Showing posts with label Australian society. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australian society. Show all posts

Friday, 11 May 2018

Entrenching inequality in the Australian way of life


There are no real winners in this 2018-19 federal budget – everyone loses something because funding/staffing cuts include services which affect the smooth running of the country, such as regulatory oversight, law, policing and communication. 

Partial winners in the longterm are those in the two highest income/asset deciles. The Anthony Pratts, Gina Rineharts, 'Twiggy' Forrests, Bruce Mathiesons, Malcolm Turnbulls and Peter Duttons of this world.

Those losing the most are low income households, especially those dependent on welfare payments and those with an annual  salary/wage between $41,000 to $87,000 because they will be assessed under the same tax rate as now but with less of the tax benefit pie on their plates in the future.


Federal Budget 2018 Facts of Life - a non-exhaustive list

* Funding in this budget does not fully compensate for funding cuts and tax increases in the last three federal budgets.

* Cuts from previous budgets are still impacting on health services; education funding for schools and vocational studies have been reduced by a combined total of $17.27 billion, funds for the public broadcaster are frozen representing a loss of $84 million on top of $254 million in budget cuts since 2014.1

* Cuts are also occurring in:

Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) with permanent funding  cut from $346 million to $320 million over two years and staff numbers reduced by 30 investigators in the next year.

Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions with funding cut from $77.4 million to $73.75 million in two years.

The Australian Federal Police funding cut from $1.03 billion to $926 million within four years.2

* Although the federal government is contributing $43 billion, to fund what it calls its “share” of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) from 2018–19 to 2021–22, there is still no dedicated funding stream for NDIS.

* Rural, regional and remote area health is only receiving 16.66 million a year for five years to improve health outcomes in those areas across Australia – none of which appears to go directly to treatment of patients or additional services.

* Personal income tax cuts aren’t being offered to those on taxable incomes below $20,548 per annum. Those workers with a taxable income of $20,548 will receive $1 a year in income tax relief. It is reported that the full range of personal income tax relief (which provides the most benefit to the highest earners) will eventually cost est. $17.8 billion annually in lost government revenue if scheme continues until 2027.3

* Individuals earning $100,000 to $125,330 per annum now receive a low and middle income income tax offset despite being in high wage/salary deciles.

* There are estimated 101,508 older Australians on the waiting list for appropriate home care packages.4 At least 60,000 of these do not have even the initial lowest level of home care package and, all the federal government is offering is funding for an extra 14,000 high level packages still leaving 46,000 elder people with no hope of receiving assistance in the foreseeable future to keep living at home.

* There is a proposal to change the progressive tax system from 2018-19 so there are only four income tax brackets and people with incomes from $41,000 to $200,000 per annum will pay the same tax rate. This means that est. 62 per cent of future benefits would go to the highest salary/wage earners with only 7 per cent going to those on the lowest wage.
According to Budget Strategy and Outlook Budget Paper No. 1 2018-19; When completed, the plan ensures that about 94 per cent of taxpayers are projected to face a marginal tax rate of 32.5 per cent or less in 2024–25.

* People over retirement age receiving the Age Pension are being urged to consider funding part of their retirement through the Pension Loans Scheme which will be expanded on 1 July 2019, with the available fortnightly loan plus pension amount increasing to 150 per cent of the maximum rate of fortnightly Age Pension. The current maximum fortnightly pension amount is $907.60. This loan will normally be repaid when the secured real estate asset (usually the principal home) is sold or from the pensioner’s deceased estate.6

* This budget continues the funding model which skews federal primary and highschool funding towards private schools via the Quality Schools scheme with funding for government schools set at $7.6 billion and non-government schools at $11.8 billion in 2018-19 increasing to $9.6 billion and 13.8 billion in 2021-22 .7

* The Northern Territory remote area Aboriginal children and schooling component has been cut by over $47 million across the next four financial years.

*TAFE further technical education funding has been cut by $270 million on top of previous budget cuts.

* The Goods and Services Tax has been extended to cover online hotel bookings made via offshore websites. This is expected to raise $5 million in the 2019-20 financial year.

* Mobile blackspot program funding ceases in 2019.8

* The cashless debit card trial in Ceduna (South Australia) and East Kimberley (Western Australia) will be extended for another year to 30 June 2019. The federal government refuses to make the costs of this measure public.

* Part or all of a welfare payment will be withheld to clear a welfare recipients court fines or address arrest warrants.

* There has been no increase in unemployment benefits.

* Women & girls necessary sanitary products are still subject to a consumption tax payable at the supermarket/chemist checkout.

