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.