Showing posts with label pandemic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pandemic. Show all posts

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Tweet of the Week


Monday, 12 October 2020

Morrison Government ignores the "Pink Recession" in Budget 2020-21


"Women drive on roads. They will benefit from our infrastructure spend" [in Budget 2020-21]. [Senator Michaelia Cash, Channel 10 clip in The Project program, 8 October 2020]

The Guardian, 8 October 2020:

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, is angry with women. Not all of us, just those making a fuss about the woeful lack of attention to women’s workforce participation, economic security and safety in the budget his treasurer handed down on Tuesday night.

After early childhood education advocate and journalist Georgie Dent published an article in Women’s Agenda pointing out that the biggest-spending budget in history had allocated roughly a third of 1% of its funds for women’s economic security (citing a figure I tweeted from the Per Capita account during the budget presentation on Tuesday night), she received a call from the PM’s office to complain that “no one credible” was making such a complaint, and that “nothing in the budget is gendered”.

To quote one famous working woman: big mistake. Big. Huge.

Within a couple of hours, the hashtag #CredibleWomen was born, and soon trending in Australia. Twenty-four hours later, more than 1,000 very angry, and highly credible, women and men had joined the fray, including prominent journalists and commentators, business leaders, former federal politicians, economists and sociologists, and even the family members of former prime ministers, both Labor and Liberal. So much for no one credible.

As for the claim that nothing in the budget was gendered – that’s the point. Proudly declaring that no gender analysis was done on the budget reveals a disturbing ignorance of the inherent bias in our economic system, and a fundamental confusion between the concepts of equality and equity. A budget that treats everyone equally, ignoring the fact that women start from a place of significant disadvantage on almost every meaningful economic measure, simply entrenches gender inequality and, in light of the disproportionate impact of the current recession on women, actually risks sending us backwards.

The fact is, the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent economic collapse have hit women particularly hard. While previous recessions were typified by declining aggregate demand for manufactured goods and services, the current downturn is marked by a partial or total shutdown of many service industries, which are dominated by female workers.

Social distancing restrictions have resulted in an unparalleled collapse in demand, which has had an immediate impact on sectors of the market unused to bearing the brunt of economic shocks, with widespread jobs losses in retail, entertainment and hospitality. Universities, too, are shedding jobs at an alarming rate, and many of the jobs in research, teaching and administration that have been lost will not return even if and when international students do.

As a result, unemployment for women in this Covid-induced economic collapse is double that of the 1990s recession. While women suffered roughly 25% of all job losses in the early 1990s, they account for more than 50% of the newly unemployed today.

A budget that treats everyone equally ... simply entrenches gender inequality”

Yet the Morrison government seems to have failed to come to grips with the different nature of this recession compared to previous downturns, or to have grasped the significant changes in our labour market over the three decades since Australia last faced the task of rebuilding a shattered economy. The budget released on Tuesday night was a fine plan for recovery from the recession of the early 1990s, but not so much for the one we face today…..

The full article can be read here.


According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Labor Force original data, in December 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic had entered the country, the female workforce participation rate was 61.6 per cent and total number of unemployed females was 295,100 individuals.

A Parliamentary Budget Report found that 56 per cent of those unemployed females were women aged 45 years and older.

By end of August 2020 the female workforce participation rate was 59.7 per cent - a 3 per cent participation fall. While the unemployment figure had grown to 418,600 females of working force age – a 29 per cent increase in unemployment.

In December 2019 the male workforce participation rate was 71.4 per cent and the total number of unemployed males was 371,600 individuals.

Of these unemployed males 45 per cent were men aged 45 years and older.

By end of August 2020 male workforce participation rate was 69.4 per cent a 3 per cent  participation fall. While the unemployment figure has risen to 503,000 males of working force age - a 26 per cent increase in unemployment. 

Comparing total females and males who considered themselves underemployed between December 2019 and August 2020:

  • Underemployed females totalled 690,200 workers in December 2019 and 753,200 workers in August 2020 - an est. 9 per cent increase in underemployment over the 9 month period; and
  • Underemployed males totalled 503,000 workers in December 2019 and 723,300 workers in August 2020 - an est. 31 per cent increase in underemployment.