* Finally, the Turnbull Government cracked a joke in the budget papers – a new National Energy Guarantee is expected to reduce annual residential power bills by $400 at some unspecified date in the future.9

Footnotes:





Saturday, 21 April 2018

Quote of the Week



“There are no saviours of democracy on the horizon. Rather, around the world we see a new authoritarianism that is always anti-democratic in practice, populist in appeal, nationalist in sentiment, fascist in sympathy, criminal in disposition, tending to spew a poisonous rhetoric aimed against refugees, Muslims, and increasingly Jews, and hostile to truth and those who speak it, most particularly journalists to the point, sometimes, of murder.” [Author Richard Flanagan writing in TheGuardian, 18 April 2018]


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

More reports showing that 'trickle up' economics is at work in Australia


Here is just a little of what Liberal & National party members - and their governments - refuse to understand as they support a far-right economic platform which is built on a reduction in corporate tax rates, high business profits and large management salaries in conjunction with employee wage supression, erosion of workers' rights, an increase in employment insecurity based on casual, part-time and/or employees as sham contractors and, further restrictions on eligibility for a number of basic welfare payments.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 April 2018:

Last year, as the government prepared another round of welfare crackdowns, Minister Michaelia Cash said she expects “that those who can work should work and our welfare system should be there as a genuine safety net, not as something that people can choose to fund their lifestyle.”

The subtext was clear – those who need help are a drain on the rest of us.
This rhetoric is familiar, but it is wrong. It is the wealthiest Australians who enjoy the most support.

Research commissioned by Anglicare Australia shows that each year, a staggering $68 billion is spent keeping the wealthiest households wealthy. That is greater than the cost of Newstart, disability support, the age pension, or any other single welfare group.

The Cost of Privilege report, prepared by Per Capita, models four household types to show how these concessions and tax breaks work. One of the couples we modelled, Tim and Michelle, own their own home. They have two children in private schools, top health insurance, and two investment properties. Michelle doesn’t work, and Tim runs a small business. Each year, Tim and Michelle get $99,708 in concessions from the taxpayer, or $1917 per week. That is well over twice as much as a couple with two children on Newstart, and nearly three times as much as a family with one parent on the Disability Support Pension. Tim and Michelle do this by getting concessions on their superannuation, negatively gearing their investment properties to minimise their taxable income, and getting tax breaks for private schools and private health insurance. They also get generous Capital Gains Tax exemptions.

Each year, thousands of Australia's wealthiest households profit from these loopholes and subsidies. Our report finds that tax exemptions on private healthcare and education for the wealthiest 20 per cent cost more than $3 billion a year. 

Superannuation concessions to them cost over $20 billion a year, and their Capital Gains Tax exemptions cost an astonishing $40 billion a year. Compare that to the annual cost of Newstart, which comes in at just under $11 billion a year.

Importantly, nothing that Tim and Michelle are doing is wrong or illegal. This is not a broken system. It is a system working exactly the way it was designed to work, supporting the wealthiest at the expense of the rest of us.

These numbers tell us that something has gone badly wrong. The eighties were the decade of trickle-down economics, where taxes were cut for the richest with the promise that everyone else would soon feel the benefits. But now it’s worse – we’re in an era of trickle-up economics where subsidies, tax breaks and concessions for the richest are paid for by everyone else.....

Anglicare Australia, 26 March 2018:

Cost of Privilege - households (.pdf)

ABC News, 15 April 2018:

One in every five Australian children has gone hungry in the past 12 months according to a new report, with some even resorting to chewing paper to try to feel full.

The survey of 1,000 parents commissioned by Foodbank shows 22 per cent of Australian children under the age of 15 live in a household that has ran out of food at some stage over the past year.

One in five kids affected go to school without eating breakfast at least once a week, while one in 10 go a whole day at least once a week without eating anything at all.
"I think that's a very sad indictment on us as a society," said Foodbank Victoria chief executive Dave McNamara…..

"Some kids were eating paper. Their parents had told them 'There's not enough food, if you get hungry you'll need to chew paper.'"

"This isn't made up. This is a story we heard setting up one of our school breakfast programs down in Lakes Entrance, which is a beautiful part of the country."

"No-one's spared. It's not people on the street; it's people in your street. It's in every community across Australia."

Foodbank Victoria graphic below based on its Rumbling Tummies Report, April 2018:


Fair Work Ombudsman begins another weary audit which will inevitably discover more employers behaving like criminals


Despite wage growth falling to record lows last year, the Australian Minister for Jobs and Innovation WA Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash continues to talk down any need for a substantial national minimum wage increase and praises the good will of employers big and small.

