May 30

Unemployment II Casualisation II Disrupters II Nature matters II Safeguarding the future II Madmen in White House II Assange innocent II

May blog

Contents: Introduction II Unemployment II Casualisation II Disrupters II Nature matters II Safeguarding the future II Madmen in the White House II Assange innocent II End of blog quote II 

Introduction

I’ve been reading a lot lately, not sure whether it’s the poor offerings on television or the cooler autumn temperatures. ‘Optimism’ by Bob Brown was a joy to read – it rekindled my love of environmentalism. And ‘Down the Dirt Roads’ by Rachael Treasure, a dog and horse trainer, had me reeling at the loss of her farm in Tasmania.

Nature is so much stronger than any politician or multi-national. On 26 December, 2004 a tsunami approached Indonesia, its depth was 30 kilometres, with a maximum runup of 167 feet, 230-280,000 people died.  

In 1984, I remember living in Cornwall in a lighthouse cottage with my 3 year old son Ben,  listening to the radio.   It was in the morning, a dull day, stormy and grey. We had no TV or phone. The BBC announcer was talking about Afghanistan where the Russians seeking to overturn the rebels (Mujahideen), laid mines (PFM-1) which were often mistaken as toys by children who picked them up and were blown to bits.  Did the Mujahideen surrender…  no, a civil war ensued and the Taliban and al-Qaeda (Osama bin Laden) established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. 

The rest is history, we are not safer, we are not treating the world well, we are not treating one another well.  And we are becoming more monitored and controlled.  

Unemployment

Using the phrase ‘Creating jobs’ is a slogan certain to gain electoral votes.   Looking at immigration, foreign aid and the refugee crisis, Tony Mitchelmore, a qualitative researcher working for Visibility, is quoted in The Saturday Paper,  May 20…”It is not generally racist…essentially…It’s about job insecurity.”   Data gleaned from targeted focus groups confirm “the mining boom’s over and things have stalled – we can’t compete with Asia,  manufacturing industries are closing.” Mitchelmore further states “It’s about unemployment, underemployment and the casualisation of the workforce.  Wages have stagnated and the cost of living’s still rising up.”

Most employers don’t provide professional development anymore, although they should,  some employers don’t even pay the SUPA they are legally bound to pay.  Now we have penalty rates for Sunday hours being removed and God forbid, if your hours are cut and you have to apply for Newstart at $267 per week.

If you decide to study Austudy is $218 per week or $268 if you are moving from long term unemployed to study. 

For 18-24yr olds, the Youth Allowance is worse still, at just $144 per week if you’re living at home, or $218 if you’re living away from home. How can anyone survive under these circumstances? 

Well you can’t – so you have to look for work (and now volunteer as well) and/or be studying, both of which cost money. You have to look for somewhere cheap to live – possibly in a share house, or at home with parents until you find a job. And that is harder than one would think. 

Some employers even request your academic records. It’s difficult to gain high distinctions when you are working casual with insecure hours and Centrelink obligations. When I went to University as a result of a stroke which limited my abilities working in television, I had all the above problems with the added responsibility of being a sole parent.  

Reporting in Inquirer for The Weekend Australian, Ewin Hannan said “Full-time jobs are eluding far too many millennials”. Stacy (27) has to do a one year internship despite the fact she is a University qualified psychologist. Try counselling, she did…and found it requires a 100 hr placement (usually with Lifeline). Carissa (24) has been on the dole for 79 wks. She finished Yr 12, took a Diploma at the Melbourne School of Fashion, has a Certificate in retail and has volunteered at the Salvos for the past two years. Michele Depina (23) completed Yr 12, has a Diploma in Information Technology as well as a TAFE Certificate in software programming “I will just have to hope it gets me somewhere.” 

“The number of full time jobs has fallen by almost 60% since 2010,” says Hannan.  “And it is the millennials, the generation born between the early 1980s to the mid to late 90s, who are especially affected.  A rapid decline in low skilled entry level jobs and the rise of the ‘gig’ economy (those working as contractors with or without Degrees, and precarious employment arrangements) means young people are struggling to make ‘ends’ meet and they simply cannot save,  applying for a loan would be impossible. Casual employees don’t even get a ‘look in’.  See p.3 of the attached report for a self explanatory graph on underemployment, unemployment and underutilisation. (Images: Courtesy of abc.net.au)

Youth Unemployment Monitoring – know the facts

Generation stalled – Underemployment and Unemployment in Australia 2017

Sources: Mike Seccombe, The Saturday Paper May 20-26,  Ewen Hannan, Inquirer p17, The Weekend Australian, May 20-21, 2017, Brotherhood of St Laurence

Casualisation 

Reporting in The Australian (Aug  2016) Paul Cleary writes “Employers use a myriad of means to reduce labour costs. Whether it is hiring more juniors, casuals, part-timers, trainees or migrants on short-term visas, the drive to remain competitive through cheaper and more flexible labour hire can be seen throughout the economy. This in turn is hiding massive levels of underemployment.

