Institute of Public Affairs calls for the abolition of the minimum wage
Ben Schneiders
Published: April 7, 2014 – 12:56PM

It has been a feature of Australia’s social safety net since not long after federation – a minimum wage not set just by market forces, but that considers the living needs of a worker.

But the Institute of Public Affairs – an influential free-market think tank well-connected within the Liberal Party – wants Australia’s minimum wage abolished.

The institute’s Aaron Lane said there was a ‘‘moral case’’ to abolish minimum wages to allow people to experience the ‘‘dignity of work’’.

‘‘Our position is an ideological one and we don’t shy away from that,’’ he said. ‘‘This position can be seen as heartless and wanting people to work for a low wage. But it’s about empowering individuals in being able to choose their own employment.’’

Mr Lane said the current system priced thousands of people out of work and forced employers to cut back staff hours.

‘‘I’m not so concerned about the working poor, I’m more concerned about the unemployed poor,’’ he said.

‘‘Continuing to increase the minimum wage is a threat to the dignity of the unemployed.’’

For this year’s minimum wage decision, to be decided by the Fair Work Commission in June, the institute wants to see it frozen at $16.37 an hour, but its longer-term goal is for there to be no minimum wage at all.It is a radical position.

Most years employer groups push for modest increases in minimum wages.

Australia has the fourth highest minimum wage in the world, according to one measure. Unemployment is rising, but is much lower than the wealthy country average.

The idea of a ‘‘living wage’’ has been a feature of Australia’s labour market since 1907.

Then, Justice Higgins decided that wages at the Sunshine Harvester Company in Melbourne had to consider the needs of the ‘‘workman’’ and his family.

‘‘I cannot think that an employer and a workman contract on an equal footing, or make a ‘fair’ agreement as to wages, when the workman submits to work for a low wage to avoid starvation or pauperism . . . for himself and his family,’’ Justice Higgins wrote.

‘‘Or that the agreement is ‘reasonable’ if it does not carry a wage sufficient to insure the workman food, shelter, clothing, frugal comfort, provision for evil days.’’

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver sings a similar tune. He wants a $27-a-week rise in the minimum wage. He attacked the institute, saying: ‘‘Many Australians would find it offensive for executives of the IPA to say our lowest paid workers don’t deserve a wage increase.

‘‘The truth is that productivity is up, wages growth is slow, businesses are enjoying huge profits while workers’ share of the pie is diminishing.’’

Mr Oliver said the minimum wage in Australia was slipping when compared with average wages. He said if the trend continued Australia would have an ‘‘entrenched US style working poor’’ by 2035.

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What Australian women need to fight for

Mehreen Faruqi
Published: December 16, 2013 – 12:12AM


Growing up in Pakistan, a poor developing nation underpinned by a patriarchal society, I always imagined prosperous countries like Australia having achieved gender equality in all spheres of life. So imagine my surprise when I arrived in Sydney 21 years ago and started my postgraduate studies in engineering, only to discover there was only one female academic amongst a fifty odd male teachers in the school of civil engineering at my university.

Of course, judging gender equality is much more sophisticated than just measuring numbers and ratios in one particular institution and profession; nonetheless it is a good indicator of existing marginalisation. This discovery was the start of my rose-coloured glasses getting less and less of a workout in the coming years as I made Australia my home.

There is no doubt that much has been achieved through the successive three waves of feminism over the last century. We’ve fought hard and won many battles – the right to vote and to run for parliament, to join the workforce and pursue careers in all professions. We have better access to contraception and abortion services. Laws have been enacted that attempt to create equal pay, equal opportunity and protect women from violence.

While these much needed reforms have vastly improved women’s rights and opportunities, change has been painstakingly slow, and inequality and discrimination still pervade many parts of our laws, workplaces, society and democracy.

Gaining the right to run for parliament has not yet led to equal representation. I sit in NSW parliament where only a quarter of the MPs are women. The first woman was elected to the lower house of NSW parliament in 1925. It is quite unacceptable that after almost a hundred years, there are only 18 more, in an assembly of 93.

It was this male-dominated chamber that last month voted to give foetuses legal personhood status in NSW. “Zoe’s Law” is an unnecessary and dangerous piece of legislation, and will have serious consequences for women’s reproductive health and their right to choose, especially since abortion is still an offence under the NSW Crimes Act.

Even though more women complete university degrees than men, they are less likely to reach higher management positions. The gender pay gap, shamefully, still stands at 17.5%.

Not only has our journey of equality been slow but even more disappointing is the fact that we are moving backwards and unwinding some of these hard-fought rights: The gender pay gap has actually increased by 2.6% since 2004.

Women’s rights to reproductive health are yet again under threat from conservative parliaments across Australia. Following the passage of foetal personhood law in NSW Lower House, South Australia attempted to do the same. The Victorian Liberal state council has decided to overhaul abortion laws and there are fears that abortion may again be criminalised.

This year the world economic forum ranked Australia 24th in their global gender gap report, well after the Philippines, Cuba and Nicaragua – countries which have a much lower GDP than Australia. Not only this, but we have slipped 9 places in the last 7 years.

Women’s participation in politics is a key measure of women’s empowerment but in our Federal Parliament women’s representation has dropped significantly, moving from 24th to 43rd in the world in the last 12 years. We lag behind developing countries such as Senegal, Nepal and Afghanistan.

No doubt Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s decision to allow only one woman in his cabinet will slide us even further down the scale in 2014.

Given this widening gap in gender equality and concerted moves to wind back women’s rights, it was especially inexcusable for the Prime Minister to try and justify his decision by highlighting that “There are very strong and capable women knocking on the door of the Cabinet.”

Of course, there has never been a lack of strong and determined women in society. Some recent examples include our first female Prime Minister and Governor General, and of course the young Pakistani woman, Malala Yosefzai, who is the role model for a whole generation.

But more of these “very strong and capable women” need to knock down more doors, call out sexism and gender-bias for what it is and take up their rightful place in politics and in society. It’s also time for me to pack away those rose-coloured glasses for now. It’s quite clear that women in Australia cannot take their rights for granted just yet.

Let’s make sure that in 2014 we all take responsibility for closing the gap.  Women’s empowerment and equal participation are a ‘whole of society’ responsibility. I already see supporters of women’s rights and social justice joining up across politics, class, gender and ethnicity It is extremely inspiring and energizing to see the fourth wave of feminists, young and old, men and women working together for equality. As a passionate feminist and the Greens NSW spokesperson for women, I will be standing up with them, and we will turn the tide, as we have in the past.

