In this episode of The RawCut Podcast Mark, Rhys and Arsene discuss the new plan from the South Australian Government for powering the state. But there’s another problem on the horizon, a Gas shortage. The panel will question how one of the largest gas-producing countries (Australia) could potentially suffer from a gas shortage. Plus what is happening in European politics? Mark will explain to us how politics in the Netherlands works, so we can understand their recent election.
All that and more in this episode of The RawCut Podcast.
Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to penalty rates will rip off 700,000 workers… – Labor leader Bill Shorten, in a Labor-produced recorded phone call to voters released in March 2017.
The Fair Work Commission recently held a new round of deliberations on how to implement its recommendation that Sunday and public holiday penalty rates be reduced for workers on awards in the hospitality, fast food and retail sectors.
The federal Opposition has condemned the recommendation, with Labor leader Bill Shorten saying in a recorded phone call to voters earlier this year that “cuts to penalty rates will rip off 700,000 workers”.
Is that accurate?
Checking the source
When asked for a source to support the claim, Bill Shorten’s office referred The Conversation to a spokesperson for Labor’s shadow minister for employment and workplace relations Brendan O’Connor, who pointed to a February 2017 report by the McKell Institute. O’Connor’s spokesperson said:
The McKell Institute’s independent figures combined with pharmacy retail workers show around 700,000 workers could face cuts to their penalty rates … The prime minister himself has used the figure 600,000.
You can read the full response from O’Connor’s office here.
However, my calculations show that the real number of people likely to experience a pay cut, should the rate reduction proceed, is actually closer to 355,000 employees – about half the number suggested by Labor.
‘Could’ vs ‘will’
The first problem is the difference between the words “will” (what Shorten said in Labor’s “robo-call” to voters) and “could” (the language used in Labor’s full response to The Conversation, as well as in the McKell Institute report).
The McKell report said:
Around 680,000 Australians are estimated to be working on awards that may be impacted by the proposed changes.
Do you see the difference? The report is estimating how many people are on the awards affected. Labor has taken that a step further and said in its recorded phone call that this figure relates to how many people will experience a Sunday pay cut.
The McKell Institute report goes so far as to say “the proposed penalty rate changes will impact up to 681,000 workers”. But even “will impact” is not quite the same as saying penalty rate cuts “will rip off 700,000 workers”, as Shorten said.
The crucial point here is that not everyone who is on the award will necessarily work Sundays.
In response to questions sent by The Conversation, the author of the McKell Institute report, Edward Cavanough, said:
The point of the report was not to say “681,000 workers [work] every Sunday and will therefore lose x amount”. This point was really that there are 681,000 individuals currently on awards subject to the changes. Should any of these workers choose in the future to work a Sunday in their current job, they will be subject to a financial impediment … while on any given Sunday, only 250,000 – 400,000 of these workers will be working, a change in the award affects each worker currently on that award, and limits their ability to receive additional remuneration should they choose to work on Sundays.
Now let’s take a closer look at how the McKell Institute arrived at its estimates.
How did the McKell Institute calculate its estimate?
When calculating how many people work in the affected industries (hospitality, retail, pharmacy and fast food), the McKell Institute report used data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and IbisWorld.
But the Workplace Gender Equality Agency only includes organisations with more than 100 employees, so its employment estimates don’t give the full picture. The McKell Institute estimate didn’t use official statistics like the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Labour Force Survey, which covers workers in organisations of any size.
In response to my questions about methodology, author of the report Edward Cavanough said IbisWorld can be more up to date than ABS data, but said ABS data could also be used.
Regarding the McKell report’s calculation of how many employees are paid at award rates, Cavanough said his estimates were based on discussions with employee representatives, and a search on previous enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations between the major hospitality union and industry groups.
But the ABS has better data than that on how many people are paid by award, which the McKell Institute didn’t use in its report.
Using ABS data to estimate how many Australians would likely get a Sunday pay cut
To estimate how many workers would likely face a Sunday penalty rate cut under the Fair Work Commission’s decision, we need to combine data sources and make some informed assumptions.
We need to know three things:
1. How many people work in the hospitality, retail, pharmacy and fast food industries?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Employee Earnings and Hours, conducted in May 2016, found the total number of employees working in the retail trade industry, including pharmacy workers, was about 1,065,800. The total number of employees working in the accommodation and food services industry, including hospitality and fast food workers, was about 742,200.
