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Sharks catch a break with pilot shortage

Posted by occidentprone on September 25, 2008

Australia has a pilot shortage, a story that doesn’t have a direct impact on a lot of people’s lives. So how to hit readers where it hurts? Make it into a shark story.

WAToday reports: 

Aerial shark patrols of Perth’s beaches will no longer be flown by Edith Cowan University’s aviation school which has operated the shark spotters since they started in 2001.

The WA government first contracted ECU to fly the patrols in November 2001 after businessman Ken Crew died when attacked by a 4m white pointer at North Cottesloe Beach in November 2000.

Until last summer, ECU had been able to marshall the forces of 15 to 20 student aviators to fly the shark spots out of Jandakot Airport.

… But last summer WA’s booming mining industry poached so many student pilots for fly-in, fly-out work that there were no longer enough students to keep the community safety service running.

… ECU is the only university in WA to offer a degree course for budding pilots.

Typically, students gain their commercial licence in the second year of their degree and build their flight hours up in the third year.

But increasingly, mining and tourism companies are employing students as soon as they get their licence, and the students complete their flying hours in full-time employment.

By the by, young and inexperienced pilots have long been getting a raw deal from many small and rural operators. Being a pilot is more of a vocation than a job or profession to a lot of people who have dreamed of owning the skies since the seventh time they saw Top Gun. And bosses have capitalised on that by paying measly dollars to pilots eager to fill in the log book and rack up the air time.

Maybe a short-term shortage is just what the industry needs to show employers they should ditch the cowboy culture, disregard for regulations and shelf-stacker pay and treat its staff as professionals.

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Posted in Diversions, Industrial relations, Perth | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

How can you underpay the lowest paid workers?

Posted by occidentprone on September 23, 2008

The WA economy is characterised as booming, no question. A lot of workers are rolling in it. This we know.

We also know (but may not want to acknowledge) there are those who aren’t keeping up. The elderly, the disabled, the unemployed. Even people who in low-paid jobs, who work for love or sense of duty or because they have no other skills.

So why oh why are some employers screwing the people who work where many others won’t – in the caring industries. Whether it is deliberate or accidental is up for debate. But carers in child care and aged care homes are being diddled, reports ABC.

About 90 West Australian child care workers will be reimbursed $35,000 after random audits found they were being underpaid.

The Australian Workplace Ombudsman randomly audited 31 WA child care providers and found 19 of them were underpaying employees.

Alfred Bongi from the Ombudsman’s office says WA was the worst offender and investigations into other child care services are continuing.

“A number of these employers have been issued with breach notices but in Western Australia so far they have all voluntarily complied,” he said.

“We are continuing investigations on three premises.

“We do these campaigns particularly to focus on vulnerable workers and we selected this industry because of the number of trainees and apprentices who work there.”

The Ombudsman’s report outlined their target:

One of the reasons why the aged care and child care industries were selected for audit was the understanding that they employ a high percentage of workers that the Workplace Ombudsman would classify as vulnerable. This proved to be the case with women being the predominant workers in the aged care industry and women and young workers being predominant in the child care industries.

Read the report further for a summary of issues in WA:

The campaign has supported the rationale behind Western Australia’s selection to undertake audits in the child care sectors with rates of pay and penalty rates as the breaches that were the most commonly identified issues in the industry.

The qualitative information collected highlights that the predominant findings (rates of pay) were due to a lack of understanding/knowledge of the pay scale increases that occurred in October last year. However, in some cases it was due to incorrect classification of employees based on their length of service in the child care industry and their qualifications.

… Another common finding was that employers were not engaging their full-time employees for the required hours under the industrial instrument. Both instruments in this case required a 38 hour week to be paid however, at least 6 employers were found to be in breach of this requirement and back payments for some of these businesses are still underway.

An unusual finding was that an employer was only paying one employee the rate that the business was subsidised per hour under the Commonwealth ‘Inclusion Support Subsidy’. This subsidy is a contribution towards the costs associated with including a child or children with ongoing high support needs in child care and is part of the Australian Government’s Inclusion and Professional Support Program. It does not void an employer from paying an employee their appropriate minimum rate of pay payable under the Act. The employer is currently in the process of rectifying this underpayment.

In Western Australia only 6 businesses (18%) were found to be complying. This is believed to be the lowest compliance figure for a time and wage campaign in Western Australia since March 2006. However, those that were appeared to be up to date on their knowledge of their employer obligations and usually had direct dealings with an external body such as Chamber of Commerce and Industry or a union such as the LHMU.

