Are You Financially Blessed?

2019 kicked off with welcome headlines about a crackdown on the Australian finance industry. Well, not exactly a crackdown. Just the introduction of new education requirements and a revamped code of ethics.

Damn it.

This quote from 62-year-old financial adviser Alan Jarrot in a Sydney Morning Herald report sums it up perfectly:

“Cowboys will find a way around the rules anyway and often it’s the most educated who break the rules. So they’re punishing the majority to try and catch the minority.”

The changes are tipped to wipe out nearly a third of Australia’s financial planners, many of whom have invaluable industry experience and ethical track records.

While tertiary qualifications are worth something, nothing beats on the job experience that often teaches you things that you will never find in a university curriculum.

Imagine how progressive Australian politics would become if we replaced self-serving, institutionalised career politicians with ‘real world’ men and women with diverse work and life experience?

Oz Scammers Still Sitting Pretty

Jarrot’s comment naturally reminded me of minority cowboys like banned financial planner David Orth, his elusive ATP & Audrn mates (and the rest), all sitting pretty in their luxury homes after scamming millions from unsuspecting investors.  And getting away with it. 

To be fair, ASIC has banned Orth from the finance game for five years and slapped him with a $400,000 fine. Chicken feed. And he gets to keep all of his ill-gotten gains.

Since writing about my experiences, I have been contacted by various people who have shed welcome light onto the shady Orth empire. (Read the stories here.)

Timely Tip-Off

In late 2018, I received further information from a successful trader and finance educator Jake Schroeder.* He confirmed my long-held suspicions that Real Wealth and The ATP were devout bed-buddies at the time of my ensnarement.

Jake crossed paths with David Orth at Forex and perceived him as a ‘good’ trader. The kind of trader prospective clients wish for but are hard to find. Unfortunately, Jake was burnt by brokerage group GTL Tradeup which folded in September 2013 after the owner Mian Mehmood ran off with all the money. An all too common scenario in Australia.

How do ‘Good’ Traders Turn Bad?

Following the GTL collapse, Jake collaborated with both David Orth and Jade Capital to get a new license, only to discover both parties were ‘a lot of trouble.’ He also knew the original owner of Real Wealth, who lived to regret selling his financial planning business to Orth – not to mention handing over his client base.

In Jake Shroeder’s words:

“The $400k fine would be a snip to Orth. There are many other stories around him, but he is definitely a crook who will scam everyone out of money where he can. The guys at ATP wanted me to trade for them, as their robots were losing money, but I just ran a mile. David was the licensee.
 
How it all started was David was a trader for Hometrader, a listed company (that eventually went bust). He was a very good trader and moved from that into Forex trading. I’m not sure why he ever moved into being a scammer, because he was a good trader when I knew him. But for whatever reason, he ran auto-robots on Forex, which made incredible money for the first 6 months and then blew up.

He knew it was happening, but used to keep selling it anyway. You see, in forex trading, you can make millions in spread rebates from the broker; so if you have a massive account (using other people’s money) you can make a pile whether the robot makes money or not. You just make a pile on rebates.

Orth and his brother made a small fortune just on rebates -the more frequently you trade, the more you make, but that is extremely high risk.  From there, the schemes became even more elaborate once he owned an Australian Financial Service Licence (AFSL).  He made money licensing that out to other (dodgy) institutional traders who fleeced people, by charging them licensing fees. The ATP was one such company, but there were dozens of others.”

In the US It’s Fraud – In Oz It’s OK?

Jake also revealed that Orth owned a company called Teach Me To Trade, licensed through his own AFSL company. He fleeced millions from unsuspecting customers and asked Jake to trade when his autobots lost loads of money. When Jake listened in to a webinar and heard Orth promise clients 100% return in 6 months, it left him bewildered.

“Having grown up as a trader in London, if we achieved over 20% in a year, we’d be over the moon.”