It seems she just refuses to accpet the evidence of her own eyes.......

The Guardian, 11 April 2018:

On Wednesday the Fair Work Ombudsman announced an audit targeting the fast food, restaurant and cafe sector which will penalise businesses exploiting vulnerable workers, including students, casual staff and immigrants.

It follows numerous high-profile cases of workers being exploited, including a cook who was employed by Bar Coluzzi in Sydney on a 457 skilled worker visa who was told by her boss to repay $13,952 of her wages to cover tax and superannuation contributions. She was also working excessive unpaid overtime.

The convenience story chain 7-Eleven was found by a Senate inquiry to have been forcing workers to go to ATMs to withdraw and pay back wages. The panel investigating 7-Eleven told the inquiry it had made 188 determinations that 7-Eleven was liable to pay workers a total of $4.36m, with workers being underpaid an average of $23,000 each.

A Fair Work Ombudsman spokesman told Guardian Australia that intelligence from a range of sources found failing to pay the correct hourly base, penalty and overtime rates, and ignoring record-keeping and payslip requirements were consistent issues.

In 2016–17, 44% of the hospitality workers assisted by the ombudsman to resolve workplace disputes were aged under 26, and 31% were visa holders. Despite the hospitality industry employing around 7% of Australia’s workforce, it accounted for the highest number (17%) of disputes. It was also the industry with the highest number of anonymous reports received (36%), infringement notices issued (39%) and court actions commenced (27%).

While workers under the age of 25 account for about 15% of the Australian working population, they were involved in 28% of workplace disputes the ombudsman took on in 2017. Migrant workers make up 6% of the Australian workforce, however 18% of workplace disputes involved a visa holder.

The ombudsman has begun auditing 1,000 businesses across the country and investigators will check the time and wage records of randomly selected businesses, especially those employing a large numbers of vulnerable workers. Companies involved in serious contraventions will face penalties of up to $630,000 per contravention. The maximum penalty for individuals is now $126,000 per contravention. Failing to keep employee records or issue pay slips attracts a penalty up to $63,000 for a company and $12,600 for an individual.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Ultimately allowing live animal exports and cruelty to livestock is the responsibility of the Australian general public and we should not turn away from our part in this trade


It would appear that live animal exporters are still ignoring the health and well-being of livestock.

Take Emanuel Exports Pty Limited, first incorporated in Western Australia in 1955..... 



ABC News, 9 March 2018:   

A scandal-plagued live export ship slated to take 65,000 sheep to the Middle East has failed to satisfy an inspection and must provide evidence of improvements before maritime officials will allow it to set sail with livestock on board.

The concerns relate to airflow in pens where sheep will travel.

Inspectors from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) spent hours inspecting the Awassi Express after it docked in Fremantle, Western Australia, on Sunday.

"AMSA has advised the master and ship operator that they will have to arrange a third party air flow verification report to prove compliance with air flow standards before an Australian Certificate for the Carriage of Livestock can be issued," an AMSA statement reads.

To carry livestock, a ship must have a certificate for the carriage of livestock.

The inspected ship, used by Emanuel Exports, is the same vessel linked to 2,400 sheep deaths during a voyage to the Middle East last August.

The Department of Agriculture investigated that incident but scandal erupted after footage of the sheep surfaced, reportedly showing livestock being mistreated.
The vision, broadcast on Channel Nine on Sunday night, showed hundreds of sheep crowded into a small space, workers throwing dead sheep overboard, and faeces-covered pens where animals stood panting or collapsed on the ground.

It remains unclear what will happen to the sheep and 250 cattle Emanuel Exports plans to send to Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar in the coming days.
Emanuel Exports was also responsible for a July 2016 consignment, in which an estimated 3,000 sheep died from heat stress during a voyage to the Middle East….

Governments and farming bodies will react after the event when particular instances of animal cruelty or poor shipping conditions make the news. However such reaction frequently makes a claim that the incident in question is a 'one-off' occurrence.

There appears to be a general lack of will to address the fundamental failure of the live export industry to protect livestock from harm or to turn and face the fact that live export in itself is a cruel practice.

Responsibility for animal welfare lies in the last instance with the Australian general public and it will not be until tens of thousands of everyday citizens pick up the phone or write/email federal ministers, MPs and senators that the public's voice will begin outweigh the political influence of farmer-grazier lobby groups.

Contact details for all members of the federal parliament be found at List of Senators - (PDF 163KB) and List of Members - (PDF 145KB)   if readers want to have their say on the subject of live animal export.    

