Showing all posts tagged: politics
23 November 2022
The Australian federal election, held in May 2022, saw a record number of teal, or independent, MPs elected to the Australian Parliament. Their strong showing has variously been labelled a teal bath or teal wave, after many teal candidates unseated a significant number of sitting members, most of whom belonged to the previous Liberal-National Coalition government.
It perhaps comes as no surprise then to learn the Australian National Dictionary Centre has declared “teal” as their word of 2022:
Previously associated with a dark greenish-blue colour, or even a breed of duck, teal now has another meaning in Australian English. The word came to prominence this year during the federal election. A ‘teal wave’ of independents successfully challenged government members of parliament in a number of seats.
29 October 2022
The arts sector had been keenly anticipating the 2022 federal budget, with hopes Australia’s recently elected Labor government might offer some respite to the arts after a difficult few years.
The government has all sorts of matters to deal with, the return of inflation, rising interest rates, and increasing power costs, to name a few, but in what arts and culture advocate Esther Anatolitis describes as a budget that is safe-ish, while daring to be boring, there is something for the sector.
Again, it’s only election commitments that are enumerated in last night’s Budget; Minister for the Arts Tony Burke has consistently focused our expectations on the comprehensive National Cultural Policy development and not immediate gestures.
10 October 2022
Today is World Homeless Day.
The purpose of World Homeless Day is to draw attention to the needs of people who experience homelessness locally and provide opportunities for the community to get involved in responding to homelessness, while taking advantage of the stage an ‘international day’ provides — to end homelessness through improved policy and funding.
Homelessness is an issue that seems to have been placed in the too-hard basket by many nations, Australia included. Yet solving the problem may not be as difficult as is believed. Finland, for example, has found an effective way to combat homelessness.
23 September 2022
Why we in Australia can’t simply to resolve to deal with homelessness in the same way a country like Finland does, defies belief. People say the cost would be too great, but I think it’d be far less than the cost of having people living rough, or in emergency homeless shelters long term.
In Finland, the number of homeless people has fallen sharply. The reason: The country applies the “Housing First” concept. Those affected by homelessness receive a small apartment and counselling — without any preconditions. 4 out of 5 people affected thus make their way back into a stable life. And: All this is cheaper than accepting homelessness.
20 September 2022
Asked if she was still of the view the Queen’s death would be an appropriate time to move away from a British head of state, Gillard said: “Yes, I always thought that when the Queen did leave us, that it would cause a period of reflection. I always thought in Australia too it would unleash a new set of reflections about our own constitutional arrangements. But there’s no rush and I certainly endorse what the prime minister has said. There’s time for measured discussion. It’s certainly too soon for that now.”
An opinion poll taken days after Queen Elizabeth II died, found sixty percent of Australians favoured retaining the British monarch as head of state. While it could be argued the Queen’s death generated some support for the status quo, the republican cause has somewhat floundered in recent years.
I’m in favour of a republic, with an Australian head of state (rather than the reigning British monarch), but maintain public support would need to be the other way around, that is, sixty percent in favour of an Australian republic instead of the monarchy, before that could happen.
A clear majority of Australians would need to support such a momentous change in the way the country is governed.
9 September 2022
“London Bridge is down” is said to be the official code phrase used by British authorities to convey news of the death of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in government circles. And now that the Queen has died, a plan called Operation London Bridge, outlining happenings in the hours and days that follow, will be executed.
The prime minister will be woken, if she is not already awake, and civil servants will say “London Bridge is down” on secure lines. From the Foreign Office’s Global Response Centre, at an undisclosed location in the capital, the news will go out to the 15 governments outside the UK where the Queen is also the head of state, and the 36 other nations of the Commonwealth for whom she has served as a symbolic figurehead – a face familiar in dreams and the untidy drawings of a billion schoolchildren – since the dawn of the atomic age.
But before Operation London Bridge plan can be put into effect, Operation Unicorn needs to play out. Operation Unicorn was devised in the event the Queen died in Scotland. As she usually spent three months a year at Balmoral Castle, about eighty kilometres west of Aberdeen, the possibility of her dying there needed to be taken into account.