Interesting to learn that self-proclaimed expert investors of an American based Teach Me To Trade company were indicted on federal fraud charges in 2008. Here in Australia, fraudsters seem to move freely from one scam to the next. If they’re really unlucky, ASIC will slap them with a ban and chicken feed fine.

Needless to say, Jake has long since parted company with Orth. His parting words summed up the sorry state of white-collar crime in Australia:

“For every David Orth, there is another around the corner.”

 And the Government’s well-meaning new education requirements and code of ethics won’t stop them.

Hark – The Finance Archangel Sings?

Are You Financially Blessed?

On a lighter note, it turns out that David Orth is a Mormon. Yes! A Mormon.

As he sits out his ASIC ban, smugly guarding his flock of Gold Coast investment properties, perhaps he could fast-talk his way into the hit Broadway musical The Book of Mormon – as the Archangel of Finance. The Great Redeemer? The Boy Who Cried Wolf of Wall Street?

Mind you, when it comes to dodgy monied folk, there are a lot worse out there than David Orth. One of Australia’s ex-richest men who managed to keep his secret world secret, springs to mind.

But that’s another story.

With Compliments, Linda Summer, Scribe @ Lost For Words

*Real name not used

Australian Spirit Soars! Part 2

Photo courtesy K Bloomfield

July 2018. The motley troop of Australian Spirit artists and veterans reconvened at the Gosford RSL to forge ahead with plans for the November 10 family fun day event.

My, how Leasha Craig’s dream had grown. Loads of free entertainment, from jousting and snake wrangling to re-enactments and tank rides. Almost every Central Coast veteran and front line service organisation in one place. Unheard of!

And all funds raised would be donated to Integra Service Dogs Australia to provide trained ‘canine guardians’ to recovering local veterans.

For a moment, my former ‘idiot box’ life kicked in. I felt as though I was in an episode of ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ – the 1960’s classic TV series that followed the missions of an International Rescue Team.

Not that the Australian Spirit committee was a bunch of puppets – but it was beginning to feel like a rescue team for spiraling veterans and first responders.

How rewarding to be involved in such a worthy cause with great people who cared.

 

Australian Spirit Employment Initiative

The Australian Spirit event also triggered an unwitting parallel project – the Australian Spirit Employment Initiative (ASEI). Designed to connect prospective Central Coast employers, training organisations and funding bodies with veterans in transition from military to civilian life. No mean feat.

News travels fast on the coast. The ASEI concept found its way to ex Australian Defence Force (ADF) serviceman, Peter Talbot and linked him to Australian Spirit founder Leasha Craig. A formidable duo. The self-employed Instructor/Consultant with Remote and Local First Aid  provides specialised employment assistance for both serving members considering leaving the defence force or have had that decision made for them through a medical discharge.

 

Peter Talbot

Leasha invited Peter to our July meeting as guest speaker. Newcastle-based ex ADF serviceman Shane Armstrong also graced us with his presence after being lassoed in as a potential event speaker.

Both Peter and Shane shared concerns about medically discharged ADF members whose transitional journeys were at higher risk of spiraling into uncharted minefields. Without the right support, dealing with mental and/or physical injuries incurred during service and the potential limitations placed on their finely-honed skill sets can be a challenging, lonely and sometimes fatal road.

Yes, the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) has a range of employment, training and health schemes in place. But from what I have been learning, they are often convoluted processes requiring transitioning veterans to jump through many unnecessary, often frustrating hoops. Some determinations have dragged on for up to 200 weeks, while veteran gold cards have been issued to dead veterans the day after their preventable deaths by suicide.

Then there’s the duplicated processes and all too common problem of government agencies not communicating with each other. Inadequately trained and/or under resourced, stressed out public servants who fail to understand the often challenging circumstances of the human beings behind the names on the forms they shuffle around on a daily basis. (I’ve been there. Seen it happen in a police agency.) So the list goes on. Little wonder that of the 5000 people who leave the ADF every year, only one in ten seek help from the DVA.

Things have allegedly been improving over the past 18  months since the DVA was taken to court. If that’s what it takes. Here’s to better days ahead and way more respect for our transitioning veterans.

