IF The Morrison Government is committed to ensuring AUSTRALIANS are given first priority for jobs, how come there are 2 MILLION AUSTRALIANS UNEMPLOYED OR UNDEREMPLOYED … when there are 2.2 MILLION VISA WORKERS in Australia?
WITH hundreds of thousands of Visa Workers in the occupations of cleaners and laundry workers, hospitality workers, sales assistants … view the Table below!
Labor has called for an urgent review of the temporary visa system after the latest report from the Australian Population Research Institute (APRI) revealed a high concentration of temporary migrant workers across large swathes of the economy (see below table).
Labor has called for an urgent examination of the temporary visa regime following new analysis that reveals the number of migrants on the visas has jumped from 1.8 million to 2.2 million in the past four years…
Labor employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said the “increased overreliance” on temporary visas to supply labour was of great concern when there was nearly two million Australians unemployed or underemployed.
“The government should urgently examine the current temporary visa regime with a view to identifying the extent of the misuse and overuse of such visas. Our first employment priority as a nation must be to provide employment opportunities to local workers,” he said.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said the government was committed to ensuring Australians had priority for jobs and overseas workers were only recruited to fill genuine shortages…
“Under labour market testing, employers must advertise the position within Australia to ensure Australians are given first priority. Employers can only seek overseas workers if they can demonstrate Australian workers are not available,” she said.
“We make no apologies for trying to get Australians into high-skilled, high-paying jobs.”
Australian employment minister Michaelia Cash at a Senate hearing. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP
*The $53,900 Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) that applies to Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visas has been frozen in place since 2013-14, and has fallen $23,000 below the median full-time Australian salary of $76,900.
Not surprisingly, then, the actual pay levels of ‘skilled’ migrants in Australia is also abysmally low.
According to the Department of Home Affairs’ Continuous Survey of Australia’s Migrants, the median full-time salary 18 months after being granted a skilled visa was just $72,000 in 2016, below the population median of $72,900. This is shocking given the population median includes unskilled workers, which obviously drags the nation-wide median full-time salary down.
In a similar vein, separate ABS data shows that Temporary Work (Skilled) visa holders earned a median income of only $59,436 in 2016.
*The easiest solutionto restore integrity to the visa system is to make all skilled migrants employer-sponsored and require them to be paid at the 80th percentile of earnings,or indexed to double the median wage.
*This would ensure that the skilled visa system is used sparingly to import only the ‘best of the best’, not as a general labour market scheme to undercut local workers.
Of course, ‘skilled’ visas are only part of the issue, with international students and graduate visas arguably an even bigger problem.
Regardless, all forms of temporary visas represent a massive labour supply shock that has lowered the bargaining power of local workers and placed downward pressure on wages.
Sadly, our policy makers have no intention of actually fixing the system.
To them, mass immigration is a tool to juice headline growth and to feed the growth lobbyboth consumers and cheap foreign workers.
The welfare of ordinary voters is ignored entirely.
The Entertainment Quarter at Moore Park is set to be rejuvenated under a $1.5 billion masterplan to transform the site into a mix of open space, retail shops and leisure facilities.
The plan includes four hectares of interconnected parks, a fresh food market, restaurants, cafes, bars, a large 20m wide pedestrian boulevard for holding street food markets, festivals and events and a 180 room 4.5 star hotel.
The cinema complex will be redone, a community vegetable garden installed and the Showring updated, with the entire precinct designed to support up to 8,000 jobs in the hospitality and creative industries.
The unsolicited proposal to refresh the 11 hectare site next to the Sydney Cricket Ground was submitted to the state government today by the owners of the Entertainment Quarter, Carsingha Investments Pty Ltd.
The consortium led by retail king Gerry Harvey, advertising guru John Singleton and venture capitalist Mark Carnegie will fund the entire $1.5 billion development if it receives government approval. The trio bought a 30 year lease to the site in 2014 for $80 million and are hoping the government will grant them a 99 year lease – similar to the leasing arrangement Lendlease has with the government at Barangaroo.
Entertainment Quarter CEO Guy Pahor said the proposed development could generate around $1 billion in economic activity each year.
He said 400 locals along with more than 1000 Sydneysiders had been consulted over the past 18 months to develop the plan, which will focus on reconnecting the Entertainment Quarter to the local community with open space and the CBD via the new Light Rail.
“Key to the success of these social spaces and the food and dining precinct will be people – without a critical mass of people during the day and at night eve the best designed public spaces will fail,” Mr Pahor said.
“Our plans include a vision of the Entertainment Quarter as a new employment hub for creative industries – reinforcing the adjacent Fox Studios enterprise.”
The $1.5 billion plan does not include residential uses, which were ruled out early in the planning stages as not being consistent with the proposed focus on leisure, events and entertainment.
All buildings on the site will be no higher than the roof of the new Sydney Football Stadium (which will be roughly 10 storeys), apart from the new cinema and creative industries office tower in the centre of the site, which will be roughly the same height as the SCG light towers.
Mr Pahor said parks and public spaces will take centre stage in the renewed Entertainment Quarter.
“The Showring will also be rejuvenated as a multifunctional public space – accommodating community and other sporting events such as jazz concerts and other performances, similar to the much loved summer twilight concert series at Taronga Zoo,” he said.
A Department of Premier and Cabinet steering committee will now examine the commercial, technical and legal aspects of the unsolicited proposal in more detail before making a recommendation to government on whether or not to proceed to the next step in the process.
Developer Carsingha will be required to obtain all the necessary planning and environment approvals for the project, which is separate to the unsolicited proposal vetting process.
Sydney Business Chamber executive director Katherine O’Regan said Sydney desperately needs another eat street in this area, and somewhere people can hang out after the footy or a concert.
“This very tired precinct promised so much decades ago and is desperately in need of a new life. It’s a rare opportunity to create a vibrant new entertainment and dining district right on the edge of the CBD for both locals and tourists,” she said.
“As well as adding more public open space and amenities, the proposal provides a place for business to flourish, boosting the attraction for creative industries like media, fashion, graphic arts and tech businesses.”
WAS this about the Election? It was declared a priority when Gladis became Premier … but it seems the overseas market is so lucrative that the growing pains are now leading to more OVERDEVELOPMENT in Sydney’s South West …
IT was only last week following a community outcry that three devilopers withdrew their developments for 18,000 HOMES in Appin!
BUT for how long?
… TODAY in Limited News we read Sydney’s South West is to be STOKED to feed into Beijing through the Western Sydney Aerotropolis … is that where the tens of thousands of First Home Buyers come from, Mr Perrottet?
WITH thousands flying in to buy every week and laundering money in the Casinos for our Real Estate … the need for ‘affordable housing’ appears to have been eliminated …
AND development of two more Casinos is underway ….
READ MORE … From the Daily Telegraph 30 November 2019
SEARCH OUR WEBSITE TO LEARN MORE … about money laundering, Real Estate Sector exempt from AML Laws, Proxy buyers, Visa Manipulation … Permanent Resident Visa following purchase of Real Estate and some get a PR Visa before coming to Australia!
AS Anthony Albanese pointed out … the Union Members of today are NURSES …
AND Ambulance Officers, Paramedics, Teachers, Fire Fighters, Journalists, Shop Assistants, Electricians, Metal Workers, Clerks, Professional Officers, furniture manufacturing, clothing manufacturing, pulp and paper industries and more!
