Monthly archives: July 2019

PM rejects Amnesty’s judgement

The human rights pressure group has accused Mr Howard of portraying asylum-seekers as a threat to national security and of sponsoring policies as divisive as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's regime.

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In a report released on Wednesday, it also criticised Australia's role in the war on terror and its treatment of female victims of violence.

Amnesty secretary-general Irene Khan said the fear generated by leaders such as Mr Howard "thrives on myopic and cowardly leadership".

Ms Khan lumped Mr Howard in with Mr Mugabe, US President George W Bush and Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir in a paragraph about leaders who used fear to suit their political agenda.

Rebuttal

In statement today, Mr Howard rejected the way Australia was characterised in the Amnesty report.

"The report's entry on Australia contains a string of assertions, unsupported by evidence and devoid of context," he said.

"The report's treatment of Australia amounts to little more than a shoddy caricature.

"Nowhere is the report's political agenda clearer than the paragraph in its foreword which seeks to bracket Australian and US policies with the horrendous human rights situation in Darfur and Robert Mugabe's disastrous misrule in Zimbabwe."

Ms Khan stood by her comments today, accusing the Howard government of having an "appalling" domestic human rights record regarding its treatment of asylum seekers and indigenous people.

These failures had undermined its good work overseas, she told ABC Radio.

Mr Howard said he respected Amnesty, but its current leadership had lost sight of the need for balance or rigour.

"I believe many Australians will be as offended by this report as I am," he said.

"My government makes no apology for taking appropriate, balanced steps to protect the Australian public from the very real threat of terrorism and to protect our borders."

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Rudd's wife may sell companies

Kevin Rudd's wife may consider selling her multi-million dollar employment empire following an unfortunate slip-up.

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This follows one of her companies inadvertently derailing Labor's attack on the government's industrial relations laws.

Therese Rein’s business activities embarrassed the federal opposition leader when it was revealed a Melbourne company she bought last year had underpaid 58 workers a total of $70,000.

The company had put the workers on individual contracts which wrongly stripped away award conditions in return for 45 cents extra an hour.

The revelation came as Labor was leading an attack on a template Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) for the hotel and motel industry.

The owners of a Goulburn motel who have attempted to introduce the new AWA have received hate mail and harassing phone calls since Labor highlighted the case, the government said today.

Mr Rudd said he felt sorry for employers who were wrongly targeted.

But he said his wife had made an honest mistake based on incorrect information from the previous owners of the company.

'Unintentional'

Mr Rudd denied that his wife, who is in London on business, had set out to exploit workers.

"This was obviously an honest mistake and she sought to rectify this as soon as she had the information available to her," he told reporters in a late afternoon press conference.

"I would be dishonest with you if I said it's not embarrassing that these things happen. Of course it is embarrassing."

The bungle raises questions about whether Ms Rein's job placement empire, which has several federal government contracts, would cause any conflicts of interest should Labor win this year's federal election and Mr Rudd become prime minister.

Mr Rudd has previously said that he would take advice from the head of the prime minister's department on the matter should he win office.

But today he said he and his wife would be talking the matter over before the election.

This one is tough because it affects her and her future," he said.

"I love my wife dearly and she's built this up from scratch.

"So do you turn around and say, `well that's the end of that, sweetheart', or do you do it differently?

"It's a very hard decision to say to someone prior to an election – and we don't know who's going to win the election – offload the business.

"This is the age of professional women who run their own companies, who have their own lives, and are not simply appendages of middle-aged men."

Acquisition

Ms Rein's company WorkDirections Australia acquired job placement company Your Employment Services (YES) last July and put its 200 workers on common law contracts.

But it later discovered 58 of the workers had been wrongly classified by the company's previous owner, leading to the underpayment under the new contracts.

Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey said it was unlawful for common law contracts to remove conditions from an award, but declined to comment directly on Ms Rein's company.

WorkDirections Australia spotted the mistake last December and all but eight of the workers have since been repaid.

Mr Rudd refused to say whether Labor would give other employers time to put their case before attacking them publicly over dodgy Australian Workplace Agreements.

"I feel sorry for any employer who has no choice but to act under Australia's current industrial relations laws and when they cop it unfairly in terms of public reaction."

Labor has pledged to scrap AWAs if elected.

Mr Rudd said his wife's companies did not use AWAs as a matter of principle.

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Rudd's wife may offload empire

Therese Rein embarrassed the federal Labor leader when it was revealed a Melbourne company she bought last year had underpaid 58 workers by $70,000.

