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Careers cut short for white and blue collar mining workers

05/03/2019 | 杭州桑拿 | Permalink

Former coal miner Brent Nolan of Thornton in NSW has struggled to find ongoing work since he was made redundant from Yancoal’s Austar mine in the Hunter Valley in 2014. Photo: Max Mason Hubers Former coal miner Brent Nolan moved to Brisbane to study after being made redundant as a coal miner. Photo: Max Mason Hubers
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Justin Smith was retrenched from the mining industry in 2014. Photo: Supplied

At the age of 29, Brent Nolan’s career was cut short after just five years when a Hunter Valley coal mine made him and many of his colleagues redundant.

Since Yancoal downsized its workforce at the Austar Mine in late 2014, Mr Nolan has had a tough time finding a steady job. Some of his older former colleagues have found it impossible.

“They always say it’s darkest before dawn,” he said.

Mr Nolan, now 31, said he loved the job and had hoped to keep working as a coal miner until he reached retirement age.

“I don’t think I’ll work in the mining industry again,” he said.

“It’s been so difficult to find a steady job in the Hunter Valley. I moved to Brisbane in July to chase some construction work.

“I’ve been attending university to get more skills because sadly the skills of an underground coal miner don’t translate too far in the rest of the economy.”

Mr Nolan is now studying journalism at Griffith University in Brisbane, but is considering changing to human resources because of retrenchments across the media industry.

“Some of the other guys who were made redundant haven’t worked since 2014,” he said. “They are having a really tough time.

“Some of them have worked 30 years as coal miners and have families to support.

“There are a few electricians who lost their jobs who are now working at the mine as contractors for less pay and no job security.”

Mr Nolan said he needed to delay starting a family because of his lack of full-time secure employment.

White collar worker Justin Smith, 54, has not worked since being retrenched from the Integra underground mine in the Hunter Valley in July 2014.

His qualifications as a registered mining surveyor are specialised for mining. “And regionally, mining is depressed,” he said.

“I chose to retrain and completed a masters degree in employment relations in November last year and have been trying to find work in that new field.”

The redundancy package he received and his partner’s employment made it possible for him to study full time.

“I’ve had difficulty finding work particularly because of my age,” he said. “I’ve been removing any references to age or dates of employment on my CV in order to secure interviews. I’m still hopeful I will secure a job in my new profession.”

Catherine Bolger, director of the Collieries Staff and Officials Association which represents white-collar workers in the coal mining industry, said hundreds have been made redundant in recent years.

“White collar staff have had great difficulty finding another job in the mining industry as more mines close or downsize and available jobs simply evaporate,” she said.

“Often highly qualified in mining, staff find themselves unemployed for years, as their specific mining skills are not valued as highly in other industries.”

Mining regions like the Hunter also had a higher than average unemployment rate.

“The available jobs just aren’t there,” she said.

Army culture after the viral ‘respect women or get out’ video still toxic for women

05/03/2019 | 杭州桑拿 | Permalink

A woman who was raped by one of her superiors while she was in the ADF. Photo: Penny StephensPrivate Jade Jones* was standing near the smoking yard at Darwin’s Robertson Barracks chatting with two male soldiers when her sergeant approached and licked the right side of her face from jawline to hairline.
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“What are you going to do about that?” Sergeant Shawn Macey demanded as the two men beside her laughed.

Jones did nothing except skulk away, embarrassed. Who was she to question the actions of her superior, particularly the man responsible for discipline in her unit?

While most Australian workplaces would condemn Sergeant Macey’s behaviour as unacceptable, Jones knew it would be seen differently in the army – even among many of her female colleagues. In the army you were expected to be tough and able to cope. And you certainly did not dob.

Short and lightly built, the mother of three joined the Army in July 2010 at the age of 31. She was in the 1st Combat Support Service Battalion.

Jones had not really had anything to do with Macey up until then. She had heard some female soldiers say he was flirty. Creepy is how others put it. But she had no reason to give him much thought until late November 2011, when he began to pay her special attention.

