Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Catering giant calls for flexible working hours for foreign students

Australia’s largest in-flight catering company is warning up to 150 flights per week could be affected by tighter restrictions on the amount of hours foreign students are allowed to work.

Gold Coast-based dnata said the federal government’s move to reduce the amount of hours workers on student visas can be employed to 48 hours per fortnight from July 1 will have a significant impact on its business and the employees themselves.

Dnata, which each year produces 27 million meals for major airlines including Qantas and Jetstar, is calling for an 18-month grace period so it and others in the hospitality sector can ramp up employment of local staff. The restrictions put an end to uncapped hours for student visa holders introduced during Covid-19 to fill labour shortages.


Forced labour in China is helping to fuel Australia's love affair with cheap solar

Ms Chanisheff is an ethnic Uyghur hailing from the north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang, or East Turkistan as she calls it. Xinjiang is one of the world's biggest producers of polysilicon, a crucial ingredient in modern-day solar panels.

About 45 per cent of the world's supply comes from the province, where metallurgical grade silicon is crushed and purified in huge factories.

But researchers and human rights activists claim those factories are also home to the widespread use of forced Uyghur labour.

Ms Chanisheff says getting direct accounts from affected workers is hard because of what she says is a vast orchestrated crackdown on Uyghurs by Beijing.

Clouds gather over sunny story

But she says many people in the Uyghur diaspora in Australia and elsewhere in the world know of family members or friends caught up in the industry.

"The Uyghurs that live in Australia, they know their families are in these labour camps working for the solar panel industry," she said.

"But they're unwilling to speak up due to further persecution of their family members."From an almost non-existent base 20 years ago, China's solar industry has grown to become the world's dominant supplier of panels.

In polysilicon, China accounts for almost 90 per cent of production, having crushed competitors including the US during its rise. China's success has been a boon for consumers, who have benefited from sharp falls in the price of solar panels.

But ethical questions about parts of the industry in China appear to be growing. Despite insistences by Beijing that its policies in Xinjiang are aimed at countering terrorism and alleviating poverty, many remain unconvinced.

Nicholas Aberle, the director of energy generation and storage at the Clean Energy Council, says the reports of human rights abuses in the solar supply chain are a worry.

Dr Aberle said while "this is not an issue peculiar to solar", consumers and governments could not afford to turn a blind eye. "We condemn modern slavery and forced labour," Dr Aberle said.

"It's not something that anyone wants to see anywhere in the world or involved in any of the products that they're purchasing. "Unfortunately, there is some quite good evidence that this is occurring in Xinjiang in Western China."

Claims labour coercion rife

Strategic Analysis Australia director Michael Shoebridge said defining the use of Uyghur labour in the solar industry was difficult because workers, at least notionally, had a choice about whether to participate in it.

But Mr Shoebridge said the choice often seemed to involve working in the factories "for long hours and low rates of pay" or drawing the ire of authorities. As a result, he said many workers were effectively "coerced contractors".

"Really, the Xinjiang economy is propped up by cheap Uyghur labour," Mr Shoebridge said.

On top of this, Mr Shoebridge noted Xinjiang's polysilicon producers also relied on cheap, heavily subsidised coal power to maintain their cost advantage. "It's an underbelly of the solar panel industry," he said.

"People feel very virtuous slapping these solar panels on their roofs. "But if they understood the industry supply chain and its entanglement in the rather nasty human rights abuses and dirty coal in Xinjiang, they wouldn't feel quite so happy when the sun shone on their solar panels."


Melbourne Council's public toilet strategy sparks divisive petition, charged meeting

A Melbourne council is dealing with the fallout from a divisive petition against gender-neutral toilets.

The petition was presented to the Hobsons Bay City Council at its meeting in Melbourne's west on Tuesday night with more than a thousand signatures.

One woman was reportedly abused with sexist remarks and protesters shouted outside the council meeting where the petition was discussed.

Hobsons Bay councillors had been considering a public toilet strategy document which included plans for more loos in the municipality, the cleaning and redevelopment of public toilets and a review of "all existing toilets to ensure facilities are fit for purpose, safe and inclusive".

During the meeting, Councillor Daria Kellander said women did not want to use unisex toilets because of fears for their safety and a lack of cleanliness.

She also said the council was "taking another space away from women and girls where men can linger without question", accused the other councillors of silencing her as a woman and spoke of her Muslim friends not being comfortable using existing public unisex toilets that are near a mosque in the municipality.

Gender neutral toilets have become more common in public places in recent years as more people identify as gender diverse, but in some cases the move has sparked backlash from those who want dedicated men's and women's toilets.

The council area already has a number of unisex public toilets that are standalone cubicles.

During the meeting, Cr Kellander was asked if she would support transgender women using women's-only toilets, but she did not answer that question.

Cr Kellander, who was the Liberal candidate for the seat of Williamstown at the last federal election, proposed an amendment that would see any public toilet blocks in the area with three or more cubicles include a women's-only toilet.


The supremacy of feelings

We now have various psychological contexts being determined under regulation in Australia. One example is the workplace, which has changed from being a place of respect, to being a fantasy land of feel-goodism.

