Thursday, October 23, 2014

Help wanted in Sydney boutique Alice’s Diary ... but only if you’re Korean

This article is just a beatup.  The Koreans obviously wanted someone who spoke good Korean, which is NOT illegal.  Their assumption that only a Korean would be able to speak good Korean was reasonable -- as Asian languages are very difficult for people originating from the other end of the Eurasian continent.  If you have ever heard Koreans trying to speak English, that will tell you how likely we are to speak good Korean

NON-Koreans need not apply.  That is the message from one central Sydney retailer that may have breached the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act with its “Korean speakers only” employment policy.

Fashion and beauty store Alice’s Diary in the heart of Koreatown, on Liverpool Street, is advertising for ­“Korean staff” at their World Square shop.

Two non-Korean Daily Telegraph staff members who tried to test their employment policy by inquiring about the job were turned away, one in less than two minutes.

The shop could be breaching the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, which makes it illegal for an employer to use race as a deciding factor in who should be offered a job.

Daily Telegraph reporter Ashlee Mullany visited the shop on Friday after they posted a “Korean Staff Wanted” sign in their window.

When Mullany asked a shop assistant in the store about the job she was asked: “Is she Korean?”  The reporter explained she was applying for the job, not a friend.

The shop assistant told her they needed someone who spoke Korean but didn’t bother to see if Mullany could speak the language.

“We have lots of Asian customers and, some of them, their English is worse than mine,” she said.

When Daily Telegraph staff member Rebecca Gredley inquired about the job, she was also asked if she spoke Korean or Chinese.

The shop assistant was surprised when Gredley said she spoke some Chinese and told her that she may be called for an interview which would be partially conducted in that language.

When she asked if they would employ someone with extensive retail skills but who spoke only English, Gredley was told “probably not”.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said he understood the shop needed staff who spoke the majority of their customers’ language but could be going too far.

“To ask job applicants for a particular language would be reasonable but if they are saying you have to be Korean, that would be a huge issue,” he said.

Anti-Discrimination Board president Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian said any business employing people of a particular race would breach the Act, except if they had applied for and had been granted an ­exemption.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane said it was unlawful to refuse someone employment because of their race, colour, ethnicity or national origin.

“It is also unlawful to treat any person seeking employment less favourably because of their race. There are exceptions for “special measures”,” Dr Soutphommasane said.

“It is unacceptable for any business to advertise for a position for employees with race as a criterion.

“No member of the Australian community is immune from the law. Everyone is entitled to equal treatment, regardless of their race or ethnic background.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission received 168 complaints about racial discrimination in the workplace in 2012-13.


Qantas worker files discrimination claim over crucifix ban

A FORMER Qantas employee has accused the airline of banning crucifixes while allowing Muslim women to wear head scarfs.

Georgina Sarikoudis claims the airline discriminated against the Christian faith by demanding she and others discard the religious insignia.

Mrs Sarikoudis, a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, claims in tribunal documents she was subjected to “threats and ridicule” by managers who ordered her to cut off her prayer-knot bracelet and remove her necklace with a crucifix on it.

“The Qantas uniform policy allows for head scarfs by Muslim females but no allowance for the wearing of crucifixes, religious bracelets or other religious ... artefacts. Qantas staff have a religious belief other than Muslim,” Mrs Sarikoudis claims.

The Ormond woman, who says she wore a crucifix during 19 years at the airline, says she was confronted after Qantas changed its uniforms late last year.

The carrier’s staff dress code — which didn’t change — prohibits visible necklaces and bracelets, except for medical alert purposes.  Women are allowed to wear head scarfs for “cultural, religious and medical reasons”.

The former Melbourne Airport customer service agent claims she was “grilled” about her devotion to her beliefs, her reasons for wanting to wear religious symbols, and even how often she attended church.  She claims other staff — including a woman who wore rosary beads — were ordered to remove jewellery with Christian icons.