It started with slaps on the bum in the corridor. Then the public face lick. Next, on December 6, 2011, Jones was on the receiving end of a “reverse dry hump” in Macey’s office. This had Macey, a tall, fit man in his early 30s, backing the much smaller female soldier into a wall and thrusting his buttocks back and forth into her groin for close to a minute.

Jones was shocked and frightened but she still felt unable to report Macey for fear of jeopardising her fledgling career. She worried that she would become the focus, not him. So she went to the toilet and cried.

The next day, Macey ordered Jones to accompany him to a forklift shed to check on how many hours the machines had been in service. What happened next is hotly disputed: The only certainty is that the incident was the catalyst for both to leave the armed forces

For a defence force still reeling from decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups – not to mention the Skype and Jedi council scandals involving cadets and servicemen transmitting sexually explicit images of women without their permission – the case of Macey and Jones casts serious doubt over the effectiveness of recent efforts to reform the military’s culture. On Friday, another cadet from the Australian Defence Force Academy was charged with rape.

Jones was unable to bring her case before the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce because Macey’s assaults took place months after the April 2011 cut-off for submissions. She is not able to receive compensation.

The taskforce, which recommended a royal commission, received more than 2400 complaints and identified more than 1000 alleged abusers still working in the armed forces, the defence department or as reservists. Eighty cases have been referred to police and more than $30 million paid out to victims in compensation.

But a Fairfax Media investigation into what happened to Jones after she reported Macey to her superiors shows that repeated efforts by successive governments and military brass to change a culture of sexual harassment, abuse and bastardry may have had, in some pockets at least, a limited impact. Abusers are still leaving defence with their honour intact, while their victims are subjected to secondary abuse by the system meant to support them.

YOU’RE TERRIBLE, MURIEL

The forklift shed at Robertson Barracks was a short walk across the yard from Macey’s office.

On December 7, 2011, the day after the dry hump incident, Jones was walking down a corridor when Macey yelled from his office for her to come in.

He said nothing about what had happened there the day before and, according to Jones’ statement to police, made small talk for a few minutes. Then, without warning, he blurted out: “I love you. I’m serious, I love you”.

Taken aback and unsure what to do next, Jones replied awkwardly that she liked him as a friend (even though she hardly knew him) and made to leave. But before she could, Macey asked her to come to a shed to “check the hours of some of the forklifts”.

The job was within her scope of works and he was her superior, so she obeyed. Inside the shed it was just the two of them. Macey had his notepad out and was taking down numbers from a machine. Jones was wedged between two forklifts when he grabbed her from behind.

“One of his arms came over one of my shoulders. I can’t recall which hand but he stuck his down my top,” she told police. His other hand was tightly gripping her waist, preventing her from moving.

“I tried to turn around and I can’t remember what he said but it was something like ‘no’ or ‘don’t’. So I stayed where I was with my back to his front … I think he used both hands to pull my trousers down. I don’t remember him saying anything. I felt so intimidated and trapped and I was too shocked to say anything to him. I was a bit scared as I didn’t know what he was going to do.”

Macey had sex with her. He later told police it was consensual. She was adamant that it was not, telling police she was not able to speak because she was frozen by fear.

After he finished, Macey looked at her and said: “You’re terrible, Muriel” and walked off. Jones went to a bathroom to wash, and threw her underwear in a bin.

She told no one – except one female colleague months later – what had happened. But her life spiralled out of control. She began drinking heavily at home and three months later had a short fling with another soldier – two things both she and her husband said were out of character.

More than six months had passed by the time Jones finally told her unit’s psychologist of the assaults. She said shame and fear of reporting her boss were why she had taken so long. The disclosure triggered an Australian Defence Force Investigative Service probe. At first, Jones only mentioned the indecent assaults: The bum slaps, the face lick and “reverse dry hump”. She was deeply concerned about the personal and professional ramifications of a rape allegation.

But the Defence Force investigators found out that Jones had told a female private about the unwanted intercourse, and had to hand over the investigation to the Northern Territory police.

Jones told police and Defence investigators in sworn statements that she had learned there were several other women at Robertson Barracks who had had uncomfortable experiences with Macey touching them inappropriately or propositioning them for sex. Two female civilian contractors at the base had also alleged he indecently assaulted them.