Seriously, this is bullshit.

And particularly here in WA right now where many workers are well paid and unemployment is low. 

For employers and workers alike, I give you the Workplace Ombudsman’s website: http://www.wo.gov.au  You can register for an email alert of changes to the published pay scales.

And dear readers, if your loved one, young or old, is in the care of a carer, it is up to you to make sure the carer is being treated as well as you would like Cupcake / Pops to be. That’s caring.

Posted in Australian politics, Perth, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Alan Bond threatens old haunts

Posted by occidentprone on September 21, 2008

Alan Carpenter was haunted by Brian Burke. Now Colin Barnett could face the spectre of Alan Bond moving from past to present.

The page 1 headline in The Sunday Times today read: “Bondy’s back – and reveals he wants to stay for good this time.” 

Inside Bond made a comment that “I will be back here full time in about 12 months”. Maybe he said it in passing, maybe it’s something he’s thought about seriously. Anyway, the paper made it into it’s big story for the week though it’s not on the website so maybe they’ve since changed their mind.

The people most haunted by Bond are the shareholders who were ruined after their trust in Bond in the 80s and early 90s. But like any master of reinvention, he’s shed that skin. He told the Sunday Times

“I think you go through life  and learn many lessons. And I think today I am a better businessman than I was then even, because you get the yin and yang.

There was a downturn in the economy, the banks that were lending to us went broke, a number went at the same time.

Unfortunately, because I was one of the highest profiles, I took a lot of the flak.

If your gearing is too high, as it is around the world with a lot of people, you are going to get hurt at some stage if the music stops.”

Unless you are a crook, of course.

I like the stuff about yin and yang. I wonder if Bond’s earthy yearning for home, where he and Di Bliss have a house at Cottesloe, has anything to do with the fact WA’s going gangbusters and there’s gold in them thar suckers.

Another Sunday Times non-story or not, there’s an interesting hypothetical.

What if Bond comes back? Is it a metaphor for the bad old days of big business rorts, just as Burke was a symbol of political rorts. Labor thought it had exorcised its demons then let Burke back in. And how did that turn for you Mr Carpenter?

Bond had been keeping a low profile but then he popped up on the BRW rich list this year and this week showed up to celebrate some old yachting victory. As we’ve said before, he deserves recognition for all he’s contributed to the people of this state.

The Barnett government has already waved the flag for development so it’s like the 80s all over again. Complete with ghosts of crimes past.

 


Posted in Media, Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Liberals haven’t lost their love of development

Posted by occidentprone on September 19, 2008

The Liberal Government hasn’t even been sworn in in WA and already they’re talking of putting an exclusive housing development at Fremantle port.

Ahh, back to the good old days where any old dead spot – like say the historic and still quite useful Freo docks – can be sold off and given up for flash apartments. Transport minister-elect Simon O’Brien wants to phase out that boring, stinky old cargo business at the port and shift business south to Kwinana.

The West Australian reports:

“Planning will commence very soon for a strategic renewal of our container shipping facilities away from North Quay to new facilities at James Point,” Mr O’Brien said.

Mr O’Brien said the government would be looking to redevelop the land at North Fremantle freed up by the move, possibly in conjunction with the developers of the North Port Quay proposal because of the synergies between the two projects.

“Whether we ultimately have a sea bed reclamation of the type that’s been proposed by the North Port Quay developers remains to be seen,” he said.

Quay spokesman Greg Poland said the consortium welcomed the opportunity to take the concept to the approvals stage.

Also beating down the new minister’s door will be the Len Buckeridge-led James Point Consortium, which has plans to build a port near Kwinana.

The private port, stalled by the Carpenter Government while it developed its plans for an island port, was given approval by the Court government.

Consortium spokesman Hans Moonen said a meeting with Mr O’Brien had been sought to discuss whether the new Kwinana port could be a private development or a joint venture with the government.

But Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferri said the new government was planning to relocate a multi-billion-dollar asset to Kwinana without having done any studies to support it.

“It’s not that simple, they’ve got leases in place with the stevedores until 2017 and (the equivalent of) 10 per cent of the gross domestic product of the country in cargo coming through that port each year,” he said.

Fremantle Society president Ian Alexander said while the port was still important for jobs and the local economy it was also important that the role of Fremantle as a port for more than a century was recognised and people did not want to see it become a “boutique port” for cruise ships.

Mr O’Brien said he would seek to consult widely over the plans.