Females in employment worked a combined total of 736,643,500 hours in December 2019 and a total of 702,547,200 hours in August 2020 - an est. 5 per cent fall in hours worked. 

Males in employment worked a combined total of 1,044,184,200 hours in December 2019 and a total of 980,844,400 hours in August 2020 - an est. 6 per cent fall.

When breaking that down further by looking at the percentage of females who had between 35-44 hours paid work a week it was 32.1% of all employed females, with another 19.8 per cent working less than 20 hours. While for males receiving 34-44 hours of paid work a week it was 42.1 per cent of all employed males, with another 11.1 per cent working under 20 hours a week.

Overall since the impact of the COVID-19 begun to be felt both males and females experienced swings and roundabouts when it came to employment. 

However, compared with men, over the last decade a higher proportion of unemployed women are now either older women, have a reduced capacity to work, are carers or sole parents. 

While the bottom line is that despite the JobKeeper subsidised wage program, at the end of the last 9 months there are still more females out of work than there are males in the same predicament and more employed females than males with less than a full week's work.

When it came to ABS records for industry sectors with the highest job losses year-to-year it was clear highest losses occurred in sectors with traditionally high female employment levels:

JUNE 2019 to JUNE 2020

Accommodation - jobs down 25.5 per cent

Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services - jobs down 15.6 per cent

Clubs, pubs, taverns and bars - jobs down 15.6 per cent

Tourism - jobs down 15.1 per cent

Travel agency and information centre services - 17.9 per cent

Retail Trade - jobs down 9.0 per cent.

Tourism jobs peaked at 748,200 in December 2019 and in June 2020 were at the lowest level (611,700) since June 2014. More females work in tourism than males so there were more jobs lost by females with a reduction of 88,100 (-21.5%) jobs compared to a fall of 48,300 (-14.3%) for males.

The Australian Treasury is reportedly predicting that unemployment will remain high for several years, but that it will peak at 8% in the December quarter of 2020. However, indications are that unemployment will not fall below 5 per cent until sometime after 2024.  

It is statistics such as these which have led to political commentators dubbing the current economic recession In Australia, the "pink recession" or "shecession".

Terms with which Scott Morrison appears to take great exception. Women it seems are never to speak up on economic matters unless it is to agree with his world view.

According to Taylor Fry Consulting Actuaries' research, by 29 August 2020 in the Clarence Valley the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was rated "Medium" for most of the valley but at the upper end of "High" was Maclean-Iluka-Yamba which are heavily dependent on tourism.

As it is for Byron Bay where the impact was also rated at the upper limit of "High", while the remainder of the Northern Rivers region was at the lower limit of "High" with the exception of Kyogle and Casino which were rated "Medium".

In 2019 the NSW Northern Rivers region had a resident population of est. 304,325 people with a high number of older residents. In fact at the last Census around 133,332 were aged between 50 and 100 years of age.

In 2020 the Northern New South Wales Local Health District data indicated that females made up 49.22 per cent of the regional population - with est. 30 per cent of that regional population being females of workforce age.

That's an awful lot of Northern Rivers women Scott Morrison & his Cabinet have chosen to brush aside in the worst recession in 30 years.

Monday, 5 October 2020

Nationals MP for Clarence is jumping up and down about the Clarence Valley being left out of the NSW-Qld border bubble. Well the fact of the matter is that the O'Farrell-Baird-Berejilkian Government has had 9 years to reverse the error that led to the current problem & neither he, his party or the government have addressed the issue


Sometime in the 21st Century the New South Wales Government invited a bee into its bonnet concerning a need to amalgamate regional local government areas with a view to eventually creating mega-councils and, when that policy was not greeted with enthusiasm (indeed sometimes with open rebellion) it decided to create communities of interest containing clusters of local government areas 'sharing' resources.

Down in Sydney - somewhere between Macquarie Street and Macquarie Towers - the state government decided to overturn the genuine Northern Rivers community of interest built up over the last 179 years and reclassify the Clarence Valley as "Mid-North Coast"

Although many in the Clarence Valley fought back against being lumped in with 'southerners' who did not share a good many of our values, aspirations or concerns, the state government kept insisting.

By 2006 only the Australian Bureau of Meteorology consistently referred to the Clarence Valley as being in the Northern Rivers region and much later the valley was included with the other historical Northern Rivers areas in the one state health district.

When it came to NSW Government agencies generally, they tended to gather data about the Clarence Valley, its communities and residents as part of the newly defined "Mid-North Coast".

We were frequently merged with Coffs Harbour when it came to recording crime, unemployment  levels, transport infrastructure and, at a regional planning level we were lumped with Coffs Harbour, Belligen, Nambucca, Kempsey, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Greater Taree and Great Lakes local government areas. 

Now the National Party members of the O'Farrel-Baird-Berejiklian Government were well aware of the fact that Clarence Valley communities never considered the reclassification was anything but a political move by a city-centric government and were instinctively refusing to turn their eyes south.

However, I do not recall any individual or combined push by Chris Gulapatis, Geoff Provest or Ben Franklin to reverse that "Mid-North Coast" label before the global pandemic intruded into the state.

So it should not come as a surprise that when the Queensland Government began to look for information about where the Clarence Valley was both geographically and socially when considering its response to COVID-19, it found us in what appeared to be a large population cluster which was too close for comfort to the outer fringes of heavily populated areas like the Hunter-Newcastle and Central Coast.

Former surveyor Chris Gulaptis can go to the newspapers calling the Clarence Valley's exclusion from the Northern Rivers border bubble "ridiculous", "bizarre, perplexing and unnecessary" but he has sat on his hands for almost nine years happily ignoring what locals had been telling him during those years - that the time would come when we would all rue the day that the NSW Government on paper ejected us from the Northern Rivers.

Cartography based solely on political ideology is a b*tch, Mr. Gulaptis. 

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Friday, 2 October 2020

A conga line of #COVIDIOTS - Part 6

NSW Police, News, 26-28 September 2020:

A man has been charged after allegedly attempting to travel across the NSW/Victoria border in a taxi yesterday.

About 4.30pm (Saturday 26 September 2020), police stopped a Victorian taxi at a checkpoint on the Hume Highway, Albury.

The passenger, a 26-year-old man, was asked to produce a permit; however, it was not valid.

When he was spoken to further, police will allege the man stated he wanted to go shopping in Albury.

He was arrested and taken to Albury Police Station, where he was charged with not comply with noticed direction re section 7/8/9 -COVID-19 and breach of bail.

He was refused bail to appear at Wagga Wagga Bail Court today (Sunday 27 September 2020).

Two people have been charged and eight infringements have been issued since the last COVID-19 update.

About 6.15pm yesterday (Sunday 27 September 2020), a 45-year-old woman attended Maitland Police Station, where she allegedly became aggressive while intoxicated before coughing on an officer. She was arrested and charged with not comply noticed direction re spitting/coughing - COVID-19, behave in offensive manner in/near public place, assault officer in execution of duty, and two counts of intimidate police officer in execution of duty without actual bodily harm. She was granted strict conditional bail and is due to appear in Maitland Local Court on Wednesday 18 November 2020.

- About 11am on 5 September 2020, police attended an unauthorised protest in Byron Bay. It’s alleged a 45-year-old man failed to move-on as directed by police. He was arrested and taken to Tweed Heads Police Station where he was charged with fail to comply requirement public health order – COVID-19.

- About 10pm yesterday (Sunday 27 September 2020), police attended a home on Bromide Street at Broken Hill after numerous noise complaints were received. Officers from Barrier Police District attended and issued the occupants a noise abatement direction. Police returned to the home later that evening after continuing to receive noise complaints. Officers seized the speakers before issuing two occupants a $1000 PIN for failing to comply requirement public health order – COVID-19.

- About 7.30am yesterday (Sunday 27 September 2020), police were called to Tyagarah Beach about complaints were received about a party that was taking place. Officers from Tweed/Byron attended and located more than 20 people at the party. Police were told approximately 500 people had attended the party earlier in the evening. Three people were issued $1000 PINs for failing to comply requirement public health order – COVID-19.

- About 12.20am on Saturday (26 September 2020), police stopped a car on the Sturt Highway at Hay. Police spoke with the occupants, who were from Victoria, and determined they didn’t have a valid permit to enter NSW. The three occupants were issued an $1000 PIN for not comply with noticed direction re section 7/8/9 COVID-19.

Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

With so many NSW Northern Rivers businesses relying on the JobKeeper wage subsidies to retain staff in the face of loss of trade due to the COVID-19 pandemic the regional economy may decline further now Morrison's JobKeeper cuts start to kick in

The first federal government JobKeeper subsidised wage payments were received by employers in the first week of May 2020 and by 21 July 2020 est. 3.5 million Australians were receiving this payment.

By 22 July 2020 the percentage of NSW Northern Rivers Businesses relying on JobKeeper Payments by Local Government Area were:
Byron 60.39%
Tweed 47.79%
Ballina 39.56%
Clarence Valley 34.52%
Lismore 35.05%
Richmond Valley 27.45%
Kyogle 21.3%

In July the JobKeeper subsidised wage was $1,500 (before tax) per fortnight

The JobKeeper payment rate is now as follows…...

The JobKeeper Payment rate

From 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021, the JobKeeper Payment rates will be:
$1,200 per fortnight for all eligible employees who were working in the business or notfor-profit for 20 hours or more a week on average in the four weeks of pay periods before either 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020, and for eligible business participants who were actively engaged in the business for 20 hours or more per week on average; and
$750 per fortnight for other eligible employees and business participants.

From 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021, the JobKeeper Payment rates will be:
$1,000 per fortnight for all eligible employees who were working in the business or notfor-profit for 20 hours or more a week on average in the four weeks of pay periods before either 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020, and for business participants who were actively engaged in the business for 20 hours or more per week on average; and
$650 per fortnight for other eligible employees and business participants.

Businesses and not-for-profits will be required to nominate which payment rate they are claiming for each of their eligible employees (or business participants).

The Commissioner of Taxation will have discretion to set out alternative tests where an employee or business participant’s hours were not usual during the February and/or June 2020 reference period (the period with the higher number of hours worked is to be used for employees with 1 March 2020 eligibility). For example, this will include where the employee was on leave, volunteering during the bushfires, or not employed for all or part of February or June 2020.

Guidance will be provided by the ATO where the employee was paid in non-weekly or non-fortnightly pay periods and in other circumstances the general rules do not cover.

The JobKeeper Payment will continue to be made by the ATO to employers in arrears.

Employers will continue to be required to make payments to employees equal to, or greater than, the amount of the JobKeeper Payment (before tax), based on the payment rate that applies to each employee. This is called the wage condition.

Monday, 28 September 2020

The dramatic increase in COVID-19 deaths in Australia’s aged care homes begs the ethics around our treatment of people in aged care, says a UNSW expert

MediaNet Release, 24 September 2020:

Treating our elderly people ethically and with transparency

UNSW’s Richard Hugman says it is time to stop treating elderly people as objects, as the Royal Commission into Aged Care and Safety continues.

The dramatic increase in COVID-19 deaths in Australia’s aged care homes begs the ethics around our treatment of people in aged care, says a UNSW expert. In less than four months, deaths from COVID-19 in aged care have increased from 28 to 580, at the time of writing.

UNSW Emeritus Professor Richard Hugman, a social worker who specialises in the aged care professions, says Australia’s service provision needs to treat older people as human beings rather than objects.

"To use a similar ethos in caring for human beings that you would use in producing physical things for sale, I think is an unfortunate way to think about the world,” the former professor of social work at UNSW Arts & Social Sciences, says.

"The way policies are framed around running these [places], it is as if they are running a factory. I understand good management techniques are transferable across settings, but you also need to understand the content of what you're managing.”

Causes of the COVID outbreaks in aged care

A range of factors have been blamed for the outbreak of COVID-19 in care facilities, including a lack of training in the use of Personal Protective Equipment and supplies available for care staff.

Melbourne’s aged care homes have been the worst hit, with all but five of the 115 aged care homes affected by the virus in Victoria. St Basil’s recording 44 deaths, Epping Gardens 36 deceased and Twin Parks Aged Care in Reservoir with 21.

In Sydney, Newmarch House recorded the state’s highest death toll in aged care with 19 cases, including two residents who had COVID-19 when they died from other causes. And the numbers are growing.

Newmarch and St Basil’s had alarming numbers because they decided not to transfer patients to hospital, Prof. Hugman says.

"I haven't seen the detail, but the question I would be asking is, ‘were those homes actually using established infectious disease control methods?’” he says.

The decision not to transfer patients is exacerbated by the fact that today there are very few qualified nurses in nursing homes, Prof. Hugman says.

"Some nursing homes don't even actually have a nurse on duty at all times. If they’re looking after 100 people and they’ve got one nurse on duty to supervise other people, then they might have somebody who has a certificate from TAFE administering drugs and medications.

"Whereas in a hospital, someone would actually have to be a qualified nurse to be doing that.”

Care staff working across multiple sites during the pandemic have also reportedly been a likely source of COVID-19 transmission. Prof. Hugman says staff have to work between homes just to earn enough to survive on.

"It's not just in Victoria, despite what the government says. These are all reflections of the broader ethics of the social value that is placed on [ageing] people, so that they seem to be less well cared for than they could be otherwise.”

Early findings from the Royal Commission’s interim report

The Australian Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (RCACQS) is looking at better financing models, including regulation of aged care providers, in its latest hearings expected to run until September 22.

It comes after a survey by the University of Queensland for RCACQS estimated it would cost $621 million per year to improve the quality of all aged care homes to better standards. In its October 2019interim report, the RCACQS’ scathing review stated that aged care is a “shocking tale of neglect” in Australia that fails to meet the needs of our elderly people.

Australia’s aged care sector is “unkind and uncaring” towards older people, it does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care and often neglects them, according to the interim report.
Prof. Hugman says while the Royal Commission creates an opportunity for people to speak up, the real challenge lies in the government’s response and how it then permeates into the wider society.

A lack of transparency

Prof. Hugman says there is a lack of transparency in how government funding is spent by management in aged care facilities in comparison to community-based social services where monitoring is stringent.

He says claims by some aged care homes, particularly those from the for-profit sector, that they have to spend less on staff relative to residents in order to cover their costs just doesn’t stack up.

"And those claims about non-profitability do not explain how or why the [aged care] for-profit sector remains [in operation],” he says.

For-profit aged care homes have reported more cases of COVID-19 than facilities operating on a not-for-profit framework, heightening concerns about staff numbers, training and supplies.

Raising the social value of elderly people

The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre has since been set-up to coordinate efforts to stabilise any further COVID-19 outbreaks across the private and public aged care sectors, with an infection control officer now stationed in each facility.

And the Royal Commission is set to release its final report by 26 February 2021.

Prof. Hugman recommends the government respond to the Royal Commission by not only providing sufficient funding but by also ensuring older people are treated with dignity and care.

"[The government needs to] focus on improvements to the aged care sector that are not reflective of a sense that older people needing care are a burden on society,” Prof. Hugman says.

[Instead, they need to focus on the fact] that older people are part of society and that a good society is one that values all its members.”

Prof. Hugman also says there needs to be an emphasis placed on the expression of positive values about how to treat and view elderly people as human beings.

"Frankly, there are some places I've visited in the last few years, either because I've had friends or relatives who are living in them or I've gone to visit for professional reasons,” Prof. Hugman says.

And they’re places, “I wouldn't go anywhere near”.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Queensland is set to expand the border zone into more areas of Northern New South Wales from 1 October 2020

ABC News, 22 September 2020:

Queensland is set to reopen its borders to parts of New South Wales after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the state's border bubble will soon include five additional local government areas.

From 1:00am on October 1, residents in Byron Bay, Ballina, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Glen Innes local government areas will be able to travel into Queensland.

It comes as the state recorded zero new coronavirus cases overnight, leaving just 16 active cases.

The extended border zone will include 41 New South Wales postcodes, spanning 11 local government areas.