Detectives from the NT’s sex crimes unit now had a potentially big case on their hands. But when it came time to provide sworn statements, several of the army women who had made complaints said they did not wish to speak to police.

A Defence spokesman said the force’s investigative service investigated all complaints referred to it. “Where appropriate, matters are referred to civilian police or the Director of Military Prosecutions”, the spokesman said.

Police put a brief of evidence to the NT Director of Public Prosecutions for charges of rape and indecent assault. But the DPP advised that it would not be proceeding with a rape charge because it could not prove Macey did not know it was not consensual. Instead, Macey was charged with indecently assaulting Jones and the two female contractors.

The NT Department of Justice’s Crime Victims Support Unit does not require the same balance of proof as a court to make decisions on offences. It assessed Jones’ rape allegation and found in her favour, awarding her a sum of money in August last year.

The NT government assessor’s report highlighted inconsistencies in Macey’s account of events and the weight of adverse statements against him. “It was more probable than not … that the offender had sexual intercourse with the applicant without the applicant’s consent and furthermore, that the offender was reckless as to the applicant’s lack of consent,” the assessor concluded.

The NT government told Jones that it would be pursuing Macey to repay the compensation awarded to her.

In the end, the demand for the money might prove more painful to Macey than what happened to him in Darwin’s Magistrates’ Court in February last year.

14 DAYS

Macey had just resigned from the army when his case first hit court in 2013.

Although he was facing eight charges of indecent assault against three women, it could have been far worse: the rape allegation by Jones was not being pursued and not every female who had a problem with his behaviour had assisted police.

Macey had decided to plead guilty to five of the indecent assault charges.But what he did not know was that the NT had mandatory sentencing laws for sexual offences including aggravated indecent assault. He had just put himself in jail.

After learning of the implications of his plea, Macey and his legal team attempted to withdraw it. But chief magistrate John Lowndes rejected their application.

Even though he was out of the army, his old colleagues were not going to let him go down without a fight. A recently retired female major turned up to give evidence. Another serving senior female officer from the same barracks was also prepared to testify on his behalf.

Rhonda McIntosh told the court that she had been Macey’s platoon commander at Robertson Barracks in 2011, the year the offending took place. She said they were working to rebuild morale in a unit “pretty well decimated” by its previous command.

As such, they were in daily contact. Macey was McIntosh’s strong arm. “He was the disciplinarian,” she said. But she rejected crown prosecutor Ian Rowbottam’s view that this role gave him power over juniors. McIntosh said Macey was “very well regarded” and “never had any interpersonal clashes with anybody”. She believed he had a “normal working relationship” with the three women who reported him.

Despite knowing that Macey had pleaded guilty to aggravated indecent assaults, McIntosh sought to defend him by attacking the “persona” and “character” of his victims.

“I don’t change my opinion [of Macey] because I’m also aware of the personas of those ladies,” she said. “”My opinion of Shawn Macey stands, but I also know the character of [one of his victims] and so I tend to look at both sides as to what happened and I have my own personal thoughts, you know, upon which I base those decisions.”.

She was not in court to hear McIntosh’s remarks, but Jones was told about them. Still serving at the time, her superior officer’s testimony devastated her and reinforced why she had been reluctant to report Macey in the first place.

“I was outraged. By the time we had gone to court I had posted to a new location and I’d heard from the DPP of what had happened in that hearing. I couldn’t continue to work. I had to go home early that day. I was given the following day off as well as I was too upset.”

Macey’s lawyer, Julia Ker, argued that her client’s actions were an “accepted” way of “personnel interacting with each other”. She also presented the court with a psychiatrist’s report showing that Macey suffered from PTSD caused by “certain conditions he’s been exposed to in the armed forces”.

Rowbottam told the court the case reflected poorly on the army and its culture. He asked that the chief magistrate not condone the army’s attitude when sentencing Macey.

Lowndes took Macey’s service into account but did not accept evidence that his conduct was acceptable in his workplace.

“They were innocent victims,” the Chief Magistrate said. “Regardless of how playful that the environment might have been, they did not deserve to be subject to the conduct that they were.”