Alarm Bells

Peter’s engaging presentation hit the ground running. 80 Australian veterans died by suicide in the past 12 months. Alarming news. Why had so many flown under the radar and crashed, I quietly pondered. He also spoke about the uniform that hangs in his cupboard. The uniform that will never be worn again because of his medical discharge from the ADF. oath

On the flip side, Peter also dared us to dream and take the Australian Spirit Employment Initiative all the way to Federal Parliament. (Mission since accomplished by Leasha and Peter.)

The Central Coast has one of the largest veteran populations in NSW and deserve first class assistance in return for their selfless service to the country.  So why not create a new, streamlined working model?

Here’s to a new, ambitious ‘dream-in-progress.’

Core Challenges

August 2018. Time to prepare a media-kit for the Australian Spirit event. Being an ex-media ‘casualty’ largely due to undiagnosed post traumatic dtress (in retrospect), it had been a long time between comprehensive media releases. But I gave it my best shot.

Having scant knowledge about the defence force, yet highly aware that ‘family fun days’ are not considered newsworthy (even though Australian Spirit represented an uniquely honourable cause), I suggested that Peter Talbot write a few paragraphs about the core challenges facing our transitioning military folk. The written word tends to pack a far more powerful punch when it comes from the heart of someone who has been there.

Oath to Serve

You are welcome to read Peter’s compelling contribution in its entirety here. For the moment, I would like to share some thoughts about the oath which is undertaken by incoming ADF recruits.

In Peter’s words:

‘Upon enlistment into the Australian Defence Force our men and women undertake an oath to serve the Commonwealth of Australia to preserve and defend our nation’s freedom. The oath is best summed up by Brigadier “wary” George Mansford who said:

“The oath to serve your country does not entitle you to the luxuries enjoyed by society. On the contrary it implies hardship, loyalty and devotion to duty regardless of rank”.

This is what our men and women who serve, live their lives by. This oath does not end upon discharging from the ADF, particularly for those who have sustained injuries through their service and are medically discharged.’

I questioned why the oath doesn’t end upon discharge, particularly for the medically discharged men and women. Peter explained that the uniform that hangs in his cupboard was worn by the man he respects more than anyone else.

“I am so proud of that bloke who loved his family and freedom enough to take the oath to serve,” said Peter. “I am still that same man and my oath will never end. Wary George summed up what that oath means to me and I am one of many who believe that and take honor and pride in fulfilling my oath for those who follow my generation in standing on the altar of freedom.

Our job now is to ensure when their time comes to hang up their uniform, they can slip on their new work clothes and enjoy every luxury in our beautiful country with their families. That’s what fulfilling my oath brings to me and my family.”

Perhaps it’s time for Australian politicians to undertake an oath to those who serve our country. Particularly the men and women they send to war or inherently dangerous ‘peace-keeping’ missions. An oath to ensure that injured veterans receive unfettered support and access to effective health and employment pathways during their recovery and transition phases. If anyone deserves entitlement to ‘society’s luxuries’, ’tis these courageous warrior souls and the grieving families of ADF warriors so tragically lost to suicide.

Which brings me to the most troubling aspect of Peter’s contribution:

‘In the calendar year of 2017, 80 ex Australian Defence Force members took their own lives, unable to find the freedom and peace so expensively earned by their service.’

What Happened to the Lucky Country?

Good Medicine on location

I must confess that after Peter’s presentation at the July meeting, it felt like the 80 veterans who died by suicide, followed me home.

I also found myself catapulted back to late 2014, Adelaide, South Australia. Immersed in a short film scriptwriting course, I planned to write a comedy for my script assignment. As fate would have it, a random news report about ‘unprecedented numbers of men dying by suicide’ changed my fledgling cinematic aspirations.

Bamboozled by this terrible news, I questioned what was driving so many men to an untimely grave by their own hand. One suicide affects so many people – partners, kids, parents, family, friends – an avalanche of collective grief. Further research revealed the shocking fact that almost seven Australians were taking their lives every day. What the hell? Last time I looked, Australia was the lucky country.

