Friday, May 22, 2020

Employees fear unsafe workplaces

A survey of workers finds most claim their employers are yet to implement sufficient hygiene measures and make arrangements for pandemic leave, as major businesses are poised to reopen for business. Of 1367 workers polled by UComms on behalf of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, just 11 per cent of those attending workplaces say access to soap and sanitiser was provided. A total of 9 per cent of respondents said their employer had developed a plan to respond to staff with symptoms, and 1 per cent offered paid pandemic leave. However, respondents reported strong uptake of social distancing measures, with 70 per cent saying their workplace had made changes to give employees space. The pandemic had prompted 85 per cent of respondents to reconsider attending work if they were suffering mild respiratory symptoms. Myer plans to reopen all its department stores by May 27, claiming staff will have access to masks, gloves and sneeze guards.

Police have released without charge the driver who ploughed a four-wheel-drive into a Muslim fashion shop in Sydney's west, injuring 14 people. The driver, a 51-year-old man known to police for other traffic offences, revved his engine at a set of traffic lights and rammed the car in front before speeding through the intersection and into the Hijab House clothing store. Police are continuing to investigate and have called for witnesses, especially anyone with dashcam footage. The news comes as three people have been killed and two others injured near Chinchilla in Queensland last night, after a car crashed into a tree and caught alight. The incidents come as experts warn a spate of risk-taking incidents on roads may be linked to a lack of other risks due to Covid-19 lockdown measures.

Australia’s Catholic Church is considering a secret 200-page report that recommends the organisation give lay people more power, increase the number of women in leadership roles, and open up the finances of parishes to the public. The report is in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, reports The Sydney Morning Herald. It found that the hierarchical nature of the church created “a culture of deferential obedience” that left the protection of paedophile priests unchallenged. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference is not expected to reveal its stance on the report’s 86 recommendations until the end of the year.

China's annual National People's Congress will consider a new national security law in Hong Kong that could ban sedition, secession and subversion of the central government in Beijing. The meeting, which begins today, will review a proposal to enact the measure through a constitutional method that could effectively bypass Hong Kong’s legislature. The South China Morning Post reports that Beijing had lost patience with anti-government protesters, some of whom were involved in violent clashes with police. The protests continued for months before being dampened by social distancing measures enacted due to the pandemic.


“Prime Minister Scott Morrison is increasingly bypassing parliament to ensure some measures addressing the coronavirus pandemic are exempt not only from parliamentary votes but also from amendment of any kind.”


“Benny Wenda, exiled leader of the political arm of the West Papuan independence movement, handed a petition signed by 1.8 million West Papuans to the United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet in Geneva. The actual hand-signed document, weighing more than 40 kilograms, had been collated and smuggled across the border to Papua New Guinea … Getting the document to the UN had resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of key Papuan activists.”


“It was believed a whale had gone mad at the mouth of the river. Several fishing boats had been destroyed in acts of violence so extraordinary they were deemed inhuman. Each attack had come at dusk, while the boats were passing the heads on their way back to port ... Large transport ships reported strange and powerful vibrations ringing through their hulls. Gulls flew strangely, cormorants seemed skittish. Ocean swimmers’ strokes were thrown out of rhythm by a high, ancient melody that rose through the salt.”


“The Treasury secretary, Steven Kennedy, has said he is ‘not particularly concerned’ about Australia’s public debt rising during the Covid-19 crisis, instead encouraging the government to focus on jobs because debt will solve itself. Kennedy’s comments to the Covid-19 Senate committee on Thursday are a strong signal that the government should use fiscal policy to boost the economy rather than attempt cuts to improve the budget position.”


“Clients of other payday lenders have also complained of aggressive texting and emailing during the COVID-19 crisis. ‘I usually get about two or three a day — sometimes hourly,’ Aaron White from Kingston, south of Brisbane, said. Mr White is currently paying off four payday loans … Consumer advocates are concerned about what happens when Government welfare support during the COVID-19 crisis runs out later this year.”


“Pair a smart blazer over pyjamas. That way you can roll into bed and wallow in self pity the moment you get home. This look positively screams ‘I’m strong and I’m proud, but also, very tender right now so please say nice things.’”

Max Opray
is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.