Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Fresh wage underpayment scandal hits

A Fairfax investigation has revealed widespread underpayment of workers at Retail Food Group franchise chains, including Donut King, Crust Pizza, Gloria Jean’s, Michel’s Patisserie and Brumby’s. Workers at RFG franchises have spoken of pizza delivery drivers being paid $13 an hour off the books, foreign student workers being exploited and employees being denied penalty rates, superannuation and payslips. Former Michel’s franchisee Vicky Chen said “it’s just not possible to pay the correct wages with all the costs RFG insists we pay”, comparing the situation to that of convenience store chain 7-Eleven, which was forced to pay $150 million in a wages shortfall. Fairfax has exposed RFG’s business practices in recent weeks, with franchisees often losing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the food franchise empire’s aggressive business model.

The government has unveiled cuts to welfare, higher education and family payments as part of its effort to improve the budget position. A total of $2.1 billion will be cut from university funding by revising down the threshold at which students must repay HECS debts, while longer waiting periods for migrants to receive family payments will save $1.2 billion. The higher education sector has signalled its opposition, with Universities Australia chair Margaret Gardner saying the cuts would disproportionately affect “universities that are still growing their student numbers to meet the needs in their local communities and regional economies”.

Liberal Senate leader George Brandis will step down as Attorney-General and be appointed as Australia’s new High Commissioner to the United Kingdom today, as the government prepares a cabinet reshuffle. Brandis has been tipped to leave politics since January, following a series of high-profile missteps and clashes with prominent legal personalities. He will replace Howard-era immigration minister Alexander Downer in the $280,000-a-year role. Brandis’ position is expected to be filled by either social services minister Christian Porter or employment minister Michaelia Cash, while immigration minister Peter Dutton will step into the new home affairs “super-ministry” overseeing intelligence, border security and federal police operations. Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce will take the infrastructure portfolio.

The charity and not-for-profit sector has stepped up its opposition to the appointment of former Keating minister Gary Johns to head the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. Civil Voices Australia, a new report from Pro Bono Australia and the Human Rights Law Centre, found that “civil society organisations are engaging in various forms of ‘self silencing’ – treading very carefully in their advocacy work less they risk financial security and political retribution”.  A survey of workers in the sector found that organisations were concerned they would have their funding cut for expressing dissent towards government policies, and two-thirds of state-based non-governmental organisations felt restricted by their funding arrangements. Johns’ appointment was widely criticised by the sector, with shadow charities and not-for-profits minister Andrew Leigh calling Johns “deeply ideological and unsuited to the role”.

And Australia has won back The Ashes after defeating England by an innings and 41 runs at the third cricket Test in Perth. Captain Steve Smith and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh starred for the home side, scoring 239 and 181 respectively in Australia’s first and only innings with the bat. Australia is now 3-0 for the series after wins in Brisbane and Adelaide, and will now aim for a clean sweep in Melbourne and Sydney. Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.

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What a bunch of pathetic muppets. The Greens are actually opposed to Christmas!

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Charlotte Wood: We’re told female anger is finding its moment. But I can’t trust it

“I feel sick. I stop before the screen, my hand over my mouth. A moment later I put on my lipstick and go out to a nice restaurant for dinner ... Who wants to think any more about women’s anger? Who wants to see another hashtag, to hear the sordid details of yet another revolting encounter, see another pathetic, self-serving apology? Who the hell is not yet bored to tears by the misery and injustice and waste of it all? And yet there it is, the fury: forcing its way out, bursting up, unresolved, primitive, mighty.” guardian australia

The insane true story of how Titanic got made

“Well before it was released, James Cameron’s passion project became notorious as the most expensive movie ever made, with a final budget of $200 million. Then it became the first movie in history to earn $1 billion at the box office. And it achieved this success despite months of advance press claiming that the movie was all but doomed; despite the widespread belief that Cameron, who previously helmed the Alien and Terminator franchises, had no business trying to tell a love story; and despite the fact that Titanic, in a way that is now all too easy to forget, is an immensely difficult movie to watch.”  buzzfeed

How SpongeBob SquarePants came to life on Broadway

“SpongeBob SquarePants, of the 18-year-old Nickelodeon cartoon, is a talking yellow kitchen sponge with a head that takes up more than two-thirds of his body. He lives in a pineapple under the sea, in a mid-sized town called Bikini Bottom. Despite the fact the the town is underwater, it somehow has an oceanfront beach of its own. The residents get around driving boats on the seafloor ... This is all just to say, for designer David Zinn, when it came to bringing SpongeBob SquarePants to the stage, the question of the pineapple under the sea turned out to be the least of his problems.” the outline



Will Scott Morrison’s bullish economic forecasts come to fruition?

“Treasurer Scott Morrison has signalled a fresh push to get the government’s $50 billion package of company tax cuts through the Senate, saying that US President Trump is forcing his hand and that the changing Senate composition gives him a chance. Higher than expected company tax receipts helped improve the budget position by $10 billion in the update, improving the outlook for 2017-18 by $5.8 billion.”   fairfax


Not if people don’t have any money to spend.

“The lowest wages growth in decades, coupled with the axing of weekend penalty rates, both contributed to the lowest increase in household consumption since the global financial crisis. With many employees wondering when, or even if, their next pay rise will come and fearing for their jobs in a rapidly changing economic landscape in which staff are often the first casualties of ‘reforms’, spending on discretionary purchases plummeted during the September quarter.”  the canberra times


and finally:

Behold the most hilarious wildlife photos of 2017

“The 2017 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are meant to highlight whimsical, ‘possibly unpretentious’ photography of wild animals doing funny things, according to their website. Some of the silliest images from past contests have gone viral, and this year’s certainly have the potential to do the same ... The contest received over 3,500 submissions, which were required to have been taken by the photographer, not of a pet or domesticated animal, and without being digitally manipulated.” gizmodo

Editor’s note: The Friday, December 22 edition of The Briefing will be the last for the year. The Briefing will resume on Monday, January 29.