Nevertheless, Lowndes sent Macey to jail for just 14 days, with a further 30 weeks suspended.

“I found this a complete insult because it meant my service and all the other women meant nothing,” Jones said.

THE SENATOR AND THE GENERAL

South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon raised Jones’ case in person and then again in writing with the then chief of the Australian army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, shortly before his retirement last year.

Xenophon, a passionate advocate for Defence personnel who have suffered abuse, had been tipped off by one of his veterans’ rights contacts about Jones’ plight.

He believed that if anyone in senior ranks was going to care about what happened to Private Jones, it would be Morrison, who had won deserved praise for telling serving males in a viral video to “get out” if they could not work respectfully alongside women.

It was this style of leadership that led to Morrison being appointed Australian of The Year on January 26 this year. Xenophon knew that Morrison was due to finish his post within weeks but hoped the General would accept a request to meet Jones.

Xenophon’s “urgent by email” letter to Morrison in April last year was explicit and included Jones’s statements to police and Defence investigators. The senator wrote of his serious concerns with the way the army had handled the case. He believed she had been let down by her chain of command while Macey had been able to voluntarily leave the army and receive full veterans’ entitlements despite his criminal charges.

Morrison directed a senior officer in his office to correspond with Xenophon to learn more about the case. Because of the protocols that govern the top brass’ interactions with politicians, this correspondence also included the office of then defence minister Stuart Robert.

The meeting did not happen. The assistant minister’s office took carriage of Xenophon’s request. Jones was offered a meeting with a ministerial adviser.

Jones was deflated. She had wanted to tell her story to General Morrison, not a ministerial adviser.

“I was being bullied by other members in the Defence force. Some come up to me and said that I had put a good man in jail,” she said.

“On the flipside, I had other members come up to me and tell me about how they had been abused and if they retaliated they were being punished and not the person who attacked them. I wasn’t getting the help I needed. I wasn’t getting the support I needed. They isolated me. I’d spend my lunchtimes crying in the car.”

Xenophon told Fairfax Media “what happened to this woman was not meant to happen anymore”.

“I thought the culture had changed. I thought the electrifying words of General Morrison a few years ago were terrific, but those words were not followed up on by Defence.”

Morrison declined to comment, pointing out that it was a matter for the army. A Defence spokesman said Jones had been offered considerable medical and pyschological support. He said Defence did not condone any member bullying another for reporting abuse by a superior.

Jones left the army last year. Her nerves are shot and she finds it hard to leave her house in country Victoria. But she is trying to rebuild her life with her husband and kids. Macey has settled in country NSW with his wife and children.

Though her respect for the army and nearly all the people she served with remains, Jones wants her tale to be considered a cautionary one, but also one that can lead to change.

“Forewarned is forearmed,” she says.

*Jade Jones is not the former private’s real name. She has asked for her identity to be protected. Know more? Contact us securely via JournoTips or SecureDrop

Australia v Greece tests football allegiances: ‘It’s my birthplace versus my heritage’

05/03/2019 | 杭州桑拿 | Permalink

Socceroo player Chris Ikonomidis with his family, from left, father George, grandmother Evangelia, mother Liz and sister Stephanie. Photo: Wolter Peeters Chris Ikonomidis embraces his grandmother Evangelia. Photo: Wolter Peeters
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It was a football game in Woolooware, south Sydney, playing for Cronulla RSL, that set the course of Chris Ikonomidis’ life.

“He was four,” recalls the Socceroos midfielder’s mother, Liz Ikonomidis. “He was little, he just loved the game so much. He had this ambition to be a professional footballer ever since.”

Part of a Cronulla family with a proud Greek heritage, the 21-year-old player will on Saturday be pitted against his ancestry when Australia takes on Greece at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium. It has been a decade since the visitors played in Australia.

His background will make the moment “special”, Chris says, but the game will also represent something of a shift in the journey of Australian football from a minor code largely played by immigrant communities to a coming of age of Australia’s most popular and fastest-growing sport.