Mehreen Faruqi, Greens MLC and spokesperson for the Status of Women 

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Sleep Needs Across the Lifespan

Sleep Needs Across the Lifespan
Created on Friday, 14 October 2011 11:17 | Published on Friday, 14 October 2011 11:17 | Print

Important Things to Know About Sleep Needs Across the Lifespan

  •  Sleep need gets less with age until around 20 years old when it stabilises.
  •  How much and how fast this happens depends on the person.
  •  It is normal for children to have daytime naps until 3 to 5 years old.
  •  If a child takes naps often past this age, he or she might not be sleeping enough at night.
  •  Teenagers will tend to want to go to bed later, and sleep in.
  •  Older people spend more time in bed, but their sleep requirement is normally similar to that of early adult life.

How do our sleep needs change with age?

It is well known that as children get older they need less sleep. Different people have different sleep needs. The advice in the table below is only a guide. You can make a good guess if a person is sleeping enough at night – observe at how they act and function during the day.

Age Group Total Sleep (hrs/day)   Sleep at night (hrs) Sleep during the day (hrs)
Newborns (0 – 2 mths) 12 – 18 6 – 9 6 – 9
Infants (2 – 12 mths) 14 – 15  9 – 12 2.5 – 5
Toddlers (1 – 3 yrs) 12 – 15 9.5 – 11.5 1.5 – 3.5
Preschool (3 – 5 yrs) 11 – 13 Most sleep is at night. Daytime naps become rarer. A child tends to stop napping at this age.
School Age (5 – 12 yrs) 9 – 11 All sleep should be at night. Naps at this age tend to be from not getting enough sleep at night.
Teenage (12 – 18 yrs) 8.5 – 9.5 All sleep should be at night. Naps at this age tend to be from not getting enough sleep at night.
Adults  7 – 9 All sleep should be at night. Naps at this age tend to be from not getting enough sleep at night.

Note that these are average sleep requirements: some require more and others less

How does napping change with age?

From birth to two months of age, the length of one period of sleep can be from 30 minutes to 3 – 4 hours. This is throughout the day and night. Babies fed from the bottle tend to sleep for longer at a time than breast-fed babies (3-4 hours versus 2-3 hours). See also Tips to Help Babies Sleep Better.

From 2 months onwards babies start to sleep for longer at a time. This is especially so at night between 12 midnight and 5am. The reason for this is that they start to develop their internal day-night (circadian) rhythm that favours sleep at night and being more awake during the day.

By 6 months of age, babies can get 5 – 8 hours of sleep at night. However 25-50% of 6 month olds still wake up at night. There are things that can be done to counteract this including ensuring that they learn to go to sleep in their cot by themselves at the start of the night. Then they are more able to self-soothe themselves back to sleep after waking up during the night.

From 2 months to 12 months, the number of daytime naps goes down from 3 – 4 naps to two naps. Morning naps usually stop between 12 and 18 months of age. Always give a chance for an afternoon nap after lunch and before 4pm. Daytime naps become less common from about 2 or 3 years onwards.

Consistent daytime naps after 5 years of age are not normal. The child might not be getting enough sleep at night. This may be due to poor sleep routines, sleep problems or sleep disorders. It may need to be followed up with a Sleep Specialist. See also Behavioural Sleep Problems in Children and/or Sleep Disorders in Children.

Why do teenagers want to stay up later?

In this age group, there is a change in the timing of sleep. It is natural for them to want to go to bed later at night and to sleep in. However this needs to be within reason and teenagers often need to be taught good sleep habits. They need to know that they won’t function as well during the day if they miss sleep and fail to catch up on it. See also Teenage Sleep.

Adult Sleep

Sleep requirements stabilize in early adult life, around the age of 20. Individuals vary in their sleep needs but most adults require between 7 and 9 hours a night to feel properly refreshed and function at their best the next day. Many try to get away with less sleep. There are some who are genuine short sleepers while other may require considerably more than the average requirement. The reasons for this individual variability in sleep requirement are not well understood.

Older adults spend more time in bed but unless a sleep problem has developed the requirement for sleep is similar to that in their younger adult life.

For futher information see: or

Regular bed times as important for kids as getting enough sleep

Regular bed times as important for kids as getting enough sleep

Latest health news

Date  November 12, 2013        

Sarah Biggs

Importance of sleep routinesImportance of sleep routines Photo: Getty Images

We’ve long known that children need a certain amount of sleep: nine to 11 hours per night for older kids, and up to 14 hours in 24 for toddlers. There’s no doubt that getting enough sleep is paramount to a child’s healthy development, but recent research has shown that a regular routine – going to bed the same time every night and waking the same time every morning – is just as important to a child’s daytime functioning.

An Australian study of almost 2,000 school-aged children recently showed that, when compared to a child with the same bedtime (less than a 30 minutes difference across the week), a child with a 60-minute difference was twice as likely to display hyperactive behaviours and have problems controlling their emotions.

Children who had a two-hour difference in bedtime across the week were six times as likely to display hyperactive behaviours. This association was seen even when the children were getting the recommended amount of ten hours of sleep per night.

Irregular bedtime schedules have a similar impact in teenagers, with an older study in adolescents reporting that inconsistent sleep schedules were associated with increased anxiety and depression, again, regardless of the total amount of sleep obtained.

 <iframe id=”dcAd-1-4″ src=”;cat1=latesthealthnews;cat=ekhealth;ctype=article;pos=3;sz=300×250;tile=4;ord=2.795547E7?” width=’300′ height=’250′ scrolling=”no” marginheight=”0″ marginwidth=”0″ allowtransparency=”true” frameborder=”0″> </iframe> Behavioural problems may reduce with a regular bedtime. Image from

So, are the irregular routines driving the poor behaviour or are the behavioural problems resulting in poor routines?

recent study of more than 10,000 children in the UK suggests the former. The researchers found that if a child went from having a regular bedtime schedule when a toddler (three years) to an irregular schedule when they started school (five years), their behaviour worsened over time. This study also showed that behaviour problems improved if the child went from an irregular schedule to a regular one.

If your child or teen is getting the right amount of sleep, why should it matter that they go to bed at different times?

The answer lies in the way sleep is regulated within the body. The need for sleep is a biological process and is regulated, in part, by a circadian rhythm which stems from the brain. The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock and regulates sleep and wake by producing hormones at certain times of the day, based on the cycle of light and dark, to trigger alertness or tiredness.