BACKGROUND

ABC News, 5 February 2017:

WA's largest live exporting company, Emanuel Exports, is back in court today to defend itself against charges of animal cruelty brought against it under the state's Animal Welfare Act. The case harks back to 2003 when he animal rights group, Animals Australia, won a Supreme Court order which forced the state to investigate alleged breaches of the Act during a shipment of 100,000 sheep on the Al Kuwait in November of that year. The livestock industry and animal rights groups say the outcome could set a precedent for the future of live exports. Natacha Hammond spoke with Tim D'Arcy from the Pastoralists and Graziers Association who has been at the opening morning of the case.

8 February 2008, DLGD v Emanuel Exports judgement.

beefcentral.com, 1 March 2012:

The export licence of one of Western Australia’s oldest livestock exporters, International Livestock Exports, the South East Asian export arm of Emanuel Exports, could be under threat as a result of footage released by Animals Australia this week.

The footage, showing mistreatment of cattle inside Indonesian abattoirs, aired on ABC Lateline on Tuesday.

ILE is believed to be the exporter responsible for at least one of the animals shown in the footage.

The Federal Government’s Export Supply Chain Accreditation System, introduced to improve animal welfare standards in the wake of televised footage of cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs last year, places the onus of responsibility for the welfare of all exported animals through until the point of slaughter on exporters.

Penalties for breaches of the ESCAS include conditions being placed on licenses, or the suspension or cancellation of a licence.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is currently investigating the footage supplied by Animals Australia last Friday, and will decide on penalties if it confirms that an Australian exporter has breached the ESCAS rules.

Emanuel Exports director Mike Stanton told Beef Central this afternoon that the company has suspended the operations of one abattoir within its accredited supply chain in Indonesia whilst the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry investigation is underway…..

The only Australians who do not recognise the cruel farce that is 'robo-debt' are right-wing politicians, ideologues and the just plain ignorant


“It is trite maths that statistical averages (whether means or medians) tell nothing about the variability or otherwise of the underlying numbers from which averages are calculated. Only if those underlying numbers do not vary at all is it possible to extrapolate from the average a figure for any one of the component periods to which the average relates. Otherwise the true underlying pattern may be as diverse as the experience of Australia’s highly variable drought/flood pattern in the face of knowledge of ‘average’ yearly rainfall figures. Yet precisely such a mathematical fault lies at the heart of the introduction from July 2016 of the OCI machine-learning method for raising and recovering social security overpayment debts. This extrapolates Australian Taxation Office (‘ATO’) data matching information about the total amount and period over which employment income was earned, and applies that average to each and every separate fortnightly rate calculation period for working-age payments.”  [Terry Carney AO, UNSW Law Journal, Vol 42 No 2, THE NEW DIGITAL FUTURE FOR WELFARE: DEBTS WITHOUT LEGAL PROOFS OR MORAL AUTHORITY?, p2]

The Canberra Times, 5 April 2018:

The Coalition government's "robo-debt" program has been unlawfully raising debts with welfare recipients, wreaking "legal and moral injustice", a former administrative appeals tribunal member has said.

Emeritus professor of law at the University of Sydney Terry Carney, who was on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for 40 years and was its longest serving member until finishing in September, has weighed into the debate over the controversial debt collection method saying the Department of Human Services has no legal basis to raise debts when a client fails to ‘disprove’ they owe money.

While Professor Carney urged it be made to comply with the law, the DHS rejected his comments, saying its Online Compliance Intervention program was consistent with legislation.

"Robo-debt" - the subject of a Commonwealth Ombudsman report and a Senate inquiry recommending sweeping reforms to the program - was at the centre of a maelstrom of controversy last year and remains loathed by critics calling for change….

Writing in the UNSW Law Journal last month, he said that despite the DHS' stance it remained responsible for calculating debts based on actual earnings, not assumed averages.

“Centrelink’s OCI radically changed the way overpayment debts are raised  by purporting to absolve Centrelink from its legal obligation to obtain sufficient information to found a debt in the event that its ‘first instance’ contact with the recipient is unable to unearth information about actual fortnightly earnings. As noted by the Ombudsman, the major change was that Centrelink would ‘no longer’ exercise its statutory powers to obtain wage records and that the ‘responsibility’ to obtain such information now lies with applicants seeking to challenge a debt. Writing a little later, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee challenged this, contending that
6.13 It is a basic legal principle that in order to claim a debt, a debt must be proven to be owed. The onus of proving a debt must remain with the department. This would include verifying income data in order to calculate a debt. Where appropriate, verification can be done with the assistance of income support payment recipients, but the final responsibility must lie with the department. This would also preclude the practice of averaging income data to manufacture a fortnightly income for the purposes of retrospectively calculating a debt. …”  [Terry Carney AO, UNSW Law Journal, Vol 42 No 2, THE NEW DIGITAL FUTURE FOR WELFARE: DEBTS WITHOUT LEGAL PROOFS OR MORAL AUTHORITY?, pp3-4]