Is the CFMMEU the most unlawful organisation in the history of Australia’s industrial laws, as Christian Porter says?
As part of the Federal Government’s efforts to draw support for tougher union penalties under its proposed Ensuring Integrity Bill, Attorney-General Christian Porter has repeatedly criticised the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU).
Mr Porter, who is also the Minister for Industrial Relations, told Parliament in July that the CFMMEU was “the most unlawful organisation in the history of Australia’s industrial laws — the most, including the BLF [Builders’ Labourers Federation].”
Attorney general’s department staff have contradicted Christian Porter’s claim that union deregistration will require repeated, systematic breaches of law. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
A few days earlier, he told Radio National: “[Y]ou’ve got one particular union which everyone clearly believes has a history of unlawfulness which is completely unprecedented … The point is there has never been … an organisation in the union movement more unlawful than the CFMEU [sic].”
awards on industrial relations agenda
Is the CFMMEU the most unlawful union Australia has ever seen? RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates.
Mr Porter’s claim doesn’t check out.
While the CFMMEU has repeatedly and deliberately breached legislation governing industrial action and conduct in the workplace, chalking up more breaches and more fines than any other union in the past 25 years, historical records show that its unlawful behaviour is exceeded by that of other unions in earlier decades.
It is clear from Mr Porter’s reference in Parliament to the 1986 deregistration of the Builders’ Labourers Federation that his claim about the CFMMEU is intended to encompass all union conduct, including that occurring before 1993-94 when the Industrial Relations Reform Act 1993 ushered in the modern industrial relations period.
In drawing the timeline back before 1993, though, Mr Porter does not take into account that all forms of industrial action in Australia were considered unlawful under federal and state laws and at common law.
The unlawfulness of the BLF’s relentless industry-wide intimidation, violence, extortion, sabotage and financially-damaging stoppages, as well as its flagrant contempt of the courts, is widely documented, and clearly surpasses the actions of the CFMMEU.
What is ‘unlawful’?
For the purposes of this fact check, unlawful is taken to mean not lawful;contrary to law; illegal; not sanctioned by law [Macquarie Dictionary].
An action is also unlawful if it transgresses common law or if it breaches a contract, including a workplace contract, agreement or award.
Butterworths Concise Australian Legal Dictionary defines an unlawful act as “an action that infringes a statutory or common law prohibition”.
It also notes that “[a]lmost all industrial action involves a breach of the contract of employment or industrial legislation, and so amounts to the tort of ‘unlawful means conspiracy'”.
There are two ways to consider “unlawfulness” as referred to by Mr Porter:
In the context of all laws, including the criminal law; and
In the much narrower context of industrial disputation and the laws that have restricted or protected such action since 1904.
The context in which Mr Porter has used of the word unlawful invites the first, much broader interpretation, one that includes the full range of criminal acts such as murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, extortion, corruption, assaults, fraud and theft. All of these offences have occurred in the history of the Australian union movement.
Fact Check has taken “most” in Mr Porter’s reference to “most unlawful” as meaning the number of breaches and/or the gravity of the offences.
What is the CFMMEU?
In 2018, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) merged with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA).
The merged entity now has around 140,000 members throughout the building and construction sector, mining, forestry and timber industries, maritime industry and on the wharves, furniture manufacturing, clothing manufacturing, pulp and paper industries, and more.
Throughout this analysis, the abbreviations CFMEU and CFMMEU are used interchangeably.
The CFMMEU has been penalised for more breaches of the Fair Work Act 2009 than any other union.
Mr Porter has cited the CFMMEU’s record of $16.8 million of court fines for unlawful behaviour relating to almost 2200 breaches of legislation since 2002.
The union is also being prosecuted by the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC) for breaches of the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 (previously the Fair Work (Building) Act 2012 and the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act 2005.
Many of the CFMMEU’s breaches arise from unlawful industrial action, unauthorised entries to building sites by union officials, attempts to bar non-union members from working on sites, coercion, intimidation, and threats made to employer managers.
The findings of those commissions, coupled with the union’s many breaches of the Fair Work legislation, have led successive federal Coalition governments to try to tighten laws relating to the building and construction sector.
Figures provided by the ABCC show the courts have levied almost $8.7 million of civil penalties against the CFMMEU since December 2016.
Justice Mortimer said what was notable about the union’s activity was “not only the sheer number of contraventions, but the frequency of them”.
She suggested that either “there is a conscious and deliberate strategy” by the CFMEU to engage in “disruptive, threatening and abusive behaviour towards employers without regard to the lawfulness of that action, and impervious to the prospect of prosecution and penalties”, or the union “weighs up the cost of engaging in such action … and nevertheless concludes it is a collateral cost of doing its industrial business”.
Two further points
Two salient points emerge from these Federal Court cases.
Firstly, Judge Vasta in the Hanna and CFMEU case said “it is no understatement to describe the CFMEU as the most recidivist corporate [sic] offender in Australian history”.
“Therefore, in assessing the gravamen of each contravention by the CFMEU, it must be borne in mind that the previous history of the CFMEU does put these contraventions into a category that defies easy comparison,” he wrote.
“While some may want to sanitize this behaviour as an unremarkable workplace contravention, it is far more than that.”
*But when that case went to the appeals court, Justice John Logan, while scathing of the CFMMEU, challenged the veracity of Judge Vasta’s “most recidivist” comment, saying: “It is not clear to me what the evidentiary foundation for the latter observation was.”
*Justice Logan’s check on the lower court statement is pertinent because the Attorney-General has repeatedly quoted Judge Vasta’s “most recidivist” comment (including in the second reading speech of July 4, 2019), yet he did not mention the higher court’s scepticism about the basis for it.
*Secondly, as Justice Logan acknowledged in the Broadway on Ann case, “[O]verwhelmingly … the rogue, outlaw tendency in the CFMEU is to be found in its Construction division”.
*He noted a prominent case in which the mining division of the CFMMEU sued a coal mine operator and, in doing so, “commendably served a public interest” by drawing the court’s attention to an employer’s breaches of the Fair Work Act.
*To that end, the judge said, “it is an over-simplification to regard the CFMEU in all of its other manifestations as a rogue, outlaw industrial association”.
*Breen Creighton of the Graduate School of Business and Law at RMIT University and Andrew Stewart of the University of Adelaide Law School are considered the nation’s pre-eminent scholars on the history of industrial relations and labour laws.
They have co-written one of the leading textbooks on the subject and each is adamant that Mr Porter’s claim is flawed.
“To me, the straightforward answer is the minister is clearly wrong,” Professor Stewart told Fact Check.
“It’s 100 per cent wrong because of the history of industrial relations laws. You can only make what he is saying right if you shorten ‘history’ to just 25 years.
*”Before 1994, these were not suggestions where there was a possibility where the industrial action might be unlawful — there was a raging certainty it was unlawful. But most of the legal procedures were focused on getting the action stopped, not getting penalties imposed.“
*The Industrial Relations Reform Act 1993 granted workers for the first time a lawful right to strike in Australia.
The laws framed certain conditions and periods in which it would be legal for workers to undertake industrial action.
Previously, strikes and lock-outs were specifically outlawed under section 6(1) of the Commonwealth Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1904 which applied from 1904 until its repeal in 1930. But there were other, more limited prohibitions; and, in any event, it became common for awards to contain “bans clauses” that forbade industrial action in relation to work covered by the relevant award.
