Posts Tagged ‘New South Wales’


Eat Your Heart Out Americans: 10 Remarkable Facts You Didn’t Know About Australia

The land Down Under has a lot more to offer than just picturesque scenery and Crocodile Dundee.

When Americans think of Australia they generally imagine a vast and arid desert, inhabited by killer wildlife and famous for Crocodile Hunter, Sydney Opera House and glorious beaches. However, the land Down Under is far more progressive than many countries care to understand and in fact could actually teach the United States a thing or two about how to look after its own population. Here are some interesting facts and policies found in Australia that you probably haven’t head about.

1. Minimum full-time wage is almost $17 per hour.

For those seeking a good excuse to move to Australia, look no further. Australia’s minimum wage is $16.38 an hour ($15.77 USD), demonstrating that high wages do not necessarily hamper a country’s economic growth. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in May 2013 the average full-time adult weekly earnings were $1,105.20.

While the minimum wage for youth is still on the lower side, the hourly rate actually increases by $2 every two years between the ages of 15 and 21. Casual workers are covered by a national minimum wage and paid an extra 24 percent, which equates to up to $20.30 an hour. In the state of New South Wales, the average hourly rate for a 21-year-old is $18.30 an hour, with casual employees paid an extra $4 an hour: $22.33 per hour.

Despite the fact that Australia is comparatively more expensive to live in than the United States (a Big Mac costs approximately 53 cents more), the system is working to Australia’s advantage with unemployment in the country sitting at only 5.6 percent.

2. Youth are paid to study and look for jobs.

For Australian youth aged between 16 and 24 years currently studying, undertaking an apprenticeship or looking for work, the Australian government rewards them by providing a generous monetary allowance, which is income-tested. A person under 18 years of age and living at home with her parents can earn up to $223 biweekly, which increases to $268.20 ($258.30 USD) once she reaches 18 years of age.

Yet, the benefits do not end there. If or when a youth decides to leaves the parental home for study reasons or to look for work, her youth allowance can be increased to $407.50 biweekly. Alternatively, if a youth is single, lives away from the family home and has a child, the government will pay her up to $533.80 ($514.10USD) biweekly.

3. Healthcare is a universal right.

Australia’s public health system, called Medicare, is one of the best in the world providing universal basic coverage to all citizens and free treatment at public hospitals. The Department of Human Services branch of the federal government pays for Medicare benefits and includes coverage for dental, optho, and mental health as well as services for the elderly and disabled.

There is some cost-sharing at private hospitals and for certain doctors but even then the government foots the majority of the bill (up to 75%). Medicare is funded partly by a 1.5% income tax Medicare levy. An additional levy of 1% is imposed on high-income earners without private health insurance. In addition to Medicare, there is a separate Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme that considerably subsidizes a range of prescription medications.

4. Aussies receive up to 30 paid days of vacation per year.

Unlike the United States, where mandatory paid holidays for employees simply do not exist, Australia is the vacation nation capital. At the minimum, each Australian is legally entitled to 20 days (4 weeks) of vacation per year, plus 10 paid annual public holidays, with public servants receiving even more generous vacation benefits.

Two weeks of vacation can be “sold” or cashed-out. Australians also get “Long Service Leave” to encourage Aussies to stay with a company which is payable after 10 years service at the same employer or seven years in the public service—accumulated at one week leave for every 60 weeks of employment or 8.5 weeks additional leave for 10 years service.

5. The government pays people to have babies…plus additional allowances.

To encourage population growth, Australians can apply for the “Baby Bonus,” an income-tested payment of up to $5,000 which is made in 13 biweekly installments to help with the cost of a newborn baby or adopted child under 16 years of age. This scheme has been criticized in the past for being “wasteful middle-class” welfare and was almost abolished by the Labor government this year, but to date is still alive and kicking much to the delight of many clucky young couples.

The government also offers a number of civilized allowances for its citizens with financial help available at every corner to assist with rent assistanceage pensionbereavement allowancecarer paymentdisability support pensionorphan pensionfamily tax benefitpartner allowancesickness allowance and widow allowance.

6. Prostitution is legal.

Australia has some of the most modern prostitution laws in the world and often cited as a success storyin an effort to make sex work a safe and reasonable job for women. Unlike the United States where prostitution is outlawed, in Australia the state governments regulate prostitution generally.

From complete decriminalization in some states to licensing and regulation of legal brothels in others, Australia is constantly reviewing its prostitution laws with sex workers considered to be service providers who can even file “unfair dismissal” employment claims in New South Wales and have the right to receive pay.

In Victoria, licensed commercial brothels are legal and single-owner managed brothels with one additional worker are also legal if the owners obtain a license to work. Pimping is also legal as non-sex workers are allowed to manage licensed brothels and benefit economically from prostitution.

Some organizations such as Scarlett Alliance Australian Sex Workers Association view prostitution as a legitimate occupation. While the system has its flaws—obtaining brothel permits can be tough; sex workers still don’t have civil protections to the same degree as other occupations; and licensed brothels have to compete with unlicensed operations—the laws are definitely headed in the right direction in recognizing the rights of sex workers.