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Quote of the Week



“Homelessness is one of the most potent examples of disadvantage in the community, and one of the most important markers of social exclusion (Department of Human Services, 2002).” [Australian Bureau of Statistics, 29 March 2018]

Monday, 2 April 2018

Rate of homelessness is rising across Australia - including in New South Wales



Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), media release, 14 March 2018:

Census reveals a rise in the rate of homelessness in Australia 

The rate of homelessness in Australia has increased 4.6 per cent over the last five years, according to new data from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing.

The latest estimates reveal more than 116,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Australia on Census night, representing 50 homeless persons for every 10,000 people.

Dr Paul Jelfs, General Manager of Population and Social Statistics, said that while there was an overall increase in the estimate of homelessness in Australia, this number is made up of various distinct groups and each tells a different story.

People living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings, defined as requiring four or more extra bedrooms to accommodate the people who usually live there, was the greatest contributor to the national increase in homelessness.

“In 2016, this group accounted for 51,088 people, up from 41,370 in 2011.

“On Census night, 8,200 people were estimated to be ‘sleeping rough’ in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out – an increase from 3.2 persons per 10,000 people in 2011 to 3.5 persons per 10,000 people in 2016,” Dr Jelfs said.

Younger and older Australians have also emerged as groups experiencing increasing homelessness in Australia.

“One quarter of all people experiencing homelessness in 2016 was aged between 20 and 30 years,” Dr Jelfs said.

People aged between 65 and 74 years experiencing homelessness increased to 27 persons per 10,000 people, up from 25 persons per 10,000 people in 2011.

Recent migrants (those who arrived within the five years prior to the 2016 Census) accounted for 15 per cent of the homeless estimate. Almost three quarters of this group were living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings and the majority came from countries in South-East Asia, North-East Asia and Southern and Central Asia, including India, China and Afghanistan.

The overall number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing homelessness in 2016 was 23,437. More than two out of three were living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings, with just less than 10 per cent ‘sleeping rough’.

Dr Jelfs also acknowledged the support of service providers in enumerating the homeless.

“I would like to thank the service providers and staff who worked with the ABS to tackle the difficult challenge of enumerating this population group and maximise the quality of this important information,” Dr Jelfs said.

Further 2016 Census homelessness data can be found on the ABS website

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On Census Night in 2016 the number of people who were listed as homeless in NSW:


37,715 persons in total, of which 22,698 were male and 15,010 were female
1,801 of the men and 981 of the women were 65 years of age and older
3,963 were children under 12 years


On Census Night in 2016 the number of people who were listed as homeless in the NSW Northern Rivers region by Local Government Area:

Tweed – 444 (compared to 308 in 2011)
Tweed Heads 156, Tweed Heads 47, South Murwillumbah 49, Murwillumbah Region 52, Kingscliff-Fingal Head 51, Banora Point 45, Pottsville 42

Byron - 327 (compared to 279 in 2011)
Byron Bay 146, Mullumbimby 121, Bangalow 31, Brunswick Heads-Ocean Shores 29
Lennox Head-Skennars Head 4

Lismore - 309 (compared to 283 in 2011)
Lismore 153, Lismore Region 93, Goonellabah 67

Clarence Valley - 230 (compared to 198 in 2011)
Grafton 89, Grafton Region 103, Maclean-Yamba-Iluka 37

Ballina - 77 (compared to 142 in 2011)
Ballina 52, Ballina Region 22

Richmond Valley - 73 (compared to 69 in 2011)
Casino 44, Casino Region 20, Evans Head 15

Kyogle - 34 (compared to 21 in 2011)
Kyogle 27


Thursday, 22 March 2018

Turnbull Government, business and industry still out to suppress minimum wage


According to the Australian Treasury in November 2017;  

On a variety of measures, wage growth is low....

However, weaker labour productivity growth seems unlikely to be a cause of the current period of slow wage growth in Australia. Over the past five years, labour productivity in Australia has grown at around its 30-year average annual growth rate....

An examination of wage growth by employee characteristics using the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey and administrative taxation data suggests that recent subdued wage growth has been experienced by the majority of employees, regardless of income or occupation.....