*Joellen Riley, of the University Of Technology Sydney Law School, said Mr Porter’s use of the term “unlawful” was problematic because the laws around industrial action have been particularly technical since 1996, when the Workplace Relations Act was introduced.*
Before 1996, “it was sort of pretty easy to break some of the laws around taking industrial action,” she said. “It’s very, very proscriptive now.”
“Before 1993 … there was no right to strike in Australia. The system was designed to avoid strikes.”
Professor Riley said that now, when there was an allegation that either party was not following the rules, they would “very often … go off to the Federal Court for a decision rather than, as it was, the old Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which would try and get them to bang heads together”.
In Labour Law (5th edition, 2010), Creighton and Stewart note that industrial action during the era of arbitration and conciliation was “almost invariably … illegal”.
Further, “a quite extraordinary range of legislative proscriptions”, including state and federal legislation as well as common law restrictions, ensured that “for all practical purposes it was impossible, at least before 1993, for any group of Australian workers lawfully to take industrial action to protect or promote their occupational interests”.
According to Professor Creighton, while arbitration and conciliation courts and tribunals were designed to bring employers and workers to an agreed solution, employers generally believed it was in their best commercial interests, and in the best interests of workplace harmony, to pursue a speedy and amicable end to disputes rather than dragging them through the courts.
If disputes were brought before courts or commissions prior to 1993, the overarching goal was resolution, not penalty. The remedy sought was either an injunction or a restraining order.
Professor Stewart noted that statistics show “a huge amount of industrial action was taken before 1993, much more than today, and at that time unlawful industrial action was clearly the norm”.
“It is impossible to believe there were not more unions that breached the law … you have got huge numbers of strikes being organised,” he said.
“What you have over a period of decades is virtually every union is racking up a large number of contraventions.
“So, the only way you can say what the minister is saying is accurate is if you are only counting this since 1994, or if you take ‘unlawful’ in a particular way — which is ‘unlawful’ because a penalty is imposed.
“Because there isno comprehensive record of what fines were issued before 1993 … the only way you can say the minister is right is if you saw no history before 1994 or if you are defining ‘unlawful’ in a very precise way.”
Ron McCallum of the University of Sydney Law School agreed, saying Mr Porter’s claim was valid only if he was talking about industrial relations laws after 1993.
“I think [the claim] would probably stand up since 1993, but I do not think [the CFMMEU] is the ‘most’ in terms of unlawfulness,” Professor McCallum said, citing the substantial record of strike action during World War I, when labour was in short supply, workers did a lot of overtime, and prices were rising but wages were not.
He also pointed to the many highly disruptive strikes in the coal industry after World War II, and on the waterfront during the 1960s.
Professor Stewart suggested that even if the claim was contained to recent years, the CFMMEU “is not the only flagrant law-breaker. Unions in the state public sectors frequently take industrial action, especially in the education and health sectors, even though there is no way of doing that lawfully in most states”.
Professor Riley suggested that while comparing unions across industrial eras was “like comparing apples with oranges”, the BLF was probably more unlawful than the CFMMEU.
“I would have thought that was correct because they ended up being deregistered, and anyway, I would still think of ‘unlawfulness’ in terms of complying with the industrial laws of the day.”
“Unlawful in the industrial context these days means a whole lot of technical breaches … and, if you think about it, all of us going on these climate strikes, we would be breaching the Fair Work Act because they are not protected action [under the law].
“It seems it’s all very well for the government to make a whole lot of technical laws, and to then turn around and complain [the unions] are acting unlawfully.”
Historical comparisons: some of the big workplace battles
A review of union-based industrial activity in the decades before 1993 demonstrates repeated, prolonged and disruptive strikes, stoppages, go-slows, overtime bans and more, which often consumed single work sites or spread to other sites.
Employers could seek a court order for an injunction against the union action and ask the court to levy a penalty. It was also open to them to sue unions and members for economic damages.
The 1919 seamens’ strike: lasted from May to August 1919, resulting in jail terms for some striking workers, and fines.
Collie coal mines: the 1947 Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the Coal Mining Industry of Western Australia noted 26,421 working-man days had been lost from 1938 to 1946 due to industrial stoppages alone at the Collie coal mines.
The 1946-47 Victorian metal trades dispute: involved several unions including the Amalgamated Engineering Union. The six-month dispute included overtime bans, employer lock-outs and multiple-union strikes.
The 1949 general strike: from late June to early August, 23,000 workers in NSW coal mines went on strike until the Chifley government sent in the army.
The shearers’ strikes: shearers in Queensland went on strike for 10 months in 1956, and in 1983 a national strike lasted 10 weeks.
The Queensland power workers’ strike: thousands of Queensland Electrical Trades Union members went on strike for three weeks in February 1985 after the South East Queensland Electricity Board, backed by the Bjelke-Petersen government, proposed using more casual and contracted (non-unionised) workers. Later, SEQEB general manager Wayne Gilbert claimed Australia was witnessing “the demise of rampant and militant union control of this country that we have all seen probably since the beginning of this century”.
The 1986 Victorian nurses strike: lasting 50 days, the strike was in response to the state’s plan to cut pay rates and work classifications, and involved picket lines, go-slows, ward bans, bed closures and more.
The Melbourne tramways union strike of 1990: the Victorian government shut down the power grid as tramways workers protested over 33 days against the elimination of tram conductors and introduction of a new ticketing system.
The 1989-90 pilots’ strike: members of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots confined their working hours between 9am and 5pm after failing to obtain a 29.5 per cent wage increase. In a hopelessly misguided attempt to avert legal liability for taking industrial action, all AFAP commercial pilots resigned within a week. The federal government intervened, directing the Royal Australian Air Force to move passengers around the country. The dispute lasted more than 30 weeks, and caused widespread disruption and serious damage to the tourism industry and airline owners. It is said to have caused $1 billion of economic damage, though other estimates run into the billions.
As part of his claim made in Parliament, Mr Porter suggested the CFMMEU’s unlawfulness exceeded that of the BLF, which was formally deregistered by the federal Labor government in 1986 using special legislation.
The BLF’s record of confrontation instead of negotiation was detailed in the reports of the 1982 Winneke royal commission and was well documented at the time.
The union’s violence and intimidatory tactics, its relentless blockades, bans and stoppages, plus its disregard of criminal and industrial laws, place it among the most unlawful organisations Australia has seen.
Evidence presented to the commission found the BLF had engaged extensively in extortion, mob violence, intimidation, damage to property, “guerilla tactics” to halt and delay construction work, protracted industrial disputation including strikes and bans, corrupt financial practices, demands with menaces, as well as violence and threats against members of rival unions and their families.
The commission heard that when property developers or site managers capitulated to the BLF’s demands, the union often broke its promises and continued to block or shut down building sites, smash concrete pours, impose bans or increase its demands.
*TheBLF’s influence was so pervasive and its intimidation tactics so disruptive that the building industry’s major operators regularly took what the commissioner called the “soft option” and met the union’s demands, rather than face continued industrial and economic disruption.
In 1985, during the second reading of preliminary legislation to deregister the union, the government told parliament the BLF had treated the industrial relations processes “with absolute contempt”, and had breached undertakings to courts, commissions, the federal government, employers and the ACTU.