It is expected her body will be transported from Balmoral to the nearby city of Aberdeen on Friday morning local time. It will then be loaded onto the Royal Train for a journey down Scotland’s east coast to the capital, Edinburgh. Mourners are expected to line the route and kilted soldiers will form guards of honour at stations along the way.
The Queen’s body will lie in state at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, before travelling by train to London. Once the train crosses the Scottish border into England, Operation London Bridge will commence.
29 August 2022
The new Australian Labor government is set to bring reforms to the gig-economy, with the pay rates and conditions of food delivery riders and ride-sharing drivers particularly, who are effectively casual workers, in their sights. Variously referred to as independent contractors, gig-economy, or on-demand workers, the Labor government is seeking to extend them more of the employment rights traditional workers enjoy.
Unlike traditional employees, contractors for gig companies do not have rights to minimum wages, unfair dismissal protections, employer superannuation payments, workers’ compensation for injuries or paid leave. Working conditions in the sector have been under growing scrutiny following five delivery rider deaths in three months in 2020. However, the services have flourished since Uber arrived in Australia a decade ago as minimal government intervention allowed consumers to enjoy cheap and quick food deliveries and more convenient taxi services, and gave gig workers the ability to choose when to work.
Some reports suggest food delivery riders earn little more than ten dollars an hour, well below the minimum wage setting of about twenty-one dollars per hour in Australia. This despite claims by one food delivery service that riders make closer to twenty-eight dollars an hour before expenses. If net earnings equate to ten dollars per hour though, then reform is certainly necessary.
The federal opposition meanwhile believes mandating working and pay conditions won’t suit all gig-economy workers, especially self-employed tradespeople:
In response to the government branding the gig economy a “cancer”, opposition industrial relations spokeswoman Michaelia Cash said Labor was demonising self-employed people in service of the unions. “This attack on the gig economy will end up being an attack on all independent contractors – like truck drivers, plumbers and numerous other hard-working tradesmen and women,” Cash said.
Cash appears to be referring more to workers on platforms such as services marketplace Airtasker, where people can hire anyone to do literally anything, as long as it is safe and legal. Trades people such as delivery drivers, plumbers, and other self-employed skilled workers, can do well on these platforms, as they’re able to ask for hourly rates sometimes venturing into triple figures.
The same goes — to an extent — to unskilled, though experienced, workers carrying out “odd jobs” on such platforms, who have garnered favourable feedback or reviews for their services, and have shown themselves to be reliable. They’re able to negotiate a fair price for the work, or task, they perform, taking into account job and travel costs, provision for taxes (all gig-economy work in Australia is taxable), and a margin for themselves.
No doubt there are instances of worker exploitation though. Those new to the platform, who have less leverage than established workers, and travellers, or backpackers, unfamiliar with minimum pay rates in Australia, possibly stand to lose.
1 August 2022
The Australian government has undertaken to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the Australian constitution. While it is unclear at this stage exactly what form a Voice to Parliament would take, the purpose is clear:
A Voice to Parliament is a body enshrined in the Constitution that would enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to provide advice to the Parliament on policies and projects that impact their lives.
A referendum, a necessary step in the process of altering the constitution, has been proposed for 2023, giving the Australian people the opportunity to have their say in the matter.
An Indigenous Voice to Parliament is seen as an important step in Australia’s ongoing reconciliation with its First Nations people.
25 June 2022
The moves comes as a result of legal action by Avi Yemini, a conservative journalist, and a recent application to the Australian Federal Court, asking Twitter to reveal details of who was operating the previously anonymous account.
Yemini believed PRGuy17 was in the employ of Dan Andrews, the premier of Victoria, on account of tweets supporting Andrews, and his handling of the COVID-19 enforced lockdowns, but Maluta has denied the claim:
“I’m just a normal everyday person. I don’t want to be a celebrity,” he said. “This has meant being really careful about what I put online.” “I’m OK with putting my name out there, but I just … want to have a bit of privacy too.” “I can confirm I don’t work for [Premier] Dan Andrews or any political thing whatsoever. Those theories are completely cooked.”
