Real-world experience backs exploitation points

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Real-world experience backs exploitation points
Abul Rizvi’s real-world experience adds strength to the points he makes about exploited agricultural workers (“Decisions mean Australia accepts ‘slave labour’”, Comment, 18/6).

There is a constant series of exploitation stories, and surveys consistently show few workers receive even the minimum wage. Job ads for farm work are conspicuously absent, yet farmers continue to complain about a so-called labour shortage.

A more accurate characterisation would be to say there is a “slave labour shortage”.
David Francis, Ivanhoe

Why is the government interfering in the market?
I’m confused. In this economic system we have created, the market is supposed to be all-powerful. Businesses succeed or fail depending on how they respond to the dictates of the market.

Governments are not supposed to have a role in markets and their processes. If employers cannot attract workers then, the theory goes, they have to offer better wages and conditions. So why don’t the farmers struggling to get enough workers offer the higher wages and better conditions that would make the work more attractive to more Australians (“Worried farmers demand Nats deliver visa promise”, The Age, 17/6)?

Why is the federal government interfering in the market and falling over itself to find ways to provide cheap labour for the agricultural sector? Which employer group will be the next to demand federal government assistance to help them find sources of cheap labour?
Kim Bessant, Footscray

In the end, we are all to blame
Slavery, semi-slavery and indentured labour are now rife in Australia, as Abul Rizvi reports. This is the inevitable consequence of 457 visas and the precarious economic situations many international students find themselves in.

The rise in vulnerable “non-citizen” labour has been supported by business, by both major political parties, and allowed to fester by the Greens, who obsess about the evils of mandatory detention but are so out of touch with working people that they can’t see the blindingly obvious. Even the once-mighty union movement averts its gaze, despite the fact the fact that exploitation of non-citizen labour demonstrably suppresses wage growth.

In the end we are all to blame: who do we think is picking our cheap fruit and vegetables, delivering our midnight burrito, cleaning our hospitals and staffing the late-night massage establishments that are now a feature of so many suburban shopping strips? We just don’t want to know.

Australians are, apparently, willing to stand up for “our values” when being bullied by China, but when it comes to equity and fairness and a fair go for all at work: forget it. Australians would rather cheap food and Uber Eats than workplace justice.
Peter Hogg, North Melbourne

Are we losing our moral compass?
Abul Rizvi cautions us that the institution of a federal government agriculture visa and removal of permitted hours of work by international students will hasten a downward drift towards Australia becoming “a society that accepts some ‘lesser’ humans – usually people of colour – are needed to do the jobs we will not”.

In recent years our attention has been drawn to inhumane exploitation of labour brought in from Pacific Island and Asian countries. We have also been made aware of employers paying international students well below the basic wage knowing full well they had little capacity to challenge this injustice.

If we do not heed this warning by Rizvi, who has worked in immigration for almost two decades, we forgo the right to criticise other nations for disregarding human rights. As Australians are we losing our moral compass?
Henry Gaughan, Richmond


Not helping themselves
It was good to read Peter Hartcher’s comment on inequality, comparing Australia with Thomas Piketty’s 2013 analysis of it (“Losing the Australian dream”, Comment, 19/6).

Piketty had many charts delineating inequality in assets, income from assets, and from work. From the 1940s to 1970s, Europe and the United States had the least unequal economies in all human history, a product of the 1930s Depression and the tax controls during two world wars.

Since the 1980s, inequality levels have soared in all capitalist countries back to the obscene levels of the 1890s. For 40 years, now inequality has become far worse – the disparity between rising asset values and stagnant wages is one part of it.

Many Australian tax policies favour this inequality and accentuate it, with fierce resistance to any reduction in negative gearing, reintroduction of inheritance taxes, or serious efforts to tax trusts or assault tax havens where the ultra-wealthy hide so much of their assets.

Hartcher is correct: it’s worse in US than here, but not by much. Here, as elsewhere, the social classes disadvantaged by all this keep electing into government people who will sustain their disadvantage.
Robert Bender, Ivanhoe East

We don’t have to choose
Your article “Voters back net zero target, no carbon tax” (The Age, 16/6) left me a little bemused. Achieving a net-zero economy isn’t a choice between technology and a carbon tax.

