Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Australian can't see the wood for the trees

So the Oz has a story about how well people of various faiths are assimilating into our society.

See    (but you may just have to google it, as it may be paywalled if you try to go straight to the story).

Anyway, they looked at Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, as well as three different flavours of Christianity.  But they missed the obvious.  Australia's biggest religion is atheism, or maybe, "I don't really know".  They also missed Australia's official religion, war commemoration.

So what was the conclusion of The Oz's article?  I don't know.  To find out you'd need to read it, wouldn't you.  And why would you read an article about religion in a newspaper run by Catholics that bashes Muslims as a hobby?  Why would you read a newspaper that proudly works its arse off getting Rupert's choice into government?

About the only reason to read it is because you want to know your enemy better.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The right wing agenda - again

My previous post looked at why fruit pickers earn very little, when paying them a decent wage would lead to a very slight increase in the price of fruit.

The conclusion I reached is that this is capitalism without regulation.  The other parts of the process of getting fruit to the supermarket are adequately rewarded because of unions, regulations and the fact that the other workers have some actual power.

But the fruit pickers are foreign, so they have no family or friends to fight for them.  And they are foreign because it is seasonal work, and the locals need/want regular work, not just a bit now and then.

So what is the right wing agenda?  Basically to make us all fruit pickers.  And at the same time, they want to ensure that business has the "certainty" that they wish to deny to others.

A mob of sanctimonious tosssers the lot of them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Modern slavery - again

OK, so in looking again at why fruit pickers and garment makers get so little, something becomes obvious.

There are many stages in fruit getting to our supermarkets.  The farmer does their bit, the truck driver does his bit, the buyer for the supermarkets does their bit, the shelf stacker does their bit and the checkout operator too.  Apart from the farmer, there is no exploitation.  Why?  Because these roles are regulated.  There are rules specifying how much people are to be paid for driving, stacking, etc.

But fruit pickers, particularly those here on tourist working visas, don't really have anyone in their corner, so rules that may apply to them aren't enforced, and they get screwed.

Capitalism only works if it is highly regulated.  When it is not, you get a race to the bottom.

And the people at the top seem only too happy with a race to the bottom.  They make welfare harder for people to get, because if there is a genuine safety net there, people won't fight their way to the bottom, they will opt out and live on welfare.  The people at the top are onto this, they allow tourist work visas for people who don't have the welfare option.  They tolerate illegal workers, because they don't have the welfare option.

Interest rates go down again

So today, interest rates fell again in Australia.  Of course its not just us.  We've got high interest rates compared to most countries.

Interest rates are lowered to stimulate the economy.  If you have a $300,000 mortgage, then when interest rates go down, you have more money to spend, and if you spend it, you'll stimulate the economy.  Or, of course, you might look at that more expensive house you fancy and increase your mortgage to buy it.

So our house prices go up, and the Reserve Bank reduces interest rates to stimulate the economy, and house prices go up...

If you happen to be retired and living on your savings, this is not so good.  Every time interest rates fall, your income goes down.

Just for once, could the Reserve Bank do the right thing and raise interest rates so that there are forced sales of houses, and their price decreases?  Stop being held hostage by greedy people plowing money into housing.

Modern slavery

Four Corners looked at modern day slavery in Australia.

But even though slavery is obviously illegal, the people who use the slaves don't end up going to jail.  They employ them via labour hire companies.  And the people who run the labour hire companies don't go to jail.  God knows what sort of laws these people are breaking, but they don't seem to have any teeth at all.

Now lets look at the economics of employing these people instead of Australians.

So you want an Australian to pick your fruit.  You are going to have to pay them - probably around $20 per hour.  Not sure what the rate is for slave labour, but lets say it is $4 per hour.   It seems that you'd fit around 2000 apples in a bin.  And people manage to pick 5 bins a day.  So that is 10,000 apples per day.  Assuming $20 per hour for 10 hours, that is $200 for 10,000 apples, or 2 cents per apple.  So, if you go from a good rate of pay to no pay at all, you'll save 2 cents an apple.

And this is the thing that gets me.  I pay around $5 per kilo for apples.  And there are about 5 apples in a kilo.  So 10 cents per kilo goes to the pickers.  So if the pickers were paid a decent rate, instead of paying $5.00 per kilo, I'd be paying $5.10 per kilo.  And I don't care about this 10 cents!

If you could buy apples for $5.10 per kilo, and know that 10 cents was going to the pickers, and they wouldn't be slaves, why would you not?

And its not fruit picking in Australia.  It is all sorts of industries.  Take clothing.  My t-shirts, which I pay $25 or so, are probably sewn in Bangladesh.  And if I paid $26, I wouldn't care, but someone in Bangladesh would be a lot better off.

"Well", you say, "picking is just one part of getting fruit to your supermarket.  If we be generous at all the other points of production, apples will cost a fortune".  To which i say bullshit.  The slave labour parts are not widespread.  The extra cost won't kill us.

Clearly what I'm saying here is that our system is fucked.  There is no hiding the fact that rich people are turning a blind eye while unscrupulous, less rich people are screwing some very poor people, and collectively we are all ignoring it.   And if we aren't ignoring it, we think that it is somehow inevitable.  Nothing we can do.  Just enjoy those cheap prices.

Lets change that.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

ANZAC Day commemoration

I'm sure the Mum's of the ANZACS were thrilled to know that their sons were actually fighting and dying for the spoils of the break up of the Ottoman Empire.  Not for anyone's freedom.  Just so that the guys in charge would have more to rule over.  Useless pricks.

If we want to commemorate the ANZACS, lets do it by not fighting any stupid wars.  And that is most of them.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Australia's new religion

After many years of Australia being fairly evenly split between the Anglican and Catholic brands of Christianity, a new religion is springing up.  Its been around for a long time.  It was there when I was a kid, when it was much like the other religions.  As a kid you played your part on the sacred days, but it wasn't exactly popular.

But now it is booming.  It is popular with the young and the elderly.  And this year the celebration of its major annual event has been going on for weeks already.  Just like Christmas and Easter, the shops have been quick to cash in.  But so sacred is the new religion that the government has banned shops from taking its name in vain.  They only commercial opportunity is the sale of a traditional biscuit.

I talk, or course, of commemoration of war.  Just as the Christian calendar is marked by key dates, so soon will the calendar of our secular religion.  There will be "the third Sunday after ANZAC Day", and no doubt similar festivals around VE day, VJ day and Remembrance day.  The famous battles of WWI and WWII will provide further Holy Days.  Plans are already in place for "Breaker Day", a celebration of our participation in the Boer War.

At this stage is is too early for the more modern wars to be incorporated, but experts think that the stink from the Vietnam War should be gone in about 20 years, allowing it to be added to religious calendar.

It is hard to believe that back in the 1970's ANZAC day was on the nose, the domain of grumpy old men, snubbed by the younger generation.  My how things change.