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ACOSS Daily Bulletin

Friday 19th February 2021

 

MEDIA & OPINION

Social Affairs

Coalition poised to lock in permanent dole rise

Simon Benson, The Australian, Friday 19th February

The Morrison government is poised to legislate a permanent increase to fortnightly dole ­payments as early as next week, as ­cabinet’s budget committee is expected to sign off on a ­potential new welfare payment on Friday. The Australian understands that a meeting of the expenditure review committee of cabinet will meet on Friday afternoon to finalise a package that is ­expected to enshrine an effective permanent rise in the rate of ­JobSeeker payments once the $150 coronavirus supplement ends on March 31. A favoured option is to streamline the income support payment system into a single ­increased payment for unemployed Australians and abolishing up to a dozen other supplements or subsidies available to recipients. See ACOSS media releae in response here.

 

The 'oversight' in our COVID-19 vaccine rollout and the vulnerable Australians who will have to wait

Sophie Scott, Penny Timms and Emily Clark, ABC News, Friday 19th February

The two COVID-19 vaccines Australians have long been waiting for are approved and one will be rolled out come Monday, but some in the community are still unclear about how they will get the jab and why they are not getting it sooner. When the Federal Government released its plan for the mass vaccination program, Ivy Sutton looked at her family and wondered why they were in the same phase as meat processing workers. Ms Sutton is 71 years old, which places her in phase 1b of the COVID-19 vaccination program, but it's not herself she's worried about. Her three adopted children, two now adults — Robert, Tanya and Rachel — all live with disability as well as other health complications and Ms Sutton believes they should be vaccinated in the first phase.

 

Peak social services body labels Facebook ban 'alarming' and 'dangerous' with unknown number of community service profiles affected

Raffaella Ciccarelli , Channel 9 Today, Friday 19th February

Facebook's actions have been branded "dangerous" and "alarming", by Australia's leading social services body, who says they have no idea how many essential profiles have been restricted in the news ban. The social media giant provided little warning yesterday when they made the decision to ban Australian news from being shared. Users were unable to access any pages that disseminated information. Leading government services such women's shelters, food banks, the Bureau of Meteorology and Queensland Health were just some of the profiles wiped in the ban. CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Cassandra Goldie, told Today she still doesn't know how many pages have been affected. "We are asking people to let us know if they have still got trouble. We don't know how many are still out there," Ms Goldie said.

 

Facebook news ban hits emergency services and government health departments

Josh Dye and Amelia McGuire, SMH, Thursday 18th February

Dozens of major health, corporate, sporting and charity Facebook pages have been blocked after being caught up in the social media giant’s decision to ban news publishers in response to the Morrison government’s proposed media bargaining laws. The Queensland, South Australian and ACT Health Facebook pages were wiped, leaving Facebook users without access to local health information about the COVID-19 pandemic. Large corporations, charities and peak sporting bodies were also affected by the tech titan’s decision.
Major emergency services including the Bureau of Meteorology and Fire and Rescue NSW headline the government agencies that were caught up in Facebook’s move.

 

Facebook's botched Australia news ban hits health departments, charities and its own pages

Josh Taylor, The Guardian, Thursday 18th February

The Bureau of Meteorology, state health departments, the Western Australian opposition leader, charities and Facebook itself are among those to have been hit by Facebook’s ban on news in Australia. On Thursday morning Facebook began preventing Australian news sites from posting, while also stopping Australian users from sharing or viewing content from any news outlets, both Australian and international. The social media giant said it made the decision in response to the news media bargaining code currently before the Senate, which would force Facebook and Google to negotiate with news companies for payment for content.