22 June 2022
There are fears upcoming changes to the eligibility criteria for receiving unemployment benefits, or income support payments, will impact negatively on those seeking work in the arts sector. To continue to qualify for support payments, jobseekers will need to earn one hundred points each week, as opposed to applying for a certain number of jobs.
Points can be gained from a number of activities, including taking courses, doing volunteer work, or attending a job interview. However, many of the sanctioned activities fall outside the usual income generating endeavours of arts professionals, says the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).
Professional arts practitioners are likely to actively seek opportunities in a number of different forms and from a wide variety of sources. This includes undertaking residencies, applying for grants and funding, meeting with curators, sitting on boards, attending industry events, and making artwork for sale, exhibition, and to enter into prizes. Thousands of independent artists and arts workers currently rely on JobSeeker benefits. Without changes to what is recognised by Centrelink as ‘seeking employment’, many will find it near impossible to lodge the work they’ve been seeking as artists to comply with the requirements under the new points system.
The new arts minster, Tony Burke, who is also employment and workplace relations minister, has expressed a desire to do more to help artists and arts workers, so it can only be hoped he is able to adjust some of these requirements.
7 June 2022
The Australian Federal Court has given social networking service Twitter fourteen days to hand over subscription information for the PRGuy17 account, that may reveal the identity of the anonymous operator. The order is in response to a defamation case being bought against PRGuy17 by conservative media journalist Avi Yemini.
PRGuy17, whose avatar displays Simpsons character Troy McClure, built a following during the pandemic, often in vociferous defence of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and critical of various conservative political leaders and mainstream news media. Yemini filed proceedings in the Federal Court in February promising to unmask the identity of the Twitter account. Yemini, a journalist at far-right media outlet Rebel News, was critical of the Andrews government’s management of the pandemic and clashed with the account on Twitter.
Subscription data includes any name and email address details used to create the PRGuy17 account, along with internet protocol (IP) addresses used by the account’s operator. It remains to be seen how useful any of this data may be in uncovering the identity of the person operating the page.
4 June 2022
Australian federal MP Matt Thistlethwaite has been appointed to the role of assistant minister for the republic, in the new Labor led government, a move that will put the question of an Australian republic, and an Australian as head of state, rather than the British monarch, back on the agenda.
The push for Australia to break away from the monarchy has received its best news in 25 years after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese appointed an assistant minister for the republic. Australian Republic Movement chair Peter FitzSimons says the appointment of Matt Thistlethwaite was a major show of support. It remains to be seen what progress Labor will make on the issue after it confirmed a constitutionally-enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament was its referendum priority.
A break from the British monarchy has long been on the cards. In 1995, then Prime Minister Paul Keating declared Australia should become a republic. But the notion was was rejected by the Australian people in a 1999 referendum, with about fifty-five-percent of the population voting against the proposal. But twenty-three years on, support for a republic could hardly be called overwhelming.
Polling conducted earlier this year in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland found a little over a third of people supported an Australian republic, while a little under a third were opposed. But closer to forty-percent — a significant margin — said they were “unsure or neutral” on the matter. When posed the question: yes or no, would you support a republic, fifty-four-percent of respondents said yes. But it’s not much of a margin, and I’d contend a minimum of sixty-percent of Australians would need to be firmly in favour for the idea to carry.
But Australians appear to have other priorities, and the matter of a republic is of little interest to many, although that doesn’t mean Australia is a country filled with monarchists:
The biggest hurdle for republicans is the reality that Australia is already an independent nation, with only sentiment and inertia linking us to the British crown. Most Australians, when pressed, struggle to remember the name of the current governor-general or to explain their role.
Interestingly, this week marks the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth’s, seventieth jubilee. I only know because I try to keep up with the news. A month ago I’d have had no idea the occasion was imminent. Certainly I’m not aware of any events locally to acknowledge the milestone. I see no banners flying on the streets, nor detect any sort of buzz of interest generally. People seem to be going their day-to-day affairs as normal.
