Between Left and Right

A place to vent, discuss and express on anything ranging from politics to film, from life to comedy.

Category Archives: Politics

Quick guide to Australian political parties

Australian Unions and changing the laws regarding 457 visas

A few days ago, the Australian Government, proposed a bill to Parliament that, if passed, would change the laws regarding 457 visas. A 457 visa is a temporary work visa that allows an Australian employer to sponsor a foreign worker to come work in Australia temporarily. The idea is that when there is a shortage of local work for a specific job that an employer needs done, he or she can call in a foreign worker who is willing to do the job, through a 457 visa. e.g. If a mining company has a shortage of worker to work in the dangerous conditions of the mines, the company can call a much more willing foreign worker from a country such as Iraq to work in the mine, under a 457 visa. This is a great solution for a common problem faced by Australian businesses. The downside to this scheme, is that it makes it possible for certain employers to exploit the scheme by hiring many ‘cheap’ workers, reducing their labour costs.

The main change that these visa law changes would implement is that employers would now be forced to search for local employment from Australians for six months before being allowed to call for a 457 visa worker, with hefty fines enforcing the law. The problem with this law, apart from it being one of the most racist laws to be proposed in Australia since the laws of the White Australia policy, could be disastrous for businesses, as if said business is desperately in need of work on something like a burst sewer pipe, and can’t afford to pay the exorbitant fee that an Australian contractor would charge for the job, the business would have to wait six whole months with a burst sewerage pipe before they could sponsor a foreign worker willing to do the job to come to Australia and do the job. In this scenario, the business would face bankruptcy, as apart from the business not being able to function for six whole months without a sewerage pipe, the Government would slap fine after fine on the business for not having the pipe fixed quickly enough. Talk about being in deep shit (eheh).

The Unions’ logic behind this policy is that since every single 457 visa worker is brought into the country by cheap employers specifically to undercut Australian jobs, culling the amount of 457 visas is important to guarantee jobs staying in the country. The reality is different. Misuse of 457 visas by unscrupulous employers remains very low and there is only a small minority of employers who take advantage of the scheme. In fact, it is true that all employers who sponsor an overseas worker through the 457 visa scheme sign an obligation to not misuse the program and there are already existing laws regarding 457 visas that have been working well. What the Unions are actually doing is making life more and more difficult for employers and business by forcing businesses to pay high fees to Australian contractors or go bankrupt due to unfixed problems. The vast majority of the time, the 457 visa scheme is used when there is a legitimate shortage of domestic labour.

The main issue I have with the Unions in this case is that they seem to misunderstand the dilemma of Higher Wages = Higher Unemployment. Through forcing businesses to wait 6 months before they can fix issues at an affordable price, they are inevitably going to force many businesses to close and go out of business. See where this is heading? Less open businesses means less employment opportunities for everyone, raising the unemployment rate. It is in this area that Unions seem to be self-defeating, creating the problems that they themselves are trying to fix, dragging down as many businesses as possible in the cycle. Are Unions just being spiteful organisations?

Don’t get me wrong. I do not hate unions. I think that they have their place in any stable economy to promote workers rights and to give a worker a voice. However, I do think that this 457 law is ridiculously racist and a stupid idea that will ultimately lead to the deaths of many businesses and when unions behave in this manner, I can only describe their actions as “thuggery”. Since the current Labor Government is a minority government, the bill would need approval from five of the seven “crossbenchers” in the Australian House of Representatives to pass parliament. With four crossbencher members of parliament already supporting the proposed change, one openly against it and two members of parliament not having stated their intentions, it is a very close decision. The bill will be debated in Parliament for the next couple of weeks until it is voted on. Hopefully, it will be blocked, but it ultimately all falls down to two independents: Tony Windsor and Peter Slipper. We’ll have to wait and see how this turns out and hope that Australia doesn’t start regressing back to the days of the White Australia policy.

Brazilian Protests and Demonstrations: Corruption and the System

As of the time of this post, there have been two violent demonstrations/protests in Brazil over the space of three days, in two separate locations and both for similar, if not technically identical fundamental reasons: corruption and two-faced politicians.

