Australian Services Union for its gendered uniform rules, which require female staff to wear makeup, high heels and hosiery.

Bonza has had to delay its June launch date by more than two months, as it awaits delivery of three new Boeing 737 MAX 8s.

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It continued to charge fees after being informed of an investor’s death and did so for some 28 months, resulting in 499 deceased members having fees deducted from their accounts.

Some say if you head to the graveyard on the night of the blood moon, the dead customers of Avanteos Investments Limited can be heard groaning about their latest superannuation charges (SMH).

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Postscript: A Tone-Deaf Squid Game Reality Show Is in Development

In possibly the most tone deaf attempt at cashing in on the most wildly successful television show it has ever produced, Netflix is in the process of casting contestants in a live-action reality show based on Squid Game ... the irony of this announcement is not lost on anyone who watched Squid Game, which is a narrative that is explicitly against the kind of voyeuristic cash-grab competition show and the kind of systems that would encourage down-on-their-luck individuals to compete for money at the risk of their lives (Gizmodo).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.