Mrs Sarikoudis, who accepted a redundancy offer earlier this year, said she refused to take off or hide the items of jewellery despite months of bullying.  “For Christians, this is our uniform. Everyone should be allowed to manifest their religion as they see fit,” Mrs Sarikoudis said.

In her claim before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Mrs Sarikoudis is demanding the airline change its uniform policy to allow “religious items of significance” to be worn, as well as an apology from her former employer.

A Qantas spokeswoman said the uniform standards didn’t ban religious jewellery worn under the uniform.  “Our uniform standards don’t prohibit employees from wearing religious jewellery,” the spokeswoman said.  “Many of our employees wear such jewellery every day, it’s simply worn under their uniform. [Are Muslim headscarves worn under the uniform too?]

“We give our employees plenty of options so they can continue to wear religious jewellery that is in accordance with the requirement of their faith.

“As with most airlines, employees are required to follow uniform rules and guidelines.  “There has been no change to our uniform standards in relation to religious jewellery since the introduction of the new uniform, but we have reminded employees of what the uniform standards are.”


'Real 20%': Abbott government reveals position on renewable energy target

The Abbott government is supporting a scaling back of the renewable energy target which they say will better reflect changes in demand for electricity.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane on Wednesday revealed the government's long-awaited position on the target, which would reduce the amount of energy produced by renewable energy projects by 2020 from 41,000 gigawatt hours to about 26,000.

The position rejects the recommendations in the review of the target headed by businessman and climate change sceptic Dick Warburton.

The review, which cost the government more than $500,000, in August recommended Australia's RET be either closed to new projects or scaled back dramatically on the basis of yearly reviews.

But the government, which has been looking to restore a bipartisan agreement with Labor, faces a battle to negotiate its position through the parliament.

Labor has signalled it will reject the scale back proposed, which Mr Macfarlane said would constitute a so-called "real 20 per cent" of Australia's electricity production.

"It won't be a 27 per cent renewable energy target, it will be 20 per cent renewable energy target," Mr Macfarlane said.

Mr Macfarlane said the position put to Labor on Wednesday included exemptions for emissions intensives industries, including aluminium, copper, zinc and cement.

The small-scale solar panel scheme will remain untouched and biannual reviews of the target will cease.

The target legislated in 2009 set Australia's target at 41,000 gigawatt hours, which based on electricity demand at the time would have represented 20 per cent of the electricity produced in Australia in 2020.

But in recent years, electricity demand has collapsed, meaning the 41,000 gigawatt hour target is now closer to 27 per cent.

Labor is expected to reject the proposed RET reduction as too dramatic when it meets the government for talks on Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier on Wednesday, Labor Leader Bill Shorten said the opposition had made it clear it was open to discussing the target but it had established "no-go zones".

"The government say they want a real 20 per cent, I call it a fraud 20 per cent, a fake 20 per cent. The truth of the matter is that renewable energy is part of our energy mix. It's had a great benefit for a whole lot of consumers," Mr Shorten said.

"We've seen thousands of jobs created...and we've seen billions of dollars of investment. The real damage that this government's doing in renewable energy cannot be overstated."

In the ideological tussle within the Coalition about climate policy, the position announced on Wednesday, while a compromise, represents a win for those in the cabinet, such as Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who favour greener policies.

But the renewable energy industry said the target as proposed would devastate the industry and jeopardise millions of dollars in investment.

Lane Crockett, general manager of PacificHydro, said: "What reason can there be [for this cut] other than to protect the coal industry?"

Andrew Bray, national coordinator of the Australian Wind Alliance, said the government had "learnt nothing" from the Warburton review, noting its own commissioned research pointed to electricity prices being lower over the longer term with the RET as it is.

"What the government has indicated today is that it wants to increase the massive profits of big power companies by charging everyday Australians more for their electricity," Mr Bray said.


Another university opts to kick Islamic fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir off campus

ISLAMIC fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir has been banned from speaking about its radical views at ­another Australian university.

