Do we need a Noah’s Ark here, or in Queensland to be exact? Just about everything in my life seems frivolous right now as I read more and more about the flooding in Queensland. I read yesterday that the areas flooded equals five times of Great Britain. I can’t find that now but it’s a bloody large area. And the flooding in Brisbane hasn’t reached its peak apparently.

Mother Nature is a fickle beast isn’t she? If it’s not devastating bushfires it’s floods, or something else. We’ve had devastating droughts in a lot of areas and now it’s turned to the other extreme. A happy medium would be good.

I watched this video yesterday of a flash flood in Toowoomba. It shows just how quickly it can all happen.

This Crikey webpage is being updated with latest news.

This News.com.au webpage is also being regularly updated and has loads of information for all concerned, including how you can help.

In the meantime, fingers crossed that there’s no more casualties.

The new Liberal party leader

I must admit I’m pretty hands off when it comes to politics and I don’t normally write about it here. I will say that I never ever voted for John Howard – couldn’t stand the man.

I can also very confidently say that I will never ever vote for Tony Abbott either. He came up in conversation the other night with a more politically savvy friend than I and she was literally shuddering when she talked about how sexist and right wing he is – to the detriment of women.

Pavlov’s Cat puts it very succinctly and I urge you to read it, especially if you’re a young woman or if you are concerned for the rights of women at all.

Salary sacrifice – not as good any more

I salary sacrifice the contributions I make to superannuation every fortnight which means I pay it before tax and only get taxed on my pay after this  contribution is taken out. Therefore I pay less tax. It’s also meant that this money didn’t show up on my assessable taxable income for my tax return. From next financial year it will.

I take it to mean this – and by gosh I hope I’m wrong but I don’t think I am – if I estimate my income at what I would earn if I didn’t salary sacrifice then it’s an enforced saving because I pay too much tax and don’t get as much child care benefit and so on because I’ve told the tax office I’m earning more than I do.

As of next financial year, my superannuation contributions will now be included so the I won’t effectively be over-estimating my income any more.

To put some numbers on it.

Say I tell the tax office I earn $30,000 per year. Out of that $30,000 I pay $5,000 in superannuation therefore making my assessble income $25,000 as far as my tax return is concerned. That means I get a nice tax cheque back.

With the new rules the the whole $30,000 is now assessable income because they’re counting the $5,000 superannuation contribution so I don’t get any, or much, of a nice tax return at all!

I knew in the back of my mind that the nice handouts we’ve been getting as part of this Stimulus package would have to be paid back and I guess this is how it will be happening – but twofold.

Thank goodness

I rarely talk about politics here and I don’t know that I even mentioned how happy I was at the results of the last Australian election, but I can’t let today go by without mentioning how happy I am about the results of the US election.

Thank goodness America, you got it right this time.

It’s been hard, even all the way over here, not to know that the election was happening in the States around now.  We’ve probably had more press about it in mainstream media than we did about the Australian election last year but, bloody hell, it was an important election.

Also because I read lots of blogs etc from people who live in the States it’s been hard to avoid from that aspect also.

I hoped from the beginning that Obama would win and then thought he was onto a pretty sure thing when Palin was announced as McCain’s offsider. I still don’t quite get that decision.

I was sitting watching the 7.30 Report on television tonight and beaming at it while Barack Obama made his acceptance speech in Chicago. I also watched a household of African Americans dancing in their home in absolute joy at the outcome. All the political commentators that Kerry O’Brien from the 7.30 Report spoke to were ecstatic also. Is it just me or does it look like Professor Allan Lichtman wears a wig? When I first saw him I thought it was a joke and then I realised he was for real. He obviously knows his politics, but he needs a better hairdresser.

Nobody I have spoken to here wanted McCain to win, but then nobody admitted to voting for John Howard in previous Australian elections either.

Now we all sit and wait (probably not for too long if the experts have any say in it) to see what changes come about.

Thank goodness!

Heath Ledger dead

I was greeted with the news this morning just as I walked into work that Heath Ledger had been found dead. This isn’t the type of news to expect as you get to work in the morning but death is shocking. Death is even more shocking when it happens to someone young, with a child.

The News.com.au website said:

HEATH Ledger has been found dead of an apparent drug overdose in a New York apartment reportedly belonging to fellow actor Mary-Kate Olsen.

