Inside the system

Turnbull expands $4 an hour intern program

The Liberals have announced an expansion of the $4 an hour “internship” program launched in the 2016 budget. ACTU President Ged Kearney pointed out that young people in these placements would be compensated at a rate of about $4 an hour and described the program as, “bordering on slavery”.

The government program called “PaTH” pays businesses $1000 up-front to take on so-called interns for nothing. Workers employed under the program get a $200 top-up on their fortnightly Centrelink payments instead of real wages. The scheme is aimed at 120,000 people aged 18-24 who will be targeted for 12-week placements. The government claims it is preparing the unemployed for ongoing work—but only 82 of the 620 people who have been on PaTH placements since April have been given any kind of ongoing employment.

Employment Minister Michaela Cash has revealed the expansion of the PaTH program is taking place in “partnership” with the Australian Retailers Association. Retailers such as Bakers Delight and Coffee Club have already eagerly signed up for the scheme. This will see “interns” doing entry-level retail jobs serving coffee or taking orders without getting paid. As Clara Jordan-Baird from Interns Australia said, “It shouldn’t be normal to pop into your local Coffee Club and see an ‘intern’ waitress working for free.”

Border Force sends Australian citizens to Christmas Island

In late June the Australian Border Force admitted to illegally detaining two Australian citizens on Christmas Island. The two men were detained and sent there under section 501 of the migration act. This allows for the detention and deportation of a non-citizen who is judged to have failed the “character test” by the minister or a delegate. Section 501 is usually applied when a non-citizen commits a criminal offence.

However, despite being born in New Zealand the two men were both Australian citizens. This means there was no legal basis for sending them to the island prison camp.

Since the Coalition lowered the character test threshold in 2014, almost 1000 New Zealand citizens have been deported or detained. They include people who arrived here and children and have spent their whole lives in Australia.

This is not the first time Australian residents have been illegally thrown into one of the government’s detention hell-holes. Vivian Solon, an Australian citizen, was wrongly deported to the Philippines in 2001, while permanent resident Cornelia Rau was detained for ten months between 2004 and 2005.

Terror attacks involving Muslims get four times more coverage

Researchers at Georgia state university in the US have found terror attacks get four times as much media coverage if they are carried out by a Muslim. The gross bias was revealed after analysing media coverage of all terror attacks in the US between 2011 and 2015. Muslims carried out just 12.4 per cent of attacks but these received 41.4 per cent of news coverage. That meant a 449 per cent increase in coverage when the perpetrator was Muslim.

The 2013 Boston bombing, where two Muslim brothers killed three people, received one-fifth of all media coverage over the five year period. A massacre at a Sikh temple in 2012 in Wisconsin left six dead. But it was carried out by a white man—Michael Page—and got only 3.8 per cent of total coverage. Another white man, Dylan Roof, killed nine at a black church in South Carolina but only received 7.4 per cent of coverage in the period. According to the authors: “Based on these findings, it is no wonder that Americans are so fearful of radical Islamic terrorism. Reality shows, however, that these fears are misplaced.”

Could Grenfell fire happen here?

The Grenfell Tower fire killed at least 80 people with the death toll still rising. The horror has become a symbol of all that is wrong with austerity and capitalism in the UK and beyond. The flammable cladding used at Grenfell is banned in the US and Germany because it is so combustible. But it has been used in Australian public housing too.

The contempt of the local Tory-run council for local public housing tenants is beyond belief. Their prime concern has always been the rich tenants of the expensive houses and luxury apartments across the area.

Grenfell’s Tory council chose the cladding because it was $3.40 per square metre cheaper than less flammable alternatives. It was installed partly to appease wealthy residents in the gentrified area surrounding the tower. They un-clad tower spoiled their nice views.

Following a 2009 fire at another tower block in South London, councils were advised to install sprinklers to prevent deaths. This advice was dismissed as too expensive.

Since taking power the Tory government has cut millions in funding from the fire service, reduced fire safety audits by 25 per cent and even suppressed reports into tower block fire safety.

Disgracefully some of the residents who survived the fire are still receiving no government help at all and remain homeless.

A fire at an apartment block with similar cladding in Melbourne in 2014 should have been a warning. Fire spread rapidly up the cladding, with loss of life only prevented by sprinklers installed in the building.

A report produced two years ago estimated as many as 2500 buildings in NSW alone may be covered in similar flammable cladding.

Executive pay at big banks $300 million

Senior Executives at Australia’s big banks took in a combined $300 million last year in salaries.

The figure includes executive pay at the Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ, National Australia Bank and Macquarie, those targeted in the government’s new bank tax. That’s one third of the amount the bank tax itself is scheduled to raise.

Macquarie Bank alone paid its executives an eye-watering $126 million.

Commonwealth CEO Ian Narev took in $12.3 million alone, just behind Macquarie CEO Nicholas Moore on $18.7 million and its head of asset management, Shemara Wikramanayake on $17.3 million.

Research and writing by Adam Adelpour


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