Sunday, 26 February 2017

Did someone mention "penalty rates"?

Yes, that extra money paid if you happen to work on a Saturday or Sunday.
There used to be a good reason for Sunday penalty rates - people went to church. If they couldn't get to church they were compensated for not being able to go. Now penalty rates are more of an issue in the hospitality industry where people are paid to serve other people things like Sunday brunch. There used to be the assumption that most people worked Monday to Friday with some unlucky individuals having to work on Saturdays. Now a lot of people I know work quite different sort of hours - and many of them work far more than the "standard" number of hours. The way we live has changed since penalty rates for weekend work were introduced.
There were a slew of complaints about the proposed cuts - as is only to be expected. People said it was "big business" being "greedy". It is also possible it has something to do with more and more people demanding the "right" to shop whenever they please. "We are at work all week," they say, "We need to shop at night or on weekends." 
When I was a teacher I remember people telling me how lucky I was that I "only work(ed) between 9am and 3:30pm. They simply did not believe that I was there by 8:15am and left some time after 4pm and did several hours of preparation at night. So yes, being able to shop all day Saturday would have been useful but I don't think I needed to shop on Sunday. 
The Fair Work Commission wants to cut penalty rates on Sundays - while leaving Saturdays alone. I know people, mostly students, who choose to work on Sundays because it pays more. They often do it because they need the money. The argument is that penalty rates should not be cut because these people are working on other people's day off, that they don't get to socialise with family and friends and they rely on the extra money. 
The review of penalty rates was put in place by the previous government, specifically by the man who is now the Leader of the Opposition. He is a union man through and through. Either he was not canny enough to realise what the likely outcome would be or he simply didn't believe that the Fair Work Commission would come down on "the other side" (the employers). Whatever has happened he isn't happy with the outcome and he is, naturally, blaming the present government for what he set rolling. Perhaps though he really shouldn't be too worried. The whole issue could lead to an increase in union membership.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Deporting a gangster

should be  easier it seems. After what I had to say yesterday one of my readers left me an email and asked me to comment on the possible deportation of a "career criminal bikie". 
He's apparently survived five assassination attempts by rivals here and still hasn't managed to learn how to behave himself. I don't know whether that is extreme good luck, exaggeration, or something else.
I have met some "bikie" types in my time. The first three I met were headed for the magistrate's court. They were familiar with the children's court and, this time around, it looked like time inside. I was asked to go along because the magistrate wanted to try something different. Perhaps he sensed something different about those three. I don't know. They scared me a bit. They were big. They had long hair, tattoos, and "attitude". They ignored me. I was a mere kitten, not worth noticing. 
But the magistrate knew that I knew people who needed help - in a country far away. In court he gave the three a choice. They could go inside or they could have the adventure of a life time but it would be a tough adventure and, if they failed, they would be inside for the maximum time allowed. I think everyone was startled. Certainly the magistrate's court was quiet, very quiet.
They went off on the "adventure" which involved going to the far away country and building a small hospital under the most difficult of conditions. Since then they have been away three times - each time to do a specific task in a complex humanitarian emergency or disaster situation. They go with their own kit, their own tools, their own food, and their own shelter. They have some idea what to expect now. 
But the first "adventure" turned boys who might have been career criminals into useful citizens.
It wouldn't work for everyone but the magistrate must have known something.
I have met other bikies as well. There's the one in the wheelchair because he had broken his back coming off his bike at speed. His mates still take him out. They tell me I'll be "all right" around them because I did a lot of paperwork for him.There's the one who cried and hugged me when his profoundly disabled daughter told him via her new communication board,  "Daddy I love you." 
And there are the two who turned up to help an elderly man move into a nursing home. I eyed them with great suspicion but they told me, "Just returning a favour."  I never found out what the favour was but they were reluctant to even accept a cup of tea. 
Not so long ago one of the roughest looking individuals I have ever seen rode up on a Harley Davidson and asked me if I knew where a certain business was. I told him it had recently closed. He swore and then said, "Sorry, shouldn't swear in front of a lady."
They have their own code of conduct. I wouldn't trust most of them because I am, thankfully, not part of their community. But, they look after their families and each other in their own way. Given the chance some of them will care for the rest of the community too. I don't know about the one they want to deport - perhaps they should have tried sooner.