Scott Morrison says the rise of part-time work means Australia has a more flexible labour market and that this is good for workers and for employers.”   

This point ignores the impact the growth in low-wage jobs is having on spending power in the economy. While unions have been pushing for reasonable increases in the minimum wage ($17.70 per hr), they are battling to hold onto weekend penalty rates. Growing job insecurity and casualisation also lessens productivity, if you cut someone’s hour, their enthusiasm is diminished as financial anxiety takes over.

The ACTU has made a submission to the Fair Work Commission to give casual employees minimum shift times, a right of conversion for casual workers, and a requirement for employers to offer more hours to existing casuals before taking on more workers, without success.

Little research has been undertaken on the effects of casualisation on workers,  but I have seen how underemployment has caused young people to return home, sell their possessions, not eat,  develop anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, be unable to pay their way, and have no social life, let alone travel.  They have no holiday pay, no sick pay, little or no superannuation and often are left with tax obligations which their employers have either underpaid or not paid at all.  And how does all this affect their self confidence?  Casualisation, I predict, will create an epidemic in mental health issues which ultimately will result in physical illness and ongoing health costs. 

Source: Workplace Editor Ewen Hannan, Inquirer p17, The Weekend Australian May 20-21, 2017, Paul Cleary,  The Australian, May 20, 2016.

Disrupters                                                   

Technology is mopping up jobs; take the arm of garbage trucks (only one driver needed and even they may go with driverless trucks), ATMS replacing bank tellers, emails replaying post, online shopping replacing real shops and online distance learning replacing lecturers.

Globalisation is causing a shift in manufacturing jobs; factory automation, call centres and aircraft maintenance now all go off-shore.  And we haven’t even talked about drone delivery. 

The tax system has to change completely.  Companies (the ones that do pay tax !!) want to pay less to compete globally. Raising the Medicare Levy and increasing personal income tax isn’t going to cut it.  Tax revenue will have to come from consumption (raising the GST) and wealth,  sorry Mr 1% there’s no middle class left.

David Kennedy and Nathan Taylor, independent consultants specialising in the impact of advancing technology have raised concern about the diminishing jobs for humans – read less tax revenue!  They make the point “Current problems with domestic violence, the ice epidemic and welfare dependency [will] pale in comparison” to the issues resultant from massive unemployment.”  A universal wage has been mooted but  Australia’s debt is likely to reach $500 billion, so how does that work?

Regional Australia can expect to lose 60% of current jobs.  Jobs of the future will be tasks involving creativity, social interaction and the ability to respond to the unexpected, for example neurosurgeons and forensic accountants. 

Opposite:  a different kind of disrupter !

Most of the robots and drones will be running on software from a cloud server in another country, you won’t find them let alone tax them, says Kennedy and Taylor (The Weekend Australian May 20-21, 2017, Inquirer).  

Meet Westpac’s ‘Little ripper’ which is patrolling beaches in NSW and below a drone of a more disturbing nature, the predator drone used by the US military. (Images: Courtesy of Reddit.com, Westpac, ishiabakasonga.blogspo)

 

 

 

 

Nature matters

I started blogging in 2012 and this will be my 46th monthly blog.  During that time I have often illustrated my blog with images of huge waves and artwork,  this month I am sharing a growing seedling from my garden, where the focus is on food producing Asian greens, herbs, salad stuff and fruit trees.  It’s a wonderful balance to my research and writing.

Good news – Safeguarding the future

Finland currently has four nuclear reactors which supply 26% of its electricity.  In 1994 its parliament banned the import and export of spent nuclear fuel which put pressure on authorities to find solutions to the disposal of nuclear waste, one of the most intractable issues. Around the world there are 266,000 tonnes of nuclear waste in questionable storage. 

The radioactive isotopes of plutonium must be stored for ten of thousands of years before they are safe.  Finland is aiming to stockpile the waste in canisters in the Onkalo repository – a burial chamber beneath the small forested island of Olkiluoto.  The canisters will remain buried for at least 100,000 years. 

As Mika Pohjonen, managing director of Posiva,  the utility owned Finnish company overseeing the mega project,  no one knows whether humans, or machines will rule the Earth then.

When the drilling is finished 3,250 canisters, each containing half a tonne of spent fuel will be buried in 70 klms of tunnels. Then the entire area will be sealed.  It is expected to start moving the canisters to their tomb in early 2020. Nuclear authorities around the world are watching with interest.  

Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) said Posiva’s analysis of the bedrock and groundwater has been “state of the art”. The cost is currently projected at €2.7billion. Finland’s sense of responsibility is seen as an inspiration, safe-guarding the future, if only more governments were so in tune with the planet and its people.

