Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Royal commissions and racial discrimination

Today is the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, marking 57 years since South African police shot and killed 69 people at a peaceful anti-apartheid demonstration at Sharpeville. Today is also the day the Australian Government plans to begin pursuing amendments watering down the Racial Discrimination Act. The amendments are expected to fail in the senate, with Nick Xenophon Team senators expressing personal opposition to the government’s proposed removal of the words “offend” and “insult” from section 18c of the Act.

Former Fair Work Commission vice-president Graeme Watson is in the news today for two very different reasons. In The Australian, Watson (who resigned from the FWC in January) accuses the industrial umpire’s president, Iain Ross, of working with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to stack the tribunal with pro-union commissioners. In the Fairfax papers, Watson is mentioned as having signed off on a 2013 enterprise agreement at the centre of a brewing workplace relations scandal. The Transport Workers Union has released footage showing staff at Sydney international airport sleeping on site in squalid makeshift “nests” in order to work double shifts in a single day.

Still on the IR beat, the government plans to criminalise the practise of employers paying unions for illegitimate purposes, such as trading away workers’ rights in enterprise bargaining agreements. The royal commission into union corruption found the practise was especially prevalent at the Australian Workers Union, where Bill Shorten served as national secretary for six years.

Two prominent institutions are dealing with new allegations of sexual misconduct. In an exclusive [paywalled], the Daily Telegraph reports that a teenage boy from Sydney’s private Cranbrook School has been charged with raping a 15-year-old girl at a party and posting the assault on social media, where it was widely shared by high school students in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. At Westpac’s BT Financial Group, meanwhile, chief executive Martyn Wild is the subject of complaints made by two female staff alleging unwanted physical contact, inappropriate jokes and taunts about weight and appearance.

The royal commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory has heard from a former Don Dale guard who has admitted to a litany of inappropriate behaviour, including filming himself bursting into boys’ cells and asking them for oral sex, encouraging a boy to eat faeces, and using a smartwatch to film a child urinating. Conan Zamolo, the former guard in question, also told the commission he feared children were being “psychologically scarred” by conditions inside Don Dale’s isolation unit, and had complained to management on behalf of detainees several times to no avail.

And in the US, FBI Director James Comey has told the House intelligence committee that his agency was investigating whether there was any co-ordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to sway the outcome of the presidential election. In the least surprising news you will read today, he has also said there is “no evidence” that former president Barack Obama ever ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower. Cue enraged tweet from Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Open Quotemarks

Is a wolf-whistle harassment? It depends upon the person. Some girls think that that is wonderful.

Close Quotemarks
SENATOR AND CLIMATE EXPERT MALCOLM ROBERTS, SHARING HIS INTUITION ABOUT WOMEN
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The Ukrainian hacker who became the FBI’s best weapon – and worst nightmare

“Throughout the 1990s, hacking had mostly been a recreational sport. But in 2000 the first tremors of change began radiating out of Eastern Europe. The signs were everywhere if you knew to look: the types of websites being hacked, the volume of spam and phishing email, the first uptick in credit card fraud losses after years of reliable decline. Hacking was evolving into a professional and profit-driven enterprise.”wired

The general who declared war on suicide

“Since leaving the Army, Pittard hasn’t felt depressed or considered suicide. He always feels invigorated when he has a lot to do. He competes in triathlons regularly. The constant motion has kept his thoughts in check. ‘But I’m sure it could come back,’ Pittard says. He asks me if I think it’s strange that he hasn’t thought about suicide since he left the Army. He’s usually sure of himself; it’s the first time I’ve ever heard his voice shake.” politico magazine

Legendary New York columnist Jimmy Breslin dead at 88

“The college drop-out was, with Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson, considered one of the avatars of the ‘New Journalism,’ taking a more literary approach to reporting the news. In addition to his Pulitzer, Breslin was the recipient of the Polk Award for his dogged metropolitan reporting ... Perhaps his best-known piece was the remarkable and oft-praised story of Clifton Pollard, the $3.01-an-hour worker who dug President John F. Kennedy’s Arlington National Cemetery grave.” new york daily news (Also: Digging JFK grave was his honor and A death in Emergency Room One)

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Q. 

How well can you trust the government to handle your sensitive information?

“We’re a leading provider of total telecommunications lifecycle management in Australia and New Zealand. For over 20 years, we’ve helped corporations and government departments in Australia and New Zealand to professionally manage and reduce their telecommunication costs.”  TELCO MANAGEMENT, A CONTRACTOR PROVIDing TELECOM SERVICES TO THE GOVERNMENT

A. 

Why don’t you call nearly any federal MP on their private number and ask them?

“The private mobile phone numbers of hundreds of federal politicians, former prime ministers and senior political staffers have been inadvertently published online in an embarrassing blunder by a government department. The Department of Parliamentary Services failed to properly delete the numbers before it published the most recent round of politicians’ phone bills on the Parliament House website, potentially compromising the privacy and security of MPs from cabinet ministers down.”  brisbane times

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and finally:

The fixers who buried Old Hollywood’s biggest scandals

“As the head of publicity for MGM, Strickling ‘handled’ all the potentially scandalous affairs for the studio’s stars. From the 1930s through the 1960s, he worked with MGM general manager Eddie Mannix to maintain the carefully curated images MGM had built for each of its movie stars. That meant keeping damaging stories out of the press – or, if it was too late, making those stories disappear.”atlas obscura

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor, and a former editor of Junkee.