The then minister for industrial relations, Ralph Willis, said it was “now patently clear that the BLF leadership is utterly untrustworthy and that it regards undertakings and agreements as mere stratagems to achieve a monetary advantage which can then be disregarded at will”.
In the second reading speech for the 1986 legislation,Mr Willis said the government believed the BLF’s conduct caused “immense damage” to the construction industry and undermined the job security of building workers.
As well, the government believed the BLF’s relentless disregard for the negotiation and conciliation “threatened the very basis of our present system of industrial relations”.
The Painters and Dockers
Forunadulterated lawlessness, it is hard to go past the notorious Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union whose officials in the 1970s were involved in a string of murders, vicious assaults, thuggery, tax-fraud networks, drug-trafficking syndicates, intimidation and more.
Concern about the activities of the union led to theCostigan Royal Commission, though the terms of reference did not permit any examination of the union on its industrial record.
In his final report, Frank Costigan QC found the union since 1971 had “a positive policy of recruiting hardened criminals”, who were essentially outsourced “to any dishonest person requiring criminals to carry out his project”.
The Painters and Dockers union was “a sophisticated organisation posing as a Union but having as a major purpose an enterprise of a most evil kind”.
He noted 15 murders in which Painters and Dockers members were either involved, or in which the murder was related to union activities and his findings outlined money laundering occurring on an industrial scale, extensive fraud on the social security and pension systems, the so-called bottom-of-the-harbour tax evasion schemes and major drug trafficking networks.
As well, the union’s members engaged in extortion, intimidation, fraud, illegal gambling, drug trafficking, organised prostitution and loan shark activity, and death threats and armed violence were well known at the Williamstown Naval Dockyards.
He noted the union failed to keep proper books and records and failed to account for members’ monies.
Costigan suggested that Painters and Dockers officials were appointed directors of companies due to their fearsome reputation, which would deter approaches by government authorities.
Indeed, the tax commissioner told Costigan that “he would not be prepared to have his officers exposed to the possible physical danger which might flow from close contact with painters and dockers”.
Importantly, while Costigan also detailed the union’s use of industrial action to extort large sums from ship owners and operators in South Australia, he argued that it was criminal extortion in an industrial setting which should be managed under criminal, not industrial, laws.
In separate interviews with Fact Check, Professors Creighton and Stewart each discounted the use of the Painters and Dockers union as a comparator when assessing Mr Porter’s claim.
“They were a tiny union, and to become a member you had to become a criminal,” Professor Creighton said.
“But it was not industrial unlawful conduct so they are not really relevant to what the Attorney-General is talking about. They did [engage in some industrial action], but not to a great extent.”
A Search of primary documents affirms ‘Dark Emu’s’ accuracy …
Bruce Pascoe … love his fascinating documentaries …
As Andrew Bolt attempts to start a culture war over Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, a search of primary documents affirms the book’s accuracy.
By Rick Morton.
Bolt, Pascoe and the culture wars
There is one particular question Andrew Bolt does not wish to answer.
In correspondence with The Saturday Paper, the News Corp columnist was asked three times whether he has read Bruce Pascoe’s best-selling history of Aboriginal Australia, Dark Emu.
Each time, he evaded the question.
It is useful, then, to start an examination of his attacks on the author with this in mind.
A more inconvenient truth is that Bolt’s dislike of Pascoe began at least two years before the publication of the book, which has now become the focus of a minor culture war led by Bolt and others.
Bolt’s efforts to “fact-check” Pascoe’s book are based largely around a website called Dark Emu Exposed.
The site’s contributors cast doubt on Pascoe’s account of an Indigenous history different from the one allowed by colonial interpretation. They also doubt his Aboriginal heritage.
As one prominent Indigenous leader tells The Saturday Paper, on the condition of anonymity, the argument against Pascoe’s work is an extension of “19th-century race theory”, which once espoused the view that race is the major indicator of a person’s character and behaviour.
“Any suggestion that Aborigines are anything other than furtive rock apes has to be destroyed by these people,” the leader says.“WHEN THEY INSIST ON THIS INQUIRY, DO THEY WONDER IF THIS PERSON HAD FAMILY MEMBERS STOLEN FROM THE MISSIONS? DO THEY WONDER IF THEY WERE HIDING TRUTHS BECAUSE OF A CONCERTED EFFORT TO SHAME OR HUMILIATE ABORIGINAL ANCESTRY?”
Pascoe’s book is based on close reading of the original journals of Australia’s explorers. In these journals, he has found new evidence of Indigenous agriculture and development. As the Indigenous leader notes:
“He’s gone to the records and said, ‘Hang on, what does this really mean?’ While some historians with their PhDs have gone to the same original documents and came to the conclusion that we were all backward.”
In Dark Emu, which has sold more than 100,000 copies, Pascoe mounts a convincing argument that Aboriginal people actively managed and cultivated the landscape, harvested seeds for milling into cakes at an astonishing scale, took part in complex aquaculture and built “towns” of up to 1000 people.
That word, by the way – “town” – is not Pascoe’s. That is how one such settlement was referred to by a man in the exploration party of Thomas Mitchell in the mid-1800s.
What some have found so astonishing about Pascoe’s claimed developments is not that they happened – they are right there in Charles Sturt’s and Mitchell’s journals, among many others – but that we, as a nation, could have been so ignorant to their existence.
As Pascoe wrote last year in Meanjin: “Almost no Australians know anything about the Aboriginal civilisation because our educators, emboldened by historians, politicians and the clergy, have refused to mention it for 230 years.
“Think for a moment about the extent of that fraud. Imagine the excellence of the advocacy required to get our most intelligent people today to believe it.”
It is Pascoe’s attempt to shout down this conspiracy of silence that has primed the culture war machine. But why should a successful race of First Nations peoples be such a threat to modern Australians?
The most compelling answer to this question is that it removes a psychological shunt in the mind of European settlers and their descendants that this occupation, this invasion of land unceded, was to save Indigenous people from themselves, to bring civilisation to them.
Of course, it is uncomfortable to later ask: What if this race of First Australians were civilised all along? Maybe we were the barbarians?
Pascoe achieves this questioning with a somewhat controversial manoeuvre.He takes the European ideal of farming and architecture, and thoroughly white notions of success, and applies them, through the primary evidence, to Indigenous Australians.
Asked why he is offended by Pascoe’s assertion of complex farming and settlements built by First Nations peoples, Bolt said he is not.
“So, to answer your insult: I am not ‘offended’ by the thought of Aborigines being ‘well-adapted’ or ‘sophisticated’. How on earth would that be offensive to me? I in fact am determined to change policies and thinking that hold back so many Aboriginal communities that are now in poverty,” he said in a lengthy correspondence with The Saturday Paper.
“I am simply interested in the truth, and opposed to falsehoods … If I’m ‘offended’ by anything it is frauds.
“Or let me put this in the same sneering (again) tone that you used: What is it about Aborigines being hunter-gatherers that so offends you? Where is the shame in how so many Aborigines lived, which makes you feel compelled to imagine them instead as just like good old white farmers – only black? Isn’t this refusal to accept the truth a little, er, racist?”
Bolt has purported to catch Pascoe in the act of faking his Aboriginal identity, as if to cast doubt on the book itself through the use of a skin-tone chart. But Pascoe has long grappled with the necessarily murky past of his own identity. This murkiness speaks to how such relationships on this continent progressed for so long – disguised by violence, shame, lost records and stolen children.