“There’s a lot of sensitivity about change but I respect Fremantle as one of the great trade centres and historical centres,” he said.

It’s a win-win situation really. More prestige apartments in Fremantle – yay – and more jobs in the Labor marginal seat of Kwinana – double yay.

* Read more about Kwinana at Kwinana from the Inside.

Posted in Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Labor goes the safe option

Posted by occidentprone on September 16, 2008

It’s coronation day for oppositions in Australia today. Eric Ripper has been dubbed leader of the ALP opposition in WA, just hours after Malcolm Turnbull won for the Libs federally.

Eric-the-Safe, they call him.

Former Western Australian treasurer Eric Ripper has been appointed leader of the WA Labor party.

Kwinana MP Roger Cook, who survived a knife-edge win over Independent Carol Adams, is Mr Ripper’s deputy.

Former premier Alan Carpenter resigned as leader after the Nationals backed the Liberals to form government after the September 6 election resulted in a hung parliament.

Mr Ripper, from the centre faction, yesterday gained the support of the powerful right faction, and is seen by some as a “safe pair of hands” to guide Labor into opposition. 

The left faction reportedly met all day yesterday and was leaning towards supporting outgoing planning and infrastructure minister Alannah MacTiernan, also from the centre faction. (Source: PerthNow

Roger Cook must have been a last-minute nomination since he didn’t even have the seat two days ago. Instead the independent Carol Adams was having meetings at Parliament and rubbing Labor’s nose in it until a last-minute sprint saw Labor win.

Posted in Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Stokes like a kid in a toy shop

Posted by occidentprone on September 16, 2008

Some blokes play train sets as they chuff into retirement, some buy the sexy sports car they couldn’t afford 20 years before when they would have looked good in it. Kerry Stokes’ preoccupation into his autumn years is The West Australian.

After a failed tilt earlier this year, Stokes is finally getting his train set.

Seven Network chairman Kerry Stokes and his deputy Peter Gammell have been invited to join the board of West Australian Newspapers, WAN chairman Peter Mansell said today.

The Seven Network is WAN’s largest shareholder with about 22.4 per cent of WAN’s ordinary shares.

The move comes five months after Seven made an unsuccessful bid to oust members of the WAN board, including Mr Mansell, in favour of Mr Stokes and Mr Gammell. (Source: WAToday)

The West tells it like this:

Less than five months ago, Mr Stokes lost his bid to win two seats on the WAN board.

The move to appoint Mr Stokes and Mr Gammell was rejected by a shareholder vote at a meeting in Perth of 800 investors.

The billionaire had then argued that the WAN board needed to be “refreshed”, citing the company’s recent financial performance and newspaper distribution problems.

Does this mean the writing is on the wall for The West‘s Little Editor Who Could, Paul Armstrong? Stokes has made no secret of his desire for a different kind of newspaper and now he has the shares and the board influence to start cracking skulls.

Crikey says: 

The West Australian’s editor Paul Armstrong might have finally prevailed over his bitter political enemies Alan Carpenter and Jim McGinty with the defeat of the Labor state government, but it will probably be a short-lived victory as Stokes and most independent observers clearly believe he should go.

The fate of Armstrong will be the first big test of whether Stokes is exercising control, because Armstrong ran quite a partisan campaign against the billionaire during this year’s proxy battle.

Then there’s the issue of Seven being more than $100 million under water on its 23% stake in WAN and the stock is down another 23c at $8.52 this morning.

Stokes will want some fast action on things like The West’s lame website, falling circulation and the ongoing disputes with newsagents.

Posted in Media, Perth | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Oh for the opposition life

Posted by occidentprone on September 15, 2008

This is one worry off Carps’ mind:

Four co-workers from Alan Carpenter’s electorate office are celebrating a $2 million lotto win, on the same weekend as Mr Carpenter resigned as labor leader.

The colleagues say the former Premier was thrilled to hear of the win, and timing could not have been better.

“I’ve never heard him so happy, he was thrilled for us.” said one of the group.

The electorate office syndicate has been running for about five years.

“This is a load off our minds, the timing couldn’t have been better,” said one. (Source: ABC)

Meantime, let’s do the guess-the-new-leader game.

Not sure she’d want the job but Alannah McTiernan would be fantastic. She’s got my vote.

But for stability until the run-up to the next election, Eric Ripper would probably get caucus support. Then a switcheroo in the lead-up to the next poll with a little more flash and profile.