Most people are familiar with, and may have even experienced, jetlag. When we move quickly from one time zone to another, the circadian rhythm falls out of sync with the environmental clock or activities. This leaves us with feelings of extreme tiredness, fuzzy headedness, poor concentration, irritability and even nausea.

These same feelings can arise when the circadian is forced out of sync by our everyday activities, such as when bedtimes change night to night, or even when bed and wake times shift later on weekends. This phenomenon is termed social jetlag.

Social jetlag is often most obvious in teenagers. During puberty, the circadian rhythm shifts so that the biological cues for sleep and wake occur later than at other stages of the life cycle. This results in teenagers not wanting to go to sleep until late into the night and wanting to sleep through to late morning, early afternoon. The use of electronic devices at night will intensify this shift.

Don’t worry, social jetlag is relatively easy to fix.Image from

As a result of study, family and work or sporting commitments, many teenagers have highly irregular schedules and chronic sleep deprivation. This leaves them experiencing all the physical and mental consequences of flying across to the other side of the world.

Research shows social jetlag can affect younger children too. The problem is that, unlike jetlag which resolves after the circadian system adjusts to the new time zone, social jetlag can be ongoing.

The good news is that social jetlag is relatively easy to fix. Here are some simple tips that will help your child or teenager maintain a regular sleep routine:

  • Set a regular, non-negotiable, bedtime each night
  • Turn off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes to an hour before the child’s bedtime
  • Have a sleep preparation routine (for example, get pyjamas on, brush teeth, read a story, and so on)
  • Don’t allow your child to have any caffeinated foods or beverages at least three to four hours before bedtime
  • Keep light levels low in the bedroom.

Setting up a new sleep routine for your child can be tough and may take some time to become a habit, much like starting a new exercise program. However, healthy sleep practices are not only about getting enough and making the effort to establish a regular sleep routine will be well worth it for both you and your child.

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent source of analysis, commentary and news from the university and research sector.

Sarah Biggs is a Postdoctoral Fellow, Paediatric Sleep at Monash University.

Healthy Profits – What are they ?

Where to Now?

Broadcast: 14/09/2013 9:19:53 PM

Reporter: Fiona Breen
Simplot – Birdseye brand vegetable processor – SAME LOGIC WORKS for ELECTRICITY – Even River Produced Electricity is NOT FREE.

Review to two factories was not good. As USA owners were telling TERRY O’Brien
turn the factories around or close them.

TERRY O’BRIEN, SIMPLOT AUSTRALIA:  “… They’re quite patient investors. They’ve put a lot of money into Australia over the 18-odd years that they’ve owned it. They really enjoy having the business down here and they haven’t been as demanding for returns that perhaps a public company would be. Being private, they have their own longer-term agenda, but at the same time clearly they have to get a return that makes some sense and mostly they need a return that allows them to reinvest and keep all of our assets and factories and everything up to standard…”

See Below for full transcript ::

Australia’s vegetable industry is in crisis with the nation’s last two frozen vegetable processing factories still under threat of closure. Imported frozen vegetables are taking the place of locally-grown products in supermarket trolleys and business is suffering.

Simplot’s future in Australia depends on what the new Coalition Government does to help keep the industry alive. More than 500 factory workers and 150 farmers are waiting on a decision and Simplot has promised to get back to them by the end of this month.

Fiona Breen travelled to Bathurst in NSW and to Devonport in Tasmania to talk to those fighting to keep Australia’s food manufacturing industry alive.

FIONA BREEN, REPORTER: This small group is a rare breed. Part of a declining number of farmers growing Australia’s vegetables. Today, onions are being planted in the rich, red clay soil of Tasmania’s northwest. It’s a miracle this planting is happening at all. These farmers have been distracted.

ROBBIE TOLE, DEVONPORT GROWER: We came together probably as a request from Simplot to help put a proposal together to help them remain viable and also for us to remain viable and we’ve had a good mix of growers on the group from north of Tassie down through the northeast down here, so we’re covering a wide range of areas and crops. So it’s been really positive.

FIONA BREEN: They’ve spent more time in meeting rooms than they have in the fields, pushing themselves out of their comfort zone to work up a strategy to secure their farming future.

STEWART MCGEE, DEVONPORT GROWER: We’ve presented to the Greens, Liberal, Labor, to the Department of Economic Development, the University Centre of Food Innovation, which is a new, relatively new thing. I think they will be very helpful to us. Enterprise Connect, very widely with our State and Federal politicians.

FIONA BREEN: The farmers flew into action in June when Simplot Australia’s chief, Terry O’Brien, announced its two big frozen vegetable factories in Bathurst NSW and in Devonport, Tasmania, could be closed. A combination of a high Australian dollar, soaring production costs and cheap imports flooding the local market was hurting the bottom line.

The dollar had opened Australia’s door to global suppliers, but shut the door on Simplot’s exporting arm. A review of the two factories wasn’t good and the American owners were telling Terry O’Brien to turn the factories around or close them.

TERRY O’BRIEN, SIMPLOT AUSTRALIA: They’re quite patient investors. They’ve put a lot of money into Australia over the 18-odd years that they’ve owned it. They really enjoy having the business down here and they haven’t been as demanding for returns that perhaps a public company would be. Being private, they have their own longer-term agenda, but at the same time clearly they have to get a return that makes some sense and mostly they need a return that allows them to reinvest and keep all of our assets and factories and everything up to standard.

FIONA BREEN: Other multinational vegetable processers have already pulled out of Australia.

TERRY O’BRIEN: One of its biggest competitors, McCain’s, closed its Tasmanian operation in 2009 and set up a factory in New Zealand. Hundreds of jobs were lost. Millions of dollars left the local economy. Heinz also shifted its vegetable processing to New Zealand. At this point in time you’re talking across just about every input, probably 30 to 40 per cent more expensive in Australia than in New Zealand.

Now, clearly they have some limit to their production capability. They probably couldn’t service the whole of Australia, so ultimately there’s still a place for Australian manufacturing against them. But we really have to strive to find a way to be competitive on a parity basis with New Zealand and I think they’re the main competitor for us in the vegetable business.

FIONA BREEN: Since June, Terry O’Brien has been on his own campaign trail, criss-crossing the country to rally support to keep Simplot’s vegetable factories open. He urged the Tasmanian farmers to get organised.

TERRY O’BRIEN: We’ve had a heck of a lot going on and, I mean, I can’t get the smile off my face because I’m so surprised at the reaction we’ve had and it’s been so positive. So I suppose all I’m saying is if three quarters of what we’ve got floating around in the air at the moment came true, we’ll probably go on and we’ll be OK, and we’ll commit to staying in that plant for some time.