In 2012, Pascoe wrote a response to a column in which Bolt alleged that Pascoe “decided” to be black. This followed a 2011 Federal Court of Australia ruling that found Bolt racially vilified other “light-skinned” Aboriginal people under section 18 of the Race Discrimination Act.
“I can see Bolt’s point, and the frustration of many Australians when pale people identify with an Aboriginal heritage,” Pascoe wrote in the Griffith Review at the time.
“The people he attacked for this crime, however, had an unfortunate thing in common: their credentials were impeccable. Any good reporter could pick up the phone and talk to their mothers about their Aboriginality until the chooks go to roost.
“If I had been part of the group who took Bolt to court for impugning their heritage, he would have had a field day.”
Pascoe tells of the struggle to find his Aboriginal ancestor, which was sketched by family members not so much through what they said but through what they didn’t say. It was an absence that provided clues.
But is this so extraordinary? As Pascoe says, the circumstance “mirrors the turbulence of postcolonial Australia and explains why so many Australian families have a black connection”.
The senior Indigenous leader who spoke to The Saturday Paper excoriated those who pressed this line of attack.
“When they insist on this inquiry, do they wonder if this person had family members stolen from the missions? Do they wonder if this person’s family was dispersed during the frontier wars? Do they wonder if they were hiding truths because of a concerted effort to shame or humiliate Aboriginal ancestry?”
The agitation surrounding Dark Emu, renewed by the announcement of an ABC documentary, has quickly driven a stake through the recently formed advisory group on the co-design for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. The group is chaired by Indigenous academic Marcia Langton, a defender of Pascoe’s, and counts Chris Kenny as a member.
Last week, Ken Wyatt, who established the group as minister for Indigenous Australians, backed Pascoe against the conservative onslaught and noted that Australians tend to “question if you are Indigenous”.
“If Bruce tells me he’s Indigenous, then I know that he’s Indigenous,” Wyatt told Kenny on Sky News.
This week, Wyatt told ABC’s Radio National that his office has been receiving calls where staff have been threatened and called “cunts” because he dared defend Pascoe.
“I’ve had one of my staff resign because she can’t cope with being abused over the issue,” he said.
Another of the co-design group’s members, Indigenous lawyer Josephine Cashman, has publicly questioned Pascoe’s ancestry. On Twitter, she stated that her former partner is a Yuin man who says he has never heard of Pascoe. Other Yuin people responded on Twitter, cautioning Cashman for relying on a single man’s testimony.
A week ago, Kenny wrote in The Australian: “Many claims in Dark Emu have been debunked by forensic reference to primary sources.”
But this week The Saturday Paper spent two days at the National Library of Australia reviewing the original documents and explorer accounts in question. They are – at every instance – quoted verbatim and cited accordingly in an extensive bibliography at the end of Pascoe’s book.
Bolt alleges: “They even overlooked the fact that his big hit – Dark Emu – included incredible misquotations of its sources.
“How else could Pascoe have argued that the historians had been wrong. Aborigines had not been hunter-gatherers but sophisticated farmers, living in ‘towns’ of up to 1000 people, in ‘houses’ with ‘pens’ for animals. (Koalas, perhaps?)”
It would take many thousands of words to address all of Bolt’s claims, but it is useful to highlight a few of them. The Saturday Paper put these claims to Bolt.
For example, he says that Pascoe tells the story of Sturt stumbling onto a town of 1000 people on the edge of the Cooper Creek. Dark Emu does not claim this; it instead quotes Sturt correctly on this front, when his party is taken in by “3 or 400 natives” in the area. Bolt says he was referring to a speech Pascoe made where he said there were 1000 people in the town.
*Thomas Mitchell also noted a town of 1000 people in his journals, and the quote is attributed to Mitchell in Dark Emu at the bottom of page 15.
Bolt, when he does reference Mitchell, gets the date of that quotation wrong, too. He says it is from Mitchell’s 1848 journal when, in fact, the quote is from his 1839 journal. This, too, is recorded faithfully in Dark Emu.
Bolt has twice scoffed at the idea of animal yards being found by these explorers.
But Dark Emu records the firsthand account of David Lindsay on his 1883 survey of Arnhem Land, where he says he “came on the site of a large native encampment, quite a quarter of a mile across. Framework of several large humpies, one having been 12ft high: small enclosures as if some small game had been yarded and kept alive … This camp must have contained quite 500 natives.”
In reply, Bolt says: “Maybe they were animal pens, who knows?
“Arnhem Land has, after all, more game than Cooper Creek that might at a stretch be kept in a pen, although it is difficult to imagine what animals might have been kept. Wallabies?”
Again, Bolt says he is not so much quoting from Pascoe’s book as from his lectures, of which the author has done hundreds since Dark Emu’s 2014 release.
However, Bolt frequently conflates the two.
While Bolt mocks Pascoe for speaking at a lecture about a well that was made by Indigenous people and was “70 feet deep”,there are, in fact, a litany of accounts of incredibly sophisticated wells in the journals. Of one, Sturt writes: “… we arrived at a native well of unusual dimensions. It was about eight feet wide at the top and 22ft deep, and it was a work that must have taken the joint strength of a powerful tribe to perform.”
In his rebuttal, the Herald Sun columnist has been forced to accept there were incredibly sophisticated settlements and seed-milling operations, and that Aboriginal people really did give cake and honey and roast ducks to Sturt and his party. The debate has now been reduced to minutiae – questioning how many mills were going and the different depth of various wells.
Bolt responds: “Trust you to attempt to make this about me and not his incredible claims.”
But Pascoe is not alone in his assessments.
Writing in Inside Story this week, Australian National University professor of history Tom Griffiths lauded the book and its addition to a long trajectory of scholarly work.
“My point is that the blindnesses and complacencies that Pascoe rails against are the same silences and lies that Australian historians have been collaboratively challenging for decades now,” he says.
“It’s a job that will never finish. Pascoe is primarily bridling at an older form of history, the history he learnt at school and university 50 years ago.”
Edie Wright, the chair of Magabala Books, which published Dark Emu, told The Saturday Paper:
“We unequivocally support our outstanding author Bruce Pascoe, and celebrate the contribution that Dark Emu has made to bringing a fuller understanding of our history to so many Australians of all ages.”
On Wednesday, Marcia Langton replied to Josephine Cashman on Twitter. The two were previously close.
“The critique of Dark Emu is a job for actual historians not Andrew Bolt & others who benefit financially from tearing apart the lives of people looking for family,” she said.
Looking for family has taken on a mournful quality this week, as Pascoe’s kin went to libraries around the country to find the name of their Aboriginal ancestor. But how to proceed, one must ask, when so much of their story and the story of a people has been destroyed to protect the last excuse for colonisation?
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 30, 2019 as “Bolt, Pascoe and the culture wars”. Subscribe here.
More details are emerging about this unfolding SOVEREIGNTY disaster for Australians.
WE should ask ourselves …
-would this foreign company exist without CCP approval and endorsement of its strategies? -would this company make plans to take over our brands and production without having done a thorough study and found the likely outcome of their takeover bid? -can it be believed they already know the outcome of any enquiry into this and indeed most other takeover bids? –are we so naive to think they are merely sounding out the possibility of buying up Australian businesses?
