Wednesday, May 13, 2015

That Australian Life - visiting workers, Aboriginal remote communities plus an El Nino event

Australia is large and diverse country. There were two recent ABC Four Corners programs that reminded me of that.

The first, Slaving Away, dealt with the working conditions of visiting workers on some large Australian farms. You will find the transcript here. I tried to stand back from the emotional overlay, it was quite hyped up, and listen to the facts. Two themes seemed to emerge.

The first was visiting workers, mainly young people, being paid less than the minimum wage. At the moment, this is $16.87 per hour. There was a thread about being paid less than award wages, but I lacked the information to be able to make a judgement on that.

The second was the role of labour hire companies. I can see why these would have emerged.They make it easier for employers. I actually work through one at the moment, Randstad, and they seem to do a pretty good job. But in the seasonal workforce case, there really seem to be some cowboys. Further, there also seem to be cases of misuse of power including harassment.

I had less sympathy for the long hours, physical exertion  and sometimes difficult living conditions because they are a feature of seasonal work. In the end, and I am guided here by the views of Nationals MP Keith Pitt, I concluded that there was a very real problem.

The second Four Corners program, Remote Hope, dealt especially with remote Aboriginal communities in WA's Kimberley region. You will find the transcript here.This was just plain depressing. This is an almost impossible area to comment on, but I will try my hand later.

And, maintaining the gloom,  the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has concluded that Australia may be entering an El Nino event. More on that too later.    

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