Inside the system

Victorian Libs: Austerity for us, pay rises for them

CUT, CUT, cut has been the mantra of the Victorian Liberal state government—for us, not them.
The Napthine government has revealed new pay rise plans that will see backbenchers receive an extra $11,000 per year, boosting their base-pay to around $150,000.

Super contributions will increase by 4 per cent to 15 cent and a new “golden handshake” payment for dumped MPs will increase to up to $70,000.

The news is a kick in the teeth for the 4200 Victorian public sector workers who lost their jobs in the last 18 months and the school staff and students who had $550 million ripped from public education in the last two budgets. Hypocrisy is the word; the announcement came as the Libs flagged $209 million more public hospital cuts over the next four years, and as paramedics fight for a pay deal above 2.5 per cent.

Labor’s mining tax keeps the big miners rich

Labor’s pathetic Minerals Resource Rent Tax only raised $126 million in its first six months, crumbs compared to the $2 billion it was supposed to take back from the big miners. Now it has been revealed that four mining companies, BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals and Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting booked tax credits of almost $6.4 billion over the six month period. As a result, BHP paid a measly $77 million.

Fortescue and Rio Tinto paid a big fat sum of zero dollars. Fortescue and Hancock Prospecting’s deductions are so big that they don’t expect to pay any tax for the foreseeable future.

The miners’ annual reports expose that the real reason for the failure of the tax is not falling commodity prices, as Treasurer Wayne Swan claimed, but the fact that it allows mining companies to offset the value of their assets against the tax they have to pay— effectively getting them off the hook. Swan has paid lip service to “class war” but he has only been prepared to spread hot air, not the benefits of the mining boom.

Australia’s racist injustice system: locked up for being black

A sentencing Council of Victoria report has damned the state’s justice system, revealing it is worthy of no such name. Its findings reflecting broader trends across the country.

The report exposes that Aboriginal people are disproportionately on the receiving end of prison sentences when compared to the non-Aboriginal population. After adjusting for criminal history and offence type the report found 37 per cent of Aboriginal people received a prison sentence before the courts, as opposed to 28.5 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population.

Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Wayne Muir has called for a review of police practice, saying the statistics reflect “the ‘build more prisons and lock them up’ approach” of governments. Muir also pointed to the failure of police to use “discretionary powers” in cases involving petty crimes like shoplifting and riding a bike without a helmet. This is a polite way of saying racist police use laws like this as an excuse to lock up Aboriginal people.

The massive over-representation of Aboriginal people in prisons has also sparked a national Senate inquiry beginning this month. Across the country Aboriginal kids are disgracefully locked up at 31 times the rate of their non-Indigenous counterparts and for adults its shockingly 15 times more. Clearly it is the Australian criminal justice system that should be on trial.

Sexual assault rife in the US war machine

According to recent survey results, 26,000 US military personnel may have been assaulted last year, a disturbing increase on the 19,000 in 2011. The statistics reveal a culture of fear and impunity. The figure of 26,000 was arrived at through anonymous surveys.

Official reports of sexual assault were dramatically lower at 3374. This is no surprise given that the rot goes all the way to the top. The Air Forces own head of sexual assault prevention was arrested for groping a woman in a parking lot in Virginia just days before the new numbers surfaced.

Women, who make up just 15 per cent of active forces, were victims of around half of all sexual assaults. One consequence of this disgusting culture is that female veterans are the fastest growing section of the US homeless population, with researchers pointing to “Military Sexual Trauma” as a key cause of their homelessness.

Obama has trumpeted the success of the Afghanistan war in realising women’s rights but it is a sick joke to claim the US military could be an instrument for exporting women’s rights anywhere at all.

It’s official: poor more charitable than rich

NAB figures have revealed that as a share of average income Australia’s poorer post-codes give more than Australia’s richest. While much is made of the dollar value of donations by the rich in suburbs like Killara and Vaucluse in Sydney, poorer people in suburbs like Gungahlin in Canberra are willing to sacrifice 40 per cent more of their income for charity. When measured in this way Killara and Vaucluse didn’t even make the top ten.

Teachers have a lot of “down time” and need bigger classes, say NT Libs

The NT Country Liberal Party government is tightening the screws on schools, announcing plans to increase staff student ratios from 17:1 to 20:1 in middle schools. High schools ratios will jump from 14:1 to 18:1. Education Minister Peter Chandler justified the changes by saying teachers have a lot of “down time”, and said there was no clear research that suggested students performed better in small classes.

There seems to be enough evidence for the wealthy though; nationally they are pulling their kids out of public schools at record levels in favour of private schools that have much lower student to staff ratios. In 2010 Chandler himself admitted paying for extensive private tuition for his son who attended a public school at the time.

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