2. How many workers are paid by award?
The workers who would be immediately affected by the proposed penalty rate cut are those whose pay is set by an “award”, and not by an enterprise bargaining agreement. Data from the same May 2016 Survey of Employee Earnings and Hours show that in the accommodation and food services industry, 42.7% of employees were paid by award, along with 34.5% of employees in retail trade.
3. How many of those people work on Sundays?
The Fair Work Commission decision specifically relates to cutting penalty rates on Sundays and public holidays. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Characteristics of Employment Survey, from August 2015, shows on which days of the week employees usually work, broken down by industry.
To calculate how many work on Sunday, I included those who usually work on this day, and those whose work days vary during the week and could include Sunday. Data isn’t available to say whether award-reliant employees work the same number of Sundays as others in their industry. For this calculation, I assumed they did.
There’s an important difference between my calculations and the calculations made by the McKell Institute. The McKell Institute’s figure of around 680,000 relates to the number of people in affected industries that it estimates are paid by award and could work on Sunday (even if they do not right now).
I limited my estimate to people who are, according to the most recent ABS data, currently working or likely to be working on days that include Sunday. The fact that the Fair Work Commission plans to reduce the Sunday pay premium is unlikely to increase the appeal of Sunday work for those who aren’t already doing it.
Crunching the numbers
To estimate how many employees are likely to be affected by the penalty rates decision, I multiplied the total number of employees by the percentage of people paid by award, and then by the percentage who work in Sunday in each industry.
By these calculations, some 355,000 employees – about 163,000 in retail trade and roughly 192,000 in accommodation and food services – would likely get a pay cut due to the Fair Work Commission’s penalty rates decision.
This is about half the number suggested by Labor’s claim that “Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to penalty rates will rip off 700,000 workers”.
It’s true the prime minister has used the figure 600,000 in at least one interview, but the official Australian government submission to the Fair Work Commission estimated that the number will be between 300,000 to 450,000.
Bill Shorten’s claim that “cuts to penalty rates will rip off 700,000 workers” is an exaggeration.
It is based largely on a McKell Institute report, which estimated that around 680,000 Australians are working on awards affected by the proposed changes. Crucially, that McKell Institute estimate relates to the number of people in affected industries who are paid under an award but might not currently be doing any Sunday work.
My calculations – based on ABS data on who actually is or is likely to be working on Sundays under the award in affected industries – found that the figure is closer to 355,000 workers. – Joshua Healy
This FactCheck provides better estimates of the number of workers that are likely to be directly affected by changes to Sunday penalty rates than those provided in the McKell Institute report.
The author has taken the time to understand the complexities of obtaining estimates of workers affected by the penalty rate cut and the limitations of the assumptions and data underlying the estimates provided by the McKell Institute.
However, the estimates provided by the author do still require a number of assumptions and the data sources are limited.
The first assumption in this FactCheck is that any person who states they work varied days each week is categorised as working on a Sunday. This assumption effectively doubles the new (but more realistic) estimates provided by the author to gain a figure of 355,000.
Removing this assumption and using only those that state they do work on a Sunday (according to the ABS data), the estimated number of workers affected is 169,000 – much, much fewer than Labor’s claim of 700,000.
Further, those who state they work on a Sunday can also select that they work varied days each week within the Characteristics of Employment Survey, which will mean some people will be double-counted in these estimates.
The second issue is that the estimates of people working on a Sunday are not confined to award wage workers only and are instead derived from all workers in each industry regardless of pay-setting arrangement. This is because the data used cannot provide this breakdown.
Working in Retail or Accommodation and Food Services; and
Working under an award; and
Working on a Sunday
Using the HILDA data, the total number of people that I have estimated to be directly impacted by the penalty rate cut is 217,270 – again, much, much fewer than Labor’s claim of 700,000.
This constitutes 9.7% of workers in the retail trade sector and 13.8% of workers in the accommodation and food services sector. The majority of these workers (68%) are women. – Rebecca Cassells
The Conversation’s FactCheck unit is the first fact-checking team in Australia and one of the first worldwide to be accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network, an alliance of fact-checkers hosted at the Poynter Institute in the US. Read more here.
Have you seen a “fact” worth checking? The Conversation’s FactCheck asks academic experts to test claims and see how true they are. We then ask a second academic to review an anonymous copy of the article. You can request a check at email@example.com. Please include the statement you would like us to check, the date it was made, and a link if possible.