If we can’t get all the main inputs over the line, then it probably won’t.

(Fiona Breen in a Chiko packaging factory)

FIONA BREEN: Simplot’s campaign to keep its factories open has highlighted the potential loss of Aussie brands like Bird’s Eye and Edgell, but it’s the threat to another Simplot Aussie brand that has captured people’s attention, and it’s this – the humble Chiko roll. In its heyday, the factory here in Bathurst was making 40 million Chiko rolls a year. The numbers have dropped to 10 million but it’s still a fish and chip shop staple.

The campaign by Simplot and its farmers gained some early traction with a couple of wins, but they proved to be hollow.

(Kevin Rudd meeting farmers)

KEVIN RUDD, EX-PRIME MINISTER: What do you grow, mate?

FARMER: Peas, potatoes.

KEVIN RUDD: OK, OK, that’s good.

FIONA BREEN: An 11th hour pre-election promise from Kevin Rudd for $10 million for farmers, and an $18 million pledge from Kim Carr to upgrade the factories.

(3 September 2013 Kevin Rudd interview)

KEVIN RUDD: We believe in investing in, and co-investing with good companies like Simplot because farmers have been supplying companies like this since the Second World War, it’s a good business and we want to see the agricultural services industry grow, and grow, and grow.

FIONA BREEN: The new Liberal Government, however, was more cautious during the pre-election circus. Tony Abbott flew into Tasmania’s north a couple of times but refused to be drawn on a deal to save Simplot.

(3 September 2013, Tony Abbott interview)

TONT ABBOTT, LIBERAL LEADER: Should we form a government after Saturday, I’m very happy to sit down with Simplot. I accept that they are a very important local employer; I accept that they are very important for the future of the agricultural sector of northern Tasmania, the vegetable industry of northern Tasmania, I absolutely accept that, but the time to talk with them is calmly, rationally, after an election, not to engage in some kind of pre-election auction.

FIONA BREEN: It’s not just the new government that Terry O’Brien is waiting on.

He’s hoping workers will be prepared to sacrifice to keep the company in Australia. Terry O’Brien is counting on a Holden-type deal with factory workers, to freeze wages and create more flexible conditions.

(Fiona Breen standing outside a Simplot factory in Bathurst)

In the heat of the season when the factories here in Bathurst and in Devonport are running six or even seven days a week, Simplot says it’s paying its factory workers about $50 per hour. Its competitors in New Zealand are paying about $20 an hour.

TERRY O’BRIEN: With our labour laws to run businesses around the clock, which you have to do for short periods of the time, that does bring with it quite high penalty rates, etc.

So the unit cost of labour when you compress it into a short part of the year is a lot higher than it would be if we had it spread throughout the year, like you can in some places.

(Terry O’Brien in factory talking to workers)

Don’t you miss any of them, will you? We get complaints when they’re not in there.

FIONA BREEN: Terry O’Brien has been up-front with Simplot’s 200-strong Bathurst work force. Without major change, the factory might not make it far past the next corn harvest, due in April next year.

TERRY O’BRIEN: It’s the harder part, for sure, and it’s got alternatives offshore.

Like we could go to Thailand as well and we could go to Italy, and there’s actually a big prize for us to do that and that’s what, you know, really putting the question mark over Bathurst because there are alternatives.

FIONA BREEN: Have you been seriously thinking about it?

TERRY O’BRIEN: Absolutely. And we’ve actually worked out what the price is if we do that. But the bottom line is, as I said before, our preference is to stay in Australia and have Australian product, so our preference is to get the competitiveness of our plant close enough that we can survive rather than just cut and run.

FIONA BREEN: Devonport employs 300 people. Both factories employ generations of the same families. Many have been with Simplot for 20 years or more. Both regions also have high unemployment rates and many workers would have trouble securing new jobs.

JENNIFER DOWELL, AUSTRALIAN MANUFACTURING WORKERS UNION: Obviously they’re under a lot of stress. I think particularly at Bathurst, it’s really difficult for them because the threat of closure is more imminent for the plant at Bathurst. They were told that they may not have another corn season after this one, and this one finishes in about April of next year.

So they’re really stressed and it’s terrible for them having to come to work under such uncertainty.

FIONA BREEN: Jennifer Dowell from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union is also criss-crossing the country, visiting both Simplot work sites to talk to factory employees. She says any changes must be negotiated through the new enterprise agreement, which is due for renewal in February.

And while the union is prepared to start negotiating early, there’s little that can be fast tracked.

JENNIFER DOWELL: The issue is that at the end of the day it will be a difficult thing to try and negotiate. We have got a national agreement which covers five plants. We have spoken to workers in the plant and really before we can come to a landing on any position with respect to wage increases, we’re looking at getting a whole lot more financial information from the company and more information about what their plans for the future are, because you know, I really have a problem in talking to company about wage increases or non-wage increases with the threat of closures hanging over workers’ heads for months at a time.

FIONA BREEN: There’s pressure for Terry O’Brien to secure his deals with workers and with Government sooner rather than later. He’s due to travel to Idaho in the United States later this month to present his decision on the future of the two Australian factories. It’s now a waiting game for everyone, farmers and factory workers.

But it’s particularly difficult for people in Bathurst. The Bathurst factory, first built by the Edgell family in the 1920s, is most under threat.

TERRY O’BRIEN: Bathurst is the hardest plant to make sense of, because it’s got a very big footprint here and a lot of different products, and so ultimately we may not get Bathurst right up to the best outcome that we’d like. But provided we can get Devonport and Bathurst together to make sense for us as a category, a vegetable category, then most likely we would continue with both plants.

FIONA BREEN: The Bathurst factory manufactures 30,000 tonnes each year, including 20,000 tonnes of canned vegetables and 10,000 tonnes of frozen vegetables. 12 months ago, the company put in new robotics to pack and wrap the pallets of cans.

(Terry O’Brien talking to a worker)

TERRY O’BRIEN: And what about the big robot here, the palletiser, that’s going alright?

SIMPLOT WORKER: Yes, we had some issues with cogs breaking there, but overall we’ve now got over the issue of where the cogs are breaking. It’s come good.

TERRY O’BRIEN: You sometimes wonder how these plants ran before without these robots.

SIMPLOT WORKER: Yes, it’s doing a lot of labour.

TERRY O’BRIEN: A lot of backbreaking labour.



FIONA BREEN: Canning was the more profitable line, achieving better margins than frozen. But as imports fill the local supermarket shelves, prices and demand has dropped for canned vegetables.