–can Australian businesses vertically integrate into their markets? –why are we so soft, why do we allow such things to happen when clearly this is not a level playing field? –could this be about ideology, that the current federal government reckons it can still retain the support of the 6000 or so dairy farmers plus the corporate operators together with most of the other agricultural sectors
AND insulate other exporters of minerals and energy from any retaliatory actions … in the unlikelihood the takeover bid is stopped –is the federal government of the view, ‘who cares who owns these dairy businesses so long as the farmer’s cows produce the milk and the products continue to be made and available in shops to buy’
WHY should local consumers buy these soon to be ‘foreign owned’ products allowing them to send the profits generated here back to the Middle Kingdom along with the title deeds to all the property and other assets of this once Australian-owned company?
WE notice already indications that this foreign company, China Mengniu Dairy
-is expecting to obtain approval -it has obtained support for its takeover bid from the current local players -they are already putting up the main argument, ‘it’s already foreign owned so why all the fuss’
‘why should it matter’
AND ever so subtly
‘is there something different, that the Japanese owned it and now it is to be chinese-owned, why a change in attitude?’ … Cough … cough … CCP …
–a glimmer of hope exists, local-owned alternatives are available, and have already seized on the opportunity to differentiate their product from the foreign-owned, irrespective of who the owner is!
SEARCH CAAN WEBSITE to find more about Mengniu Dairy
*It includes several iconic brands including Farmers Union Iced Coffee, Pura and Yoplait yogurt.
*The announcement was met with anger on social media, with many users vowing they would stop buying the iced coffee drink altogether.
“Farmers Union Iced Coffee is the next dairy company to be sold off to China, lets [sic] make these Chinese companies go broke in Australia,” a page named “Make Australia Great Again“ posted.
“I will not be buying any Farmers Union or any of [sic] others owned by China,” one Facebook user responded to the post.
Another user pointed out that the drink was already foreign-owned.
“Currently owned by a Japanese company … are we upset that it’s not owned in Australia (why was it sold to begin with) or that it will be owned by the Chinese?” he wrote.
On the company’s official Facebook page many people left comments and questions about the proposed takeover.
“We are currently part of Lion, which is Japanese-owned and they have announced the Dairy & Drinks business is being sold to Mengniu Dairy, pending regulatory approvals,” it responded.
“Even with Mengniu Dairy’s ownership we will continue making our great tasting products including Farmers Union Iced Coffee at our Australian manufacturing sites — supporting Aussie jobs and continuing to source all our milk from Australian dairy farms/fruit from Australian growers.
“We believe that Mengniu Dairy is the ideal owner to take Dairy & Drinks forward, given its track record of investing in the Australian dairy industry.”
SA Dairyfarmers’ Association chief executive officer Andrew Curtistold ABC Radio Adelaide a boycott would only hurt South Australian workers.
“I don’t know who it would serve,” he said.
“It is South Australian milk from South Australian dairy farmers, it’s processed by South Australians who live and work in the north of Adelaide, I’m not sure who [a boycott] would benefit.
“And for a lot of people it would mean going to a lesser, certainly a lesser well-known iced coffee drink.”
Mr Curtis said the sale was actually good news for the brand and the production of the milk would remain in South Australia.
“We see this as a good opportunity for the business, which has got a significant position in South Australia to get on and to keep producing,” he said.
“It means we have got a good understanding that the plant at Salisbury will continue to work, continue to produce liquid milk that we have on our Weeties but also Farmers Union Iced Coffee, which is a South Australian staple.”
Brand has a cult following in SA
Farmers Union Iced Coffee has a cult-like following in South Australia — the brand even has its own merchandise including T-shirts, hats and jumpers.
Earlier this year, the popular milk drink was in short supply.
In an age of sky-high house prices and record debt, Kirsty Garrash and Francis Murphy were close to reaching a financial milestone many homebuyers can only dream about — they owned their family home outright.
Kirsty Garrash and Francis Murphy lost their house after borrowing from a small business lender
Small business lenders are largely unregulated
Small business and consumer credit bodies are calling for greater checks on lending to small businesses
But, now, just two years later, the couple and their five children have been left homeless, victims of a short-term business loan that ended up costing them an annual interest rate of 150 per cent.
“It’s devastating,” Ms Garrash told 7.30.
“In hindsight, I’d never get a loan like that. It undid everything we worked so hard for.”
Their case is symptomatic of the largely unregulated world of small business finance in Australia, where lenders are not obliged to make sure borrowers are taking out loans they can afford.
“It is the wild west,” said Gerard Brody, chief executive of the Consumer Action Law Centre.
“People can go online or to a broker and get access to an unregulated loan all too easily.”
The consequences for borrowers like Ms Garrash and Mr Murphy, who used their family home as security, can be catastrophic.
‘I feel like we’ve failed’
In 2017, the couple sought a $300,000 loan from Sydney-based firm Mango Credit, which they used to pay off other debts and expand their excavation business on the New South Wales Central Coast.
They agreed to make repayments of $5,250 a month, but this would jump to $37,500 a month if they ever fell behind on the loan.
Their family is now living in a neighbour’s living room while they search for a house to rent.
*It is the kind of financial calamity that Australia’s consumer lending rules are supposed to prevent.
*But because Ms Garrash and Mr Murphy’s loan was taken out in the name of their business, the normal consumer protections do not apply.
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Now, there is a push from consumer groups and Australia’s small business watchdog to tighten regulation of the sector to bring it closer into line with consumer lending rules.
The Small Business and Family Enterprises Ombudsman Kate Carnell believes all lenders should be subject to the AFCA regime.
“I think small businesses have no idea this is not regulated, have no idea that they have no recourse apart from the courts,” she said.
“We need to broaden access to mediation and other forms of justice outside the court system so that small businesses have got somewhere else to go if a non-bank lender does the wrong thing.”
Ms Carnell’s call comes after the final report of the financial services royal commission recommended no changes to the current rules for small business lending.
Mr Brody said that recommendation was a missed opportunity.
“I actually think that’s a mistake. In our submissions we said that there should be checks placed on small business lenders, particularly where loans are secured by a residential property,” he said.
“If that goes south it risks their house, individual wellbeing, their security and their health.”
Earlier this year, seven major small business lenders, including Prospa, OnDeck and Spotcap, signed a voluntary code of practice that requires them to be clear and concise about their interest rates and contract terms.
“That’s around 90 per cent of the market at the moment. We don’t have 100 per cent coverage yet, but we’re working on that,” Dianne Tate, chief executive of the Australian Finance Industry Association, told 7.30.
“The code of practice is really important because it sets standards higher than those contained in the law.”
The code also obliges signatories to be members of AFCA.
“So that means if a small business customer has a dispute with one of our financiers and they aren’t able to resolve it directly they can go to AFCA to get their dispute resolved,” Ms Tate said.
Consumer groups have also raised concerns about so-called “sham lending”, where borrowers take out loans in a company name but ultimately use the money to buy a home or investment property.
It is a strategy they say is sometimes used by lenders and borrowers to avoid consumer protection laws.
“If you borrow from an unlicensed lender for the purpose of purchasing property or for any other personal or domestic purposes, then it should be actually covered by consumer credit laws,” Mr Brody said.