This is true across the States and Territories, across industries, and across both the public and private sectors. Real wage growth – wage growth relative to the increase in prices in the economy – has also been low.

The Reserve Bank of Australia suggests in its March Quarter 2017 Bulletin that there is"

...some tentative evidence that the relationship between wage growth and labour market conditions may have changed, and that this may help to explain recent low wage growth. Using job-level micro wage data, we also find that, since 2012, wage increases have been less frequent and wage growth outcomes have become much more similar across jobs.


Being paid at the minimum wage rate means that a worker is paid the lowest hourly income for his/her labour that is legally allowable.

At the beginning of the 21st Century (January 2001) the national minimum wage was $10.53 per hour or $400.40 per 38 hour week (before tax).

The current national minimum wage is $18.29 per hour or $694.90 per 38 hour week (before tax) according to the Fair Work Commission.

That represents a rise of $7.76 an hour over the course of 17 years - the equivalent of 45 cents a year.

Not a spectacular hourly base wage growth by any measure.

In March 2018 the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries (AFEI), Australian Retailers Association, Restaurant & Catering Industrial (RCI), Australian Business Industrial and the NSW Business Chamber Ltd (along with eight other industry representatives) made initial submissions to the Fair Work Commission Annual Wage Review 2017-18.

It will come as no surprise that any decent rise in the minimum wage is being resisted in these submissions.

A number of business and industry representatives appear to believe that even raising the minimum wage hourly rate by as little as 34-35 cents is an onerous burden.

Frequent mention is made of the supposed part the businesses they represent play in national ‘jobs and growth’ and the risk wage increases allegedly pose.

A notion supported by the Turnbull Government’s own submission.

Couched in polite terms within their submissions is the last resort position of both the federal government and big business. 

It seems they are reluctantly willing to accept a minimum wage increase that doesn't rise by more than 1.9% (rate of inflation in December 2017) and definitely resist the idea of a rise that actually results in real wages growth.

However, there is another less polite aspect of the part businesses play in the lives of workers and it should be remembered when listening to business and industry representatives make their wage case during media appearances.

The Australian Government Fair Work Ombudsman’s 2018 media releases offer a window on that other aspect which includes a widespread contempt for both workers and the law.

 Media release, 16 March 2018:

Western Sydney campaign reveals high rates of unlawful workplaces

High rates of non-compliance uncovered by the Fair Work Ombudsman in Western Sydney have reinforced the importance of ensuring that Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities have ready access to workplace information and advice.

The Fair Work Ombudsman today released the results of its proactive education and compliance campaign in the region, covering suburbs including Cabramatta, Guildford, Mt Druitt, Fairfield and Merrylands.

Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of the 197 businesses audited by the Fair Work Ombudsman during the campaign were found to be non-compliant with workplace laws.

The campaign led to a total of $369,324 in unpaid wages and entitlements being recovered for 199 workers.

Sixty-four per cent of businesses were compliant with record-keeping and payslip requirements, while just 58 per cent were paying their employees correctly.

The campaign was initiated following an increase in the number of requests for assistance received from some parts of the region in previous years, despite an overall decrease across New South Wales in the same period.

As part of the campaign, Fair Work inspectors conducted site visits with a particular focus on Harris Park and Parramatta in response to intelligence received by the agency indicating potential non-compliance amongst restaurants in the area.

The suburbs are also home to a higher than average proportion of migrants, with both Harris Park (85 per cent) and Parramatta (74 per cent) at more than twice the national average of 30.2 per cent.

Acknowledging that new arrivals to Australia may have a limited awareness of Australian workplace laws, it was considered that businesses in the region would benefit from tailored support and education from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Only two of the 23 businesses visited in these suburbs were found to be fully compliant – a non-compliance rate of 91 per cent.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says the non-compliance rates uncovered by the campaign are highly concerning and cannot be tolerated.

“Where possible, we seek to educate employers and employees about their workplace rights and obligations and equip them with the tools and information they need to ensure they are complying with the law,” Ms James said.

“This area has a large proportion of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, who can find it more challenging to navigate that information or even know where to find it in the first place.

“When combined with a lack of familiarity with workplace laws, language barriers can present significant difficulties to employers seeking to understand and comply with their obligations. 

“The results of this campaign reaffirm the importance of my agency’s work in reaching out to culturally and linguistically diverse communities to raise awareness of the help we can provide.

“We are also making more and more of our tools and resources available in multiple languages, including our Anonymous Report function and the Record My Hours app,” Ms James said.

