1. Slavery lives on
The 2018 Global Slavery Index was released on Thursday. Some 40.3 million people were found to live in slavery, 70 per cent women and girls. The main division is 15.4 million in forced marriages and 24.9 million in forced labour.
North Korea is worst, with one in 10. The Guardian highlights over 400,000 in the USA. However, the Index:
- estimates China is by far the largest source of at-risk goods, with the United States importing $122bn of electronics and clothing from the country. Vietnam was the second largest source with $11.2bn, and India third with $3.8bn.
Australia was found to have 15,000 living in slavery, up from 4300 in 2016. This mainly stems from changes in how and what is counted, which is an ongoing problem.
The bloke behind the slavery index is our capitalist philanthropist Andrew Forrest who funded it through the Forrest family’s Minderoo Foundation.
Forrest blames the G20 countries in the main, importing $US354 billion a year of products linked to forced labour. They have been slow to act, and then there is a question of when they act whether they are really serious.
Last year in December the Australian Parliament completed a whopping report on modern slavery Hidden in Plain Sight, which recommended a Modern Slavery Act and an Anti-Slavery Commissioner inter alia.
- Mr Forrest said the federal government’s Modern Slavery Bill introduced to Parliament last month was defective because it did not make provision for an independent commissioner.
Under the proposed laws, businesses with an annual turnover of more than $100 million will have to identify any modern slavery in their supply chains and report it to authorities.
Labor has said it will back the laws but criticised the lack of penalties for companies who fail to report slavery.
Forrest says the raw truth is that the proposed law would not be there at all if business had not pushed for it.
2. Homelessness among the elderly
Information from the 2016 census just made available indicates that homelessness among the 55+ demographic has increased by 55 per cent in the last 10 years, and is now close to 19,000.
Seems anyone on a statutory income like the pension who doesn’t own a home and has no support from family is at risk of homelessness. The pension is simply inadequate.
According to the Council to Homeless Persons homelessness has increased by 13.7 per cent in the last five years to now reach around 116,000.
In the ABC segment above, Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan says the Commonwealth is spending $6 billion and suggests the rest is up to the states. Apparently it’s not his concern if there are holes in the social safety net. Back in 2016 his government proposed stripping pensioners of the energy supplement worth an extra $366.60 per year for a single pensioner and $551.20 for a couple ($275.60 each).
A year later they were still at it. ACOSS said:
- “If this Bill goes through, 1.7 million people on the lowest incomes will be worse off, including those paying for accommodation, food, travel costs and day-to-day bills while living on just $38 a day,” Dr Goldie said in the ACOSS submission.
They haven’t given up. A few minutes ago shadow finance person Jim Chalmers said that the Longman byelection is really about stripping $17 billion from schools, hospitals and pensioners and giving it to the big banks. That’s an electorate which has a few oldies, and overall One Nation is polling 14%.
3. Why does VW do so well?
I have affectionate memories of the VW Beetle. I owned one just like this:
At the time my first wife and I were living in Belair in Adelaide, which is up in the hills. Every morning and evening we made the trip to Adelaide University with the couple over the back fence. He was a man mountain, 6’4″ in the old money and about 23 stone. She had been a champion rower, and came in at about 13 and a half stone.
I did need a new clutch with all that weight, luckily within the warranty period, but the reliability of the VWs was legendary.
Later I drove to Brisbane with all our possessions stuffed inside and a humongous stack on the roof rack.
Later again I traded the Beetle for a front wheel drive Passat. My current wife got in and said, “Great, I don’t have to slow down around corners!”
ABC RN Rear Vision did an excellent history of the car and the company, including the emissions scandal (transcript should follow).
The really interesting bit was near the end, from 25:10 on the audio.
Volkswagen is a very successful company as measured by ‘return on investment’. The key is put down to German law which provides for a supervising board made up of 10 company representatives and 10 worker and union representatives. Sounds very civilised.
The state of Lower Saxony with a 20% stake has two representatives, who are counted on the company side. This arrangement saw the company ride out recessions without mass retrenchments, while rewarding workers well, increasing productivity and avoiding mass retrenchments.
Worth investigating to see what we can learn.
4. Teflon Trump
Take your pick of 24 headlines he made last week.
Linda Mottran in ABC RN’s PM interviewed Steven Hall, former CIA chief of Russia Operations, and analyst for CNN (transcript available) as well as recounting the surprised director of US national intelligence, Dan Coats on TV learning of the Putin White House visit.
From 3:50 in the audio Hall tells that Trump and his business outfit has been bailed out multiple times by the Russians. Hall’s worry is that Trump is compromised and the Russians could use this to destroy him. However, Hall says it is all in plain sight if you go looking on the internet.
There are two problems with the notion that Trump is compromised. One is that Trump is only useful to the Russians if they don’t destroy him.
The other is that it wouldn’t work. NY Times reports a survey SurveyMonkey did for Axios:
- It revealed that 79 percent of Republicans approved of Trump’s sycophantic performance at the news conference with Vladimir Putin, while 85 percent deem the investigation of Russian intrusion into our elections a distraction. They bear less and less resemblance to the followers of a coherent ideology and more and more to the members of a cult. That word is gaining currency in our political discourse for excellent reason.
Laura Tingle says most leaders want to pretend nothing is happening, because they don’t want to be noticed by the Donald. Our bloke knows that more than 330 asylum seekers have now left Manus Island and Nauru for a new life in the United States, and it keeps happening under the radar.
Meanwhile Trump’s body language tends to show him in the Alpha male position, but this one from SkyNews gets it about right:
It’s from back in March.
Meanwhile Putin is coming to the White House to work on the implementation of ‘agreements’ they made in Helsinki on Israel, Middle East peace, North Korea, nuclear proliferation, trade, cyber attacks etc. Problem is no-one other than the interpreters seems to know what was agreed, and they won’t tell.