ABC boss Michelle Guthrie urged to abandon ‘perplexing, alarming’ NT broadcast decision

ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie. Photo: Alex EllinghausenABC managing director Michelle Guthrie is facing conflict on a new front after two Labor MPs demanded the national broadcaster reverse a decision over the future of broadcasting in the Northern Territory.
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Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon have expressed “deep disappointment” and concern about the plan to end shortwave broadcasting in the NT from the end of January.

“Your decision to cease this shortwave service has caused consternation and alarm across the Northern Territory, particularly as it was not foreseen and had not been the subject of any discussion or consultation of any kind,” Senator McCarthy and Mr Snowdon wrote in a letter on Monday.

“Subsequent to the announcement no reasonable explanation has been forthcoming. This has led to the conclusion by some that the ABC as the national public broadcaster has lost sight of its responsibility to provide services that are accessible regardless of where people live or who they are.”

The ABC is continuing to broadcast via FM and AM frequencies, the viewer access satellite television (VAST) service and online streaming but various NT figures have argued the shortwave transmitters – in Katherine, Tennant Creek and Roe Creek – allow remote listeners to access radio and are a crucial platform during natural disasters.

A group of Indigenous rangers told the ABC last week that ending the shortwave service could be life-threatening because, when operating remotely, the service is the “only way of getting the weather reports” that can warn of incoming cyclones.

The ABC has said services in coastal areas should remain available through FM broadcasts and distress frequencies during emergencies.

The Labor MPs said they were aware of challenges flowing from government funding cuts and expressed appreciation for the ABC’s dedication to rural and regional areas but called for the outlet to to remain accessible, responsible and accountable to remote listeners.

“We ask that you visit the Northern Territory and engage with relevant stakeholders to better understand the impact of this decision on the community,” Senator McCarthy and Mr Snowdon wrote.

Their intervention comes as Ms Guthrie marks an intense first year in the job, with staff at Radio National recently passing a no confidence motion in management.

An ABC spokesman said the broadcaster would consider Monday’s letter and respond in due course.


Employer groups warn against underpayment and an uneven playing field

Frances Johns thought she had gained a job but in fact was doing an unpaid “trial” shift at Bella Portofino in Wollongong. Photo: Janie Barrett Blake Roberts worked at Bella Portofino in Wollongong, where he was underpaid. Photo: Janie Barrett
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Ashleigh Mounser was underpaid in numerous jobs in Wollongong Photo: Janie Barrett

Peak employer groups have warned business owners against systematic underpayment of workers because it is creating an uneven playing field for those paying lawful wage rates.

Responding to Fairfax Media’s investigation into the rampant underpayment of young people in restaurants, cafes and retail, James Pearson, chief executive officer of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said employers should fulfil their legal requirements to avoid creating unfair competition.

“Thankfully most employers do the right thing, but employers that cut corners hurt operators that play by the rules, posing unfair competition,” Mr Pearson said.

“Workplace regulation is a complex web of rules and requirements that many small business owners struggle to navigate without legal help, so non-compliance is not always deliberate.”

Businesses that breach national employment standards and awards face penalties of up to $54,000, back payments and damage to reputation.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said his organisation was also concerned about the creation of an “unlevel playing field”.

“It does make it very difficult if you are paying the right amount of money in wages and costs to compete with someone who is not,” he said

Mr Zimmerman said the payment of wages in cash meant employees were also in a precarious position in relation to workers’ compensation.

While not excusing the exploitation of young people on under-award wages, Mr Zimmerman said one of the reasons it was happening was because “the cost of labour is so expensive”.

“We do believe Sunday penalty rates are too high, but that is not an excuse for what they are doing,” he said.

Jo-anne Schofield, the national secretary of United Voice, the union representing hospitality workers, said the underpayment of young people in Wollongong was part of a national problem.

“Wollongong is not isolated, it is a systematic problem,” she said.

“Employers are increasingly building systematic underpayment into their business model.

“In hospitality there is a double whammy where people are being ripped off and on the other hand there is a concerted effort from employers to cut weekend rates.”

Ms Schofield said the rights of unions to inspect the books have been wound back in the past decade.

“As union rights around responsible right of entry and inspection and also being able to talk to workers are being wound back, we are just seeing an explosion in exploitative work practices,” she said.

“It also punishes companies doing the right thing.”

Federal Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash said exploitation of workers in Australia, whether domestic or foreign, is “unlawful, wrong and will not be tolerated”.