“Our website can also be viewed in 40 languages other than English with a simple click of the mouse with our new website translator.

“With the wealth of free information and resources available to help businesses understand their obligations, there are no excuses for breaching workplace laws.”
Overall, Fair Work inspectors issued 26 formal cautions, 20 infringement notices (on-the-spot fines) and 11 compliance notices to non-compliant businesses during the course of the campaign.

In one matter, a restaurant business was found to be paying its casual employees under an old award, resulting in a total underpayment of $10,444 to three employees. Fair Work inspectors issued the employer with a compliance notice, and the employees were fully back-paid in accordance with the notice.

Ms James said that non-compliant businesses were now on notice that future breaches could result in serious enforcement action.

“We are happy to work with businesses who require advice and support to meet their workplace obligations, and we will continue our work to ensure our materials are easily accessible to those that need them,” Ms James said.

“Indeed, we were pleased that the employers that we dealt with over the course of this campaign were cooperative and willing to engage with our inspectors, and that all contraventions were willingly rectified.

“We will continue to pursue new initiatives aimed at engaging with businesses in the region to ensure they have access to the help and information they need.”

Ms James reaffirmed however that her agency will not hesitate to take action where deliberate or repeated breaches of the law were identified.

“Employers who fail to put in place processes to ensure compliance expose themselves to enforcement action, including litigation in the most serious cases,” Ms James said.

Employers and employees seeking assistance can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50. 

Potential workplace breaches can be anonymously reported in 16 languages other than English using the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Anonymous Report function at www.fairwork.gov.au/inlanguageanonymousreport.

The Fair Work Ombudsman recently developed six videos in 16 languages other than English to help visa holders to understand their workplace rights. These and other in-language resources are available at www.fairwork.gov.au/languages.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s Record My Hours app is aimed at tackling the persistent problem of underpayment of vulnerable workers by using geo-fencing technology to provide workers with a record of the time they spend at their workplace. The app is available in a number of different languages and can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.

Follow Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James on Twitter @NatJamesFWO external-icon.png, the Fair Work Ombudsman @fairwork_gov_au External link icon or find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au External link icon.

Sign up to receive the Fair Work Ombudsman’s media releases direct to your email inbox at www.fairwork.gov.au/mediareleases.  

Read the Western Sydney Campaign report (PDF 445.5KB)  [my yellow highlighting]

Media Release, 5 March 2018:
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s latest Compliance Activity Report shows a workplace non-compliance rate of 76 per cent in the Caltex service network…..
The Fair Work Ombudsman commenced proceedings against the former operator of the Caltex Five Dock service station in Sydney, Aulion Pty Ltd, and has also initiated proceedings against Abdul Wahid and Sons Pty Ltd, the former franchisee of a number of Caltex outlets in Sydney.
In both cases, the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges that the absence of accurate time and wage records prevented inspectors from completing audits and determining whether employees had received their lawful entitlements.
During the activity, the regulator issued nine infringement notices, 11 compliance notices and 16 formal cautions to non-compliant franchisees.
Inspectors also recovered a total of $9,329.85 in back-pay for 26 workers who were underpaid during a one-month assessment period.
Ms James said the agency believes the figure would be higher if underpayments could have been accurately calculated, but with so many deficiencies in the outlets’ records it is impossible to be sure of the true extent of the wage rip-offs. 
“There’s no question that if these findings indicate the norm in this network, and if these underpayments are replicated throughout the business month after month, we are quickly looking at millions of dollars of underpayments over the course of a few years,” Ms James said…..

Media Release, 2 March 2018:
The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against the former franchisee of a 7-Eleven retail outlet in the Melbourne CBD for allegedly exploiting three international students through a cash-back scheme.
Facing Court are Xia Jing Qi Pty Ltd, which operated a 7-Eleven retail store on William Street until March 2017, and the store’s former manager, Ai Ling “Irene” Lin.
It is alleged that after 7-Eleven head office set up a high-tech payroll system in 2016 aimed at ensuring employees were paid lawful minimum rates, the company and Ms Lin tried to disguise underpayments of three employees by requiring them to pay back thousands of dollars in wages.  
The three employees were Chinese students, aged between 21 and 24, who were in Australia on student visas. Ms Lin, from Taiwan, was also in Australia on a student visa…..

Media Release, 27 Feb 2018:
The Fair Work Ombudsman has brought proceedings relating to redundancy entitlements, in a new legal action against services company Spotless Services Australia Limited for allegedly contravening workplace laws when it terminated the employment of three workers at Perth International Airport.