Source : The Economist International April 15, 2017, p51., Posiva link to website and gallery. Onkalo repository for nuclear waste, Finland

Two mad men in the White House –  Trump extends an invite to Duterte

Mr Duterte told troops at a military camp they were allowed to rape up to three women in an attempt to “lift spirits” after imposing martial law across the southern Philippines (AFP – May 28, 2017). “I will be imprisoned for you. If you rape three (women), I will say that I did it. But if you marry four, son of a whore you will be beaten up,” he said.

Assange innocent and illegally detained  (an abbreviated article written by John Pilger)

Julian Assange has been vindicated because the Swedish case against him was corrupt. The prosecutor, Marianne Ny, obstructed justice, embarrassed her colleagues and the judiciary and exposed the Swedish state’s collusion with the US in its crimes of war and “rendition”. Had Assange not sought refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, he would have been on his way to the kind of American torture pit that Chelsea Manning had to endure. “It is as if they make it up as they go along.” James Catlin, one of Assange’s Australian lawyers.

According to documents released by Edward Snowden, Assange  is on a “manhunt target list.” According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington’s bid to get Assange is “unprecedented in scale and nature.”  

Image: Independent.co.uk (no photo journalist listed).

The First Amendment protects any publisher, journalist or whistleblower, whether he or she is the editor of The New York Times or the editor of WikiLeaks. The very notion of free speech is described as America’s “founding virtue” or as Thomas Jefferson called it, “our currency.” Faced with this hurdle, the U.S. Justice Department has contrived charges of espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, conversion (theft of government property), computer fraud and abuse (computer hacking) and general conspiracy. The favoured Espionage Act, has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty..

On Aug. 30, 2010, Assange (accused of rape) went to a police station in Stockholm voluntarily and answered the questions put to him. As he understood it, that was the end of the matter. Five days later, the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, cancelled the arrest warrant, saying, “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.”  

Enter Claes Borgstrom, a highly contentious figure in the Social Democratic Party then standing as a candidate in Sweden’s imminent general election. Within days of the chief prosecutor’s dismissal of the case, Borgstrom, a lawyer, announced to the media that he was representing the two women and had sought a different prosecutor in Gothenberg. This was Marianne Ny, whom Borgstrom knew well, personally and politically.

At a press conference, Borgstrom representing the two women, was asked by a Swedish reporter why the case was proceeding when it had already been dismissed. The reporter cited one of the women as saying she had not been raped. Both women’s testimonies say that they consented to the sex.

Assange was warned that the Swedish intelligence service, SAPO, had been told by its U.S. counterparts that U.S.-Sweden intelligence-sharing arrangements would be “cut off” if Sweden sheltered him.

For five weeks, Assange waited in Sweden for the renewed rape investigation to take its course. The London-based newspaper The Guardian was then on the brink of publishing the Iraq “War logs”   based on WikiLeaks’ disclosures, which Assange was to oversee in London.

Finally, he was allowed to leave Sweden. As soon as he had left, a European arrest warrant was issued and an Interpol “red alert” normally used for terrorists and dangerous criminals. (Above image source John Pilger.com)

Assange went to a police station in London, was arrested and spent 10 days in Wandsworth Prison, in solitary confinement. Released on bail of 340,000 pounds, he was electronically tagged, required to report to police daily and placed under house arrest while his case began its long journey to the Supreme Court. 

He still had not been charged with any offence. Assange asked the Swedish authorities for a guarantee that he would not be “rendered” to the U.S. if he was extradited to Sweden. This was refused. In December 2010, the British newspaper The Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his extradition to the US.  

When Sweden announced last week that it was dropping the Assange case, one of the two women said, she was shocked when they arrested him because she only “wanted him to take [an HIV] test …it was the police who made up the charges.” 

The injustice meted out to Assange is one of the reasons the British Parliament reformed the Extradition Act in 2014. “His case has been won lock, stock and barrel,” Gareth Peirce (pic. right, representing Assange) told me, “these changes in the law mean that the U.K. now recognizes as correct everything that was argued in his case. Yet he does not benefit.” In other words, he would have won his case in the British courts and would not have been forced to take refuge.

Ecuador’s decision to protect Assange in 2012 was immensely brave. Ecuador’s embassy in London was placed under police siege and its government abused. When the British Foreign Office threatened to violate the Vienna Convention and send the police in to get Assange, outrage across the world forced the government to back down.

It is not over, but it is unraveling. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention—the tribunal that adjudicates and decides whether governments comply with their human rights obligations—last year ruled that Assange has been detailed unlawfully by Britain and Sweden. 

The Metropolitan Police say they still intend to arrest Assange for bail infringement should he leave the embassy. What then? A few months in prison while the U.S. delivers its extradition request to the British courts?  If the British government allows this to happen, it will, in the eyes of the world, be shamed comprehensively and historically as an accessory to the crime of a war waged by rampant power against justice and freedom, and all of us.

Source: John Pilger,  johnpilger.com. (this is an article written by Pilger. It has been summarised by the blog author, the original article is available through Altnernet.org.news May 23, 2017). Image: Courtesy of EPA

End of Blog quote: ‘The poetry of earth is never dead’ John Keats

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