 

Charities swept up in media bargaining fight, as Facebook cracks down on Aussie news

Maggie Coggan, The Guardian, Thursday 18th February

Facebook is now promising to restore any pages that were inadvertently impacted by the news ban.
Australian charities have found themselves caught in the crossfire of the media bargaining laws battle, with a number of organisations’ pages wiped of all content without warning.  Sacred Heart Mission, Save the Children, Oxfam Australia, the Council to Homeless Persons, the Australian Council for Social Services, and Food Bank Australia were among some of the organisations that woke to find their Facebook pages bare on Thursday morning, following the platform’s decision to ban all Australian news publishers.  The move by Facebook is in response to the Australian government’s proposed media bargaining laws, which will require social media companies to pay media outlets for using their content. The bill passed through the House of Representatives on Wednesday night, and is expected to pass the Senate and become law as early as next week. 

 

'Attack on democracy': Experts fear misinformation will thrive on Facebook under news ban

Rashida Yosufzai, SBS News, Friday 19th February

For years, Facebook has been under intense pressure to stamp out fake news and misinformation. But now that fact-checked news from reputable media organisations can no longer be posted, there are concerns the social media giant will become a haven for misinformation and false news. “In the absence of links to fact-checked information, what we will see is a whole lot more conjecture and speculation,” said Belinda Barnet, a senior media lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology.  “Facebook coming out like this, and censoring news content is, I think, a direct attack on democracy.”

 

Experts warn of a spike in mental health problems among unemployed (Radio)

David Taylor, ABC PM, Friday 19th February

Experts are sounding the alarm on an expected spike in mental health problems among skilled workers who can't get back into the workforce because of the COVID recession. Official figures today show the unemployment rate fell to 6.4 per cent in January, but it's still what economists describe as dangerously elevated. Hundreds of thousands of Australians, including highly skilled professional, remain in unemployment queues. The trouble is, analysts say, the longer job seekers stay out of work, the harder it is for them to eventually land a job and months, or even years, of being out of work can take a heavy toll on your mental health. Featured: Simbin, graduate lawyer. Angela Jackson, Lead Economist, Equity Economics. Ellen Jackson, Workplace Psychologist, Potential Psychology Services. Josh Frydenberg, Federal Treasurer. Andrew Stevenson, job seeker

 

ACOSS supports a new superannuation tax to go towards funding aged care

Unattributed, The Weekly Source, Friday 19th February

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has called for a change to the superannuation tax system in an effort to help better fund aged care. The welfare group said the Federal Government should impose a 15% tax on all superannuation earnings during a person’s pension years, the same as pre-pension years. ACOSS said the current system isn’t sustainable because only 16% of people aged over 64 pay income tax, despite many having the capacity to do so. The submission to the Retirement Income Review also outlined tax avoidance issues.

 

Tasmanians face sudden rent hikes as COVID-19 protections expire

Alexandra Humphries, The Guardian, Friday 19th February

Tasmanian residential tenants have been hit with rent hikes of up to $100 a week, with a wave of increases following the end of COVID-19 rental protections. Huon Valley resident Ken Denman has lived in his rental property for more than five years. He now feels trapped, after signing a lease extension in January, then, just weeks later, being told his rent would skyrocket by 20 per cent — from $378 to $450 a week. According to the Tenants' Union of Tasmania, Mr Denman is one of many tenants around the state facing a significant rent increase following the expiry of COVID-19 rental protections at the end of January.

 

Australians fear climate change more than catching Covid, Edelman Trust Survey survey shows

Royce Kurmelovs, The Guardian, Friday 19th February

A new survey has found Australians are more afraid of climate change than catching Covid-19 – and they want government to do something about it. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer asked 1,350 Australians questions on a range of topics between October and November 2020. While the survey found that Australians were most immediately concerned with job security after the pandemic, climate change ranked as the second biggest issue of concern – even above risks posed by the pandemic itself. More than four in five respondents reported that they were concerned about losing their jobs, with two-thirds saying their hours had been slashed during the pandemic.