The Australian National University (ANU) feared the organisation’s ­presence at a student-run forum on terrorism would turn into a “political discussion” about death cult Islamic State.

An ANU spokesman confirmed its academics had pulled out of last night’s forum because a Hizb ut-Tahrir ­representative was invited to speak without the university’s knowledge.

The forum — Rationality and Terror — organised on the Canberra campus by the university’s student newspaper “Woroni”, was then cancelled.

The ANU is the third major university to turn its back on the group, which supports a caliphate and sharia law.

It was also stopped from speaking at the Sydney Opera House in June where its spokesman Uthman Badar was going to deliver a speech titled “honour killings are morally justified”.

Last month Mr Badar was banned from speaking at the University of ­Sydney, on the anniversary of the ­September 11 terror attacks.

His appearance was advertised as a highlight of Islamic Awareness Week, run by the Sydney University Muslim Students’ Association.

There were concerns the “Grill a Muslim” event, organised without ­university approval, would have given the Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman a ­platform to spout its extremist views.

In August the University of Western Australia (UWA) vice-chancellor ordered Mr Badar to “give an explicit, written public assurance he is opposed to the cowardly and barbaric act of ­­so-called honour killings” before he spoke at a forum. After hesitation by Mr Badar, the UWA Islamic association cancelled his presentation.

Last night the ANU said it supported the decision of its academics to withdraw from the student-run forum. The students did not advise academics that they had invited Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Wassim Doureihi, to take part in the discussion until last week.

“The addition of Wassim Doureihi on the panel, changed the nature of the event from an open academic discussion into a political discussion about the actions of ISIS,” a spokesman said.

“It is clear the views of Wassim Doureihi do not meet the University’s standards.”


Taxi app goCatch teams rich-list backers to take on Cabcharge

On Friday, some of the country's most successful entrepreneurs and rich-list families backed an equity raising of taxi booking and payments app goCatch in the race to "break apart" the country's powerful $5.4 billion taxi industry.

Some of the backers of the business include billionaire family the Kahlbetzers, the Millner family, fund manager David Paradice, Malcolm Turnbull's son, Alex, and Square Peg, a technology venture capital firm backed by James Packer, Seek co-founder Paul Bassat and the billionaire Liberman family.

In a confidential presentation, goCatch's goal was simple: to capture a "dominant share" of the taxi market. It was a shot across the bow to incumbents. The company told investors: "goCatch is breaking apart the Cabcharge network model and redefining how the industry works."

It is big talk for a company that is still a minnow, valued at $19 million, compared with Cabcharge's market capitalisation of almost $600 million.

Its self-belief is coming from the emergence of disruptive smartphone technology and a loosening regulatory environment that began in 2012 when former competition tsar Allan Fels released a controversial report into the Victorian taxi industry.

The report put the spotlight on the many inefficiencies and arguably restrictive trade practices of the sector. More recently, the Harper review into competition called for reform.

Inspiration is also coming from the rise and rise of Uber, a US-based business that launched a phone app four years ago and now operates in 45 countries, including Australia. It is valued at more than $18 billion and Uber's Australian operations are valued at $728 million, according to the goCatch presentation.

goCatch co-founder and chief executive Ned Moorefield says that, when he was looking to start a business in 2011, he examined what kind of new business models were emerging with smartphones.

 "We then looked at the industries with monopolies and ones that didn't have good service levels, and we then started researching countries such as Germany, [and cities such as] London and San Francisco," Moorefield says.

The taxi industry was ripe for reform. "People were screaming out for change."

But the latest $4.5 million equity raising wasn't a pushover, taking three months to get away, with Moorefield and co-founder Andrew Campbell agreeing to a radical man­agement and board overhaul, including the departure of Campbell from the board and management.

In an October 14 investor update, it confirmed the appointment of Tim Fung to the board after the capital raising.

Fung is boss of Airtasker – an online business where people post tasks such as house cleaning at a set fee and workers respond to the job – and a director of venture capital group Tank Stream Ventures, which is backed by Markus Kahlbetzer.