Friday, 24 February 2017

A girl with autism is about to be

deported from here - because of her disability.
She has been here eight years. Her mother is a doctor who works as a GP.  They originally came from Bangladesh. Her father, another doctor, lives in Hungary. Her brother lives here. They have extended family here.
That is about all I know - assuming that the media reports are correct.
The argument for deporting her is that she will be a "burden on the taxpayer". That's it. Apparently nothing else matters. The contribution her mother is making counts for nothing in all this. The contribution her brother could make counts for nothing. The care that might be given by her extended family counts for nothing. 
What is more her own potential contribution to the community counts for nothing.
I know all too well that her chances of being employed are minimal. I know from personal experience and from seeing far too many able people with disabilities not being able to get employment. There is legislation in this country which is supposed to make discrimination with respect to the employment of people with disabilities illegal. It doesn't work. Asked why someone has not been employed and the employer will find some other reason - and it applies as much to a government department as anywhere else. It applies at the highest levels. 
I spent years setting something up. When the whole thing was ready to go in this country I applied for the lead position. I heard nothing. I wasn't even "interviewed". An announcement was made and then someone told me that someone else at the highest possible level had intervened and said he didn't want me in the position because it involved being the government's representative and a person with a disability was not acceptable. If I wanted to continue working on the project as a volunteer that was fine but I wouldn't be paid for doing it.
It was at that point I realised I would have to create my own job. And yes, it still makes me angry. Still, I could do something. 
The girl with autism won't, from all accounts, have that capability but she must be able to do something. I have an acquaintance who is training people with similar disabilities to be assistant gardeners - and almost every one of them who goes through her course gets a job somewhere. They are contributing something.
We are sending an appalling message to people with disabilities and their families when we say, "You are a burden on the taxpayer. You can't contribute anything worthwhile. We don't want you."

Thursday, 23 February 2017

"They're closing Coca-Cola!"

the man behind me was talking into his mobile phone. He sounded outraged. He meant the factory on the outskirts of the CBD would be closing with the loss of about 180 positions. 
I am sorry for those who work there. Brother Cat did a summer stint there while at university. I don't know what he did - but he still doesn't like "Coke". I have never liked it.
My brother-in-law does like Coke. His workmates gave him an entire case of the stuff and decorated his office with Coke cans when his eldest son was born. (It should be explained that champagne would have been wasted on him. He doesn't drink alcohol.)
But, for me, it is sickly sweet. I am not fond of any form of carbonated drink  but Coke seems sweeter than most. As a kitten I thought it was more fun to be given a single spoonful in a saucer and watch it "clean" a half-penny or penny. Yes, it was a long time ago. It was something my maternal grandfather, who made some piece of fine-measuring equipment for the plant, showed me and my brother.  It never failed to fascinate us. 
But the news should not have come as any surprise. The land is a prime piece of real estate which will almost certainly be used for housing now. I can imagine a mix of medium/high density housing, shops, and essential facilities. Mind you, all this may take years. There is a site in the north of the CBD that has been vacant for a very long time - while people argue over the plans for development.
And people will have lost their jobs. They will have lost their jobs in a state which already has high unemployment. Perhaps some of them will get positions in the expanded factory in another state - but I doubt it will be many, if any. The 58yr old they interviewed last night is not likely to get another job easily, if at all. He knows it too. 
The state's Premier complained the government had not been consulted about the closure. I doubt I would have been consulting him about a business decision either. He would do the arithmetic rather differently.
And will it stop people from drinking Coke? 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Unsolicited phone calls

are driving me even less sane than usual.
There were three in a row  yesterday. Two were from India. There is not much that can be done about these. The companies which use Indian call centres believe they can get away with anything. It makes no difference to them that you are on the "do not call register" because the call comes from outside the country the legislation applies to. 
I have tried being polite. I have tried just hanging up. I have tried telling them not to call back. I have tried "we don't do business over the phone" and more. I don't like being rude. I know that the call centre job is someone's way of eating something that day. 
But, I want to scream.
And then there was the third call in the row. "Hi, this is Vince from H.... Real Estate. How are you today."
I was in the middle of trying to rewrite a submission. It's an important submission. I need to  get  it to around 500 words but I also need to get a complex idea across. I am working. I do not wish to be interrupted.
I seethed. We have had more than one communication from this real estate company of late. Until now they have all come as flyers and "personalised" letters in our letter box.  We do not want to sell our house. 
Oh but this isn't about selling your house.
I am not interested.
I sent an email to the company concerned. It doesn't matter how they try and dress it up this is about business for them. They are breaking the law. 
When we do need a real estate agent I won't be doing business with them.
And the "Paypal company" which sent me a message saying I had paid a hefty sum to another warned. I have sent your email on to Paypal. They will track you down and deal with you.
Now, may I go back to writing that submission please?

