Monday, June 17, 2019

Working holiday visa extension could increase exploitation

A number of former overseas backpackers have come forward to the ABC having endured exploitation and assaults while working on Australian farms. All have expressed their concerns about proposed changes to the working holiday visa rules. British backpacker Frances Fairs’ experience of revolting accommodation facilities in regional Victoria, which was then compounded by the hostel owner’s unwelcome sexual attention, is one of many stories haunting 417-class visa holders. The federal government is moving to extend the visa from July 1 to allow visitors to extend their stay to a third year if they undertake an additional six months of specified work in regional areas. Migration agent Mark Glazbrook described “a high number” of exploitation cases under the current structure of the working holiday visa program. “Once that program is expanded then it does increase the opportunity for employers to exploit more people,” he said. The Department of Home Affairs said tackling such exploitation was a priority for the Australian Border Force.

Consumer protection for home owners in New South Wales is under scrutiny after the evacuation of another apartment building at the weekend. Residents of Mascot Towers in Sydney’s inner south were evacuated from their building when structural issues were identified by engineers. Cracking in transfer slam beams in the 131-unit block were the cause of concern, and while Fire and Rescue NSW said there is “no thought that building is going to have a catastrophic failure or collapse”, residents were evacuated “as a precaution”. Apartment owners could be footing the bill for the repair of the structural damage as the building is too old to fall under warranty. Buildings in New South Wales are covered for just six years after building completion, which according to the Owners Corporations Network spokesperson Stephen Goddard means “there’s nobody for [residents] to sue”. He remarked that people had “more consumer protection buying a fridge than a million-dollar apartment”, claiming that 80 per cent of all new apartment buildings were found to have structural defects.

In Hong Kong, protests continue on the streets, despite the suspension of proposed extradition laws by authorities. Protesters are dissatisfied with chief executive Carrie Lam’s last minute decision to indefinetely halt the bill, dismissing it as too little, too late, and calling for a full retraction of the legislation, to ensure it could not pass in future. Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched on Sunday, many carrying white flowers, a symbol of innocence, while others held banners saying, “Do not shoot, we are HongKonger.” Lam did not apologise for police violence towards protesters last week, when rubber bullets and tear gas were fired at crowds.

Figures released by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority reveal Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie as the biggest spender on travel among federal politicians in 2018. Senator McKenzie spent more $1400 a week on accommodation, staying in hotels 217 nights last year. Her travel allowances total at least $73,905. In 2017, Labor MP Warren Snowden and retiring Country Liberal Party senator Nigel Scullion, who both reside in the Northern Territory, spent $70,583 and $67,665, respectively, on travel. McKenzie lives in Ballarat, 115km from Melbourne.



“Bob Hawke’s granddaughter Sophie Taylor-Price sat at the knee of Australia’s greatest peacetime prime minister, as in 1989 he gave Australians a televised address about the need to act to stop global warming. Thirty years later, Taylor-Price told today’s memorial service that Hawke died with ‘such great sadness that we have failed to do so’. Six of the seven prime ministers responsible for that epic failure were present at Hawke’s memorial, where Taylor-Price made her tribute count … Were they listening?”


“Gore tells The Saturday Paper: ‘We’re now entering a period where the climate crisis and the democracy crisis are twinned, interwoven.’ Yet he remains an optimist, in part because the alternative is despair, which, he says, ‘is just another form of denial in actuality. We don’t have time for it.’ There are signs of hope. Not all governments are as resistant to action as those of Australia and the US. Some 80 of the 165 nations that signed up to the Paris climate agreement are now on track to meet their commitments.”


“Pugnacious, erudite and self-assured, Pezzullo is one of the most divisive and powerful public servants in the capital. This week, I spoke with five public servants. Some former, some current. All have at least a decade’s experience. They’ve worked in different departments and at different levels. Some have worked in national security. Each requested anonymity in order to speak candidly about secrecy, whistleblowing and Pezzullo. They were not uniform in their views.”


“Thousands of women across Switzerland walked off the job, burned bras and blocked traffic in a day of demonstrations to demand fairer pay, more equality and an end to sexual harassment and violence.”


“The Coalition’s plan to flatten tax brackets for middle to high income earners will provide twice as much benefit to men than women, a new analysis has found. The analysis by the Australia Institute, released on Monday, found that in 2024-25, the first year of the controversial third stage of the government’s tax plan, men will pocket $11bn in income tax cuts while women receive just $6bn.”


“‘We’re not exactly sure what purpose the head serves. Some say we need them to digest rocks, while others contend primitive man used them to smash things open, but there’s no consensus as to their function, yet all experts agree that we’ll soon be rid of them,’ said lead researcher Dr. Dan McShea, who touted the ability to run faster as one of the many benefits of not being ‘burdened’ by the misshapen secondary growth.”

A shooting in Darwin
The mass shooting in Darwin was the worst in Australia since Port Arthur, but it received little attention. What happens to the people left behind?

Anna Horan
is a Melbourne-based editor and writer.