‘Little Bird’ by Artist
Sharon Bosmoore

Unable to fathom why so many people felt trapped in dark, desperate, fatalistic tunnels, I wrote, produced and directed Good Medicine, a short film about a suicidal man in search of solace and healing. Inspired by an indigenous medicine woman called Little Bird.

Four years later, the toll has risen. Almost eight Australians die by suicide every day. Lifeline persistently headlined this horror story as a ‘national emergency’ and eventually received additional funding.

However, apart from a few token trials of a successful European suicide prevention model, the government continues to throw money at a mental health system which continues to fail us.

High Price To Pay

November 1, I published a blog asking why 80 veterans had taken their own lives. Later that week I learned that the toll was 85. This number was confirmed by the straight-shooting NSW RSL President James Brown on Channel 10’s The Project. He also advocated funding for suicide prevention training in all RSL organisations. Good call.

By November 10, at the Australian Spirit event, Peter Talbot mentioned the suicide toll had risen to 87. I certainly didn’t recall hearing this on the 6 o’clock news and wasn’t likely to. Having spent seven years in the public service, I knew all about sanitised information processes. Suicide stories ain’t pretty and don’t reflect well on governments.

Senate Inquiry Constant Battle: Suicide By Veterans

I consequently Googled ADF suicide and learned that in September 2016, the Federal Senate referred the veteran suicide ‘matter’ to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee. A subsequent 207 page report entitled: The Constant Battle: Suicide By Veterans was tabled on 15 August 2017. (Read the full report here)

I also perused an insightful ABC news story about a government report released in April 2018 about how the ADF impacts the lives of military personnel. It reveals that the vast majority of former veterans (84 per cent) are ‘either working, studying or engaging in some other meaningful activity’ (whatever that means).

But what about the remaining 16% of veterans who are not working, studying or engaging in some other meaningful activity? The ones that didn’t have the resilience to soldier on through no fault of their own? The report also stated that nearly half (46 per cent) of service men and women who left the defence force experienced a mental disorder within five years.  Read the full ABC News article here.

The ADF top brass certainly has work to do.

Mental Health is Key to Recovery

As Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex so rightly said during his inspiring visit to the Australian where the indomitable Invictus Spirit was well and truly lit:

When you understand your vulnerability, you can become strong. Mental Health is the real key to recovery.”

Prince Harry with an Integra Services dog. Courtesy ISDA

While I have yet to research the types of therapies on offer from government mental health services, the last time I looked it was still largely driven by long term use of psychotropic drugs combined with talk therapy. Sadly, this often leads to living life with a mental disability instead of recovering and embracing life again.

An increasing number of psychotropic and opioid drug addiction stories are crossing my path. If you or someone you love is struggling with the effects of long-term medication, you may find solace and strength from:

I have also been informed that the Australian government is working hard to outlaw natural, holistic therapies. If this rings true, our lucky country will continue to regress.  We need a progressive mental health system that enables us to make fully informed choices about our pathways to wellness.

That way, those of us who are happy to take medication can continue to do so while those of us who believe there are safer and healthier avenues to pursue, will be pointed in the right direction to do so.

In closing, the 2018 veteran suicide toll has allegedly reduced significantly. 18 deaths. Preventable deaths. In my book, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel when you know where to look.

Australian Spirit’s Happy News

On happier note, the Australian Spirit project and book sales have raised approximately $9000 (exact amount TBA) to donate to Integra Service Dogs Australia. This money will cover the training costs of two dogs for Central Coast veterans.

Copies of the Australian Spirit commemorative book are available to purchase from australian-spirit.com, with all proceeds to Integra Service Dogs.

Huge congratulations to Leasha Craig and all involved. It has been a privilege to have been part of this journey.

With compliments, Linda Summer, Scribe @ Lost For Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Spirit Soars! Part 1

Sculptor, Leasha Craig

September 2017. I wandered into an ambitious dream-in-progress led by renowned Central Coast sculptor and Australian Spirit founder, Leasha Craig.