 

 

 

 

 

For confidential information - If you seek support in reporting or discussing sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) and call 000 if you are in danger

 

 

 

 

 

Today marks one year since Hannah Clarke and her children died – parents call for people to light a candle at 5:30pm and post on social media

Rachel Riga, ABC News, Friday 19th February

The parents of Brisbane mother Hannah Clarke, who was murdered with her children in a horrific domestic violence attack, say they hope the criminalisation of coercive control in Queensland will be her legacy, as they mark one year their daughter and grandchildren died. Hannah Clarke and her children, six-year-old Aaliyah, four-year-old Laianah and three-year-old Trey, were heading out on the school run when her estranged husband Rowan Baxter jumped in the car, doused them in petrol and set them alight in Brisbane's Camp Hill last February. Since the incident, Hannah's parents Lloyd and Sue Clarke have set up the Small Steps 4 Hannah Foundation to educate the community about controlling relationships and push for law changes.

 

New Queensland taskforce to tackle coercive control in domestic relationships (Radio)

Patricia Karvelas, ABC RN, Wednesday 17th February

A newly announced independent taskforce will report back to the Queensland Government on the ways coercive control can be legislated as a form of domestic and family violence. The Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman says a driving force in setting up the taskforce was the deaths of Hannah Clarke and her three children. Guest: Angela Lynch, CEO Women's Legal Services Queensland

 

Calls for national definition of domestic and family violence a year on from Hannah Clarke murder

Nour Haydar, ABC News, Friday 19th February

Australia needs a consistent and national definition of family and domestic violence that captures the many abusive and manipulative tactics used by perpetrators, according to Federal Labor and frontline advocates. One year on from the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children by Rowan Baxter in Queensland, the opposition is calling on the federal government to work with states and territories to come up with a nationally agreed-upon definition, which includes coercive control at its heart. Coercive control refers to patterns of abusive and manipulative behaviours used by one person to dominate another and can involve things like threats, surveillance, insults and withholding money.

 

Economy

Jobless rate dropped to 6.4pc in January: ABS (Requires subscription)

Patrick Commins, The Australian, Thursday 18th February

A fourth straight month of job gains drove the national unemployment rate down to 6.4 per cent in January, from 6.6 per cent in December, led by a labour market recovery in Victoria that has nearly pushed employment in the state to pre-pandemic levels. In a sign the robust post-COVID labour market recovery has rolled into 2021, the nation added 59,000 full-time jobs in the month, the seasonally adjusted figures from the Australian ­Bureau of Statistics showed, while part-time employment dropped 29,800. That left a net gain in employment of 29,100. The number of employed Australians was 12,939,900 in January — still 59,000 below the nearly 13 million last March, but a fraction of the 872,000 drop in employment recorded early in the pandemic.

 

Want an extra $100 a day? Get an enterprise agreement

Nick Bonyhady, SMH, Friday 19th February

Workers on enterprise agreements earn an average of $100 a day more than those who are paid industry minimum wages, but the number of new agreements being struck in the private sector is falling. The new figures are part of the Business Council of Australia’s (BCA) argument in favour of the Morrison government’s industrial overhaul, which is designed to remove many of the hurdles critics say stop the Fair Work Commission from approving enterprise agreements quickly. During the industrial relations working groups with unions last year, the BCA struck a bargain with the Australian Council of Trade Unions to streamline the approval process for deals involving unions before it was shouted down by other employer representatives.

 

Climate and Energy

Climate transparency register to track companies’ progress on net zero targets

Rob Harris, SMH, Friday 19th February

A new climate transparency register will encourage big business to provide detailed progress to shareholders, supply-chain partners and the public towards their emissions targets, including reaching net zero by 2050. Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor has written to the chief executives of all ASX 200-listed companies, telling them while ambition was important “ultimately achievement is what matters”. The boards and senior management of Australia’s largest companies have increasingly responded to investor demands to commit to reducing emissions, with almost 20 of Australia’s largest firms including household names such as BHP, Qantas, Suncorp, Fortescue Metals, Woodside and Santos having set net zero aspirations within 30 years.