I think every expert would agree technology, new and existing, will need to be deployed to end our dependence on fossil fuels. But many would also support carbon pricing, since its main purpose is to incentivise polluting industries to innovate in order reduce, and eventually eliminate, both their emissions and their liability to that tax.

It is a goal of any government levying a carbon tax to one day receive no revenue from it. Technology will get us to net-zero but a carbon tax would help to get us there quicker.
Mick Cahill, Fitzroy North

Balanced comment
Thank you for the balanced editorial comment (“Tackling jab hesitancy vital after new setback”, The Age, 19/6), the “no blame” approach was refreshing and is needed for leadership by example.
Science is not the truth. Science is about finding the truth. When science changes its opinion, it hasn’t lied to us. It just has learnt more.

I respect the changes and updates to the vaccination program – it is the evidence that the Health Department, medical advisers and government are “on the job”.
Corinne Haber, Caulfield North

I wonder what comes next
The policy of eliminating COVID-19 has served Australia well during the time before vaccination was an option and the lives saved more than justified the inconvenience of lockdown. Most Australians have thankfully not experienced the pain of loss of family and friends to COVID-19.

As a Melburnian who has lived outside Australia for many years, I wonder what comes next for Australia. To the eyes of those far away, Australians have been remarkably compliant with lockdown measures given the vanishingly small risk of actually catching the virus. Why then are so many reluctant to be vaccinated, when this is the only strategy that can defeat the virus?

Do people not realise that COVID-19 is here to stay? Vaccination is the weapon that breaks the link between catching the virus and serious illness or death in the overwhelming majority of cases, so why would you refuse the vaccine and endanger yourself and others?

Australia has been lucky – few people have yet died from the virus. Maybe this explains in part why some people don’t seem to fear it; perhaps it is the illusion that it can be kept outside.

You should fear COVID-19 and defend yourselves by being vaccinated. This and only this will make you safe and enable Australia to reopen.
Kate Wolfsohn, London, England

They can’t justify this
No matter how the private schools and Education Minister Alan Tudge try to spin it, there is no way that the wealthy private schools, with their multimillion-dollar share portfolios and annual surpluses (“Top private schools build investment portfolios”, The Age, 19/6), can justify receiving any government funding.

This becomes more obvious if you compare the facilities at any government school with those at our elite private schools.
Grant Nichol, Ringwood North

The prospects are grim
Yet again are we reminded of the increasing inequity in our schools (“Deep pockets”, Extra, 20/6). An OECD report on education states that Australia has one of the most unequal education systems in the Western world, and it is a blight on Australian morality that such findings don’t shock us all.

The report confirms that Australia continues to fall far behind many of its OECD peers when it comes to investment in public education, but shamefully, it continues to pour public money into private schools.

This is not just an ideological argument. Nobel laureate James Heckman calculates that for every dollar invested in disadvantaged schools, $10 is saved in later costs related to health, social welfare and imprisonment.

Neither is it just about who pays for what, but rather about the sort of society we want. At the moment our education system has all the moral authority of a pyramid selling scheme, and prospects are grim unless we can return to the former egalitarianism that was once a hallmark of Australian society.
Bryan Long, Balwyn

First gas, now wood
A couple of weeks ago, it was suddenly news that gas appliances in homes were not good for our health and would be phased out, now we are reading and hearing that wood-burning stoves are not good for our health and should be phased out.

If we take away gas and wood, we are left with electricity, most of which is currently powered by coal, which is also being phased out.

Unless the decision-makers and power brokers stop looking at everything in isolation and get serious about developing the alternatives, it is starting to look like we will be in for some cold, dark, salad-eating winters.
Claire Merry, Wantirna

Elitist, not elite
Australia’s most expensive private schools are neither elite or top (“Surge in top private schools’ asset value”, The Age, 18/6). However, they are elitist, as they are able to select who they wish to enrol and, given that their fees range upwards of $35,000 per year, they are generally out of the reach of all but the very wealthy.

These schools perform well in year 12 exams as a result of the high socioeconomic status and educational levels of the students’ parents. Research acknowledges that the most significant factor in a student’s academic performance is the parents’ SES. These already over-resourced schools don’t need any public money, yet still receive 25 per cent of the funding per student that public schools that take all comers do.

