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Issue #1710      November 11, 2015


About 100 protesters turned up at the Sydney Mint where Transfield’s AGM was held. Chanting “free free the refugees”, they held placards which said: “Transfield has blood on their hands – Broad Spectrum of Human Rights Abuses”; “Turnbull show respect for raped refugee women, close Nauru now”. Protesters objected to Transfield providing services to Australia’s offshore detention centres. Kate Lee, executive officer of Union aid Abroad – APHEDA, the overseas humanitarian aid agency of the ACTU – said the union “strongly disagreed” with offshore detention services and did not think companies should be making profits from them. Diane Smith-Gander, Transfield Services chair, said that “many of the arguments here are political arguments and we don’t see politics as our business”. Transfield investors approved the company changing its name to BroadSpectrum at the AGM but there was no intention to change the company’s profiteering at the expense of refugees.

Baiada is the largest chicken supplier in Australia. It employs about 2,200 people. In May this year the ABC’s Four Corners program reported on the widespread exploitation of migrant workers by contractors at Baiada’s worksites. Workers were paid as little as $11.50 an hour for shifts up to 19 hours a day. Workers were told to rent only from labour hire contractors who deducted rent from their wages. The accommodation was overcrowded and with poor facilities. Many workers were on 417 working-holiday visas and recruited through Chinese newspapers, Taiwanese backpacker websites and Facebook. When Fair Work inspectors started to look into the company they were refused entry to the factory floor and could not speak directly to the workers about work practices. The company failed to produce documents on the nature and terms of its labour contract arrangements. The Fair Work Ombudsman was not amused and a scathing report followed. The publicity that followed was embarrassing enough for the company to agree to pay $500,000 towards compensating the underpayment of workers. Under an agreement reached with the Fair Work Ombudsman, Baiada is assuming limited responsibility for the underpayment of contract labour employees. It is limited to any current or former workers found to be underpaid from January this year. The agreement does not apply to underpayments that occurred before this year.

Prime ministers change but policies remain the same. More than 130,000 single parents stand to lose family benefits part B once their youngest child turns 13 if the Turnbull government gets the green light from the Senate for the package. Under the package announced last Wednesday, single parents of teenagers would have their payments reduced from more than $3,000 a year to $1,000. Grandparent carers would also have their payments cut when their grandchild reaches 13. This measure will affect 3,900 grandparents. A further 76,000 couple families would also have their family tax benefit B cut completely when their youngest child turns 13.

Next article – Culture & Life – The new Vietnam War?

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