 

Politics

‘We will not be intimidated’: PM takes Facebook fight to India and the world

David Crowe and Lisa Visentin, SMH, Thursday 18th February

Global leaders will be asked to back Australia in a fight with Facebook over its market power after the social media giant silenced news, health and emergency services in a bid to halt a federal law. Prime Minister Scott Morrison raised the shock tactic with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Thursday night in the first step of a plan to mobilise global support to stop Facebook “bullying” elected governments. The government thinks Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg will resume talks on the law despite his sudden move to shut down content for millions of his own customers, but it is also preparing for a drawn-out battle if needed. “They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they should run it,” Mr Morrison said of big tech companies on Thursday, posting his comments on Facebook.

 

Malcolm Turnbull discusses the decision by Facebook (TV)

Leigh Sales, ABC TV, Friday 19th February

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull discusses the decision by Facebook to close down Australian news pages, as well as the continuing fallout from the alleged rape of a young female staffer at Parliament House two years ago.

 

‘You disgust me’: Jacqui Lambie lashes government over controversial plan to merge Family & Federal Circuit Courts

Finn McHugh, News Corp, Wednesday 17th February

Jacqui Lambie has blasted Attorney-General Christian Porter as “disgusting” as she warned a government plan to alter the court system would cause suicide to spike and families to struggle for justice. The Coalition has pushed ahead with its controversial plan to merge the Family and Federal Circuit Courts, arguing a single entry point would make the system easier to navigate. But critics warn the system is already stretched by a backlog of cases, a problem they argue will be exacerbated by the merger. Ms Lambie lashed the plan as a “new low for the Coalition”, saying it would simply bring “more hurt and more misery” to people in the family justice system.

 

Barnaby Joyce within striking distance of Michael McCormack (Requires subscription)

Joe Aston, AFR, Thursday 18th February

As if Scott Morrison doesn’t have enough on his plate, his junior coalition partner appears headed for another leadership spill. The latest policy grenade from Barnaby Joyce – seeking to amend the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s mandate to include “clean” coal investment – is patently another destabilisation tactic to deploy against Michael McCormack. Last February, the Deputy PM (and Minister for Rex Airlines) saw off Joyce by an unknown margin. Joyce backers made it known the ballot was 11-10 while McCormack’s said the incumbent garnered 14 votes. Whatever the historical truth, Joyce’s gang of malcontents are now within striking distance. Former deputy leader Bridget McKenzie has reportedly joined their ranks.

 

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds brought to tears when questioned about Brittany Higgins rape allegations

Kathleen Calderwood and Anna Henderson, ABC News, Thursday 18th February

After days of sustained pressure over how she handled the alleged rape of one of her staff, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds wiped away tears and was unable to answer questions in the Senate. It came as the Prime Minister was forced to deliver another apology to Brittany Higgins, the staffer who alleges she was raped by a colleague in Parliament House after a night out in 2019. On Monday night, an extended interview with Ms Higgins was broadcast on Channel Ten's The Project. She went through the details of the alleged rape in Ms Reynolds's office and how she was taken into a meeting a few days later in the same room.

 

Liberal MPs question if Reynolds should go over handling of staffer’s rape claim

Anthony Galloway and Katina Curtis, SMH, Friday 19th February

A growing number of Liberal MPs believe Defence Minister Linda Reynolds should resign over her handling of a reported sexual assault in her office, as she said she was deeply sorry some of her actions added to her staffer’s distress. Senator Reynolds on Thursday defended her decision not to tell Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the alleged rape of former staffer Brittany Higgins out of concern for her welfare and privacy. “At the time this was a difficult, it was a complex and it was a highly sensitive matter,” Senator Reynolds said. While Mr Morrison is standing by Senator Reynolds, at least five Liberal MPs are of the belief she should resign. The Prime Minister has also publicly rebuked Senator Reynolds for not telling him of the alleged assault, and on Thursday said Ms Higgins was not properly supported after coming forward.