Corn has become one of the cheapest canned products on the supermarket shelves and that’s not good for Simplot.

FIONA BREEN: The competitor, for example, on canned corn, is Thailand where they run two seasons of growing corn every year, so they have a lot more, a lot flatter production year than we do and of course their labour rates are a little different to Australia.

But in the main, you know, they do such huge scale out of Thailand that they can get a can of corn into the Australian market sort of almost equal to our cost.

FIONA BREEN: Each factory has its own particular set of rising utility costs. The Bathurst factory is struggling with a sharp rise in the cost of electricity.

Here in Devonport, the annual water bill has gone up more than 300 per cent to over $2 million.

Each plant uses a lot of water. In Devonport, water flows through just about every part of the factory, but none more so than the washing line, where machines work hard to get the thick, red clay soil off a load of carrots.

TERRY O’BRIEN: Our current annual bill’s around $800,000 and now they’re threatening 2.8.

FIONA BREEN: Per year?

TERRY O’BRIEN: Per year. And I can tell you have to sell a lot of green peas to make that $2 million.

FIONA BREEN: Both plants also use a lot of electricity. Each step of the freezing process takes a lot of energy. Power in NSW has gone up by more than 200 per cent.

As the threat of closure hangs over the two factories the supermarkets are still stocking their shelves and freezers. Vegetables from Thailand, China, New Zealand, and the Netherlands sit beside the local products. They look similar and they’re often cheaper.

SHOPPER 1: I suppose I just see what’s on special and what I need I just grab and off I go. Yes, I sort of don’t take time to read everything and get what I want.

SHOPPER 2: Price, more than anything. I mean, every penny counts at the moment so you’ve got to look for price more than anything.

FIONA BREEN: Many shoppers rushing in and out of the supermarket are unaware of the long-term effects of their decisions. Surveys suggesting shoppers want to buy Australian are not always reflected at the checkout.

SHOPPER 3: When I sort through the racks we see New Zealand products and other products packed here and supplied there and, yes, it’s a bit disappointing.

FIONA BREEN: It frustrates farmers.

Bathurst grower Jeff McSpedden has had to cut costs each year. He wants consumers to think more about what they’re buying.

JEFF MCSPEDDEN, BATHURST GROWER: People don’t realise that if processing goes offshore you will have to buy imported, and then depending on the dollar, if our dollar goes down there will be a real spike in food price.

FIONA BREEN: Jeff McSpedden is in a holding pattern. He’s grown corn for Simplot for 45 years. Each year his farm produces about 2,000 tonne of corn. After June’s announcement he’s had a rethink.

[Talking to Jeff McSpedden] Have you been holding off on buying any new equipment or getting ready for plantings because of this uncertainty surrounding Simplot?

JEFF MCSPEDDEN: It is. We made a decision when they made the announcement to actually run more sheep. So this year we’ve kept all our female sheep to actually increase our sheep numbers.

FIONA BREEN: Either way, a decision to close would see the McSpeddens and the handful of farmers in the Bathurst area take a big hit.

JEFF MCSPEDDEN: We don’t have a processing industry in this country and I can find someone with enough money, and that may even be in China or Asia in the Asian century, I would sell it to them and Australians will have to eat the cheaper imported product. And that’s not good for Australia because, you know, fresh fruit and vegetables is the answer to health.

FIONA BREEN: In Tasmania, farmers have been shaken into action. Simplot has asked them to cut costs and to try and get help to do that. It’s one of the first times the company and Tasmanian farmers have really come together. In the past, they’ve been at loggerheads over prices.

ROBBIE TOLE: I think times have changed and we needed to change and Simplot needed to change, and I would give them a lot of credit for the way they have now engaged growers, and I think we need to work together. I don’t think we can be fighting each other anymore. If we want to continue farming and be involved in agriculture I think we need to, as farmers, need to be involved further up the line, the line processing line.

FIONA BREEN: Their future will rely on some hefty government support to upgrade technology and equipment.

ANDREW CRAIGIE, DEVONPORT GROWER: There’s a pivot irrigator behind us. Now as that comes around onto different soil types they require different amounts of water, variable rate watering.

That technology also goes to fertiliser. Technologies within spraying where it’s not a blanket spray; it’s a targeted spray for crops. Anything that can reduce our input costs and actually give us a better yield are the things we really want to focus on.

FIONA BREEN: Food scientist Hazel MacTavish-West analyses the flavour and goodness of vegetables for businesses trying to better market their produce.

She’s worried that if Australia loses Simplot, farmers will leave the vegetable growing industry and the nation will lose the ability to feed itself.

DR HAZEL MACTAVISH-WEST, FOOD SCIENTIST: History tells us that in the past countries have gone to war and if they didn’t have a local home supply of food, they didn’t have that food. And I’d just be really nervous that such an important part of our diet in terms of nutrients and bulk, then had to come from other countries.

FIONA BREEN: Dr MacTavish-West has been commissioned by Horticulture Australia to come up with a database of health benefits vegetable producers can use to market and package their products. She’s analysed the vitamin levels in frozen vegetables and says 95 per cent of the vitamins remain during the freezing process. She’s worried that Australians don’t realise what’s at risk.

DR HAZEL MACTAVISH-WEST: We will not have the option of frozen Australian vegetables. We will have to buy imported produce. Imported produce by definition doesn’t make it bad, it just isn’t Australian and it isn’t supporting our very valuable horticultural industry.

FIONA BREEN: In the end, however, much of it will come back to the customer.

SHOPPER 4: Majority of times with all my canned goods and that, and everything else, I try to buy Australian. Goodness, they’re Chinese. So yes, so much for me buying Australian.

There is always a difficulty in living together

10 out of 10 Aristotle. I do not share my stuff.

As me old mate Aristotle wrote: “There is always a difficulty in living together, or having things in common, but especially in having common property. The partnerships of fellow-travellers are an example to the point; for they generally fall out by the way and quarrel about any trifle that turns up.”

Sound familiar, fellow-traveller?

Lotteries: Extra tax on the poor and the stupid

Date August 12, 2013 – 4:33PM 5 reading now
Comments 118
By: Tara Siegel Bernard

Wherever the lottery – America, Europe or closer to home – the simple mathematics of winning the jackpot are the same. You are very, very unlikely to hit the big one.

“Somebody is winning these things, right? It could be me.” Photo: Peter Braig

When those exceedingly lucky people come forward to claim last week’s Powerball lottery jackpot in the United States, which swelled to $US448 million ($488 million) on Wednesday, it’s hard not to think: Somebody is winning these things, right? It could be me.