Heading into the fourth and final year of her acclaimed Australian Spirit visual art and poetry project, Leasha lassoed an unlikely mix of local artists and top guns from a legion of veteran organisations to stage a colossal grand finale event to honour our military men and women, their families and the Armistice centenary.

The event was actually a dream within a dream. Originally sparked several years earlier by a deeply resonant recital of Jim Brown’s poem The ANZAC on the Wall at an ANZAC Day memorial service. The powerful words inspired Leasha to initiate Australian Spirit – a powerful community collaboration designed to commemorate the ANZAC and WW1 Centenaries and all who have served, and continue to serve, our magnificent country.

Despite initial resistance from the veteran community, Leasha gradually won the hearts and confidence of over 70 Central Coast veterans who collaborated with local artists, poets and biographers to tell their engaging stories through compelling works of visual art and poetry – many for the first time.

A multitude of long nights, seriously burned candles and successful exhibitions later, the complete works from this extraordinary collaboration are now forever bound in the stunning Australian Spirit commemorative book. A collector’s item in the making. Congratulations to all involved. (All proceeds from book sales are donated to Integra Service Dogs Australia to cover training costs of ‘canine guardians’ for recovering Central Coast veterans. A most worthy cause.)

Leasha’s persistent efforts also earned her a 2018 Australia Day community award while her disparaging naysayers slunk away to the murky shadows of the Land of Humble Pie.

Australian Spirit Speaks Volumes

Being a ‘Six O’clock News TV War’ chickadee who previously found the whole war shebang too traumatic to digest at the best of times, the Australian Spirit project changed all of that. Or have I finally grown up? Whichever way, I am now able to read war stories without feeling traumatised, shocked, furious, sad or disturbed. That’s huge for me!

Prior One 2007-2017

One of the Australian Spirit book’s most extreme recollections belongs to Afghanistan veteran Chad Elliot.

A Veteran at 25‘ was penned by Peter Mace while the accompanying, evocative masterpiece Prior One 2007-2017 was sculpted by Leasha Craig.

This chilling passage made me ponder how some soldiers were able to go back for more:

‘A bullet through his groin that blew half his arse away,
Still held onto his weapon, only just.
As his mates sought to protect him, and to stem the flow of blood.
With the bullets striking hard into the dust,
He lay there with a broken leg, shrapnel in his gut.
With the temperature touching fifty five.
A prior one, he heard them say through the racket and the pain.
The code he knew, “Unlikely to survive.”‘

This excerpt from Chad Elliot’s Australian Spirit testimony also speaks volumes:

“I and as I could imagine most veterans, would be quite unsure, nervous and reserved about opening up to not only tell but have a piece of artwork made to reflect me. Since having this done it has given me a chance to open up, tell my story for the public to see, hear and understand what I and many men and women have experienced having served in war, peacetime and since returning to civilian life.”

Testimony

I had to read the opening stanza of ‘Dad’s Army Days’ several times because I had never heard of a war being sparked by a ‘failure of diplomacy’. All that death, horror, carnage and destruction because of a failure of diplomacy? (Veteran, Scott Driscoll, Poet, David Brasted, Artist, Terri Brander):

Landed safely on Canaan’s side.
So, sir
why do we go to War?
He takes his time…
Thirty-Two years a soldier
rose rapidly
to Regimental Sergeant-Major
“Well,” he says
down the phone
“it’s a failure of diplomacy.”‘

I always thought that wars were triggered by political egomaniacs – experts at finding lame excuses to test out their latest cache of billion-dollar military toys. Perhaps it’s time for politicians the world over to attend a mandatory ‘International Diplomacy Bootcamp’ before diving into the political cauldron and igniting another war.

Better still, why don’t they just send themselves next time? I know of many returned servicemen and women who would excel in their new roles of loyal, ‘parliamentary seat warmers,’ and ‘fly-in fly-out war-zone media-op VIPs’ in their absence.