“I feel 100 per cent Australian and an Australian player even though all my grandparents were born in Greece, migrating from war-torn cities,” Chris says, speaking with Fairfax Media the day after landing in Sydney from Rome, where he plays for Lazio. One of three children to George, a dentist, and Liz, a teacher, Chris has three grandparents who will watch the action on Saturday.

“It’s special; on one hand it’s my country, my birthplace, where I’ve grown up, versus my heritage and where my grandparents had to flee from.”

One of about 200,000 Greek Australians in NSW, his background is not unfamiliar among the Socceroos, a team that in many ways has the Mediterranean in its blood. Coach Ange Postecoglou migrated to Melbourne from Athens in the 1970s, while teammate Apostolos Giannou was born in Greece and played for the side last year. Croatia and Italy are equally well represented, not least in captain Mile Jedinak who has Croatian roots. Long before them, the likes of Rale Rasic, Charlie Yankos, Mark Viduka, Damian Mori, Mark Bosnich and Tony Popovic pushed hard in a sport that was for many years to remain on Australian sidelines.

Today’s team reflects, Chris says, a passion for Australian football that arrived with Greek and Italian migrants.

“When I was a bit younger it was always the second sport, especially in such an Australian area as Cronulla. I had to go and find football … Now, it’s not just ethnic minorities playing. Everyone who can call themselves Australian is taking a big interest,” he says.

He was offered the chance to play for Greece U20s before he was capped for Australia – an allegiance that he says was never in doubt.

Pioneering football broadcaster Harry Michaels bought the television rights for the National Soccer League in the early 1980s, when “no one wanted to know about the game”.

“Those days are gone. Australian soccer has come a long way,” he said after Thursday’s NAB pre-game lunch at CBD Greek restaurant Alpha.

“Those migrants who started the game 30, 40 years ago, they’re now retired, it’s their kids who are now leading the game and they are very proud. They don’t look at it as an ethnic sport any more, they’re happy to see the sport grow.”

Despite integration at all levels in the sport, remnants of racism persist, Michaels said, adding that in Chinese or Italian teams – to which Australian players are increasingly lured – name or background is insignificant: “All they care for is how well you do on the field.”

Indeed, under the guidance of Postecoglou and Matildas’ coach Alen Stajcic, the pitch is where both men’s and women’s teams are proving themselves.

“When I was young, I thought football was more ethnic-based. I’m really happy that it’s this popular, everybody enjoys it. I don’t see the ethnic divide now,” said Liz, who, alongside her husband once played in amateur teams in Canterbury.

“The Greek Australian community is very proud of the Australian football team as well as the players back in their homeland,” she said, looking ahead to Saturday’s match.

But while it may be billed as a friendly, the game is unlikely to be played with anything less than fighting spirit.

“Don’t kid yourself, it’s never a friendly game,” Michaels said. “Both teams are playing for pride. No one wants to lose.”

Australia v Greece kicks off at 8pm on Saturday. Tickets are available via socceroos上海龙凤419m.au and the game will be aired on Fox Sports 2.

Cheer up, the Reserve Bank’s low interest rates are working

05/03/2019 | 杭州桑拿 | Permalink

Everyone knows the mining boom is over, so surely this is a temporary boost to growth?Never underestimate the ability of journalists and politicians to put a gloomy spin on things.
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On the eve of an election, it suits incumbent governments to spread it about that there is trouble afoot on the economy. Don’t risk a switch to the other guys!

It suits journalists to find the cloud inside every silver lining, too. We sell more newspapers that way, which, in a way, is your fault: you’re more interested in buying bad news than good.

So, at risk of your eyes glazing over, I must tell you that this week’s news on the economy was unadulterated good.

Sorry chicken littles, the sky is not falling in on the Australian economy.

New Year 2016 began with a bout of global financial markets skittishness, as fears about the Chinese economy sent shares and commodity prices south. But despite the global gloom, we now learn the Australian economy expanded by a solid 1.1 per cent in the first three months of this year.

Not only was this well above market’s expectations of 0.8 per cent growth, but it was also well above the 0.7 per cent growth in the final three months of last year. Indeed, if you take the economy’s performance over the six months ended March, you get an annual growth figure closer to 4 than 3 per cent.