The one that started in São Paulo was triggered by a bus fare price rise of ten cents. While this doesn’t seem like a real reason to go to the streets protesting, what it really signified was something much more important and protest-worthy: heavy taxes and high cost of public services, though said services such as public schools, public transport, roads and other facilities remain at a standard far below what is expected from the high prices. Where does all the money go, then? It’s common knowledge among the Brazilian populace that their politicians are extremely corrupt, always swiping money from the tax collected, always looking for a way to earn more money, paying off police officers. The list goes on. Clearly, the money comes straight out of the people’s working income and straight into the back pockets of the politicians. Those ten cents were the final straw. The people are protesting and demonstrating in São Paulo, with another demonstration planned for Rio.

Flaming tyre wall blocking the road outside the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasília

The protest in the capital of Brasilia was smaller than the one in São Paulo. It occurred outside the “Estádio Nacional” where a game of the Confederations Cup was being played, with Brazil in the process of giving Japan a sound 3-0 drubbing. Inside, the crowd of nearly 70,000 booed the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, as she stood to give her inaugural speech. Clearly, the Brazilians aren’t happy with something. What could it possibly be? (Hint: it’s you and your parliament!)
Outside, a group of 200 people gathered and blocked a road with burning tyres. Probably a metaphor for the corrupt politicians being a flaming pile of waste blocking the path of real progress, or something. The reason for that protest was simple: the Brazilian government has spent billions on constructing new stadiums, hiring over 54,000 additional security personnel (not simple mall security guards either) and paying thousands of contractors and sub-contractors to work on the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup. How much of that money could have been spent on bettering the country? (Hint: All of it) The stadium tickets are much too overpriced for the average Brazilian to afford, the non-security personnel are either underpaid or volunteer workers who receive nothing at all for their work. This is shaping up to be the worst World Cup in modern times, especially if a protest or rally goes wrong and people end up dead. FIFA has expressed its confidence in the Brazilian government to run a smooth, efficient and safe World Cup.

Police clash with protesters in São Paulo

At both protests, police intervention was one hell of a lot stronger than it should have been, especially in São Paulo. No one knows if it was the protesters who starting vandalising cars first of it was just a reaction to the police beating up, arresting and assaulting protesters unjustly, but what we do know is that the way the police responded was absolutely nothing short of police brutality. There are cell phone videos that are starting to circle around the Internet that show things like police beating up a young couple, police shooting protesters in the face with rubber bullets (a photographer who was shot in the face during the protests is set to lose all vision), police smashing the windows of their own cars to be able to arrest nearby bystanders and videos of police spraying non-violent people with capsicum spray are all to be found in areas of the Internet.
The governor of São Paulo’s response? “We will hold an enquiry.” Bullshit you will, Mr. Governor. I’m sorry, but even I know what that enquiry will sound like
“Private Silva, did you partake in the beating of the young couple?”
“No, sir.”
“I’m glad you didn’t. Carry on!”

Fat lot of good that will do. The thing about the corruption in Brazil, is that it is ingrained in even the lowest ranks of the Police Force, too. It wouldn’t be all that surprising if certain members of Brazil’s corrupt politicians, police officers and upper-class had given bonuses to the officers for “dealing with” the crowd quickly and “efficiently”.

Now, the thing about Brazil’s corruption is that it is so firmly rooted in the political system, that it will take a Herculean amount of effort to remove. One man is attempting to do so: Joaquim Barbosa. This Justice Minister is on a crusade against corruption and he is making progress, so much so, that the Brazilian Chief of Army has given him military bodyguards, for his protection, as he attacks the system in the most legal way possible I recommend clicking the link above and reading about him. There are some interesting things to learn about. It is rather ironic, that the political and legal system that the corrupt politicians stand on is going to be the one that will be their downfall. The problem is that one man cannot take down an entire system based on corruption. This is where it falls to the people to make decisions. I’m not saying widespread rioting and revolution are the ways to go. I don’t condone those things. What I am saying, is that if you vote for a politician who promises to make Brazil better, and he doesn’t, don’t vote for him ever again. Keep moving on until someone who causes change arrives and makes your country better. Brazilians are good at making political statements through votes. I remember, many a year ago, my grandmother telling me of a time, years ago, when a Rhinoceros at the local zoo had it’s name written down on the voting ballot by a majority of people, so that it was democratically elected a Congressman of São Paulo. (The details are a little fuzzy, but I remember it involved a large zoo animal and one of the states around São Paulo). The point is, Brazilians know how to make a statement when the time calls for it. They only seem to be remembering that now, after many years.

Hopefully, we will begin to see things change, and not in the direction of the 1964-1985 military dictatorship which is, even though a bit of a stretch, quite possible. We can only wish Brazil good luck and hope for the best.