In this first RawCut Podcast for 2017 we introduce you to our new panelist Tiffany, along with regulars Rhys and Sarah we take a dive into Trump’s inauguration, what former health minister Sussan Lee did, and the resurrection of the TPP. All that and more on this episode of the RawCut podcast.
In next month’s episode, we will take a look into the refugee saga with Turnbull and Trump.
Australia is falling short in its progress towards almost all its targets for overcoming Indigenous disadvantage, the 2017 Closing the Gap report released by Malcolm Turnbull shows.
“Successes are being achieved, however progress overall nationally is too slow,” the report says.
It presents a mixed picture. While there are some more encouraging longer term trends, the only target that is “on track” to be achieved is the improvement in Indigenous attainment of Year 12 education.
Speaking to the House of Representatives, Turnbull said there must be a rigorous evaluation of programs to determine what was working and what wasn’t.
The government will expand the Productivity Commission to include a new Indigenous Commissioner to lead the commission’s work of policy evaluation. It will also invest A$50 million towards research into policy and its implementation.
Here are the specific targets and the state of progress:
Halve the gap in child mortality by 2018. The 2015 Indigenous child mortality rate is just outside the range for the target, although over the longer term (1998 to 2015) the Indigenous child mortality rates declined by one-third.
Close the gap in life expectancy by 2031. This is also falling short, though between 1998 and 2015 Indigenous mortality rate declined by 15%.
Have 95% of Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early education by 2025. In 2015, 87% were enrolled, compared with 98% of non-Indigenous children.
Close the gap in school attendance by the end of 2018. In 2016, the attendance rate for Indigenous students nationally was 83.4%, compared with 93.1% for non-Indigenous students.
Halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy by 2018. Across the eight areas (reading and numeracy for years 3, 5, 7 and 9) the proportion of Indigenous students achieving national minimum standards in NAPLAN is on track in only one area (Year 9 numeracy).
Halve the gap for year 12 or equivalent attainment rates by 2020. Nationally the proportion of Indigenous 20-to-24-year-olds who had achieved Year 12 or equivalent increased from 45.4% in 2008 to 61.5% in 2014-15, while the rates for non-Indigenous students didn’t change much, thus meaning the target is on track.
Halve the gap in employment outcomes by 2018. There has been an increase in the Indigenous employment rate since 1994, but a decline since 2008. In 2014-15 the Indigenous employment rate was 48.4%, compared with 72.6% for non-Indigenous Australians.
Turnbull said that if people had a university degree, there was no employment gap between Indigenous and other Australians, which was “a reminder of the central importance of education”.
He said that “if we look at the long-term intergenerational trends, we see that Indigenous life expectancy is increasing, babies are being born healthier, more people are studying, and gaining post-school qualifications, and those adults are participating in work.
“These are achievements that families, elders, communities can be proud of.
“But incarceration rates and rates of child protection are too high”, with 63% of Indigenous people incarcerated last year being in prison for violent offences.
Turnbull recommitted to seeking to change the constitution to recognise the First Australians in it.
In his reply speech Bill Shorten said a justice target should be included in the Closing the Gap targets.
He also said the Commonwealth should look at following the lead of some states towards providing reparations for the stolen generations.
“I applaud the state governments of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania already taking steps towards providing reparations to families torn apart by the discrimination of those times. Decency demands that we now have a conversation at the Commonwealth level about the need for the Commonwealth to follow the lead on reparations. This is the right thing to do. It’s at the heart of reconciliation, telling the truth, saying sorry, and making good.”
Shorten said that “the First Australians must have first say in the decisions that shape their lives”.
In this RawCut Podcast special Rhys sits down with MP Rebekha Sharkie, (NXT) to discuss why she ran for election and what her plans for the Electorate of Mayo are.
Rebekha Sharkie was elected at the 2016 election to represent the people of Mayo, to the surprise of the political establishment. Her election disrupted the Liberal Party reign over the seat since 1984, when the seat was established.
Stay tuned to rawcut.com.au and @RawCutAU on social media for video of the interview.
The ongoing legal controversies surrounding Western Australian senator Rod Culleton – described by a Federal Court judge as “something approaching a carnival, if not a circus” – took a new turn on Wednesday. Senate President Stephen Parry made the constitutional step of notifying the WA government of a Senate vacancy due to Culleton’s disqualification following a long saga over his eligibility to sit in the upper house.
