(Image: AAP/Tim Marsden)

BLUE IN THE FACE

An investigation commissioned by the Australian Workers Union into the blueberry industry on the New South Wales north coast has found labour contractors paid foreign workers rates as low as $60 a day or as little as $3 an hour, the ABC reports.

The McKell Institute research titled “Blue Harvest” found some workers on blueberry farms were exploited by labour hire firms in return for help rolling over working-holiday visas.

AWU national secretary Daniel Walton noted the report only confirms multiple other inquiries — see, for example, Crikey Inq’s report on a 2019 National Union of Workers fruit-picking survey, the supermarket duopoly and migrant exploitation — and has called for a royal commission to safeguard worker rights.

PS: In the latest kick in the teeth for anyone eligible for the below-poverty level JobSeeker rate, the AFR ($) reports that Australians who dipped into their superannuation under COVID-19 rules are now being blocked from welfare support due to the Morrison government re-establishing the liquid asset test in September.

WA COULD BRING BACK THE BORDER

According to The New Daily, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has not ruled out delaying the reopening of the NSW border after a Sydney hotel quarantine worker tested positive to COVID-19.

NSW Health notes the woman appears to have been symptomatic while catching public transport between Darling Harbour hotels and her south-west home last weekend, and urgent genomic testing is under way to determine how she became infected.

PS: In another devastating update from America, NBC reports the country has hit an exponential growth with new virus records on Wednesday for daily deaths (2777), new cases (nearly 205,000 just a month after the US single-day record topped 100,000 for the first time) and hospitalisations (100,000).

THREE STRIKES

Following a cabinet stand-off this week, the NSW government is reportedly considering a watered-down version of a health-led drug possession policy that would see young people afforded “three strikes” before facing incarceration, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

While Gladys Berejiklian was forced to declare she had no intention of supporting full decriminalisation after Police Minister David Elliott and Nationals leader John Barilaro took to the airwaves to slam the policy yesterday, Junkee explains that the ice inquiry the government is responding to overwhelmingly backs a treatment approach over criminalisation.

TIME WARP: If this debate feels exhaustingly familiar, remember that it was barely a year ago the Berejiklian government ignored coronial recommendations to introduce pill testing and abolish strip searches in the face of another slew of festival deaths. With summer events set to slowly return, buckle up for more media debates of “law and order vs human health and safety”.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

I am highly concerned about the decriminalisation of drugs in countries overseas, and the message it sends to young people … So, I would strongly urge the cabinet to slow down and listen to some experts.

Kristina Keneally

As NSW considers introducing a warning system for low-level drug possession, the former premier and current shadow home affairs minister instead errs on that tried and true solution of the war on drugs.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Australian MP and ex-soldier blasts release of ‘unproven rumours’ alleging Afghan war crimes

Remote overcrowding: ‘Indigenous gap won’t close’ ($)

Woman charged with murder and arson causing death over Point Cook house fire

SA primary schools to ban mobile phones from 2021, tighter rules for secondary ($)

Hundreds rally in Australian capital cities against the $3.6bn Narrabri gas project

Bat populations under threat as heatwave set to linger ($)

Australia Institute poll reveals 66 per cent of Tasmanians want greater transparency ($)

Another farmed salmon mass breakout in Tasmanian waters stuns Huon Aquaculture

‘Don’t boil the ocean’: Labor Right plots the party’s return to power

Multiple casualties in large blast at English water recycling centre

Indian police use violence as a shortcut to justice. It’s the poorest who bear the scars

Ivanka Trump was deposed Tuesday in DC attorney general’s inauguration lawsuit

THE COMMENTARIAT

Australia must balance its dependence on China with its need to tradeWaleed Aly (The Sydney Morning Herald): “If you were watching our current spat with China from the halls of power in some European country or other, at some point you’d probably think to yourself: ‘Thank God our economy isn’t as reliant on China as theirs.’ That’s significant for China, because it means its current conspicuously aggressive conduct – it’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy – could well deny it economic benefit if enough countries decide to send their money elsewhere because China’s just not worth the complications.”

The recovery has arrived but plenty could still go wrong ($) — Jennifer Hewett (AFR): “The fundamental change is shifting the onus from ‘lender beware’ back to ‘borrower beware’ in terms of accountability for ability to repay loans. These stricter rules had been enforced by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission – hardly the Treasurer’s favourite regulator. Instead, Frydenberg wants mainstream lending to revert to supervision under less prescriptive lending standards applied by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.”

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews has a plan for social housing, but it’s built on shaky foundationsDino Varrasso (Jacobin): “The Victorian Labor government of Daniel Andrews recently announced a ‘Big Housing Build,’ a $5.3 billion ‘spending blitz’ to construct 12,000 low-income housing units, including 9,300 new social housing units. A renewed commitment to social housing expenditure is a small victory for housing activists across Victoria.”

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Canberra

  • Extra senate estimates hearings will examine Australian Federal Police, Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, Austrac, Home Affairs, Border Force.

Peter Fray

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