This amounts to many billions a year. No wonder they can offer a few scholarships to hand-picked high achievers from the public school system.
David Zyngier, School of Education, Southern Cross University

Australia can learn …
Better late than never, the US has declared “Juneteenth” as a holiday to commemorate the emancipation of slaves.

We can learn from this, instead of arguing the merits of Australia or Invasion days, with a new day in recognition of the contribution of Indigenous peoples to our society.
Peter Rutherford, Hamlyn Heights

… from Biden’s declaration
US Joe President Biden, in his speech declaring June 19 a public holiday marking the end of slavery in his country (“‘A promise of a brighter morning’: Biden signs Juneteenth into law”, The Age, 19/6) said: ” reat nations don’t ignore their most painful moments … they embrace them.”

It underlines Australia’s shortcomings in not recognising the suffering of our First Nations people.
Elizabeth Chipman, Seaford

We are all tired
GPs and their staff are also abused (15 months into the pandemic) when they ask people with possible COVID-like symptoms to not attend the clinic in person but get a swab (“GPs abused as patients demand Pfizer jab”, The Sunday Age, 20/6).

People still attend clinics with these symptoms having not been swabbed and don’t tell reception staff about such symptoms even when directly asked, happily sit in the waiting room with vulnerable others and then let the GP know in their usually small not socially distanced room.

Many GP clinics can accommodate the health needs of patients with COVID-like symptoms but we need to be warned by the people, so we can wear PPE and not have them in the waiting room with others.

We are all tired. Abusing healthcare workers trying to accommodate the wellbeing of everyone needs to stop please.
Samantha Bryant, GP, Kensington

Labor must stop doing this
The conviction of Witness K for exposing Australia’s immoral bugging of East Timor’s cabinet over a commercial matter is nothing short of a national disgrace and history will judge these prosecutions very harshly.

It’s high time the federal Labor Party stopped rubber-stamping through Parliament draconian security laws that have seen whistleblowers convicted, journalists’ homes and workplaces raided and trials held in secret.
Bill O’Connor, Beechworth

This comes under defence
The past 18 months have given us a very clear picture of what happens when a novel pandemic-causing pathogen arises.

It is certain that another pandemic will occur at some time in the future and now is the time to prepare. I propose we earmark about 1 per cent of the annual defence budget, about $450 million annually, to design, build and implement specific bodies, facilities and structures to respond to future pandemics.

If defence entails the safety and wellbeing of Australian citizens and our way of life, this is certainly a legitimate way to use these funds.
Malcolm Fraser, Oakleigh South


The Nationals
Since they seem to determine our climate policy, send Michael McCormack and Keith Pitt to Glasgow. Let their hokum demonstrate to the world how far the Coalition has fallen
Greg Curtin, Blackburn South


Scott Morrison’s approach to climate change is not in the national interest, it’s in the Nationals’ interest –and therefore in his.
David Mandara, Hepburn Springs

After Michael McCormack’s less than inspiring performance, it seems now only a matter of time until the National Party is reJoycing.
Joan Segrave, Healesville

The vaccine rollout
Let’s not begin to imagine what the vaccine rollout would be like if it wasn’t “on track”, as Greg Hunt insists it is.
Annie Wilson, Inverloch

I’ll bet anyone who understands probability, chance and balance of risk – bookmakers, professional gamblers, mathematicians and statisticians – has been first out of the barriers for getting the jab.
Terry Kelly, Fitzroy North

Vaccine hesitancy
Perhaps relaxed restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated would be an incentive for overcoming vaccine hesitancy.
Joe Wilder, Caulfield North

Your series on so-called independent schools shows why they do not deserve that title. We can call them private schools, but taxpayer-subsidised would be a more honest name.
Tony Haydon, Springvale

In the absence of a vaccine against girl germs, clearly the only option for the Australian Club is to close its borders.
Deborah Morrison, Malvern East

The latest advice from the World Health Organisation – “no booze until menopause” – is enough to drive a girl to drink (“WHO booze ban sparks women’s backlash”, 20/6).
Jenny Bone, Surrey Hills

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