This is exactly the sort of logic that, over the past year, led millions of people to spend $US5.9 billion of their hard-earned dollars on Powerball alone. Americans spent nearly $US69 billion on all lottery games in 2012, according to two lottery trade groups.

It is also precisely the kind of mental trap the Powerball people want you to fall into; they tweaked the game rules last year, doubling the price of tickets to $US2 to raise more revenue and create more eye-catching jackpots.

And the state agencies running the games advertise heavily that it could be you making off with millions of dollars.

The odds of winning, however, remain infinitesimal: Powerball players, for instance, have a 1-in-175 million chance of winning. You have roughly the same chance of getting hit by lightning on your birthday.

Even though some people may be able to intellectually grasp what that means, the Multi-State Lottery Association can predict with clocklike certainty that on a Saturday night, with a jackpot worth about $40 million, 13 million to 15 million people will buy tickets. Those ticket buyers are all thinking they have a shot of defying the odds.

That is why the lottery is called a tax on people who don’t understand maths. Lower-income people who play but don’t win are hurt the most, because they’re wasting a greater share of their income on the games. That’s also why the lottery is often called a regressive tax on the poor.

Sure, last year the games returned $US19.41 billion to the states that sponsored them, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, which represents 52 lottery groups. But that’s not why anyone plays them.

What’s the big motivation to volunteer to pay this tax? Psychologists say it has more to do with our all-too-human propensity to run with the dreamlike possibilities it creates in our minds.

“For emotionally significant events, the size of the probability simply doesn’t matter,” said Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel-prize winning psychologist. “What matters is the possibility of winning. People are excited by the image in their mind. The excitement grows with the size of the prize, but it doesn’t diminish with the size of the probability.”

A chance to dream

So ticket buyers allow themselves some momentary escapism since it costs only $US2, thinking about what they would do with all that money. And they’ll ignore all the well-known horrors and pitfalls that many lottery winners encounter, whether it’s a severe depression or blowing through all of the money in a form of self-sabotage that ends with them living in a trailer down by the river. This phenomenon of feeling anxious and undeserving, among other things, is what some experts call “sudden wealth syndrome”. It may afflict people who benefit from all sorts of success or windfall, whether from the sale of a valuable business, signing an NFL contract or inheriting a huge sum from a maiden aunt.

“Money that is much more than you’re used to sounds unlimited,” said Susan Bradley, a financial planner and founder of the Sudden Money Institute, who has worked with several lottery winners. “If you don’t have someone to help you, yes, you can go through extraordinarily large amounts of money, and, even worse, you can be in debt. It can really happen.”

Plugging some numbers into this dream provides some perspective. Winners wanting to be able to safely spend $US1 million a year for 55 years (adjusted for inflation) would need about $US36 million, after taxes, to invest, according to calculations by Northern Trust. (Those numbers also factor in annual taxes and investment expenses.) They would need to set aside nearly $US15 million in high-quality bonds to know that they would always have 15 years of spending in stable investments. To cover the remaining 40 years, they would need to put a further $US21 million into a diversified stock portfolio.

So in thinking about it, it’s not even worth playing unless the jackpot is more than $US75 million, because the state and federal government take about half in taxes.

Part of that fantasy is that the winner would start buying fast cars and big homes, not to mention stuff for all of their family members along with their children’s education. It’s easy to see how they could run through the money, as hard as that may seem to believe with $US36 million in hand. Of course, if you want to live even larger – more homes, more cars, more ex-spouses, servants, accountants, lawyers, other lawyers to watch the lawyers – you’ll need far more. Probably more like $US100 million, after taxes.

“If they make it to the fifth year with enough money to securely handle their life going forward and all of their relationships are intact, they are probably going to make it long term,” Bradley said.

So let’s get back to the probability of all of this ever even happening.

Buying more tickets improves your odds, but not by much. So if you want the fantasy, just buy one. Buying more doesn’t make the fantasy any richer.

It would take centuries of ticket-buying before you even make a dent. If you purchased roughly 126,000 tickets a month for the next 80 years, for example, you could improve your odds to 50 per cent, explained Gary A. Lorden, emeritus professor of math at California Institute of Technology (who, for the record, has bought a single ticket three times over the past decade; he split the last one with his grandson).

“The difference is like moving from a big house to a small house to make it less likely a meteor will strike your roof,” he said.

Good luck with that.

New York Times

10 reasons the RU486 listing is so important

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek in her office at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 21 June 2012.<br /><br />
Photo: Alex EllinghausenHealth Minister Tanya Plibersek. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax

Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek announced on Sunday that mifepristone and misoprostol – used in combination to terminate a pregnancy of up to seven weeks’ gestation would be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Meaning that the $800 women were currently paying for access to the RU486 pill would drop to less than $37 next month.

Unsurprisingly a progressive move that enables women to have greater control over their bodies has been met with anger and fiery condemnation. Pro-life supporters have labelled the move an “abuse of power”.

To mark the occasion may we present ten reasons we are grateful for RU486 (and Tanya Plibersek);