 

Government rejected sexual harassment, bullying clause proposed for staffer employment agreement (Requires subscription)

Sally Whyte, The Canberra Times, Thursday 18th February

The Coalition government rejected a proposal last year that would have offered better protection for parliamentary staffers from sexual harassment and bullying. As the government was forced to further justify its response to the allegation by former staffer Brittany Higgins that she was raped in a ministerial office two years ago, and felt pressured to cover up the assault for the good of the party, it can be revealed yet another attempt to protect parliamentary staff was rejected last year without negotiation. The union representing staffers in ministerial and parliamentary offices has been negotiating a new agreement with the Department of Finance since last year, but a proposed clause covering gendered violence and sexual harassment was rejected by the government without discussion in the opening stages of negotiations.

 

Opinion

Scott Morrison dealt poorly with Brittany Higgins' shocking story

Michelle Grattan, ABC News, Friday 19th February

Scott Morrison has been wounded by this week's public revelation of an alleged rape in Parliament House. But the fear must be that along the way Brittany Higgins has become a victim twice over — not just of the incident itself but also of the fallout these past days. Politicians praise her courage in coming forward, but some use her trauma in their own cause. For the media, her experience has fed into the recurring narrative of bad behaviour in Parliament House, and the wider one of violence against women. It's been salacious. But where will Higgins be left when the political and news caravans move on? In a personally bad place, one suspects. This is the cost of speaking out sometimes.

 

Morrison must be held accountable for inaction that left women vulnerable

David Crowe, SMH, Friday 19th February

The security guard who found Brittany Higgins in a ministerial suite one Saturday morning took the first step on a path that should have taken Higgins to total safety and Parliament to a total culture change. The path took them into a wilderness instead. First, to insecurity for Higgins in a career she had set her heart on. Second, to almost two years of inaction by the government on a chronic problem that lay before its eyes. The accountability for the failure is simple. It goes directly to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, even though he says he did not know of the rape allegation until Monday this week, and, in particular, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds as the most senior person who knew, early on, that this was about rape.

 

Is the Liberal Party running a protection racket? (Requires subscription)

Jenna Price, The Canberra Times, Thursday 18th February

When Peter van Onselen told listeners of ABC's Radio National on Thursday morning that the Prime Minister's office was backgrounding against Brittany Higgins' partner, I just started shouting. The story so far. Brittany Higgins says she was raped by a Liberal staffer in 2019 on the couch in Linda Reynolds' office. She received next to no support from Reynolds or any other senior Liberal person. She was denied access to any evidence about the assault, including CCTV footage of her entry into Parliament House. By her account, she was basically told to keep schtum or lose her "dream job". On Thursday she asked the Prime Minister's office to stop attacking her loved ones. How completely awful that this young woman is forced to beg. Hasn't the Liberal Party already harmed her enough? Why is no one taking responsibility? Why was her alleged attacker allowed to disappear without any real consequences? Is the Liberal Party running a protection racket for rapists, abusers and harassers? Why aren't there proper protections for staffers? 

 

Parliament plays catch-up with the rest of society (Requires subscription)

Phillip Coorey, AFR, Thursday 18th February

Just over two decades ago, federal parliament was reeling following the suicide of a young Labor MP, Greg Wilton. He took his life in June 2000 after the breakdown of his marriage and subsequent media coverage of his depressive condition, his likely resignation and who would win his seat in a byelection. The whole building felt shamed at what eventuated and a day was set aside for MPs to make condolence motions. Much of the focus was on the “toxic culture of politics”, the way people treated each other in the building, and the lack of support mechanisms for those needing help. “The best thing we could do would be to rededicate ourselves to being kinder and gentler to each other,” Tony Abbott said.

 

Only right Facebook is held to account for its failings

Editorial, SMH, Thursday 18th February

With the flick of a switch, or more likely a tweak of a Facebook algorithm, the social media giant has followed through on its earlier threat to stop publishers and users in Australia from sharing or viewing any news articles on its platform. After months of negotiations over the Morrison government’s proposed media bargaining laws, forcing tech giants Google and Facebook to hand over payments to news outlets (including the Herald) for using their content, Facebook – without warning – pulled the plug. Despite Google already agreeing to make annual payments to most major media outlets, Facebook is holding out, claiming that publishers derive more value from news sharing than it does. If it was hoping its provocative move would garner attention, it succeeded – if not for the right reasons. In deactivating the ability to share news stories, it also managed to shut down dozens of major health, corporate, sporting and charity Facebook pages. For a tech company in the information business, it was an embarrassing mistake with possibly dire health consequences.