7. Bikie-gangs are outlawed.

Australia is currently in the midst of “bikie warfare” with a number of states recently having outlawed motorcycle gangs following a series of violent incidents involving notorious bikie gangs Hells Angels and the Finks (affiliated with the US bikie gang Mongols MC).

Queensland is the latest state to criminalize bikie gangs declaring 26 motorcycle gangs to be “criminal organizations” under tough new laws which provide mandatory sentences of up to 15 years for serious offenses committed as part of a motorcycle gang activity. The state has also introduced “bikie-only” maximum-security facilities.

Such laws, which are now being followed in other states such as Victoria, have been criticized for being draconian, particularly for likening gang members to terrorists. Nonetheless, efforts to tame the “Bikie Wars” in Australia are gaining momentum.

8. Gun laws have been “hailed” by Obama.

President Barack Obama recently commended Australia on its gun laws at the Navy Yard Shooting Memorial. Since Australia’s gun laws were reformed in 1996 following the Port Arthur Massacre in which a lone gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle killing 35 people in Tasmania, there has not been a single shooting massacre in the country’s history, whereas prior to the gun law reforms, there had been 13 massacres in 18 years.

Australia’s gun laws prohibit all automatic and semi-automatic weapons and impose strict licensing rules. Even paintball guns need a permit. There are also background checks and lengthy waiting periods for all purchases. Following the laws, more than 600,000 prohibited weapons were destroyed at a cost of half a billion dollars. Consequently Australia’s homicide rate is 1.1 murders per 100,000, while the United States’ murder rate remains at 4.7 murders.

9. Ranked #1 “Happiest Developed Country” in the world.

Despite the United Nations World Happiness Report this week declaring Denmark as the happiest country, earlier this year Australia took the title as the World’s Happiest Developed Country for 2013 for the third year in a row as ranked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Better Life Index.

Australia fares exceptionally well in the following areas: safety, income, housing (on average each person has 2.3 rooms), life expectancy (which stands at an average age of 82 years) and lifestyle—more than 80 percent of the population live on the coast and 84 percent say they are satisfied with life.

Australia also ranks high in having a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation with 94% of people believing they know someone they could rely on in a time of need. In Australia, 71% of people say they trust their political institutions, in direct contrast to the United States where polls show Americans have high general distrust in government institutions.

10. Aussies don’t do diets well…with majority exceptionally fat.

Despite the image of the bronzed, muscled and tanned beach babe depicted in pop culture, Australia is in fact one of the most obese countries in the world. According to a new report, 40% of the country is “dangerously fat” with 75 percent of the northeastern state considered to be grossly overweight. As a result, last week the federal government announced a plan to launch a major anti-obesity advertising campaign to fight the obesity epidemic.

The best part? For those Americans seriously considering moving to Australia, while you won’t necessarily be entitled to the same degree of benefits as an Aussie, the government does offer new arrivals a range of payments and services to help out while you settle, subject to certain waiting periods, as well as extensive information on job resources and visa options. Best be packing your bags!


New South Wales Supreme Court Tells Brainwashed Teenager He Can’t Kill Himself for Religious Reasons… Yet

By Hemant Mehta
We’ve heard stories of Jehovah’s Witness parents willing to let their children die rather than accept a life-saving blood transfusion. Thankfully, the law almost always sides against the parents. If they want to refuse the blood to save their own lives, so be it. But they have no right to kill their children because of their own religious beliefs.In Sydney, Australia, a 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness cancer victim compared receiving a blood transfusion to “being raped.” He told doctors he would “rip the IV out of his arm” if they gave him the transfusion. He would rather die than betray his religious beliefs.

Thankfully, the New South Wales Supreme Court told him he has to accept the transfusion. He’s a minor, so he doesn’t get to kill himself… yet.

“The interest of the state is in keeping him alive until [he turns 18], after which he will be free to make his own decisions as to medical treatment.”

The boy turns 18 on January 18 next year, when he will then be able to exercise his right as an adult to refuse further treatment.

I think that’s exactly the right decision. While the line that distinguishes a child from an adult is arbitrary, it’s solid. Australia, like America, says you’re an adult when you’re 18 and this kid’s not 18. So there.

Considering that reports show his parents are also JWs, it’s a safe assumption that they drilled this nonsensical belief into his head. Somehow, they’re able to live with themselves knowing that they’ve given their own son a death sentence that’ll come to fruition in a few months if his cancer doesn’t get better.

(Image via Shutterstock)


Shocking figures reveal that Catholic clergy are the worst sexual predators
By Barry Duke

PATRICK Parkinson, a Sydney University law professor testifying at a state inquiry into sexual abuse, said today that Catholic clergy commit SIX TIMES as much abuse as those in the rest of the churches combined.

The Australian child protection expert added:

Prof Patrick Parkinson

And that’s a conservative figure.

Parkinson told the Parliamentary inquiry that the figures for the Catholic Church were strikingly out of proportion, and he proposed a 12-month amnesty from charges of perverting the course of justice if the Church opened all its files on offenders alive and dead. Those involved in cover-ups, however, would have to resign, he said.

