Working men and women of Australia, take a bow. You have been the engine driving Australia’s efficiency for the past two decades.
You’ve done a really good job, and while your wages have grown steadily, they arguably could have been higher as a share of national income.
So you will probably think it hugely unfair that in the minds of some economists—and no doubt politicians—the time has come to punish you despite that good work.
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How many of us take work calls at 2am? Or supervise strangers’ kids 24/7 for five days for nothing? Or block out whole weekends to write reports without overtime or time in lieu? Teachers do this and more all the time.
A government high school teacher friend is so busy that some days she literally has no time to go to the toilet. “I would usually work close to 60 hours a week and we are paid for 38 hours,” she says.
Before camps my friend prepares class plans for a fill-in and then marks the work upon her return. She gets eight hours off for reports, enough for one class. Most teachers have six, so the rest is in their own time.
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What kind of responsibility do we have to do the right thing? It’s easy to say that doing something which is against the rules but doesn’t hurt anyone is OK.
Take paying for public transport. Many people feel that grabbing a free ride doesn’t hurt, but if too many people ride for free, then the whole system risks breaking down.
Wealthy people and companies say they are doing nothing illegal by using overseas tax havens and other measures to avoid paying tax.
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Welcome to the latest edition of I Call Bullshit, where we look at hype, hyperbole and hogwash. Today we’re looking at our most unmunificent mining magnate.
Gina Rinehart’s outburst yesterday was charmingly described by Treasurer Wayne Swan as “pearl rattling”. In her incongruous voice (somewhat reminiscent of Little Britain’s Emily Howard) she lambasted the government for a sluggish economy, and Australians for their wanton socialising.
The heiress was rightly ridiculed for her reference to African wages:
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If you’re reading this on your break at work this Easter Monday, commiserations. If you worked over the weekend, or on Good Friday, double commiserations.
For many Australians Easter is a solemn religious occasion, for others it a chance to spend four uninterrupted days with family, or to visit relatives interstate. Like Christmas Day, it is a safety valve that reduces some of the pressures of work, and allows us to focus on the deeper values that we sometimes forget in the day to day flurry of activity.
Those of you who run our public transport, or staff our emergency rooms, or the restaurants and cafes that feed the rest of us over Easter - thanks.
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It was revealed this week that the Prime Minister will be paid $470,000 a year after getting a massive pay rise along with other politicians.
This is obviously an obscene amount of money to waste on the highest office in the land.
Just to put it in perspective, here’s a list of other things you could buy for $470,000…
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OK, we’ve been avoiding this topic because we have a very strong inkling the conversation will go only one way. But let’s get it over with. Do politicians deserve a pay rise?
To be precise, do they deserve the big fat whopping pay rises which the Remuneration Tribunal seems likely to hand down? Back benchers could get an extra $40k. Prime Minister Gillard could be up for $90k more, which would mean she out-earns US pres Barack Obama and British PM David Cameron.
Bob Brown doesn’t think it’s warranted. In an ouburst which the whole of Australia is likely to agree with for once, the Greens leader said: “Our job is not to compare ourselves with ... (the) obscene salaries of some of the big bank executives, but with what hard-working teachers or senior echelons in the defence forces, the police force, the nursing profession are getting.”
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One of the quirky differences any Australian notices when they go to the USA is the culture of tipping.
Lower wages mean that waiters, and some other hospitality workers, are at the mercy of patrons who decide if they get to take home enough money to pay their rent and bills.
Australia has gone down a different route, where pay is guaranteed and tips represent a bonus for workers.
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Each year the debate over the minimum wage seems to be dominated by people who’ll never have to live on it: economists, politicians, business lobbyists, and, I have to be honest, union
We can all forget that a dollar means different things to different people. That for one of the 1.4 million Australians on a low wage an few extra dollars a week can be the money that keeps the lights on, pays the rent or buys new shoes for a fast-growing child.
Last week the ACTU lodged its minimum wage claim - $28 extra per week for a full time worker.It’s not a big ask when you think of the rise in electricity prices, fuel costs, rents and other expenses.
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Our national political conversation is littered with words that have lost their meaning: ‘fighting for peace’, ‘protecting our borders’, ‘truth in sentencing’, the list goes on.
When it comes to the economy – ‘productivity and flexibility’ are two more benign, if somewhat bland, words that have been abused so horribly it is now tough to remember what they originally meant.
Often I read the commentary pieces in newspapers about these issues that make grand claims about the virtues of productivity and flexibility, a panacea to every business problem, a self-evident good.
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The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released what it calls a study of “estimates of personal income for small areas.” For ease however we will call it our shameless guide to class warfare and rich people’s suburbs.
According to the study - conducted between 2003-04 and 2007-08 - the North Sydney waterside suburb of Mosman has the highest average income in the country at $131,606. If a suburb with an average income like that isn’t reference point enough, the national average is $44,402.
Second are the battlers of Woollahra in East Sydney on $116,376. One begins to feel a bit dirty heading over to Hunters Hill on a mere $95,027, and then if you would actually want to be seen there you can get into North Sydney on $83,997 and Ku-ring-gai at $82,195.
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Union secretary Sally McManus urged women to do starjumps, take a nap, phone their mother and undertake various other activities to show their employers and fellow sisters and brothers that they really are serious about wanting equal pay.
The thing is though, we’ve had equal pay for years!
Yes, women on average tend to earn 18% (almost a million dollars) less than men over the course of their lifetime. That 18% figure comes from an AMP.NATSEM report done a couple of years ago.
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Today rallies for Equal Pay will be held around Australia and all working women are being asked to down tools for ten minutes in support of the protest.
Why ten minutes? Well women earn on average 18 per cent less than men so ten minutes is the amount of time women work for free every hour.
The big question is what would we do with those extra ten minutes? After extensive consultation with women workers, here are ten ideas for those wanting to join our protest today.
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During the 2007 election campaign, voters were led to believe via a massive scare campaign that Labor would provide wage protection.
The cruel irony is that whilst the Howard Government achieved real wage increases of over 19%, Labor’s new laws are actually leading to wage decreases.
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Nowhere is the disconnect between the business fraternity and the wider community greater than on the issue of executive salaries.
Forget trying to explain a $10m-plus pay packet with references to “international benchmarks” and “long-term incentives”. The public simply doesn’t accept that anyone, no matter how brilliant, is worth $190,000 a week - or 150 times the average salary.
Given this depth of anger among voters towards the occasionally obscene salaries received by our corporate leaders, the Rudd government has shown remarkable restraint on the issue.
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No pay rise and no relief on the mortgage. It hasn’t been a banner day for Kevin Rudd’s working families. But that’s the price of prudence.
The Reserve Bank’s decision to leave interest rates unchanged at 3 per cent was no real surprise. Not much has changed since the nine board members’ last met in June, certainly nothing to convince them that the time was right for a little extra economic stimulation.
The Fair Pay Commission’s decision to deny Australia’s 1.3 million battlers a pay rise was a little more unexpected. The ACTU argued strongly for another $21-a-week hike to the minimum wage.
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