But another obstacle for those in favour of a republic is what the exact role of any head of state, presumably a president, would be. What sort of executive power would they be invested with, and how would they assume office? Should they be appointed by the Australian parliament, or elected by popular vote? There are many questions to address.
Personally I think Australia should be a republic, and a nation with a head of state chosen by the people. It may only be a symbolic gesture, but it’s an important one.
31 May 2022
The Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (DASSH) is calling for reform to higher education fee structures, which appear to be skewed against students wishing to study humanities, arts, and social sciences degrees. DASSH says recently released statistics show the cost of arts degree is up to three thousand dollar more per annum (PDF), compared to medicine or dentistry courses.
81 per cent of the nearly 14,000 Year 12 students interviewed for the report said passion would guide their choices for further study. The Universities Admission Centre Student Lifestyle Report shows only 35 per cent of students consider the cost of education when choosing their degree, and only about 40 per cent consider employment outcomes. These statistics fly in the face of the face of claims fee increases would guide student preferences under the former Government’s ‘Job Ready Graduates Package’.
Given many students are making study choices based on their passion, or what they’re really interested in, rather than the cost, or potential employment outcome, of tertiary education courses, DASSH wants to see more equitable degree course pricing.
30 May 2022
The recent change of Federal government in Australia has raised hopes the arts sector will receive more economic support, with incoming arts and industrial relations minister Tony Burke keen to address insecure work and unreliable pay issues.
Burke has also long advocated for addressing issues of insecure work and unreliable pay, claiming Labor would launch a senate inquiry into insecure work if elected. The arts and cultural sector has the dubious title of being an industry leader in insecure work. And it is at the intersection of cultural and industrial relations policy where our new arts minister could dramatically reshape the sector.
I think Burke has a task and a half before him, but a closer focus on the arts is long overdue.
27 May 2022
Melbourne based Australian author, Anna Spargo-Ryan, who’s novels include The Paper House, and The Gulf, writes about the hope and relief some Australians are feeling — at least momentarily — as a result of the change of government in Australia last weekend.
For today – and maybe only for today, but we’ll see how things pan out – I feel held. Not fighting the solipsistic dread with weapons made out of my own wellbeing, but part of a community that has chosen to vote for the betterment of others. That’s new. It feels good to sit with it, to briefly imagine, in the words of famous internet depressed person Allie Brosh, that maybe everything isn’t hopeless bullshit.
The mood is a little different presently, but there often is when a new administration is elected. Whether things will be become “better” long term? That remains to be seen.
20 May 2022
The unbearable costs and instability of the rental crisis are pushing more people towards crowdfunding for accommodation, with housing-related appeals on one of Australia’s biggest fundraising platforms more than quadrupling over the past year. The campaigns range from requests for assistance with rental arrears and covering the costs of temporary accommodation, to appeals for help to buy caravans or other forms of mobile accommodation in the face of homelessness.
We are frequently told Australia is a rich — or at least well off — country, making situations like these unfathomable. There may be inequality, often the result of a lack of momentum, but how something basic like reasonably priced rental housing remains a problem beggars belief. I fear whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s federal election, there will be little change to the status quo. Because, you know, this a state issue, not a federal one.
20 May 2022
Australians go to the polls tomorrow, Saturday 21 May 2022, to choose who will govern the country for the next three years. While issues such as climate change, the pandemic, and regional security have dominated the election campaign, matters arts and culture have been largely absent from the spot light.
In terms of policy in this area, the incumbent Liberal National Coalition government appears to offer little, while the present opposition party, Labor, has policy that Ben Eltham, a lecturer at the School of Media, Film, and Journalism at Monash University, describes as “surprisingly modest.” Eltham, together with four other policy experts, have compared the proposals of both major political parties, and graded each of them.
Meanwhile, Ben Francis has set out the difference between the Greens, Labor, and the Liberal National Coalition, arts and culture policies in slide format.
7 May 2005
Saw this on the way to work the other morning. Along Epsom Road, in the Sydney suburb of Rosebery. I don’t know how long it has been there, or how long it will remain. I wonder what the exact point is. It could mean a number of different things when you think about it…
Originally published Saturday 7 May 2005.