  1. No matter how many times you hear it described as ‘controversial abortion drug RU486.’ It’s not unusual or controversial. In fact it’s safely used by millions of women in more than 40 countries who have had access to it for several years.
  2. Taking  RU486 is a safer, less invasive procedure than the alternatives not just because it can be performed much earlier than surgical abortions, but because it can be done safely in the privacy of a woman’s home without surgical intervention.
  3. Because women do not use abortions as contraception. And the increased availability of the drug may finally shut down all of the misguided people that peddle that misnomer as truth. An abortion is not a decision women take lightly. For many it can be heartbreaking. Those that refuse to accept this might like to look at the abortion rate in France – they’ve had access to RU486 since 1989 with no discernible change to the abortion rate.
  4. The expansion of access to medical terminations is particularly important to women living in rural and regional Australia. These women have had to travel long distances and be away from family and friends to undergo surgery or not had the option of surgery at all.
  5. Because it’s low cost means all women, equally, will have the right to choose.
  6. Hopefully its introduction will mean an end to the bizarre fear-mongering around the drug. As Clementine Ford said last year, “The pro-birth agenda likes to couch RU486 in deceptive terms, continuing to trot out myths about the dangers of it regularly. RU486 is dangerous! It’s a medical bogey monster waiting to ruin the lives of unsuspecting women – perhaps even end them! Doctors are force-feeding abortions to women so they can line their gold plated Satanic altars with more gold! In fact, RU486 is five times LESS likely to result in death than Viagra, and 13 times less likely to result in death than actually having a baby. Kind of puts things in perspective – but hey, we can’t have anyone interfering with an old man’s right to an erection.”
  7. Because we live in a world where , even in the West, the control women have over their bodies is under such threat that a Texas Senator stood for over 13 hours  last week to stop an anti-abortion bill. It’s with a sense of relief that Australia seems to be taking steps in the opposite direction.
  8. I offer simply this quote from Tanya Plibersek, “by offering this different option at a very difficult time in a woman’s life, I hope that we are giving more choice in what are often extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”
  9. We all know Tony Abbott has an uncomfortable relationship with a woman’s right to choose.  Back when he was health minister he tried to keep ministerial control of the importation of RU486. It took a conscience vote of the parliament in 2006 to put the say in the hands of the Therapeutic Drugs Administration. It’s seems timely to have made this progress so close to an election that may make him the most powerful politician in the country.
  10. There were some alarming rumblings around abortion law in NSW this past weekend. A controversial bill giving legal rights to an unborn child was said to be supported by the O’Farrell government under a deal with Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile. Nile claimed the government had promised to pass ”Zoe’s Law”, which creates a separate criminal offence for causing harm to or the destruction of a foetus and stemmed from the deaths of unborn children in driving accidents. Nile said this was in exchange for his support for crucial state budget legislation to privatise Newcastle Port. Though O’Farrell said yesterday this was untrue, murky deals that involve the rights of unborn children ring alarm bells. RU486 is a step forward but it does not mean the fight is over.
  11. Because as former Prime Minister Julia Gillard said at the AMA ahead of the announcement that RU486 would be added to the PBS.  “Women must have the right to health care and women must have the right to choose.”

The revised PBS listings take effect in August. Amen.

How Web mail providers leave door open for NSA surveillance

How Web mail providers leave door open for NSA surveillance

Protecting users’ e-mail privacy from the National Security Agency and other intelligence services means using encryption. But with the exception of Google, few companies do everything they can.

Declan McCullagh

June 21, 2013 5:30 AM PDT

One of Google's massive data centers. The company supports e-mail encryption whenever it can.One of Google’s massive data centers. The company supports e-mail encryption whenever it can.

(Credit: Google/Connie Zhou)

Billions of supposedly private e-mail messages a day flow through unsecured links, where they can be snared in digital dragnets operated by the National Security Agency and other intelligence services.

Recent revelations about NSA surveillance — including a top-secret document discussing “collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past” — have highlighted the ease with which government eavesdroppers can exploit the Internet’s infrastructure. Another classified document, which the Guardian published Thursday, mentions network-based surveillance of Hotmail servers.

Over the last decade or so, Web mail providers began to turn on encryption to armor the connections between users’ computers and Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and other services. That form of protection against surveillance, which typically appears in a Web browser as an “https” connection accompanied by a padlock image, is viewed as generally secure and is used by banks as well. Google has offered it since 2004, and Yahoo finally followed suit this year.

Gmail supports server-to-server email encryption, but many other companies don’t. Click for larger image.

(Credit: Ashkan Soltani)

But during the next step, when those e-mail messages are transferred from one company’s servers to another’s, they’re rarely encrypted. An e-mail message that a Facebook user addresses to a Yahoo Mail user, for instance, will be delivered in an unencrypted form through a server-to-server connection that provides no protection against surveillance.

“The incentives aren’t really there for companies to try to implement it,” says Ashkan Soltani, an independent security consultant who has highlighted some of these security shortcomings on Twitter. That’s the case even though, he says, enabling encryption is “a really easy thing to do.”

A survey of top mail providers shows that Google is alone in using strong encryption, known as SMTP-TLS, to fully armor e-mail connections for its users, as long as the other company’s server is willing to encrypt as well. SMTP-TLS also protects employee e-mail at security-conscious companies, large law firms, and sensitive government agencies including the NSA, the White House, and the Department of Homeland Security. (You can check on your own provider by typing in your e-mail address at

“My sense is that Google is the one large company that has demonstrated it cares about crypto. We think [encryption] should obviously be supported by all these mail servers.”
–Dan Auerbach, staff technologist, EFF

Unfortunately, those are the exceptions. Facebook, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and AOL Mail do not accept incoming e-mail in SMTP-TLS encrypted form, meaning hundreds of millions of users’ private communications are vulnerable to monitoring. Both the sending and receiving servers must have encryption turned on for a secure connection to happen.

“My sense is that Google is the one large company that has demonstrated it cares about crypto,” says Dan Auerbach, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. “We think [encryption] should obviously be supported by all these mail servers.”

One reason why so many mail providers don’t encrypt server-to-server mail links using SMTP-TLS is that, unlike browser encryption, this security precaution would be invisible to users. And the fat pipes that backbone providers provide have historically been viewed as safe. (SMTP-TLS stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol Transport Layer Security. TLS was published as an Internet protocol in 1999.)

Adam Langley, a software engineer at Google, told CNET that “we do support TLS” for both inbound and outbound exchanges between mail servers. But, diplomatically, he declined to speculate on why many other companies do not. The company even offers its Google Apps users the high security choice of rejecting non-encrypted connections.

A Facebook spokesman said: “Facebook currently supports user-to-server encryption, but does not currently support server-to-server encryption as we have not seen wide adoption of the protocol. We are open to adoption to this or other protocols in the future as they are used by more services.” A Yahoo representative said: “At Yahoo, we invest heavily in the security of our users and we’re continually looking to enhance the security capabilities of our products.” AOL did not respond to queries.

The Obama administration, a newly leaked directive from Attorney General Eric Holder shows, has authorized the NSA to vacuum up domestic and international e-mail, though American citizens aren't supposed to be "targeted."The Obama administration, a newly leaked directive from Attorney General Eric Holder shows, has authorized the NSA to vacuum up domestic and international e-mail, though American citizens aren’t supposed to be “targeted.”

The potential privacy risks of server-to-server e-mail deliveries have been thrown into sharp relief by surveillance-related disclosures over the last two weeks from Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, and U.S. government officials. Snowden said in a Guardian online chat this week that e-mail and other Internet communications inside the United States are “ingested” by the intelligence agency’s immense collection apparatus and that “Americans’ communications are collected and viewed on a daily basis on the certification of an analyst rather than a warrant.”

Web companies have offered blanket denials of allegations that they provided NSA eavesdroppers with “direct access” to their servers, and Google even challenged the U.S. government this week before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in a bid to clear its name.