Professor Parkinson, who chaired a review of child protection laws in New South Wales and twice reviewed the Church’s national Towards Healing abuse protocol, said he broke with the Catholic Church over its cover-up of his independent report on the Salesians of Don Bosco.

Speaking under parliamentary privilege, he said the order sent three priests overseas to avoid police questioning, then suppressed his report on their actions.

He told the committee an American child safety expert had labeled the order:

The Church’s most defiant and unrepentant group.

Professor Parkinson added:

The lies were breathtaking, and [former Australian head] Father [Frank] Moloney was absolutely at the centre of all the untruths.

Earlier, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton set the inquiry’s opening day alight with more broadsides against the Catholic Church’s systemic obstruction of police inquiries over five decades.

He said police had statistics for sexual offences by clergy and church workers since January 1956, uncovering ”shocking” figures: 2,110 offences against 519 victims, overwhelmingly perpetrated by Catholic priests and mostly against boys aged 11 or 12. But in all that time the Church had not reported a single crime to police.

Savaging the church’s Melbourne Response protocol for dealing with complaints, Ashton said:

If a stranger were to enter a church and rape a child it would be immediately reported to police. But if the stranger were a member of the clergy, their special process would be wrapped around him. What is different about the clergy? It is the reputation of the church that creates the difference.

Hat tip: Tim Davies


Church says sorry over forced adoptions
Giselle Wakatama

Updated          July 25, 2011 13:12:27

Catholic cross on a wall
Photo:       The Catholic Church will issue a national apology for the adoption scandal (Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo, file photo: www.sxc.hu)

The Catholic Church in Australia has issued a national apology over past adoption practices that have been described as a “national disgrace”.

The apology was prompted by an ABC investigation into claims of abuse and trauma in Newcastle.

It is believed at least 150,000 Australian women had their babies taken against their will by some churches and adoption agencies between the 1950s and 1970s.

Psychiatrist Geoff Rickarby has treated scores of affected women, and says it is a stain on Australia’s history.

“It sounds like some totalitarian country somewhere hundreds of years ago, but in fact it’s Australia only 35, 40 years ago,” Dr Rickarby said.

The chief executive of Catholic Health Australia, Martin Laverty, says he is sorry for what happened.

He says the organisation is committed to righting the wrongs and wants to develop protocols to assist women affected.

Mr Laverty became aware of the past practices after the ABC began its investigations.

“It’s with a deep sense of regret, a deep sense of sorrow that practices of the past have caused ongoing pain, suffering and grief to these women, these brave women in Newcastle but also women around Australia,” Mr Laverty said.

Mr Laverty will formally apologise in Newcastle today, and the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese and the Singleton and North Sydney Sisters of Mercy will also say sorry.

Juliette Clough is one of the women who says she was forced to give up her baby at a Catholic-run hospital in Newcastle in 1970.

She was 16 at the time and says she was alone, afraid and desperate.

“My ankles were strapped to the bed, they were in stirrups and I was gassed, I had plenty of gas and they just snatched away the baby,” Ms Clough said.

“You weren’t allowed to see him or touch him, anything like that, or hold him and it was just like a piece of my soul had died. And it’s still dead”

Margaret had a similar experience when her son was taken against her will in 1975, when she was 17.

“Straight away he was taken out of the labour ward. By the records it only took 13 minutes to transfer him from the labour ward to the nursery, so he was gone,” she said

The women claim they were not told about single parent benefits or their rights to revoke consent for adoption.

Clare had two babies forcibly adopted.

She says the infants were like products, procured for couples deemed more suitable to raise them.

“I think it was almost like a machine or, you know I don’t like the terminology but, a factory in that it was so well lubricated.”

Pillows over faces

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert is chairwoman of a Senate inquiry currently examining the country’s former adoption practices.

“Women have told stories about going into hospital not realising that they were going to have to give up their babies, but that pillows were put over their faces, that curtains were put up so they couldn’t see the baby,” Senator Siewert said.

Women have also told the ABC they were given milk suppressing drugs that have now been linked to cancer, as well as barbiturates that caused sedation and in some cases delirium.

Mr Laverty says it is not a period to be proud of.

“The evidence that’s come forward really speaks to a shameful and regretful time in the history of healthcare in Australia,” he said.

“It wasn’t just a small number of hospitals. We now know that there were many hospitals across Australia.”

Women have told the ABC there was pressure to sign adoption papers well before consent could legally be obtained, and in some cases documents were forged.

The Catholic Church’s adoption agency has previously apologised for misguided, unethical or unlawful practices, after an inquiry by a New South Wales Parliamentary committee in 2000.

Last year the Western Australian Government also apologised, a move Senator Siewert says was extremely empowering for thousands of women there.

But Lily Arthur, from the forced adoption support group Origins NSW, is sceptical about apologies.

“I don’t think that anyone can accept an apology for something that’s never been basically dealt with legally,” Ms Arthur said.