Australia has an 'insidious jobs-for-mates culture', Grattan Institute report finds (Image: Adobe)
Australia has an 'insidious jobs-for-mates culture', Grattan Institute report finds (Image: Adobe)

PLUM IN THE MOUTH

More than one in five government board positions are given to politically connected people, the Grattan Institute has found, finding Australia has an “insidious jobs-for-mates culture”. Guardian Australia reports about 7% of jobs appointed by the government had a direct political tie — for plum positions, it was a staggering 21%, The Australian ($) continues. Among federal government business enterprises (such as Australia Post and the Australian Rail Track Corporation), 22% of these roles were political appointees — of whom 93% had Coalition links, SMH adds. Case in point — the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), which is choc-a-block with political figures even though it is, by definition, an independent government reviewer. The Coalition government came under fire for stacking it with figures in its dying weeks, Guardian Australia reported at the time, with former NSW Liberal minister Pru Goward and the former chief of staff to Scott Morrison among six appointments with Liberal links in April. The job pays at least $330,000 a year, reporter Paul Karp added.

So who are the national institutions stacked with friends of the government? The think tank looked at public boards, tribunals, advisory councils and agencies and pointed the finger at the Australian War Memorial (AWM), the National Library of Australia and Old Parliament House, AFR continues. About 40% of AWM board members have links to the Coalition. Cripes. Government-owned businesses like Australia Post, NBN Co, Sydney Water and Victorian regional train operator V/Line also had political appointees, the paper adds. So who counts? The Grattan Institute defined a politically connected person as someone who has previously worked in politics, as an MP, candidate, adviser or party employee. So what do we do to stop this? The Conversation says it’s easy: we need a “transparent, merit-based process for all public appointments … overseen by a dedicated public appointments commissioner”. It even has a flow chart.

EASY AS D, E, B, T

About 850 places at selective schools will be put aside for students from low socio-economic backgrounds, First Nations peoples, those with a disability, and students from rural and remote areas, ABC reports. NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said it’s about acknowledging that some gifted kids face “unintended barriers” to accessing the select schools in NSW. For instance, while about 90% of kids at Penrith Selective High School in Western Sydney come from a non-English-speaking background, only about 0.5% of students are Indigenous — even though there’s a high proportion of Indigenous kids in the area.

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To university now and graduates will fork out $2.7 billion in interest on their study loans after the indexation rate on the Higher Education Loan Program quietly skyrocketed from 0.6% to 3.9% this financial year, The Australian ($) reports. In dollar terms that’s an extra $923 on a debt of $23,685, and it’ll be double for arts, law and business students about to graduate after the Morrison government cut subsidies for their courses (and slashed STEM ones), as Guardian Australia reports. It’s “compounding debt on fees that are at an unprecedented high”, the union says. To finish on a positive, however — our petrol prices have fallen to a four-week low, Drive says — the national capital city average is now $2.16 per litre.

MASK OFF, MASK ON

Australia’s COVID hospitalisations have reached record levels in Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, Guardian Australia reports, while Queensland and South Australia are approaching record numbers. It comes as the Victorian government has announced funding for 400 extra health workers at 12 major hospitals across Melbourne and Geelong — nurses for ambulances, triage doctors and discharge coordinators among them, The New Daily reports.

Meanwhile WA Premier Mark McGowan says he will be wearing a face mask indoors again after stressing it was not necessary to reintroduce indoor mask mandates in WA for a long while, The West ($) reports. McGowan says it’s the right thing to do — and comes as a full-page ad from the government “strongly encourages” West Aussies to do the same. The same phrase was used by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday, ABC reports, who singled out school children and teachers in her mask recommendation. She added the wave will continue until August. The instruction is not mandated, however — but one wonders whether it’s a matter of time.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

There’s a saying that bounces around those impossibly aspirational corners of the internet that spruik quitting your job, working four hours a week, and sipping piña coladas while you outsource labour to another country for a fraction of the cost. It goes: “Mondays don’t suck. Your job does”. But is it really as simple as that? The truth is, our jobs are usually good and bad, tricky and rewarding, filled with days that are great, difficult and boring, sometimes all in one. If you’re staring down another week with trepidation this morning, may I suggest you try time blocking your day to see if you could get it working better for you? Guardian Australia has published an excerpt from Time Wise by Amantha Imber, who suggests plotting your entire day (work, breaks, exercise, and family/me time) on a calendar.

Here’s how it works: think about all the things you would do in your ideal work day, like walking, yoga, preparing meals, emails, cleaning, coffee breaks, focused work, socialising with colleagues or friends, enjoying a TV show or a book in bed. Then think about your ideal order — if you’re a morning person, focused work before 8am (when calls or emails may be less likely to distract you) could work best. Reading your book over lunch, instead of scrolling, might be more enjoyable, while a walk can take place at any time of the day, or even multiple times — one University of Colorado study found six five-minute walking breaks actually boost your mood better than one 30-minute walk. Once you have your ideal day laid out, put it in your calendar and try to stick to it as much as possible. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s more about knowing yourself and honouring yourself when you can.

Wishing you clarity and optimism for your Monday morning and beyond.

SAY WHAT?

The fact is it took universal criticism for the prime minister to act, days too late, and he owes an apology to every single Australian who has recently tested positive for COVID-19, needed his government’s support and didn’t get it.

Sussan Ley

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The deputy opposition leader criticised Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s decision to extend the $750 pandemic leave payments for casual workers “days too late”, seemingly missing the fact that her own government designed the payment to finish at the end of June.

CRIKEY RECAP

Jenny West’s betrayal is a story that needs to be told, its lessons heeded by politicians and those who serve them

“Then there are those dedicated souls, fired by the desire to perform public service, who put their hat in the ring for an AAT role in the quaint belief, fostered by the government itself, that their application would be assessed on merit. Crikey has spoken to these people in the past, nearly always off the record. They are rueful and disillusioned by how brutally they have been treated. But rarely if ever will they speak about it.

