archive: August 2020

10 August 2020

Having previously identified neoliberal reforms as the cause of ongoing problems in the sector, the Aged Care Royal Commission is now turning to the unfolding coronavirus disaster. In the month since 9 July, more than 1000 residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and of Australia’s 290 deaths, two thirds were aged care residents. Reflecting on these statistics today, the Commission’s lawyer said: “It is the system operating as it was designed to operate. We should not be surprised at the results.” He said the appalling death rate “starkly exposed all of the flaws of the aged care sector which have been highlighted during this royal commission”. The Morrison Government’s hands-off approach to regulation was singled out for attention: “the evidence will reveal that neither the Commonwealth Department of Health nor the aged care regulator developed a COVID-19 plan specifically for the aged care sector. … There was no advice about how the sector should respond to the risk posed by aged care workers who may be COVID-19 positive yet asymptomatic, particularly those who work in multiple facilities. … The regulator did not have an appropriate aged care sector COVID-19 response plan. Given that it was widely understood that recipients of aged care services were a high risk group, this seems surprising.”

5 August 2020

Nathan J Robinson: “What’s amazing is that the difficulty of creating this situation of ‘fully democratized information’ is entirely economic rather than technological. What I describe with books is close to what Google Books and Amazon already have. But of course, universal free access to full content horrifies publishers, so we are prohibited from using these systems to their full potential. The problem is ownership: nobody is allowed to build a giant free database of everything human beings have ever produced. … [C]opyright law is an unbelievably intensive restriction on freedom of speech, sharply delineating the boundaries of what information can and cannot be shared with other people. … [W]hat would happen in a society where the relative accessibility and cost of truth versus lies was adjusted[?] What if every online course was free? What if textbooks cost nothing instead of $200? What if we made it as easy and cheap as possible to find things out and were guided by the desire to create the greatest possible access to knowledge rather than by economic considerations? … Hopefully someday our patchwork of intentionally-inefficient libraries will turn into a free storehouse of humanity’s recorded knowledge and creativity. In the meantime, however, we need to focus on getting good and thoughtful material in as many hands as possible and breaking down the barriers we can.”

Chelsea Bond on the new Closing the Gap targets: “The failings in Indigenous affairs are not due to Indigenous people making poor choices. Nor is it because we lack data or evidence of what works. It is a result of a sustained indifference to the lives of Indigenous peoples, disguised as benevolence in fictitious claims of policy reform. The issue is the failure — or rather refusal — to commit to structural reform that meaningfully attends to the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the state. Such reform demands recognition of the unique rights of Indigenous peoples, not simply more data on disadvantage and supposed Indigenous deviance. Yet we are now being offered a partnership approach with government-funded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations. Few have noted the power imbalance at the heart of this relationship. As Roy Ah-See, co-chair Uluru dialogues at UNSW’s Indigenous Law Centre has said, ‘You are never going to bite the hand that feeds you, so how can these organisations be representative if they only received resources from government?’ When we cut through the talk of the new Closing the Gap agreement, it is clear this discourse of ‘change’ works precisely so that everything can stay the same.” (Previously.)

Thanks to the pandemic-driven downturn, unemployment is now such a problem that employers are being inundated with hundreds of applications per job — and that was before the Commonwealth Government decided to reintroduce so-called “mutual obligation” requirements that will force people to apply for an arbitrary number of jobs, regardless of how many are actually available or how well matched they are for the work. Alison The Australian Unemployed Workers Union has called for a mutual obligation strike — encouraging people to refuse all non-mandatory engagement with job agencies: “Right now there are no penalties for refusing to participate in most mutual obligations activities. You cannot be penalised for refusing to: sign a job plan — if you don’t sign one it’s harder to force you into a job you don’t want; answer a phone call or email from your job agency; attend training programs; do work for the dole; complete volunteering shifts; attend appointments with your job agency; do job searches; complete ParentsNext activities”. This strike should be broadly supported by the community.