 

Even for a company that specialises in PR disasters, Facebook has excelled with its Australian blackout -

Emily Bell, The Guardian, Thursday 18th February

When Facebook removed vast swathes of Australian media from its platform overnight on Wednesday the social media company intended to shock the system of Australian government and media cronyism and send a strong message to regulators everywhere. Instead, Facebook managed to turn attention away from a flawed piece of legislation and on to its own reckless, opaque power. Even for a company that specialises in public relations disasters, this was quite an achievement. Everyone from the head of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to the organiser of the North Shore Mums page found their links and pages missing from Facebook. Campus newspaper reporters, half of the editors in the First Nations media network, public health officials preparing for the Covid vaccine rollout and weather services found their Facebook presence suddenly, without warning wiped away.

 

Recovery demands a childcare lifeline for our working families (Requires subscription)

Alicia Payne, The Canberra Times, Friday 19th February

The latest Productivity Commission data on childcare costs would come as no surprise to families who have been navigating the system in the past year, as fees increase and parents struggle to stay afloat and anchored in the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical and essential nature of early childhood education and care for working parents. As we move forward with the recovery, accessible and more affordable childcare must be at the forefront of any plan to get people, and particularly women, back into the workforce. Data released by the Productivity Commission last week revealed that childcare fees rose by an above CPI increase of 5.6 per cent to a national median of $523 for five days between 2019 and 2020.

 

New workplace law attacks long-held protections for employees

Anthony Forsythe, SMH, Friday 19th February

Just under a year ago, following the first COVID-19 lockdowns, Australians were celebrating the feats of our “essential workers”. Highway billboards lauded the courage and resilience of teachers; supermarket, transport and warehouse workers; aged care and child care staff; cleaners; and of course those on the front line in health care. As the pandemic wore on, we came to see more clearly that many of these workers are the lowest-
paid in our community – and the most likely to be engaged in insecure work. The Workplace Relations Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill emerged from a six-month government-union-employer taskforce that produced little consensus.

 

The ACOSS Daily Bulletin is a wrap of relevant media articles and opinion pieces. 

It also includes a list of relevant reports, research, inquiries and consultations.

Inclusion of items in the Bulletin should not be seen as an endorsement by ACOSS of views expressed. 


 

 

 

RESEARCH & REPORTS

 

Mapping Social Cohesion

Scanlon Foundation

January 2021

 

Urban regulation and diverse housing supply: An Investigative Panel

AHURI

December 2020

 

Women in parliament and politics: a quick guide to key internet links

Parliament of Australia

December 2020

 

Mental health services in Australia

AIHW

29 January 2021

 

How COVID-19 changed the way Australians used health services in 2019-20

AIHW

17 December 2020

 

Building a resilient economy

APO

11 January 2021

 

Australia's Paris Agreement Pathways

The Uni of Melbourne, Climate Targets Panel

January 2021

 

Hitting Home: The Compounding Costs of Climate Inaction

Climate Council

January 2021

 

CONSULTATIONS & INQUIRIES

 

Stage 2 REZ Consultation - Energy Security Board

COAG Energy Council

5 January 2021

 

Skills and Workforce Development Agreement

Australian Productivity Commission

January 2021

 

Draft guidance note to support efficient delivery of large transmission projects out for consultation

Australian Energy Regulator

January 2021

 

Productivity Commission Report on Mental Health

Department of Health

January 2021

 

AER publishes issues paper for AusNet Services and invites interested stakeholders to public forum

Australian Energy Regulator

Closes 12 February 2021

 
 
 
 
 
 

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