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.