Media Release, 26 Feb 2018:
The operator of a Degani café in Melbourne’s north-east is facing Court after he allegedly used false records to conceal more than $12,000 in underpayments of staff, including teenagers and overseas workers.

Media Release, 21 Feb 2018:
The operators of a Melbourne restaurant have been hit with nearly $200,000 in penalties, after a Judge ruled they deliberately underpaid workers.

Media Release, 20 Feb 2018
A Perth security company has been penalised in Court for underpaying its guards more than $200,000, with a Judge saying the company’s claim that it thought overpaying in relation to minimum rates would “counteract” other rates of pay was a “lame excuse”.

Media Release, 16 Feb 2018:
The operator of a number of massage parlours in Adelaide who said he was “too busy and lazy” to keep proper records has been penalised for contraventions of record-keeping and pay slip laws, following legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Media Release, 15 Feb 2018:
The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against a Bundaberg-based transport company for allegedly underpaying an employee more than $11,000 over a period of just nine months.

Media Release, 14 Feb 2018:
Cleaning contractors at 90 per cent of Woolworths’ Tasmanian supermarket sites were not complying with workplace laws, a Fair Work Ombudsman Inquiry has found.

Media Release, 13 Feb 2018:
Michael Patrick Pulis, a business operator who told his employee to “seriously, f**k off…” when the worker asked when he would receive money owed to him, has been penalised $21,500.
Judge Grant Riethmuller also penalised Mr Pulis’ company, Pulis Plumbing Pty Ltd, a further $100,000 after a plumber’s labourer, who was 20 years old at the time, was underpaid by $26,882 over just three months.
Judge Riethmuller described the conduct as “outrageous exploitation of a young person”, adding that the behaviour was “such to arouse much emotion” and “nothing short of avarice”.
The worker was underpaid when he was employed by Pulis Plumbing to perform work in the Melbourne, Geelong and Bendigoareas between September and December, 2014.

Media Release, 8 Feb 2018:
A Northern Territory refuge for women and children victims of domestic violence has back-paid 11 employees a total of more than $50,000, after intervention by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Media Release, 6 Feb 2018:
The operator of a remote Northern Territory homestead is facing major penalties after underpaying 17 employees more than $23,000.

Media Release, 24 Jan 2018:
A sushi outlet operator and an accountant have been penalised almost $200,000 for their involvement in an unlawful internship program that exploited young overseas workers.

Media Release, 22 Jan 2018:
A Brisbane labour hire business will face court for allegedly underpaying 10 employees more than $14,000 through an unlawful unpaid work experience program.

Media Release, 17 Jan 2018:
Ten truck drivers who worked for an Adelaide transport company have been back-paid a total of $374,000 following successful legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Media Release, 16 Jan 2018:
The former manager of an Oliver Brown chocolate café outlet on the Gold Coast who was ‘seeing what he could get away with’ when he exploited overseas workers has been penalised $27,200.

Media Release, 12 Jan 2018:
The Fair Work Ombudsman recently assisted workers at four businesses in suburbs south east of Melbourne to recover almost $50,000 in unpaid wages and entitlements.

Media Release, 9 Jan 2018:
A Judge has penalised a repeat-offender Melbourne childcare operator $85,000 for her latest staff underpayments, saying she required a “sharp lesson” to make her appreciate her legal obligations.

Then there is the naked exploitation outlined in the November 2017 UNSW-UTS study, WAGE THEFT IN AUSTRALIA: Findings of the National Temporary Migrant Work Survey:

A substantial proportion of international students, backpackers and other temporary migrants were paid around half the legal minimum wage in Australia…..

Underpayment was widespread across numerous industries but was especially prevalent in food services, and especially severe in fruit and vegetable picking.

Two in five participants (38%) had their lowest paid job in cafes, restaurants and takeaway shops. This was a far greater proportion than for any other type of job….

Large-scale wage theft was prevalent across a range of industries, but the worst paid jobs were in fruit- and vegetable-picking and farm work….

The study confirms that wage theft is endemic among international students, backpackers and other temporary migrants in Australia. For a substantial number of temporary migrants, it is also severe.

Besides wages theft, employers have also developed a penchant for pocketing workers superannuation.

News.com.au, 30 August 2017:

 …it turns out that Australia’s compulsorary superannuation system has a great big hole in it — one worth $17 billion.

That’s how much super employers have dodged paying in the past eight years, according to new figures released by the ATO this week.

The ATO analysis found that employees had likely missed out on $2.85 billion of their super guarantee payments during the 2014/15 financial year, because employers dodged their obligations, with small business owners among the worst offenders.