A leaked NSA slide talking about “upstream” data collection from “fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past” suggests that those companies are telling the truth: the NSA instead is tapping into Internet backbone links operated by companies such as AT&T, CenturyLink, XO Communications, Verizon, and Level 3 Communications — and using that passive access to vacuum up unencrypted communications. Additional evidence comes from the classified directives released Thursday that discuss surveillance procedures and were signed by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Documents that came to light in 2006 in a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation offer insight into the spy agency’s relationship with Tier 1 Internet providers. Mark Klein, who worked as an AT&T technician for over 22 years, disclosed (PDF) that he witnessed domestic voice and Internet traffic being surreptitiously “diverted” through a “splitter cabinet” to secure room 641A in one of the company’s San Francisco facilities. The room was accessible only to NSA-cleared technicians.

The New York Times revealed in 2009 that a secret NSA database, code-named PINWALE, archived foreign and domestic e-mail messages that analysts could search through “without warrants” as long as Americans’ correspondence did not amount to more than 30 percent of any database search. PINWALE is the the NSA’s main database for intercepted communications, while metadata is stored in a separate database called MAUI, and initial sorting is performed by a program called XKEYSCORE, according to the recent book “Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry.”

Other mail providers that do not appear to permit SMTP-TLS links for e-mail delivery include AT&T, Earthlink, and Comcast. Apple, which did not respond to a request for comment, does not appear to support SMTP-TLS for server-to-server iCloud e-mail, though it does for user-to-server links. and Hushmail do support SMTP-TLS for automatic encryption of incoming mail. Oddly, the FBI does not for its own employees’ incoming e-mail.

Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple protect their own internal correspondence more carefully than they do their users’ communications: their separate employee mail servers support incoming encrypted messages.

A Microsoft representative said the company does not support server-to-server SMTP-TLS for consumer products including and (Microsoft finished switching users from Hotmail to Outlook last month.)

Microsoft does enable encryption in some other situations. Those include Exchange ActiveSync, or when users choose the “SMTP send” option from, which was announced last month. SMTP send allows you to log in to, but actually send the message using your Yahoo Mail or Gmail account.

In addition, Microsoft enables server-to-server encryption for paying customers, including those using Office 365. The Department of Homeland Security, which has a 10-year relationship with Microsoft for technology services, has outsourced its mail to the server, which does enable SMTP-TLS.

Even if a company don’t support SMTP-TLS encryption between servers, other technologies exist to make data unreadable to government snoops. One is called S/MIME, but it’s hardly popular. End-to-end encryption in the form of PGP or GnuPG is another choice. Those are viewed as some of the most secure options, but are also the most difficult to use.

“We don’t know the extent to which the NSA or other intelligence agencies are reading people’s mail,” says Auerbach, EFF’s staff technologist. “Companies not supporting encryption for the sending of e-mail leaves the door wide open for these agencies to do it, were they inclined to do so.”

Disclaimer: McCullagh is married to a Google employee not involved with this issue.

Last updated at 9:15 a.m. PT with additional details

June 2013 – The changing face of Australian immigration

The changing face of Australian immigration


The changing face of Australia was on display this week after a new report listed India and China as providing more permanent migrants to Australia than the UK. AAP/David Crosling

The face of Australia is changing – and it starts at our borders.

Whereas Australia’s migrant population once hailed largely from a European background – think of the “Ten Pound Pom” in the post-World War Two era – a decisive shift towards parts of Asia to fill skills gaps in our workforce has emerged.

In 2011-12, India (29,018) and China (25,509) were ahead of Australia’s traditional source country for permanent migrants, the United Kingdom, which dropped to fourth on the list with 25,274 migrants.

Immigration is also now geared to the needs of the Australian labour market. 68% of all arrivals now come under the skilled migrant category of the permanent immigration program.

Australia remains a cosmopolitan nation, truly the world in one country. But the new immigration figures continue over a decade or so long trend: Australia has now changed from a settler immigration county to one where guest workers are arriving in large and increasing numbers.

Facts and figures

A government report released this week highlighted the pace and changing ethnic composition of contemporary Australian immigration.

The 2011-12 permanent migrant intake of 184,998 – or just over 200,000 when the humanitarian (refugee) intake is added – is one of the largest on record.

New Zealanders remained the biggest group of arrivals to Australia in 2011-12, with nearly 45,000 crossing the ditch. However, they can come to Australia at will – and are thus not counted under the migration program – because of the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement.

Temporary migrant numbers

However, the impact of immigration is significantly greater when the temporary immigration program is also considered. India and China also fill the top two places in the temporary migration program.

In the past year temporary immigrants (679,333) outnumbered permanent immigrants (201,850) by a ratio of around three to one. Some 253,047 of these were foreign students, with working holiday makers (222,922) and temporary long stay business visas (125,070), mostly on 457 visas, taking up most of the other temporary migrant places.

The dramatic increase of temporary immigrant arrivals in the past decade is the biggest change in over six decades of Australian immigration policy.

As one of the “big four” traditional settler immigration nations (along with the UK, Canada and New Zealand), Australia previously linked immigration policy and immigrants to nation-building and citizenship.

The guest worker debate

It is amazing that this dramatic change to Australian immigration policy has slipped under the radar. There has been little debate about temporary immigration until the past few years when concerns about the exploitation of temporary skilled immigrants on 457 visas have been prominent in the media.

Aside from New Zealanders, Indians now make up the largest number of permanent migrants to Australia. AAP/David Crosling

It seems that the disproportionate anxiety about “boat people”, driven in part by the bi-partisan political opportunism to be gained when playing the “foreign worker” card (as prime minister Julia Gillard did infamously at her Rooty Hill speech earlier this year), has stolen the oxygen from the guest workers immigration debate.

The “advantage” of guest workers is that when their labour is no longer needed – owing to the structural change or cyclical decline of the Australian economy that eliminated their job – they will go home or somewhere else in their journey as global workers.

The evidence from other countries is not good in this regard. The Turkish gastarbeiter or guest workers who arrived in Germany in the 1960s and 1970s are still there, with their children and grandchildren. Temporary workers have a tendency to want to stay. France tried to pay temporary immigrants to return to Africa a decade ago but it didn’t work.

But temporary immigrants do make good permanent immigrants. In Australia many temporary immigrants transform into permanent immigrants. Nearly half (42.9%) of places in the 2011-12 migration program went to those already in Australia under a temporary visa.

This makes sense: those who have experience living, working and or studying in Australia are the very people we should take in because their prospects of successful settlement are strong.