As reported by Sky News Australia, a new national code of conduct describes mental safety in the workplace as being just as important as physical safety. Of course, we do not want anyone taking advantage of others at work, but the way this regulation is explained puts the responsibility on employers for the mental health of their workers. As often happens, ‘the devil is in the detail’, or in this case, the lack of coherent conceptual thought that makes managing the detail impossible.

Responsibility for others’ ‘mental health’? Really? Then answer me this – what is ‘mental health’, or even more basically, what is the ‘mind’? Whose responsibility is it to monitor how we think? Are emotions simply a matter of the mind? If we believe the mind is simply the outworking of our physical predispositions and capacities that are expressed through past and current social contexts, then we might assume we can plan perfect environments that will make all our people happy – for happiness is the standard of wellbeing these days. And if all factors for happiness and wellbeing can be known through personality tests and social engineering, then we can create near-perfect environments. We already have a good handle on that and we call those places ‘zoos’. Trouble is, people are not just animals.

An additional problem is that happiness and wellbeing are so utterly self-referential in our therapeutic age. What system can be used to decide whose feelings to validate? Oh wait, of course, we already have that. It is called Critical Race Theory, and all we need to do is to label people by race to determine who is oppressed, who are oppressors, and therefore, who to move on if someone or a group claim that is not being validated.

The implied assumption behind this kind of regulation is that if you have authority, because you are responsible for others, then you are the one with greater power. If your people feel offended, uncomfortable, or unhappy, it is always your fault as ‘the boss’. This is because, in our emotion-focused age, the one in authority is always the oppressor, and the worker is the oppressed. As one of my teachers said to me once when I was a school principal, ‘Your job is to keep me stress-free!’ So much for ‘no pain, no gain’, or ‘no challenge, no growth’.

This new requirement is not science-based regulation. It is a mixture of good ideas encased in Romanticists’ false notions of life, wrapped up in a therapeutised understanding of self that denies our world of wonder and pain. It is, at best, a move to help reinforce respect in the workplace. At its worst (which is my best guess), it is another way of destabilising the best of our law and mercy-based tradition while we move into a moral relativism that is impossible personally and socially. It is, put bluntly, an institutionalisation of a version of ‘the self’ that is incoherent, selfish, and clearly morally evasive.

Take this quote from Mental Health and Resilience Expert Graeme Cowan: ‘Every company has an obligation to have a psychologically safe and healthy workplace.’ This assumes companies (and the courts) will know what being psychologically safe means in the face of someone asserting: ‘But they made me uncomfortable so often!’

How will a court or commissioner make judgments about how someone reacted in their internal states to external events? Courts review evidence of fact – physical evidence of people in time and place. But his kind of regulation makes the regulator the arbiter of whose feelings are more valid. Such a situation leads to the weakening of understanding of what ‘proof’ looks like, and paves the way for an emotivist analysis of any conflict situation – one where if anyone can claim victimhood, it is expected that sympathy should automatically be with them.

Then there is this:

‘Psychological safety is where you feel you can be your authentic self, you feel that you can take risks and try new things and know that if it doesn’t work out you don’t get crucified – it’s really feeling connected with those around us, it’s having a sense of belonging.’

Note the language of ‘where you feel’. How can this be regulated? What if you are actually safe, but you feel as if you are not? Who will adjudicate that? A raft of psychologists? Psychiatrists? Lawyers? Magistrates? And who decides what ‘authentic self’ means for anyone at any point of time? The person on their testimony? How might that be checked, let alone supported? What if your ‘authentic self’ is at odds with the hope and goals of the group with which you are associating?

And what of these notions of being ‘connected’ and ‘belonging’? In matters of regulation, this is traditionally linked to checking that actions are not discriminatory according to certain individual characteristics in certain defined contexts. Traditionally, women were safe when they were connected to and belonged to a defined woman’s safe shelter. If a transgender woman was appointed to work in that woman’s shelter, whose feelings would be considered as more important? The women (female adult) workers, or the transgender person?

Or imagine a worker who declares that they are not feeling connected with those around them. Perhaps the reason is that they have low iron in their blood, causing a physical loss of focus and energy, which they interpret as ‘they are not allowing me to be me’. Can the workplace ask them to visit a physician, or would that be considered as being non-affirming of their interpretation of their emotions?

People cannot be reduced to their physical inheritances and capacity, not even in recognition of their social context, past and present. To understand each other, we need deeper, more human interaction. Legal regulation needs to stick to external evidence based on actions and responses. When law plays social-worker, justice becomes sentiment and complainants are assumed to be victims. The accused must therefore be bad, even if not proven. And worst still, the media is allowed to run commentary choosing their preferred narrative, and not chasing the facts of the matter.

But could that really happen? Oh wait, we have an investigation into something like this right now in our Capital – silly me, of course our capital will lead us in this incoherence.




1 comment:

Norse said...

Hate as in dislike or hate as in yearning for harm? I do not see the point in adding to the left's yearning for harm and misery, and in my opinion right leaning people are better off without it. Being straightforward and not mincing on words without said yearning ought to be an acceptable use of force/strength without going overboard like the left likes to do.