Ledger, an Academy Award nominee, was found naked and unconscious in bed at the apartment in the trendy Manhattan area of SoHo by a housekeeper at 3.35pm (7.35am AEDT).

I’ve enjoyed watching movies that Heath Ledger was in, and now he will stay forever young like James Dean.

My condolences go to his family and to his poor daughter, Matilda.

Chaser APEC stunt arrest

I thought that an arrest or stunt might happen as the crew from The Chaser’s War on Everything couldn’t possibly leave this one alone.

According to News.com:

“The arrests were made after the group drove a fake motorcade down Macquarie St
in the APEC restricted zone.”

I think it’s harmless fun and by doing things like this, keeps all that security on their toes. If this is the worst thing that happens, it’s okay isn’t it? I am biased though, because I do like The Chaser’s War tv show.

I don’t live in Sydney so don’t have to contend with the lockdown and I also don’t get a public holiday day off tomorrow because of APEC.

Oxymoronic WorkChoices

With particular emphasis on moronic in my title, our esteemed Australian government brought in WorkChoices legislation in March 2006. It is an oxymoron because there are not really any choices in the updated Workplace Relations Act. In fact, it took a lot of choice and money away from many workers – mostly from workers who could ill afford it.

This is how the government describe it to employers on their website:

"The national workplace relations system
provides more choice and flexibility for employers in the workplace.
The system offers better ways to reward effort, increase wages and
balance work and family life."

And this how they describe to employees:

"The national workplace relations system
provides more choice and flexibility for employees in the workplace.
The system offers better ways to balance work and family life and
receive greater rewards and incentives."

Interestingly, especially for employees, this is not how it works. A study has just been released Not fair, No choice – The impact of WorkChoices on twenty South Australian workers and their households (PDF file). It clearly outlines the negative impact WorkChoices has had on their work.

Two excerpts in regards to sole parents because I could so easily be in their situation:

"Shannon is also a sole parent with children 8 and 11 years old. She had shifted from one country town to another in mid-2006 in order to obtain work as a permanent full-time bar manager on an individual contract. She worked a split shift Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, commencing at 10am, with a break between 1pm and 5.30pm, then working until close of business. On Saturday she worked 5.30pm until close. On Sunday she worked four hours in the morning. She was paid $15.97 per hour.

These extended hours were of concern to Shannon, but she needed the work. She used the midday break to do work at home and the hours at least enabled her to be with her children before and after school:

Shannon’s employer demanded flexibility on her part to cover the varying closing hours of the establishment, but was not similarly considerate of her caring responsibilities. Shannon regularly worked until 2 or 3am and between 15-20 hours beyond her contracted 38 hours each week. She was not paid for these additional hours; nor did she receive time off in lieu:

When her boss went on holiday, Shannon was asked to increase her hours from 10am-1pm to 10am-2pm. In spite of this increase eating into her limited mid-day break in which she had to travel 11km each way to her home to do necessary work for the family, she agreed. On his return her request to return to her normal hours was refused. She received no pay for this extra hour. Shannon eventually objected to the working hours demanded of her, leading to her dismissal. She has no remedy under WorkChoices for her unfair dismissal (discussed in later section)…." (p. 23)

"For sole parent Ruby the intersection of WorkChoices with ‘welfare to work’ requirements generated additional anxiety regarding her finding part-time work that matched her caring responsibilities. She felt pressured to accept work that did not meet her needs. Ruby experienced a contradiction between government advertisements supportive of family and the threat of loss of ‘pension’ if suitable work was not accepted:…" (p. 59)

If you have been affected by WorkChoices you are able to participate in a confidential interview. See page 72 of the report for further information.

I remember at my workplace when this legislation came into effect I recommended to the team that they should all join the union. I’ve been a union member since I started at my workplace in 1994 and have been lucky enough not to have really needed them but I hope they would be helpful if I did. Everyone was quite apathetic about it and I don’t think anyone did join. We have been pretty lucky here in that we are not directly affected by this legislation because we have an Enterprise Agreement which the unions help get for us by the way.

I will watch with interest what happens if/when the Labor government win the federal election later this year as they say:

"Only Labor’s IR policies are fair for families, and only Labor will
stand up for working families, restore basic rights for employees, and
ensure workplace laws are fair, balanced and productive."