Posted in Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Barnett’s glad bag

Posted by occidentprone on September 14, 2008

Now we get to the nitty gritty. What can we expect from a conservative government, the first such state government in Australia for some years?

PerthNow says:

Mr Barnett is determined to focus on “bread and butter” issues that affect people every day, according to friends and party sources who are close to him. 

As a priority in its first 100 days, a Liberal-National coalition would: 

* Finalise plans to deliver $250 million in tax cuts to WA families and small businesses. 
* Give courts more power to stop anti-social behaviour. 
* Toughen penalties against hoons. 
* Strike a new pay deal with teachers. 
* Legislate to save Royal Perth Hospital. 
* Inject $10 million to reduce surgery waiting times. 

As this blog went AWOL during the election campaign we’re playing catch-up now on Liberal policy and promises.

Let’s just pick up on the Save RPH thing. The Fiona Stanley Hospital, still years from opening, cannot find enough staff, including specialist doctors, to work there. How the blazes are they going to recruit if RPH stays open? Let alone the other costs of maintaining the two campuses. $10 million on cutting surgery waiting times isn’t going to go very far at all.

And tax cuts? If people voted against the Carpenter government because they squandered the proceeds of the boom with little to show then what are tax cuts going to do?

Between more sandwich-and-milkshake sweeteners and the Nationals’ deal to whisk $675 million into rural areas what is Barnett expecting to buy with the coins left over?

Posted in Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

What now for Labor?

Posted by occidentprone on September 14, 2008

Alan Carpenter and Labor have lost government but still have their principles sort of intact. True, they tried to do all sorts of deals with the Nationals in order to cling to government but in the end the Libs could sell out more.

And a minority government with a partner which says it will vote against the government without losing sleep has got to be a stressful proposition.

Carpenter’s tenure is surely fragile, given the blame heaped on him in the last week –  he’s a control freak who doesn’t consult, and so on. (Funnily Barnett – and even Rudd – are accused of the same thing but they’re winners so what does it matter?)

Labor must suck it up now and be a good opposition. We haven’t had one of those for some time on a state or federal level so some of you kids mightn’t know what an opposition is sposed to do. The Barnett-Birney-Omodei-Buswell-Barnett Liberals failed dismally to land any punches which is why they are not governing in their own right.

But Labor’s Carpenter, McGinty and McTiernan are among the aggressive performers who can bring every misstep into sharp relief. And this new government-by-committee is bound to trip up a lot.

Complaints of a minority government have been that they won’t be able to do much in power. The Libs had better not squander the state’s riches right now, they had better not be cowed into doing nothing for an entire term. 

And Labor had better bring them to account, and not just clock-watch until the next election.

Posted in Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

And the winner is … Colin Barnett

Posted by occidentprone on September 14, 2008

Finally, WA has a government. Fairy godmother Brendon Grylls has anointed Colin Barnett and the Liberals to run the State for the next little bit.

WA Today reports: 

Nationals leader Brendon Grylls announced he would form a coalition with the Liberals after the Nationals State Council meeting this morning.

The decision came after intense discussions between the Nationals state executive yesterday as to which of the major parties it would direct its balance of power to, enabling them to form government.

Mr Grylls said “The Nationals have agreed to negotiate combined power with the Liberal government.”

He drove a hard bargain with both of the major parties to ensure his ‘royalties for regions’ policy was implemented.

The policy will see more than $2 billion in royalties flow back to the regions in the form of infrastructure and services.

Mr Grylls’ announcement came after Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce an alliance with Labor would have ramifications for the Nationals. (Source: WA Today)

Now we know.

From The West Australian:

Colin Barnett’s stunning political comeback has been completed with the National Party today deciding to help the Liberals form a minority government. 

The Liberals won 24 seats in the September 6 election. They will be able to form government with 30 seats in the Lower House by using four seats won by the Nationals and two independent Liberal seats.

Mr Grylls told reporters the decision came after 25 hours of talk, and said the Nationals had two “very good” proposals from both Labor and the Liberals.

He said the Nationals weighed up the proposals and the numbers from last weekend’s vote count before arriving at their decision.

“I take my independent stance as the most important thing I have to officer regional WA,” Mr Grylls said.

Mr Grylls said he was not prepared to go into a traditional coalition with the Liberals, and said that National Party MPs would reserve the right to vote against the government.

The decision on who might lead is over but the details of what else the Libs had to compromise on to seal the deal is yet to emerge.

Any guesses?

Posted in Perth, Politics, West Australian politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »