The Guardian • Issue #2023


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2023

In July, the second asylum boat turn-back to Sri Lanka under the Albanese Labor government highlighted the fundamental breach of human rights involved in such turn-backs. Given the situation in Sri Lanka – the mass repression of its population by the corrupt Sri Lankan government and the ongoing repression of the Tamils, it defies credibility that none of the twelve on the election day boat and none of the 45 on the most recent boat had claims that triggered Australia’s protection obligations. The “screening out” interviews routinely done by immigration officials in Canberra by satellite phone are a breach of asylum seekers’ human rights and Australia’s international obligations. “They are called screening-out interviews for a reason,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. “They are designed to reject people on the basis of a few questions done in stressful conditions without access to legal advice or possibilities of appeal.” He said that the Albanese government’s inquiry into the boat arrivals must go beyond investigating any connivance by the previous Coalition government. “We need complete transparency about the ‘screening out’ interviews. The secrecy about ‘on-water’ matters has to end. Labor should reveal what actually happens in screening-out interviews.” Under successive Coalition governments, on-water secrecy, including screening-out interviews, hid all kinds of human rights breaches. The asylum boats must be allowed to land and asylum seekers allowed to make their protection applications, considered under Australian law.

PARASITE OF THE WEEK: A copybook example of the Amazon Effect. Last year, thousands of FedEx workers were forced to take days of national protected industrial action for their job security. Workers were under significant threats from outsourcing to cheaper labour hire, and representatives from the US parent company even stepped in to unwind job security commitments made during bargaining. Now, FedEx is attempting a “back-door” approach to renege on those commitments by engaging an underclass of owner drivers on substandard piece rates. Under the proposal new owner drivers would face rates and conditions far inferior to current workers. Drivers would be paid a flat rate of $120 plus a piece rate of just $2.50 per parcel. They’d be expected to deliver an astronomical ninety-three parcels per 10-hour shift, roughly one every six minutes. Drivers would also lose rights like sick leave and superannuation, which FedEx claims would be covered under the piece rates along with cost recovery for fuel, vehicle maintenance etc. Drivers would lose all rights to collective bargaining, with FedEx intending to negotiate piece rates individually with drivers every six months. FedEx’s dangerous proposal would heap more pressure on drivers already stretched to the limit, and undermine the job security protections. The plan is the Amazon Effect in practice, driven by Amazon’s exploitative model that smashes wages and conditions. If FedEx gets away with this, other major transport companies will follow suit.

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