“That is why the Coalition has implemented, and will continue to implement, a range of measures to ensure that workers are aware of their rights and employers who seek to exploit workers are investigated and punished appropriately,” she said.

“The Government’s Policy to Protect Vulnerable Workers includes amendments to the Fair Work Act to provide strengthened protections for vulnerable workers, an additional $20 million to the Fair Work Ombudsman to enforce workplace laws, and a taskforce chaired by Professor Alan Fels to identify and rectify instances of the exploitation of migrant workers.”

Federal Labor’s workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor said the government had failed to stop companies doing the wrong thing.

“Worker exploitation in Australia is systemic and occurring far too often, yet for three years the Abbott-Turnbull Government had the chance to legislate changes to ensure workers do not get ripped off, and they failed,” Mr O’Connor said.

“At a time when youth unemployment is at record highs, wage growth is at record lows, only Labor has introduced legislation to prevent workers being exploited”.

Fairfax Media has reported on the underpayment and non-payment of young workers on trial shifts after University of Wollongong graduate Ashleigh Mounser untapped a deluge of complaints from more than 60 students who have shared similar stories of underpayment in Wollongong cafes and restaurants. Academics say the underpayment and unpaid work trials is a growing national scandal.

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Sydney mayor Clover Moore orders urgent action on climate change

Clover Moore has ordered urgent action to address climate change. Photo: Daniel Munoz Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore (front row, second from right) with other mayors at the C40 Mayoral Summit in Mexico. Photo: Supplied
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As the Turnbull government struggles to implement a clear and effective climate change policy, the City of Sydney will redouble its efforts to reduce emissions in a bid to bypass the federal impasse.

Lord mayor Clover Moore, who returned from C40 Mayors Summit in Mexico earlier this month, said the climate conference had alerted her to the scale and urgency of the action required by cities to address climate change.

Cr Moore said she now believed the city needed to do “twice as much in half the time” and, at Monday night’s council meeting, called on the council to accelerate its existing targets and re-allocate funding if necessary.

“It was clear from the conference that we need bolder action at a faster rate if we are to play our part in meeting the Paris Agreement,” Cr Moore stated in her report from the summit, which was tabled at Monday night’s council meeting.

At the meeting, she called on council staff to come back to council in February “with actions to accelerate our emissions reductions over the next four years”.

Fast-tracking the city’s move towards zero-carbon buildings, including developing a clear target date by which building standards should be in place, were key priorities, she said.

She also called on City of Sydney chief executive Monica Barone to bring forward the city’s Draft Environmental Action Plan to the council’s first meeting in 2017 with a clear list of priorities in line with the C40 Summit.

Cr Moore said research presented at the summit provided cities with clear targets which, if adopted, would deliver 40 per cent of the savings need to achieve the ambition of the Paris Agreement.

Cr Moore’s report and recommendations were adopted unanimously by council.

The focus of Monday night’s council meeting on climate change policy comes after the Turnbull government’s beleaguered week in the policy arena, which culminated in a fractious meeting with state premiers at Friday’s Council of Australian Government meeting.

The week was dominated by Coalition intransigence on climate change, even as a report by chief scientist Alan Finkel warned Australia had no clear path to meeting the 2030 emissions target taken to the Paris climate deal under existing policies.

This report was preceded by a policy capitulation by Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg, who promptly dumped plans for a review of the Coalition’s direct action policy to examine whether to introduce an emissions intensity scheme for the electricity industry – a form of carbon pricing – after vocal opposition from the Coalition backbench.

Fairfax Media then revealed the Turnbull government had been sitting on advice that an emissions intensity scheme would save households and businesses up to $15 billion in electricity bills over a decade.

The Paris Agreement commits signatories, including Australia, to “hold average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees and pursue efforts to keep warming below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels”.


From beer man to milk man: Murray Goulburn gets Ari Mervis as its new chief for $1.5m

Ari Mervis will start as Murray Goulburn CEO on February 13, 2017. Photo: suppliedAfter a turbulent 2016 Australia’s biggest dairy processor Murray Goulburn has appointed Ari Mervis, a former top brewery executive, as its new CEO on an annual package of $1.5 million.
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The employment agreement includes potential short-term and long-term incentive payments on top of fixed remuneration and are performance-based.

The appointment comes after a comprehensive international search, which finished with the choice of someone who lives in Melbourne.

Most recently Mr Mervis was the CEO of Carlton and United Breweries in Melbourne, and the managing director of brewing giant SABMiller in the Asia Pacific region.