Melbourne retiree Carrol James got a loan from unlicensed business lender Prime Capital when she went in search of finance for a townhouse she was building for herself in 2015.
“I explained the reasons why I needed the finance, and he said they could help me but I needed to have a company name in order for them to lend me the money,” she said.
She borrowed in the name of her self-managed superannuation fund, even though the home would be owned and occupied by her personally and the terms of the loan contract make clear that it was only to be used for business purposes.
“It was actually for me, and they knew that,” she said.
“I explained that to them before they gave me the letter of offer.”
Ms James said she took full responsibility for signing documents saying the loan was for business purposes, even though it was for her personal use.
Prime Capital declined to do an interview, but in a statement denied Ms James told ever the company that the money was for personal property.
“The client provided information that the funds were required to complete a development project,” the statement said.
“The client then obtained independent legal advice on the transaction, and we are aware that lawyer informed the facility must be used for business purposes, and any non-business purpose would be a breach of the facility.
“The client also signed declarations to us that the funds would be used for business purposes.”
The annual interest rate on the $360,000 loan was 24 per cent, with monthly repayments of $9,000, including administration fees of $1,800.
She hoped to only have the loan for three to four months until the unit was completed.
Ms James says she was managing the repayments on the loan until her builder went bust mid-way through the project.
She wanted to refinance with another lender with a lower interest rate, but she says despite repeated requests it took Prime Capital more than five months to get her the loan documents her new lender required.
She estimates the delay increased the total cost of the loan to around $130,000 in interest fees.
“I reached out to consumer affairs, the Financial Ombudsman Service and also to ASIC, and I was told from every one of them there was nothing they could do to help me,” Ms James said.
“There is actually a very big loophole in the system where these lenders don’t actually come under any governing body at all. So there’s no one to keep them accountable.
“I’m the one who signed the agreement, the loan contract.
“But I think Prime Capital need to take responsibility for the hardship they have caused me.”
Prime Capital apologised for the delay in providing Ms James with her documents.
“We accept that these procedures were unhelpful and bureaucratic,” the company said.
There is no suggestion Prime Capital or any of its staff have broken the law.
EXTRACT: Shadow Banking is now a 52 TRILLION Industry and Posing Risks:
‘In the years since the crisis, global shadow banks have seen their assets grow to $52 trillion, a 75% jump from the level in 2010, the year after the crisis ended. The asset level is through 2017, according to bond ratings agency DBRS, citing data from the Financial Stability Board.
The U.S. still makes up the biggest part of the sector with 29% or $15 trillion in assets, though its share of the global pie has fallen. CHINA has seen particularly strong growth, with its $8 trillion in assets good for 16% of the total share.
Within shadow banking, the biggest growth area has been “collective investment vehicles,” a term that encompasses many bond funds, hedge funds, money markets and mixed funds. The group has seen its assets explode by 130% to $36.7 trillion. It poses particular danger because of its volatility and susceptibility to “runs” and is part of the “significant risks” DBRS sees from the industry.’
A new wave of non-bank lenders is showering small businesses with high-risk loans at interest rates that be as high as 150 per cent.
What many borrowers don’t know is that normal consumer protection rules don’t apply to these so-called shadow banks, and that can lead to disaster for people who borrow against their family home.
Read statements from Mango Credit here and here. Read the statement from Prime Capital here.
KIRSTY GARRASH: Yes, please. Are you right? Watch out, bub.
PAT MCGRATH, REPORTER: Kirsty Garrash has just one day left to move everything out of her family’s home.
KIRSTY GARRASH: Supposed to just slide off.
PAT MCGRATH: She’s trying to keep up a brave face for her children.
KIRSTY GARRASH: Being his age, maybe it’s just we’re trying to make it a little exciting for him.
It is like a new adventure kind of thing, rather than what’s actually going on but we lost it. Got to find somewhere else to go.
PAT MCGRATH: Things were very different four years ago when Kirsty and her partner, Francis Murphy, bought the house.
KIRSTY GARRASH: We were just so happy to have a home. The kids were stoked. There was a swimming pool, you know, they could have friends over for pool parties.
PAT MCGRATH: They used the equity in their home to get a loan to expand their excavation business.
FRANCIS MURPHY: Especially anything in the building industry, they pretty much give us a call and we were there to do whatever, retaining walls, swimming pools, whatever has got to be done.
PAT MCGRATH: They couldn’t get a loan from a bank because their business had no financial track record.
So Kirsty and Francis went online in search of a lender that would give them money.
The company they found was a small business lender called Mango Credit which offers short-term high-interest loans. It offered Kirsty and Francis $300,000.
KIRSTY GARRASH: We just didn’t have enough of the paperwork to try and go a different way. It was always only going to be short-term.
FRANCIS MURPHY: In hindsight, we should have probably went another way.
PAT MCGRATH: The details of the loan show the massive financial risk Kirsty and Francis were taking on.
They put their family home up as security. The annual interest rate was 21 per cent but if they missed a repayment, that jumped to 150 per cent.
They’d be on the hook for monthly repayments of more than $37,000.
KIRSTY GARRASH: We never were going to default. It was never, it was not an option. That’s why we paid it for the 12 months without fail.
It was never a path we wanted to go. It was only a short-term thing.
PAT MCGRATH: But in January this year, Kirsty and Francis were sent down that path after they told Mango Credit they wanted to refinance the loan.
KIRSTY GARRASH: It will have to go in this back row or in the middle.
PAT MCGRATH: Kirsty said she made a verbal agreement with Mango’s owner to hold off on the next repayment in the meantime.
KIRSTY GARRASH: He said do not make the January repayment as it can be rolled over in your refinance because it was supposed to all be refinanced in January.
PAT MCGRATH: Kirsty later made a sworn statement that this happened.
Mango denied this when asked by the ABC.
What’s not in dispute is it put the loan into default and started charging the higher rate – 150 per cent.
FRANCIS MURPHY: Things just gone crazy and we were trying to do the right thing.
We had good people on board to help us get another loan and what not and it just went crazy.
PAT MCGRATH: Kirsty and Francis tried complaining to the Government’s new Australian Financial Complaints Authority, or AFCA, but they were told that Mango Credit operates outside of its jurisdiction because purely business lenders are not obliged to be part of AFCA.
Even though Mango Credit tells borrowers its mortgage arm is licensed, Mango Credit itself doesn’t have a credit license.
GERARD BRODY, CONSUMER ACTION LAW CENTRE: Many of the providers out there aren’t required to be licensed.
If you borrow from an unlicensed lender and have a dispute, it means you can’t take your complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority and you are forced to go to court.
KIRSTY GARRASH: You have got no leg on. You literally have nowhere to turn and no-one to help and there’s no-one that can hold them accountable for this.
PAT MCGRATH: By April, Kirsty and Francis’s debt had blown out and in September they lost a legal battle with Mango over the repossession of their home.
SHERIFF: So have you got keys?
KIRSTY GARRASH: Yeah, they’re just on the veranda. Is that all I’ve just got to do, just give you guys the keys?
PAT MCGRATH: Two weeks ago the sheriff arrived to confiscate the keys to the house.
KIRSTY GARRASH: And they said it was fine that there was stuff left in the house. That’s completely fine and that they’re sorry to have to do it.
PAT MCGRATH: Mango Credit is clearly a successful business.
Its owner, Yanis Derums, owns a number of properties, including a three-storey harbourside home in Sydney.