Residents will have to apply for a border pass to travel into Queensland.

Queensland residents will also be able to travel to those areas from October 1.

"I think this is a great effort to consider how we can make our border zones more effective," Ms Palaszczuk said.

"These areas have a lot in common with Queensland, they do a lot of their business in Queensland so we believe this is the right measure to take."

CHO flags easing of further restrictions
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said there were 152,000 residents in the border zones who would now be able to travel into Queensland.

"These are people who might live in New South Wales, but many feel more of an affinity with Queensland," Mr Miles said.

He said the changes were possible because of the very low number of coronavirus cases in regional New South Wales…..

While I’m sure Scott Morrison will be quick to take full credit for this extension of the border bubble, I strongly suspect that NSW Labor MLA for Lismore Janelle Saffin (left) would have been working behind the scene to make this happen. 

Ms. Saffin has been the member for Lismore in the NSW Legislative Assembly since 23 March 2019, having previously been the federal MP for Page from 2007 to 2013 and a member of the NSW Legislative Council from 1995 to 2003.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

COVID_19 reached Australia around 236 days ago but Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not act on fully implementing contact tracing of overseas air arrivals until Day 234

Australian Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison and his office were quick with the excuses and blame for others when found out, but a man already notorious for being chronically workshy has just reinforced his reputation.

There was a reason most of the jobs he held between leaving university and entering the Australian Parliament lasted no more than two years' duration and, unfortunately the drought, then the bushfires and now the pandemic are showing us that reason., 18 September 2020:

Scott Morrison was warned that COVID-19 contact tracers urgently needed airlines to keep more data on travellers in January but failed to secure agreement on the mandated collection of information for travellers until today’s national cabinet.

Correspondence obtained by confirms that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wrote to the Prime Minister on January 31, just days after the first confirmed case in Australia on the “matter of national importance”.

As the states dealt with the influx of international passengers, they were shocked to learn that incoming travellers’ passenger cards were essentially thrown in the bin or unable to be accessed on privacy grounds.

In the letter, the Queensland Premier warned the Prime Minister that the states’ ability to respond to the emerging public health crisis would be greatly assisted “if your government, as the primary recipient of information concerning people entering Australia, could undertake to contact anyone considered at-risk”.

It is important that in times such as these we work together to respond quickly and effectively to minimise the potential risk this emerging public health issue poses to our community,” she wrote.

The correspondence also asked the Morrison Government to share information with the states about arrivals from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

Only the Federal Government has the details on their incoming boarding card of who they are, where they are staying and their mobile phone contact numbers.

We need to contact those people. I don’t know at the moment in Queensland where people from the Hubei province currently are because the Federal Government has that information.”

Ultimately, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the full Tigerair manifest, including emails, contact numbers and other known details of all the passengers was given to the Queensland Government.

But despite the pleas of state leaders since January, the mandatory collection of data on domestic flight has taken more than six months to finalise.

Privacy laws have proved a minefield for public servants to navigate, with the Morrison Government forced to find “work arounds” to provide contact details on international travellers while the collection of information on domestic flights was even worse.

The Prime Minister confirmed the new arrangements today for the mandatory data collection on domestic flights to assist states and territories when it comes to contact tracing.

From 1 October, part of the mandatory manifest information will be name, email address, a mobile contact number, and a state of residence,’’ Mr Morrison said.

There’s still some work to be done there. That will be arranged with the major airlines, with the Department of Infrastructure, and those arrangements are being put in place now.

Now, that is just simply to help our state and territory agencies in the contact tracing that they may be required to do, when it comes to tracking when people are moving from state to state, and that information will, of course, be treated sensitively by the states and territories in the same way that public health information is always treated.”  [my yellow highlighting]

ABC News, 19 September 2020:

Flights with confirmed cases of COVID-19 are published by state health authorities.

According to New South Wales Health, there were nine domestic flights that passed through the state that had confirmed cases of COVID-19 from May to August.

Health authorities list the rows considered to be "close contacts" of the confirmed case.

Those who have been in close contact with a confirmed case are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

* CREDIT: Image of Scott Morrison from The Monthly.