His switch to the dairy industry comes after a 27-year career with SABMiller, where he gained vast experience in the beer, soft drinks and fruit juice categories.

Mr Mervis’ major challenges will be to rebuild relationships with Murray Goulburn’s large number of dairy farmers who supply milk to the co-operative, as well as relationships with the wider dairy industry.

Murray Goulburn burnt relationships with its dairy farmers, some of them carrying large debts, when it announced it would slash payments to farmers for their milk.

In a tumultuous day in April, it also announced a profit downgrade, and revealed that its then CEO, as well as its then chief financial officer would step down.

Because of the turmoil some dairy farmers dumped Murray Goulburn and supplied other processors with milk, while some launched stinging criticism of MG.

In an interview with Fairfax Media before he commences as Murray Goulburn CEO and managing director in February 2017, Mr Mervis said he would work to build relationships of trust, confidence and mutual respect with dairy farmers.

“It is quite clear that we do need to stabilise the supplier base, we need to ensure that there is still confidence in the co-op of our suppliers particularly, but all stakeholders,” he said.

“We need to reinvigorate that confidence and that trust and we need to rebuild what is a tremendous and iconic Australian entity.”

Asked how he would rebuild relationships with dairy farmers, he said: “I think the first one is get out and about and meet them, and hear from them, to listen to them.

“And my intention very much in the first 100 days is to actively engage as many of the stakeholders as we can. Then I can hear from them and they can meet me and hopefully what they’ll see is that they’ll find someone who is open, honest and transparent.”

Announcing the appointment of Mr Mervis, Murray Goulburn chairman Philip Tracy said the board wanted a leader with extensive operations and consumer goods experience.

“After a comprehensive international search, the board unanimously agreed that Ari was the ideal choice to lead MG at this critical juncture in its history,” he said. “We are delighted to have secured a candidate with a proven track record of delivering results and operational success across multiple geographies.”

Mr Mervis has lived in Melbourne with his wife and three children since 2011. He has been a non-executive director of the Melbourne Business School since 2012.

Mr Tracy also paid tribute to interim CEO David Mallinson, who he said led MG “with conviction and discipline during an exceptionally challenging period”.


Australia v Pakistan Test cricket: Matt Renshaw out to prove doubters about his scoring ability wrong

Stoic: Matt Renshaw and Usman Khawaja during the third Test against South Africa. Photo: Morne de KlerkHe demonstrated some vital Test match batting attributes on his debut – patience and the ability to survive in difficult circumstances being chief among them – but Matt Renshaw is hopeful he “stops all the doubters saying I can’t hit the ball off the square” when he makes a first appearance for Australia at his home ground this week.
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The opener’s Queensland captain Usman Khawaja said after Australia’s win in the third Test against South Africa that there was far more to Renshaw’s game than defence after the 20-year-old anchored a successful run chase on the fourth day in Adelaide.

Renshaw was unbeaten on 34 from 137 balls in Australia’s second innings there, and under lights in the first innings was undefeated through a tricky night session. But despite securing a much-needed win in his first Test outing there were questions in some quarters about his slow scoring.

He hopes they will be dispelled when the opportunity presents itself, potentially at the Gabba in the first Test against Pakistan which begins with the pink ball on Thursday.

“I haven’t really had the opportunity to show the free scoring [part of my game],” Renshaw told TAB radio on Monday. “I was more just trying to not get out really. Hopefully I can get that at some point and stop all the doubters saying I can’t hit the ball off the square.”

A tall and powerfully built left-handed Queenslander, albeit one born in Yorkshire and who arrived in the state via New Zealand, Renshaw has been compared to Matthew Hayden. Given his tender age it’s not surprising that he admits he didn’t grow up idolising the iconic ex-Test opener; he was, after all, only 12 when Hayden retired.

“Everyone keeps drawing these comparisons,” Renshaw said. “I’m still trying to work out whether I do bat like him. It’s nice to be known as someone who does bat like Matt Hayden because he’s got a tremendous record and if I can be anything like him it would be pretty special.”

Due to a knee injury Renshaw sat out Queensland’s opening Sheffield Shield contest against NSW under lights at the Gabba in October but is wary of what to expect in day-night conditions at the venue.

“I think it’s the swing … it swings at varying points, it’s not that consistent,” he said. “A ball will swing maybe one out of six and that ball will hoop. It’s about being ready for that one.”