Lastly, ‘I Have My Life Back‘ by David Sabin (Artist Kathryn Taunton) expresses the frustrating journey that begins for many returned veterans in genuine need of support to recover from physical and mental injuries incurred during service.

Veteran Luke Mahalm’s story made me wonder why the ADF top brass has failed to personally ensure that medically discharged veterans, in particular, have a sure-fire safety net to catch them if they fall. The following passage is ‘government speak.’ There are surely simpler ways to convey political negligence.

Luke and Sophie

‘The Commonwealth of Australia does not accept any responsibility or liability connected to material in the Entitlement Self-Assessment or any reliance upon it whether or not caused by the negligence of the Commonwealth or its agents.’

Truth About War

Australian Spirit is, quite simply, dynamite. You just never know what’s going to blow your mind from one page to the next. And the book reviews have been nothing less than sparkling. Dennis Arkapaw, Secondary English & History Teacher, succinctly sums it up:

“The Australian Spirit commemorative book was meticulously built over 4 years of celebrating Gallipoli’s centenary. I highly recommend this important collection of intimate creations to be studied in English, History and Art classes where ‘the truth about war’ needs to be distilled.”

You’ll even find Australian Spirit in Canberra’s War Memorial shop although they have yet to add this fine title to the online publications catalogue. (Or perhaps the search engine is experiencing temporary tech problems.)

warThe easiest way to get your hands on a copy of this masterpiece is by ordering it online: www.australian-spirit.com. All proceeds to Integra Service Dogs Australia.

And be sure to check out the outstanding work of some of our shining Australian Spirit artists:

Leasha Craig: www.leashacraig.com

Karen Bloomfield: www.karenbloomfieldart.com

Helen Mortimer: www.helenmortimerart.com

Victoria Austen-Young: www.austenyoung.com

Australian Spirit Soars! Part Two

Part Two reveals how Australian Spirit unwittingly sparked yet another ambitious dream to assist transitioning and recovering veterans.

With Compliments,
Linda Summer – Scribe – Lost For Words

Dreamin’ the dream

Operation Pay Gulf

Battle Stations Ladies – Code Pay!

pay equalityAlmost a year to the day, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s annual review inspired me to blog about the never-changing Australian history of pay inequity. This year’s annual review is a carbon copy fizzer.

How will anything every change if namby-pamby management of same old, same old issues never changes?

In short, the pay gulf is down 1.1% from 2017 but full-time working women can still expect to earn 16.2% (or $15, 457) less than men, per year.

This reeks of corporate and political complacency towards working women in Australia. And nobody appears to have any definitive strategies in place to close the gulf.

This paragraph alone from The Guardian report sums up why Australia needs to play Follow the Leader with Iceland and introduce national legislation to mandate equal pay for women:

Michaelia Who?

Former Minister For Women Michaelia Cash certainly won’t be remembered as a mover and shaker in the pay inequity arena, or a lady-like, kind and compassionate role model material for aspiring young leaders. One can only hope that her replacement Kelly O’Dwyer has the gumption to take appropriate action on behalf of Australian women and their daughters.

For old time’s sake, I revisited the Federal Government’s Office For Women website to see if anything had changed. While proposed legislation to mandate equal pay for women was notably absent, it was good to see several constructive initiatives in the works.

Note to politicians who care: ‘A Husband is not a Retirement Plan‘ needs to be taught in high schools:

 

Equally curious to see what was going on in the Office For Men, I searched high and low but found no trace. Must have been dreaming. Maybe next year.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to publish last year’s blog again. Because I can. And because next to nix has changed in the ladies’ pay department. (Just ignore the bits about Michaelia Cash, apart from the fact that she still expects her lawyers to ‘set aside’ the subpoena demanding that she give evidence in the Federal Court in 2019. Read the latest ABC update here.)

In my previous life as a public servant the Information Services Branch of South Australia Police, I dealt with numerous subpoenas and was informed that even the Police Commissioner risked imprisonment for failing to appear when subpoenaed. What makes Michaelia think she qualifies for a special exemption?