The raising means a convertible note agreement with three investors, including Alex Turnbull and Washington H Soul ­Pattinson, will convert to shares instead of being redeemed. With tight cash flows, this would have put immense pressure on the company.

Instead it will have a beefed-up board, a simpler management structure and millions of dollars in cash to expand its business and take on incumbents such as Cabcharge.

For companies like Cabcharge, which for years has been clipping the ticket on most aspects of the sector, the old jig is almost up.

This year, the Victorian government introduced a 5 per cent cap on service fees charged for credit and debit cards and introduced legislation that includes slashing in half fees for processing card payments in taxis, as well as replacing the so-called limited-release perpetual taxi licences with annual licences. Cabcharge issued a statement to the ASX earlier this month flagging a similar move by the NSW government in December to cap service fees to 5 per cent.

It said the cap in Victoria reduced its service fee revenue by $4.5 million and it estimates the NSW cap will reduce revenue by $14 million. Total group revenue in 2014 was $197 million and profit was $56 million.

Its presentation was dominated by the challenges ahead. "With a changing environment, we need to refocus our business," the company said.

With 216 million taxi jobs a year, 280,000 registered passengers, 30,000 registered drivers and revenue of $5.4 billion a year, it is a compelling nut to crack. Even more compelling is that a whopping $2.8 billion of the revenue is generated from booked services, according to a report into the taxi industry by research house IBISWorld. The report says hire car and silver services, which make up 15 per cent of annual revenue, are becoming increasingly important.

The brutal reality is that the disruptive technology carries all the hallmarks of what happened in the media industry, the music industry, the book industry and some other traditional enterprises.

The IBISWorld report says: "Smartphones are increasingly changing the way industry participants relate to their customers. Features such as GPS enable both drivers and customers using apps to assess the number of options in their vicinity."

For taxi operators, it says smartphone apps may allow them to bypass networks altogether. "Apps such as goCatch allow ­customers to increase the likelihood of attracting service by bidding a tip, effectively subverting the supply-side dynamics of the industry."

In an industry that attracts more than its fair share of customer discontent, a rating system is invaluable.

Like goCatch, a plethora of start-ups are busily raising money as they vie for a slice of the traditional taxi industry pie.

Two weeks ago, UBS closed a $9 million equity raising for taxi payments start-up Ingogo, valuing it at $45 million. It follows the Google-backed Uber's global $1.2 billion raising to countries including Australia.

New models are emerging, such as the Sydney-based RideSurfing, which has circumvented the "network" by developing an app that uses a pool of private drivers and a suggested voluntary donation based on time and distance rather than an actual fare.

The traditional taxi industry is highly regulated. Taxis require a licence to operate. They also need to be affiliated with a network such as Yellow Cabs, Taxis Combined or Silver Service. Membership costs an estimated $700 a month for a service which includes taking bookings, then transmitting the details of the job to terminals installed in the taxis.

In more recent years, the networks have broadened their stranglehold by offering additional services to taxi operators and drivers, including safety, training, financial and leasing support, and electronic payment processing. This has further entrenched the networks.

The Fels report noted that the networks exerted too much control over the industry through "their cross-ownership of licences, fleets and electronic payment systems; their brokering of vehicle sales and taxi licensing; and their perceived close relationships with Cabcharge".

If the mandatory network system is ­dismantled, it will have a big impact on the incumbents.

Uber is causing an uproar as it moves into a new low-cost taxi market, UberX – a move which circumvents the network system. In January it hit headlines in France, when taxi drivers engaged in "guerrilla warfare" against Uber cars, slashing tyres and breaking windows.

In Italy, taxi drivers marched through the streets, calling on the government to ban the smart app that connects customers to the nearest hire car.

But the clock is ticking as start-ups pile into the industry to try to get an early advantage. In the meantime, the traditionalists should take heed of the mistakes of other industries and be part of the revolution, instead of building a fortress against it.


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