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The company had put the workers on individual contracts which wrongly stripped away award conditions in return for 45 cents extra an hour.

Mr Rudd denied that his wife, who is in London on business, had set out to exploit workers.

"This was obviously an honest mistake and she sought to rectify this as soon as she had the information available to her," he said.

The bungle raises questions about whether Ms Rein's job placement empire, which has several federal government contracts, would cause any conflicts of interest should Labor win this year's federal election and Mr Rudd become prime minister.

Mr Rudd has previously said that he would take advice from the head of the prime minister's department on the matter should he win office.

But he now says he and his wife will be talking the matter over before the election.

"This one is tough because it affects her and her future," he said.

"I love my wife dearly and she's built this up from scratch.

"So do you turn around and say: `Well, that's the end of that, sweetheart', or do you do it differently?

"It's a very hard decision to say to someone prior to an election – and we don't know who's going to win the election – `Offload the business'.

"This is the age of professional women who run their own companies, who have their own lives, and are not simply appendages of middle-aged men."

Acquisition

Ms Rein's company WorkDirections Australia acquired job placement company Your Employment Services (YES) last July and put its 200 workers on common law contracts.

But it later discovered 58 of the workers had been wrongly classified by the company's previous owner, leading to the underpayment under the new contracts.

Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey said it was unlawful for common law contracts to remove conditions from an award, but declined to comment directly on Ms Rein's company.

WorkDirections Australia spotted the mistake last December and all but eight of the workers have since been repaid.

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Brough defends English plan

Mr Brough said children had no hope of getting on in life if they could only speak a language that just a handful of people could understand.

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He said the plan was backed by grandparents in indigenous communities who wanted their young people to have the same opportunities as white children.

"If we are all going to aspire, as most politicians say they do, that all Aboriginal children should have the same life expectancy, the same capacity to enjoy the bounty of this nation, then we are just living a lie if we don't ensure that they have the first fundamental that they need to be mobile citizens of Australia, and that is the English language," Mr Brough told ABC radio today.

"These children, like all Australian children, will benefit from a strong grasp of English which allows them to make choices in their lives which they simply don't have when they only speak a language which only a handful of people can understand."

But Mr Brough's proposal has been met with amazement by NSW's first Aboriginal MP, Linda Burney.

"I think that he needs to understand that culture and country is incredibly important to Aboriginal people and they will be protected at all costs," she told ABC radio.

"Aboriginal kids do need to be bilingual but it's a bit rich coming from a person who actually is part of a government that took away funding for bilingual programs in the Northern Territory."

Mr Brough said school attendance was essential and he would look into ways to encourage indigenous children to go to school, including stopping parents' welfare payments if their children were truants.

"I am looking at welfare changes which can help with school attendance," he said.

"I will look at anything at all, both incentives as well as things such as welfare quarantining, to assist the circumstances."

Mr Brough said there was a lot of support in indigenous communities for his plan.

"This is probably the number one issue I get from grandparents in remote communities," he said.

"It's been pushed at me. Particularly the grandmothers, the grandfathers, they are so adamant.

"They understand the value of English and they understand the value of an education."

Mr Brough's comments come two days before the 40th anniversary of the 1967 referendum which allowed Aborigines to be counted as Australians and gave the federal government the power to make laws for them.

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ALP accused of double standard

The prime minister says Labor should stop attacking companies over industrial relations following awkward revelations about Kevin Rudd's wife's company.

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Almost 60 staff at one of Therese Rein's job placement companies were underpaid after they were moved on to common law contracts that stripped award conditions in return for just 45 cents extra an hour.

The opposition leader said his wife had made an honest mistake and had compensated the workers as soon as the error was spotted.

Mr Howard declined to criticise Ms Rein directly, saying the matter was being investigated by the Office of Workplace Services.

But he said the Labor Party should stop attacking businesses like the Lilac City motel in Goulburn, which was criticised this week for introducing a new Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA).

Mr Howard said the motel owners had received hate emails from as far away as Norway after Labor's industrial relations spokeswoman Julia Gillard leapt on a newspaper report about the AWA without checking the facts.

"We did not start this. We are not making wild accusations about Mr Rudd's wife," Mr Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting in Melbourne today.

"We are making very strong accusations about the behaviour of Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard towards other companies, some of whom have made honest mistakes.

"Now, if we're not to have a double standard, an honest mistake made by one company is as good and as excusable as an honest mistake made by another company.

"We've had too much of this use of parliamentary privilege to attack the reputations of hardworking businessmen and women.

"Vulnerable small businesses have their reputations trashed all across the country and there's not so much as an apology."

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