Even including the particularly weak growth in the June quarter of last year, the economy grew by 3.1 per cent over the year ended this March – the fastest since September quarter 2012. When we get the next set of quarterly national accounts, that weak 0.3 per cent quarterly read will drop out. As long as growth in the June growth beats 0.3 per cent, Australia’s annual growth figure will accelerate again.

The March quarter result was largely driven by an unexpectedly strong jump in net exports – exports minus imports – which was, in turn, largely due to a surge in mining exports, particularly gas. 

Illustration: Glen Le Lievre

How can that be when commodity prices were tumbling? Remember that we’re talking about “real” gross domestic product here, which is adjusted for prices. As such, it measures the change in the volume of our exports – actual dirt getting on to ships, not what foreigners pay us for the shipment.

Ah, but everyone knows the mining boom is over, so surely this is a temporary boost to growth?

Not necessarily. While many iron ore mines are now exporting at full capacity, many gas projects are still yet to ramp up export volumes.

And our exports of services are also growing, helping to boost net exports. When foreigners come here to study or holiday, they pay fees and buy things, which count as exports.

As hoped, a lower Aussie dollar is helping to stimulate those parts of our economy by making it relatively cheaper for foreigners to come here.

‘A chance to rebuild’: Xenophon to push for ‘last resort’ compo for financial victims

05/03/2019 | 杭州桑拿 | Permalink

Senator Nick Xenophon met with victims of poor financial advice. Photo: Pat ScalaAustralians facing ruin because of fraud and misconduct in the finance sector would be bailed-out by a “last resort” compensation scheme proposed by senator Nick Xenophon.
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The scheme would cover people who lose money because of misconduct but are not compensated because the institution or individual that wronged them are bankrupt or have inadequate insurance.

Victims left devastated by poor advice welcomed the push, saying such a scheme would give them a chance to rebuild their lives.

“It will never compensate people fully for the damage and harm they’re received, but there needs to be a last-resort scheme,” Senator Xenophon said in Melbourne.

“This needs to be an election issue, it needs to be an issue after the election. We need to have a sensible discussion about how you deal with victims of financial misconduct because there are many thousands around the country.”

The South Australian senator said  he and members of his party would push for a scheme if elected to the next Parliament.

The policy is modelled on a proposal by the Victorian Consumer Action Law Centre, which says almost a quarter of all compensation ordered by the Financial Ombudsman Service relating to investments, life insurance and superannuation has not been paid.

The federal government would fund retrospective payments to victims of collapsed managed investment schemes, including Timbercorp and Great Southern, which Senator Xenophon said was justified given the schemes were a “creature of the Commonwealth” and badly flawed legislation.

He could not put a figure on how much the scheme would cost until its “architecture” had been designed in consultation with banks and consumer groups.

Compensation to future victims would be funded by a levy on financial institutions.

Senator Xenophon said the levy would create an incentive for the industry to stamp out bad practices, and that would drive down its cost over time.

The policy was announced alongside about a dozen victims of poor financial advice, including Victorian Nick Xenophon Team candidate Naomi Halpern, who lost money after investing in Timbercorp through notorious planner Peter Holt.

Another of Mr Holt’s victims, David, thew his support behind the proposed scheme, saying it would give people like him “a chance to try to rebuild”.

The father of two was left with debts of nearly $100,000 when Timbercorp collapsed in 2008, and said he spent the past 10 years trying to climb out of a “financial black hole”.

“My only mistake was going to seek the advice of an accredited professional, that was licensed by ASIC … and trusting that the advice he was giving me was in my best interests,” the 48-year-old said.

“It’s never going to be a position where [the scheme] is going to be able to fully restore or fully compensate for the losses, but it’s going to go a long way.”

The Australian Bankers Association said in April it supported a “last-resort” compensation scheme for customers who receive a Financial Ombudsman Service determination in their favour but whose claims could not be covered by their adviser’s insurance.

The Greens want compensation schemes to be included in the terms of reference in a royal commission into the financial industry, a party spokesman said.

Senator Xenophon  defended his failure to declare a directorship in a property company run by his father as an “embarrassing” slip-up.