Around 10% of the Australian workforce are temporary migrants and overseas students - what help are we giving then during the COVID-19 pandemic?

UNSW Newsroom, media release, 17 September 2020:

A nationwide survey of more than 6000 international students and other temporary migrants conducted in July 2020 has found 70% lost all or most of their work during the pandemic. 

Thousands have been left unable to pay for food and rent. These migrants make up 10% of the Australian workforce. 

As if we weren’t humans: The abandonment of temporary migrants in Australia during COVID-19 is the latest report from UNSW Law Associate Professor Bassina Farbenblum and UTS Law Associate Professor Laurie Berg, co-directors of the Migrant Worker Justice Initiative

The survey revealed more than half the respondents (57%) believe their financial stress will deepen by year’s end, with one in three international students forecasting their funds will run out by October. Thousands expressed anguish and anger over the federal government’s decision to exclude temporary migrants from JobKeeper and JobSeeker support. 

Beyond their immediate humanitarian plight, hundreds linked their distress to the Prime Minister’s message that those unable to support themselves should “make [their] way home”. They expressed feelings of abandonment and worthlessness: “like we do not exist”, “they don’t see us. They can’t hear us”. 

In addition, a quarter experienced verbal racist abuse and a quarter reported people avoiding them because of their appearance. More than half of Chinese respondents reported experiencing either or both of these. 

“Over 1600 participants described being targeted with xenophobic slurs, treated as though they were infected with COVID because they looked Asian, or harassed for wearing a face mask”, says A/Prof. Farbenblum. 

“Many reported that because of their Asian appearance they were punched, hit, kicked, shoved, deliberately spat at or coughed on by passers-by in the street and on public transport.” 

For example, one female Vietnamese student said: “People were saying some racist comments and pushed me, saying that I was the reason for COVID and I should go away.” Another Chinese student said: “I have been harassed by teenagers and throwing eggs on my way home from school”. 

While previous studies have documented aspects of the financial hardship of temporary migrants, this is the first study that reveals the depth of social exclusion, racism and deeper emotional consequences of Australia’s policies, which have significantly impacted Australia’s global reputation. 

Following their pandemic experience, three in five international students, graduates and working holiday makers are now less likely or much less likely to recommend Australia as a place to study or have a working holiday. This includes important education markets such as Chinese and Nepalese students (76% and 69% respectively were now less likely to recommend Australia). 

“I feel [the] Australian government doesn't think of temporary visa holders as human beings but merely a money-making machine,” said one female Indian international student. “It’s appalling to see the PM consoling the citizens saying that we are all in this together but at the same time telling migrants to go back home in a pandemic.” 

Another international Master’s student observed, “It's completely hypocritical that we’re important for tax purposes, and in the sense that we contribute billions of dollars to the economy as university fees, but are treated as some breed of untouchables”. 

A/Prof. Berg says that Australia will bear the diplomatic and economic consequences of these policies for decades to come: 

“Many of those suffering in Australia now will return home to become leaders in business and politics, holding roles of social influence around the region. Their experiences during this period will not be quickly forgotten.” 

Read the full report.

Excerpt from the report: 

Current sources of financial support are deeply inadequate to meet need

Since the first lockdown in March, a third (33%) of all respondents indicated they had sought emergency support to meet their essential needs (37% of international students).

Charities and others provided food, one-off cash payments and other forms of emergency relief, but education providers were the source of the overwhelming majority of support received.

Education provider support was limited to one-off payments, mostly to university students, among whom a quarter (26%) received support. Only one in ten students (11%) at private colleges received support. The overwhelming majority of those who received support got a one-off payment of under $1000.

The Red Cross provided support to 2% of respondents. Two thirds of these were international students, among whom 68% received a one-off payment of $500 or less.

State governments provided support to 4% of respondents, almost all of whom were international students.

Close to a third (29%) indicated they did not seek emergency support because they were worried it might affect their visa. Visa concerns were a more common barrier among college students (33%) than university students (27%), and even more common for graduates (38%). Surprisingly, visa concerns were also identified by considerable proportions of TSS visa holders (26%).