When 7.30 contacted him, he insisted we talk to his lawyer.
Mr Derums, Pat McGrath from the ABC. How are you going? Have you got a moment to speak to us?
When we approached him directly he didn’t want to answer questions about his company’s business practices.
Mr Derums? Excuse me, Mr Derums. Did you tell Kirsty Garrash that she didn’t have to pay the mortgage while she refinanced?
But through his lawyers he denied he told Kirsty and Francis to hold off on making the repayment.
In a statement, he says he was, in fact, entitled to put them in default earlier because they had been late in making some repayments last year but decided not to.
He says he verbally offered to accept a lower amount to pay out the loan but Kirsty and Francis never came back with an offer in writing.
And he insists the loan was fair and his customers got their own legal advice.
Mango Credit is among dozens, possibly hundreds, of unlicensed lenders often known as shadow banks targeting Australian small business.
GERARD BRODY: It is the wild west. People can go online and get access to an unregulated loan too easily.
KATE CARNELL, SMALL BUSINESS OMBUDSMAN: It was really important for lenders that were lending to small business particularly to…
PAT MCGRATH: Australia’s Small Business Ombudsman sees a simple fix – make small business lenders subject to the same complaints regime as banks and other lenders.
In fact, some small business lenders have already signed up to do so.
KATE CARNELL: I think we broaden access to mediation and other forms of justice outside the court system so that small businesses have somewhere to go if a fin-tech or non-bank lender does the wrong thing.
PAT MCGRATH: There’s a darker side still to Australia’s shadow banking industry.
We’ve uncovered evidence that some lenders are giving out loans dressed up as small business finance but they’re actually for family homes and investment properties.
Because they’re giving the loans to companies rather than individuals, they don’t have to comply with consumer protection rules.
Carrol James found herself in the hands of an unlicensed lender when she needed quick money for a home she was building in 2015.
CARROL JAMES: I came across Prime Capital Securities. I spoke to a guy, explained the reasons why I needed the finance and he said they could help me but I needed to have a company name in order for them to lend me the money.
PAT MCGRATH: Like Mango Credit, Prime Capital is not licensed and not registered with AFCA.
The loan it gave Carrol didn’t name her as the borrower, it used a company name, her self-managed super fund.
And this part of the contract says that the loan is to be used for business purposes only and for no other purpose?
CARROL JAMES: Yes, that’s correct.
PAT MCGRATH: Was that what it was for? Was it for a business purpose?
CARROL JAMES: No, it wasn’t. It was for me personally.
PAT MCGRATH: And did Prime Capital know that?
CARROL JAMES: They did know that, yup. I actually explained all of that to them on the phone before they gave me a letter of offer for the loan.
And I do realise it when I signed this that was in there but they were aware the money was for me, not for the company or a company loan.
PAT MCGRATH: But did they ever offer you the money personally?
CARROL JAMES: No.
PAT MCGRATH: Prime Capital denies Carrol ever told the company that the money was for personal use.
It insists she said it was for a property development and she signed several documents stating the money was for business purposes.
GERARD BRODY: If you do borrow from an unlicensed lender for the purpose of purchasing property, or for any other personal or domestic purposes, then it should be actually covered by consumer credit laws.
CARROL JAMES: There was another fee of six and a half to Prime Capital.
PAT MCGRATH: The annual interest rate on Carrol’s $360,000 mortgage was 24 per cent.
CARROL JAMES: $9,000 a month I was paying but that was including admin fees as well per month in that $9,000.
PAT MCGRATH: But $9,000 is a lot of money to be paying every month.
CARROL JAMES: Absolutely is. It is an awful lot of money.
PAT MCGRATH: But soon after Carrol paid the money from the loan to the builder, he went bust.
Suddenly the timeline for her high interest loan blew out and Carrol wanted to refinance with another lender.
For that she needed her loan paperwork.
CARROL JAMES: I reached out to Prime Capital and asked, I think in the May of 2016, to see if I could get a statement.
I was waiting I think almost five months for the statement and look, I had actually got a lender that was willing to give me my finance.
PAT MCGRATH: The repayments were piling up while she waited for the statements and she sought help from authorities.
CARROL JAMES: I reached out to Consumer Affairs, the Financial Ombudsman and also to ASIC and I was told from every one of them there was nothing they could do to help me.
PAT MCGRATH: She eventually got the statement, refinanced and finished the town house.
But the $360,000 loan from Prime ended up costing her $130,000 in fees and interest.
Prime Capital declined to do an interview but in a statement to us it said it was sorry for the delay in getting the documents to her however it insists Carrol was well aware of the conditions of her loan – something she doesn’t dispute.
Do you take responsibility, do you think, for what happened?
CARROL JAMES: Of course I take responsibility. I’m the only one that signed the agreement, the loan contract.
But I think Prime Capital need to take responsibility as well for the hardship they’ve caused me and probably a lot of other people.
GERARD BRODY: Irresponsible lending to small businesses means that people can lose their homes, they’ll lose jobs, they’ll lose their wellbeing and I think that has severe consequences.
PAT MCGRATH: Francis and Kirsty are keeping their business above water for now but they have no idea how they’ll get back what they’ve lost.
KIRSTY GARRASH: If we had have been able to find someone else to get us a different sort of loan to start with, we wouldn’t be in this situation.
A reminder that we can only keep the community and expert voices speaking up with generous donations.
The campaign has had fantastic media coverage this week. Check out Channel Nine’s piece on the inquiry below.
We can only do this because of your continued support.
On Tuesday, a former commissioner of the NSW SES, Dr Chas Keys, closed his testimony to a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the raising of Warragamba Dam by saying “the government’s preference is the essence of bad policy – it overstates the benefits and understates the costs, and it’s expensive to boot”.
The message was clear – raising Warragamba Dam won’t stop deaths. In fact, it is likely to put more lives at risk on Western Sydney floodplains.
Infrastructure NSW and Minister Stuart Ayres are now seriously worried they will be pulled before this inquiry for further questioning. Minister Ayers resorted to lashing out at journalists during a trainwreck interview on ABC radio yesterday morning. During the interview he made the boldest contradiction yet, saying “there are areas of the broader floodplain that aren’t impacted by flood water” to justify his development plans in high-risk western Sydney floodplains.
The inquiry has been a long time in the making, and is the realisation of your support through financial giving, submission writing and direct action over the last year. Thank you for making this happen. It would not have been possible without you.
Please consider making a donation to help us coordinate more experts to speak up against the dam. Every contribution makes a difference.
The government has pledged to revive its union-busting bill after Pauline Hanson handed the Coalition an embarrassing Senate defeat that business branded a “win for union thuggery”.
Attorney-General Christian Porter called on Senator Hanson to explain why One Nation sided with Labor and the Greens to oppose the Ensuring Integrity Bill, leaving the Senate vote tied at 34 votes, meaning it was lost.
The eruption of the Westpac scandal undermined the government’s bid to get the bill passed, with Senator Hanson saying voters had told her the government had “one rule for white-collar crime and much harsher rules for blue-collar crime”.
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS MINISTER CHRISTIAN PORTER. (IMAGE: AAP/LUKAS COCH)
Do two wrongs make a right then?
Still, this is a win for workers. The bill went over the top in curtailing not just John Setka but all forms of industrial action.
David Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the founding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal.
He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.