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Issue #1692      July 8, 2015


The evidence that Australia paid “people smugglers” to “turn back” their boat continues to mount. Passengers and crew have given consistent reports to Indonesian police that an Australian security official paid each crew member $5,000 to return to Indonesia with their human cargo of around 65 asylum seekers in late May. The Senate has launched an inquiry into the alleged payment. It remains to be seen whether the government will supply the required documents on what and how any payments were made, who authorised them, whether they are legal under international or domestic law. The Indonesian government is not impressed with this sort of activity and wants a proper explanation as well, not that it can boast about its own human rights record in West Papua or Aceh. As former Liberal Opposition leader John Hewson (now a professor at the ANU) said: “The thing that worried me was that the government said they wanted to break the business model of the people smugglers. But if you start paying them to go back then you change the business model and start giving them an incentive … It’s very odd thinking.”

Australia Post employs 36,000 people. The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) which represents postal workers has called on Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to sack Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour after the announcement that $190 million would be spent to slash 2,000 jobs in response to a diminishing volume of letters. Post claims to be losing money in its mail delivery business. If Australia Post had not sold off its post office buildings and rented them back at exorbitant rates and was not contracting out much of its operations, it might still be making a profit. The union is worried that despite reassurances of no forced redundancies the details of the job cuts were not revealed. “Australia Post does not have the staff to deliver the mail consistently on time now, this plan will make every letter later,” said Martin O’Nea, assistant national secretary. “The Australian economy relies on fast, cheap, postal service to move the cheques, documents and parcels to keep business working. Mr Fahour plans to cut thousands of posties and double the price of a stamp. Mr Fahour and his crazy plan must go,” Mr O’Nea said.

A report released on July 2 by the Council of Social Service NSW (NCOSS) on the rising cost of living, shows one in seven children in NSW struggles with poverty. NCOSS strongly recommends against raising the GST to 15 per cent or widening it to include food. As it is, 58 per cent of low to middle income families are experiencing housing stress; many parents go without meals themselves to feed their children; cannot afford dental and medical services and generally find it very hard to cope. Extra financial burdens, no matter how small in the eyes of fat-cat politicians, could easily be the tipping point for many more families who are trying to balance their meagre budgets every day.

Next article – Region Briefs

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