“Why? Because it is degrading and humiliating. They fear reprisals. Speaking up also casts people as whingers. And who would ever employ a whinger? The term ‘moral injury’ is normally applied to military contexts, but it works in these contexts too. It captures the core of the hurt: you believed in the system, but it betrayed you and your mission. The term might have been invented for Jenny West, the one-time deputy secretary of Investment NSW.”


The Reunited States of America: is reconciliation possible in the wake of the January 6 riots?

“But the facts don’t matter when what’s at issue are relationships. Though it’s rarely recognised as such, the January 6 process is serving as a truth and reconciliation process for what’s become the Disunited States of America — or rather the Southern States seceding from the Union (an option that gained popularity after the Capitol attack) or the country descending into civil war as some of the paramilitary groups leading the assault hoped to instigate.

“Thus one of the committee’s many aims is to reconcile US citizens with each other enough for them to face the future together. To succeed, it must achieve two things. Firstly, those who advocated or sought to resolve their differences with violence must lay down their arms and publicly recommit themselves to the most basic tenant of democracy: disagreements must be resolved at the ballot box. In other words, absolutely no violence is allowed.”


NSW’s Aboriginal flag culture war is a preview of the fight over an Indigenous Voice to Parliament

“Despite the call for a First Nations Voice coming out of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Indigenous Australians are not homogenous and there will naturally be some who oppose it. Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe wants to see a treaty prior to a Voice (although the Greens say they will not oppose Labor’s efforts to launch a referendum), while Coalition Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price says there are other more important issues. Despite the deliberative and thoughtful process led by Indigenous leaders, fringe voices will be elevated to “both sides” of the debate.

“Then there’s the awful, toxic stuff we’ll get from those who take bad faith interpretations of what is happening. All the wonky debate about implementation will be subsumed by months of accusations that Indigenous Australians are receiving preferential treatment and that it’s actually racist against white Australians to do this. This is the perfect grist for the culture war mill.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Death toll from tribal clashes in Sudan soars to 65: official (Al Jazeera)

Surface flooding and slips possible as severe weather hits the [NZ] South Island (Stuff)

Heatwave: More evacuations as Mediterranean wildfires spread (BBC)

As the planet cooks, climate stalls as a political issue (The New York Times)

Fed officials preparing to lift interest rates by another 0.75 percentage point (The Wall Street Journal)

Netflix is in rough shape. This week will determine its future (CNN)

UAE arrests Khashoggi’s US lawyer on money laundering charges (Al Jazeera)

Pope says he hopes Canada visit will help heal ‘evil’ done to Indigenous people (CBC)

Greece plane crash: Cargo aircraft was carrying weapons to Bangladesh – minister (BBC)

THE COMMENTARIAT

No merit in Liberal Party gagging talk on gender reformLinda Reynolds (The Australian) ($): “So, to address its gender problem, the Liberal Party must conquer its fear of discussing gender. An important question that needs to be answered is: How can women compete “on merit” when the concept itself is completely subjective as there is no objective selection criteria, and, in practice, is applied only to women? In short, they can’t, yet this is where the conversation on gender reform starts and finishes. Even now, some colleagues and conservative commentators, while acknowledging the problem, offer no solution — except for targets.

“Every election the party leadership resolves to do better on merit, which never eventuates. Quotas are not new and in fact the Liberal Party was established with a gender quota. They have been used for decades in Australia, and in more than 100 other countries, to kickstart gender reforms. I have never been a fan of quotas, as by themselves they do not deliver the reforms needed to enable permanent change to stick, and then quotas risk becoming permanent. In light of the party’s worst result since 1993, I have raised the idea of temporary quotas to kickstart wider reform. Political parties exist to win elections and govern. With the women’s primary vote around 30 per cent, the only way the Liberal Party can win enough seats to form majority government again is to win back the support of women.”

Pandemic leave reversal is a teachable moment for AlbaneseShaun Carney (The SMH): “There are plenty of things people do to each other that are awful, but in daily life one of the worst is taking someone for a mug. It’s insulting. It’s an attempt to humiliate. Ultimately, it degrades both parties. So you have to question why Anthony Albanese thought it was smart to treat the public like mugs over his now-reversed decision to end the pandemic leave disaster payment. The justification for the decision – that the ALP had inherited the scheduled June 30 closure of the payment from the Morrison government, which had also left behind a massive budget deficit, so, you know, it’s got to find savings somewhere – did not wash. It fell over at the first hurdle.

“Albanese and his ministers also inherited the Coalition’s building industry watchdog, which he and his ministers are determined to abolish. It was also bequeathed the Coalition’s hands-off approach to national wage case submissions, which the new government reversed within days of taking office. The head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the climate target – the list of inherited people and policies that have been ditched goes on. But that merely goes to the problem with presentation. As for the policy choice: bad budgetary position or not, what is a Labor government doing embracing a nine-month-old decision by a Coalition government that denies government support to some of the nation’s lowest paid, most insecure workers when they’re too sick or contagious to work?”

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Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)

  • Chair of Nelson Mandela Day Australia Steve Rametse, Ukrainian Ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko, mountaineer Daniel Bull and US Consul General in Melbourne Kathleen Lively are among the speakers at the Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Writer Frank Chalmers will chat about his crime novel, Conviction, at Avid Reader bookshop. You can also catch this one online.

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Playwright Vidya Rajan, director Stephen Nicolazzo, and actor Pia Miranda will chat about Looking for Alibrandi’s journey from page to screen to stage, held at the Merlyn Theatre, The Malthouse.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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