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I don't like "eating out"

in fancy restaurants and paying high prices for someone else to do the washing up.
Yes, I know. I am odd. Most people seem to enjoy the idea. They don't mind paying an enormous sum of money for a piece of meat and a dribble of gravy artfully around the edge of the plate. You pay still more for vegetables of course. 
And if it is all given fancy descriptions - often in French.
The Senior Cat will stare suspiciously at menus and then ask me, "What's this mean?"
I explain as best I can. 
I like to know where my food is coming from, what sort of kitchen it is prepared in. I slink off at the sight of vinegar and alcohol. I loathe mayonnaise...and why ruin a perfectly good bit of lettuce with "dressing". It is an insult to the lettuce.
It was "boy's day out" yesterday. The Nephew Cats took their grandfather off to lunch "somewhere". I did not inquire as to what they had in mind. The two of them know eateries all over the city - none of them expensive. It isn't their style either. They don't believe in "wasting" money on fancy service. They want actual food. They want it in reasonable sized portions and well cooked. Their paternal grandmother, a Greek-Cypriot woman of small village origins - "peasant" if you will, was a superb cook. It has taught them to appreciate "proper" food. 
I wondered where they would go this time. I knew it wouldn't be the sort of thing any of them usually eat for lunch. 
Eventually they arrived back here and I waited. The Senior Cat sank into his chair.
     "Well, what did you have for lunch?" I asked. Eldest Nephew Cat smirked.
     "Pizza," the Senior Cat told me.
Oh, right. Maybe there was a change of plan or they had to do something else or the place they were planning to go to wasn't open on a Monday or...
No, it was pizza. It was a deliberate choice of pizza. I looked at Nephew Cat. He smirked again, took the book I was handing over and scurried off.
      "Tell me," I said to the Senior Cat.
      "The place looked like a garage."
I nodded. It sounded like one of the "interesting" places the two young cats have found over the years.
       "And what was the food like?"
The Senior Cat is not fond of what passes for "pizza" in most commercial establishments. 
        "It was good, really good - nice and hot and tasty with  not too many ingredients on it. It was the right size too."
        "Good," I said and started to think about his tea.
And then he said,
         "I think it was proper pizza - like you make."
Now is it any wonder I adore the Senior Cat? 

Monday, 20 February 2017

The school lunch box

contents row just got a little worse.
The note sent home in the lunch box of a pre-school child complaining about the inclusion of home made chocolate slice apparently "went viral" as they say. In other words, a lot of people heard about it. 
What they heard and what they thought varies. Like so many other things it depends on what you believe. Some people believe the story is not true. Others think the day care centre has every right to monitor the contents of lunch boxes.  Still more believe that it is all nonsense and that it should be up to parents to decide what a child is going to eat.
I talked recently to a mother who told me that her child is not allowed to take anything with nuts in it to school - because one of the children in the class has a nut allergy. On the surface that might seem reasonable - except that her child is now in the final year of the primary school. I wonder if they plan on carrying the ban over into the secondary school - and why it doesn't apply to the rest of the school as well? Yes, a nut allergy can be life threatening but is banning all nuts for all children the answer? 
For other children nuts are likely to be a good food, one they should be encouraged to eat.
There is a child in the Whirlwind's class who has a similar allergy. She is a allergic to nuts and eggs and chocolate - and possibly other things I don't know about. The school provides lunch for everyone, even the day girls. Nuts and eggs are often included in the menu. When they are she is simply given something else. There has never been a problem. 
I told the mother of the other child about this and she looked horrified and then said, "Oh, I suppose it's a fee paying school so they have plenty of staff to watch that sort of thing."
I don't think that's the point at all. The staff know but the girl knows too. At thirteen she is considered old enough to take responsibility for asking and for telling. She carries an EpiPen with her. There is another one on the school premises. They have never needed to use it and probably never will.
And they have never cut all nuts and all eggs out of the lunch menu just for her. 
If there is good reason to be very watchful with small children then it is right to be very watchful. Scolding a parent for sending home made chocolate slice left over from a party the night before is not being watchful. It is intrusive and interfering.