And what was that I heard about an inevitable green light for the establishment of a Federal ICAC? I digress. But that’s another blog.

2017 Blog

Get Me Vida Goldstein On The Line

pay equality

Vida Goldstein

Ever since Iceland’s sassy sisterhood set the stage for world first national legislation to mandate equal pay for women, I expected at least one Australian female politician to champion the country’s first draft pay equity bill. Sadly, not a peep.

Baffled by the silence surrounding this terminal issue, apart from the annual media cry which predictably follows the release of same-old gender inequity data, I emerge from my self-imposed political oblivion to find out why.

Knowing little about Australia’s political history or our female politicians apart from a scripted news grab here and there, the Australian Parliament’s website is my first port of call.

  • Of 224 federal politicians, 74 are women. 31 Senators, 43 Members.
  • More than enough to collectively raise gracious hell about pay inequity, one would think. (Iceland has 41% female representation.)

Next, Google search Minister For Women. Oh dear. ‘Is Michaelia Cash a worse Minister for Women than Tony Abbott?’ screams a Sydney Morning Herald headline. Determined to maintain an objective view, I resist the temptation to read the article.

Instead I opt for The Minister for Women’s webpage, as perfectly coiffed as Michaelia Cash and accessorised with empowering female-friendly headlines. ‘Delivering Opportunities and Support for Australian Women’ captures my attention. I expect to read the magic words ‘pay inequity’. Not a peep.

The magic words I seek are also invisible on The Office For Women’s home page but I eventually locate a 2016 press release regarding the latest gender pay gap figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. ‘The new data was encouraging but the Government’s focus on implementing policies to further reduce the stubbornly high gap is unwavering.’ says Cash.

Stamp your stiletto a little louder, please Michaelia. We don’t need any more drawn-out, ineffective best practice policies. Australia needs pay equity for women enshrined in law.

Another glossy government publication catches my eye. The 72-page 2017 Gender Equity Insights Report.

In a nutshell:

  • The overall gender pay gap is 17.7% (or $16,219).
  • The total remuneration pay gap is 23.1% (or $26,853.)
  • A pay chasm of $93K exists at top tier managerial levels.

The placid Forward by Workplace Gender Equality Agency Director, Libby Lyons opens with: ‘It really is time that we challenge the way we work.’

Great to see a woman at the helm but what stopped her from choosing more empowering words? Something like: ‘It really is time to draft a pay equity bill that makes it illegal in Australia’s public and private sectors to pay women less than men.’

Could the mindsets of Icelandic and Australian women be that different? Aren’t we all part of a greater Sisterhood? The complacency factor baffles me. Perhaps the female inaction has something to do with the plump parliamentary salaries. Michaelia’s goldmine hovers around the $350,000 mark (plus expenses) while the base salary of Australian backbenchers has just risen to $203,020.

I don’t begrudge anyone who earns top dollar but given that the core function of a politician is to represent the people, one can’t help but wonder why Australia still has a ‘stubbornly high’ pay gap. Why pay inequity still lives in the Terminal Issues Basket.

Further digging unearths some intriguing views of political rabble-rousers in the comments section of an ABC opinion piece about the under-representation of women in parliament:

  • Female candidates are ‘selected by parties for docility rather than merit.’
  • ‘Parties generally select candidates based on internal party politics.’
  • ‘The Coalition parties do not have a mechanism for increasing women’s participation, despite ongoing advocacy by women on the floor of conferences to address the problem.’

Where Have I been?

The opinion piece in question was penned by Dr Rae Cooper & Sally Hanna Osborne, University of Sydney Business School. One of its many lowlights is the 2016 Vote Compass data that shows the majority of men are opposed to using quotas to increase numbers of women in Parliament.

  • 22% men agree, 56% disagree.
  • 49% women agree, 29% women disagree.

How disappointing. I thought Australian men had more faith in great Australian females.

Another lowlight is Australia’s ranking in the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s World Classification of Women in National Parliaments.

