Friday, May 31, 2019

Class action signals asbestos-level health crisis

At least 135 stonemasons have been diagnosed with the potentially deadly lung disease, silicosis, prompting fears of an asbestos-level health crisis. Silicosis occurs when silica dust particles are inhaled during the “dry cutting” of the engineered stone product, used for stone benchtops, and damage the lungs. Stonemasons from Queensland and Victoria have joined a national class action by Slater and Gordon against manufacturers of the stone product. The Slater and Gordon spokesperson said benchtop suppliers did not adequately convey risks or implement safety precautions. At least one person involved in the class action has died from the disease, and 15 more cases are considered terminal.

The United States department of energy has rebranded fossil fuels as “molecules of US freedom” and natural gas as “freedom gas” in a disturbing echo of Orwell’s New-speak being applied to the lexicon of energy and climate change. The new names were used on Tuesday when the department approved a liquified natural gas export project in Texas. In a statement attributed to the under secretary of the department of energy, Mark W. Menezes, the department said the new export capacity was “critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving America’s allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy.”

The minimum wage in Australia is set to rise 3 per cent off the back a Fair Work Commission ruling. About 2.2 million Australians on the minimum wage currently will get an extra $21.60 a week in their pay. Fair Work Commission president Iain Ross said economic conditions justified the rise: "We are satisfied the level of increase we have decided upon will not lead to any adverse inflationary outcome and nor will it have any measurable negative impact on employment," he said. The changes will come into effect from July 1.

The Queensland environment department is today expected to sign off on ($) Adani’s management plan for the endangered black-throated finch. The location of the mining giant’s Carmichael mine is home to the largest population of the southern subspecies. Adani was required to detail how it would manage and reduce any threat to the birds in the area. The previous management plan submission was rejected earlier this month by the Queensland government, which sought more information on bird population and available food in the area. If the new plan is approved, the next step for Adani will be to obtain approval for a groundwater management plan before a deadline of June 13.

In sport, the men’s cricket World Cup began in England last night with a local triumph over South Africa, while only a week remains ahead of the kick-off for the women’s World Cup of football, across the channel, in France. Two of the Matildas players have pledged to donate 1 per cent of their earnings to social causes. English men’s football teams meanwhile continue their guaranteed cakewalk at the top of both major European club competitions this year, after Chelsea thumped Arsenal 4-1 in the Europa League final in Baku on Thursday. Two other English Premier League teams, Tottenham and Liverpool, will contest the final of the European Champions League in Madrid on Sunday. Notwithstanding the British penchant for retreating from international affairs, the head coaches, or managers, from the four EPL teams in the European finals, are, actually foreigners - hailing from Italy, Spain, Germany and Argentina.



“Frustration has been a constant, though, as Okenyo has been pipped for screen roles several times by lighter-skinned candidates. She believes the Australian screen industry is about ‘20 years behind’ that of the United States in terms of diverse casting. She has, however, been a Play School presenter for several years, a role she cherishes, and had a part in the Channel Ten drama Sisters, since picked up by Netflix.”


“Organised by independent curator Benison Kilby, the exhibition addresses women’s work both inside and outside the home, paid and unpaid. By putting these artists alongside one another, Kilby builds an argument connecting women’s experience of unpaid work in the domestic realm with broader crises in the contemporary workforce – especially the phenomenon of increasingly low-waged, precarious, ‘feminised’ labour. The exhibition picks up on what Kilby calls ‘a resurgence of interest in the topic of women’s labour by younger artists both in Australia and overseas’ which she was looking to contextualise in relation to key historical precedents.”


“Almost all of the takes written in the immediate aftermath of an election result are wrong. It is too early for commentators to know anything beyond their own preconceptions, but the hack’s need for speed exists for a reason: already the name ‘Bill Shorten’ feels consigned to the past. Perhaps it always did. But before his memory is submerged, weighted by criticisms, we should add a bouquet to the wreaths: Bill Shorten did everything he was supposed to do.”


“Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been told it is ‘very unlikely’ he can convene Parliament before June 30 in a danger sign for his ability to legislate income tax cuts for millions of workers due to take effect on July 1.”


“‘We expect to more than double the number of in-depth audits we conduct this year to 4500, with a specific focus on over-claimed interest, capital works claimed as repairs, incorrect apportionment of expenses for holiday homes let out to others and omitted income from accommodation sharing,’ Mr Siebert said. ‘Once our auditors begin, they may search through even more data, including utilities, tolls, social media and other online content to determine whether the taxpayer was entitled to claims they’ve made.’”


“The 56,000 square-metre Galaxy's Edge reportedly cost $1 billion to build, involving 6700 construction works and artists over a five-year period … The vast site is centred around a life-size Millennium Falcon, more than 30 metres long – according to Disney, it's the first time a full-size, complete version of the spaceship has ever been built.”

After the first sitting of Morrison’s joint party room, we have a clearer understanding of what the next parliament will be like. Paul Bongiorno on the week just gone and the 10 seats Scott Morrison wants to win.

Anna Horan
is a Melbourne-based editor and writer.