Even before the 2016 election results were formally declared, questions were being asked over whether Culleton was actually eligible to be a senator. Since that time, two key constitutional issues have emerged.
The Court of Disputed Returns
The first issue relates to a larceny charge in New South Wales concerning a A$7.50 tow truck key. Culleton was convicted in March 2016. However, the conviction was annulled in August, meaning it “ceases to have effect”.
While Culleton later pleaded guilty at a rehearing in October, no conviction was ultimately recorded.
In November, the Senate referred this conviction’s constitutional impact to the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns. The issue is whether Culleton’s election was valid under Section 44(ii) of the Constitution, which provides a person is incapable of being a senator if they have:
… been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a state by imprisonment for one year or longer.
The larceny conviction falls squarely within this section’s scope. The critical question is whether Culleton had actually been convicted at the time of his election (and was therefore ineligible), given this was subsequently annulled.
The central issue concerns the word “annulment”. If the Court of Disputed Returns holds that the conviction never existed then this issue falls away. If, however, the effect of an annulment is not retrospective then Culleton was never eligible to be elected.
At the conclusion of hearings on December 7 the court reserved its decision. It is not scheduled to sit again until January 30.
There is no guarantee that a decision will be handed down at the next sittings, or before the Senate next meets on February 7. However, the court has previously recognised the public interest in this matter being resolved expeditiously.
Culleton’s bankruptcy proceedings
The second issue concerns bankruptcy proceedings filed against Culleton.
On December 23, 2016, a Federal Court judge ordered that Culleton’s estate be sequestrated (or seized to pay his debts). All proceedings under the order were stayed for 21 days; this stay was due to be lifted on January 13.
Culleton continues to assert he is not bankrupt, and is able to pay his debts. However, the Federal Court judge dismissed this. He noted that, despite assertions made before the court, there was “no material evidence” produced to support these claims. An appeal against the sequestration order was filed on January 11, but no date has yet been set for the appeal hearing.
The effect of a sequestration order is that the debtor becomes a bankrupt. In Culleton’s case, this then enlivens sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution. These provide that an undischarged bankrupt is incapable of sitting as a senator, and their Senate position becomes vacant.
Parry’s statement indicated he has received from the inspector-general in bankruptcy and the Federal Court registry documents recording Culleton’s status as an undischarged bankrupt. The necessary constitutional implication is that Culleton’s Senate position is vacant.
What happens next?
This saga still has some way to go before its conclusion. But it is almost certain that Culleton will not be able to continue as a senator.
Even if he successfully appeals the sequestration order and the Court of Disputed Returns rules in his favour, Culleton still faces further constitutional hurdles. Another creditor’s petition is yet to be heard by the Federal Court, and a stealing charge is listed for trial in Perth in September 2017. These could each result in Culleton being constitutionally precluded from sitting as a senator.
From a constitutional perspective, however, it is critical that the correct grounds for disqualification are established. This will affect how a replacement senator is chosen.
If the Court of Disputed Returns rules that Culleton was never eligible to be elected, then – based on precedent – the most-likely outcome is that the second-listed One Nation candidate from the 2016 election will be declared elected. This happens to be Culleton’s brother-in-law, Peter Georgiou.
If, however, Culleton was initially eligible but is subsequently disqualified as an undischarged bankrupt, then a casual vacancy would arise to be dealt with under Section 15 of the Constitution. In this case, One Nation would recommend a party member to fill the vacancy, and the WA parliament would formally appoint this replacement.
If the WA parliament is not in session – which is a distinct possibility given a state election will be held on March 11 – then the WA governor will make the appointment, which must then be confirmed at the next state parliamentary sittings. One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has already tweeted that she has selected a “great person” as a replacement if a casual vacancy is declared.
Given these possibilities, it would be prudent to wait until both the existing bankruptcy appeal and the Court of Disputed Returns’ decision are finalised before taking any steps to fill the vacancy. This is far from ideal given both the close numbers in the Senate and that WA will be under-represented in the “states’ house” for as long as the position remains unfilled.
However, the removal of a senator who was duly elected by the people only six months ago is not something to be done lightly. And it is certainly not something to be done on anything other than conclusively determined constitutional grounds.
Disclosure statement: Lorraine Finlay is affiliated with the Liberal Party of Australia, being a member of the WA Division and a candidate for the South Metropolitan Region at the upcoming WA State Election.