  • As of 2nd July 2016, Australia ranks 49 of 193 countries.
  • The top five rankings are Rwanda, Bolivia, Cuba, Iceland and Nicaragua.
  • Rwanda is also the first parliament in the world where women hold the majority, primarily because in this post-genocide country, women make up 70% of the surviving population.

Additional facts and figures regarding Australia’s place on the international inequity stage is provided by the World Economic Forum’s 391-page, 2016 Global Gender Gap Report.

  • Of 144 countries listed on the Global Index, Australia ranks 46.
  • Top five countries: Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Rwanda.

The report also draws attention to Australia’s ‘continued existence of a gender gap in income’ and the continual decline of Australia’s ranking for women in national government. But the good news is that female representation meets the 30% ‘critical mass,’ which the United Nations regards as the minimum level necessary for women to influence decision-making in parliament.

No excuse then, I muse. Perhaps the driving force behind female inaction is plain, old, boring subservience.

Historical Pioneers

Diving into the history of pay inequity, I learn that prior to 1969, legislation decreed that women be paid a minimum rate 25% less than male employees doing the same or similar work. (Really makes you wonder what kind of men were running the joint back in the day – and now, for that matter.) Determined to banish the looming doom that threatened to dampen my determined spirit, at the eleventh hour I discovered that some of our female political pioneers did indeed make serious noise about pay equity (and women’s toilets):

Vida Goldstein1903, 1910, 1913, 1914 and 1917:  first woman in Australia (and the British Empire) to stand for election to a national parliament (five unsuccessful times). Campaigned for various social reforms including equal pay for equal work.

Edith Cowan1921:  first woman to be elected to an Australian parliament (WA Legislative Assembly). Leading suffragette, pioneer of women’s and children’s rights. Instigated the enacted Women’s Legal Status Act which enabled women to practice law.

Enid Lyons1943:  first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Believed that men and women should be completely equal.

Dorothy Tangney 1943:  first woman elected to the Senate. Championed equal pay and equal opportunity for women.

Ellen Violet Jordan1966: Advocated equal pay for women during a Queensland parliamentary ‘grievance session.’ Managed to get a women’s toilet in the House.

Lo and behold, the principle of equal pay for equal work was introduced in 1969.  How disappointing that almost 50 years later, equal pay for equal work is still a mere principle.

Talk Is Cheap

While the majority of female politicians past and present disagree with pay inequity  nobody is making a definitive stand. Where are our courageous, proactive, female leaders? What’s stopping them from following boldly in the steps of our courageous Icelandic sisters to relegate this dogged issue to the ‘Done Basket’ once and for all?

Best practice policies are pristine in theory but clearly fail to stop gender based pay discrimination across the board. They must be replaced with bulletproof laws.

In the meantime, if you currently suffer from pay inequity, there is no shortage of government agencies to turn to for assistance:

  • Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency
  • Workplace Gender Equality Agency
  • Fair Work Ombudsman
  • Minister for Women
  • 73 other female, federal parliamentary representatives

And may you draw further strength and support as I have, from the closing paragraph of the Global Index Report’s Preface:

“It is our hope that this latest edition of the Report will serve as a call to action to governments to accelerate gender equality through bolder policymaking, to businesses to prioritize gender equality as a critical talent and moral imperative and to all of us to become deeply conscious of the choices we make every day that impact gender equality globally. We call upon every reader of this Report to join these efforts.”

Afterword

justiceThe primary reason why Australian women are paid less than men? According to a 2009 report by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling:

‘… simply being a woman is the major contributing factor to the gap in Australia, accounting for 60 per cent of the difference between women’s and men’s earnings, a finding which reflects other Australian research in this area.’

Political oblivion lets self-serving politicians get away with it – whatever the ‘it’ may be. Wake up and be heard. Let’s make pay inequity history and demand that the 2019 fifty-year anniversary be celebrated with legislation to mandate equal pay for men and women.

Linda Summer – Scribe @ Lost For Words

 

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