In an untimely twist, the cuts kicked in the same weekend that Australia’s federal politicians enjoyed a raise of 2 percent. Those same politicians will also see tax cuts this financial year, thanks to the lifting of the government’s deficit levy on high-income earners. The pay increase will mean that the prime minister’s salary rises from $517,504 to $527,852.
This follows some discouraging news about the realities of a “gig economy” — the new labor category made up of independent contractors who work for ride-share companies like Uber, odd-job markets like the Australian online platform Airtasker and delivery services like Deliveroo. While those companies have been regularly lauded as disrupters of industry, the consequences of their growth have started becoming evident to many Australians.
So, does Australia have a work force inequality problem? Last week, we covered the push from Australian Uber drivers to be classified as casual workers, rather than “subcontractors.” A driver we spoke with flagged issues like superannuation, sick leave and holiday time as important issues. Australia’s Fair Work ombudsman has announced an investigation.
Dr. Sarah Kaine, the head of the future of work research at the University of Technology Sydney, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the gig economy could create new social classes of workers: those who enjoy established working entitlements and conditions, and those who are forced to forgo them.
In May, Airtasker announced a landmark agreement with Unions NSW that pushed for a higher minimum pay for its workers, as well as an affordable insurance product that would cover illnesses and accidents.
However, the buzz around the gig economy might not reflect its slice of the labor-force pie.
“I do have a general abiding concern that this gig economy is getting more attention than it perhaps warrants,” said Roger Wilkins, a professional research fellow at the University of Melbourne.
“With things like Uber and Deliveroo, I suppose, it’s highly visible,” he said. “But certainly, to date, the statistics don’t show it to be yet a significant part of the labor market.” Mr. Wilkins has noted that public perceptions of economic inequality appear to be growing faster than economic inequality itself. He also points out that while wealth inequality has grown, it’s lower now than it was before the global financial crisis.
So, the news isn’t great — but it’s also not historically bad.
“Over the last 15 years, inequality hasn’t really grown to any significant extent,” Mr. Wilkins said. “Now, that doesn’t mean it’s at the right level. But there’s not a basis for heightened concern, compared to 15 years ago.”
Who Picks Up Cardinal Pell’s Bill?
The Roman Catholic Church won’t be footing the bill for Cardinal George Pell’s defense against sex offenses, Sydney’s archbishop, Anthony Fisher, confirmed in a statement last week.
Some Australian Catholics have taken up the mantle, setting up a fund for those who want to support Cardinal Pell in his legal battle. John Roskam, the executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank, told News Corporation of the fund’s existence, which the think tank confirmed to The New York Times in an interview Monday morning. Evan Mulholland, media and communications manager at the think tank, said that Mr. Roskam had called the archdiocese on behalf of a friend and was given details about the fund. “A lot of our members have called up and asked how they can contribute,” he said.
Has the church paid legal fees in the past for priests? The church’s decision to not pay Cardinal Pell’s legal fees may reflect changing policies on how it deals with fallout. According to reports by Australia’s Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, church orders in Australia like the Marist Brothers and Christian Brothers have paid tens of millions in legal fees and settlements on behalf of their priests.
Notably, the Christian Brothers have continued to fund the defense of Brother Robert Charles Best, spending more than $1.5 million, according to the commission’s findings. He was convicted of sexual offenses against 11 children and sentenced to 10 years in prison this year.
In 2003, The Times reported that the Catholic archdiocese of Boston agreed to settle almost 550 lawsuits for 85 million United States dollars, largely paid for by insurance policies and the sale of church property.
Other churches have also paid for legal defenses: The West Australian recently reported that the Anglican Church covered Archbishop Roger Herft’s legal fees when he was called to testify to the commission about child sexual abuse.
Fairfax Back on the Market
Fairfax Media has confirmed that both TPG Capital and Hellman & Friedman have withdrawn their bids to purchase the company, after receiving nonbinding indications of interest.
“There was no certainty that either indicative proposal would result in such an offer,” Fairfax Media said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange. The board believes the company has “an attractive future” and will continue to pursue the separation of its lucrative property listing site, Domain. A spokesman for TPG Consortium confirmed to us that they had elected to not proceed with an offer.
The news comes in a time of uncertainty for journalists at the media company. Earlier this year, they went on a weeklong strike after management informed them that as many as a quarter of them would be let go. In May, our reporter looked into how Australia’s real estate boom had led newspaper publishers into the housing market.
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