Opinion: The dangers women face every day

International Women’s Day is described as a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

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It is a day to reflect on progress made, but also on future action that should be taken.

Though it is referred to as International “Women’s” day, it is a day for both men and women. Every human being evolves from the womb of a woman. Women not only give birth to human beings, they also nurture and care for them. They may juggle many roles ranging from the family home to the workplace, the community and broader society.

Australia is a peace-loving and diverse nation, yet violence against women continues to be a serious problem with at least one woman a week dying at the hands of her partner or former partner. The World Economic Forum predicts that the gender gap won’t close entirely for about 169 years (by 2186).

Women comprise more than half the population in Australia. There are significant economic, social and moral arguments for increasing women’s participation. According to the Australian Treasury 2015 Intergenerational Report, a 4 per cent increase in female participation would result in Australia’s GDP being $25 billion higher than it was in 2015.

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A new report by Deloitte Access Economics indicates that government, community and business must work together to prevent the economic cost of Australia’s domestic or family violence rising to $15.6 billion annually by 2021-22 – which is $2 billion more than the cost to Australia in 2008-09.

The Deloitte report also states that workforce related costs associated with DV include: reduced productivity of the survivor due to reduced workforce participation and/or ‘presenteeism’; absenteeism of the survivor, perpetrator and family members; the cost of replacing lost output through overtime by other workers; reduced productivity of survivors’ and perpetrators’ co-workers, friends and family; and loss of unpaid household and voluntary work by the survivor, perpetrator, and family and friends.

Though violence against a woman can occur irrespective of her age, socioeconomic, religious, cultural or linguistic background, violence experienced by culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women tends to be unique.

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Women from CALD backgrounds can be less likely to report violence. They also experience more barriers in accessing support services and are less likely to leave a DV situation than other Australian women, according to the third national plan of action on family violence.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, CALD women who experience domestic violence face additional challenges and a fear of speaking out, including due to possible exclusion or persecution by their community. As an Indian Australian, I’m grateful for the cultural values that were instilled in me. But backward manifestations of Indian culture (or any culture), may lead to a woman feeling apprehensive about speaking up for herself.

Numerous people from the Indian community and other communities have publicly or privately commended me for having the courage to vocally raise issues that are normally taboo or not talked about. Publicly airing and discussing concerns in a constructive way is conducive to identification of key issues, which can inform better solutions.

It’s not well known or understood in CALD communities that DV extends beyond physical violence and also comprises psychological, mental, emotional, financial and sexual violence. This is exacerbated by the fact that people from CALD backgrounds may come to Australia from countries where DV is not even recognised, and women’s rights are virtually obsolete.

Physical bruises may be acutely visible but mental scars run deep. Mental, emotional or psychological abuse is not only less visible, it may be harder to prove and may have long-term detrimental effects such as depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

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It is pleasing to note that some workplaces have Harassment Contact Officers (I formerly served as a Harassment Contact Officer at a workplace), and Wellbeing officers (trained to identify mental health concerns in employees). However, I think that it’s important for training of existing officers or specified officers for proactively identifying the possibility of an employee experiencing DV, especially since some people may be hesitant to open up about their suffering. Encouraging open conversation in family homes, schools, workplaces and the broader community of the topic of DV that may have been considered ‘taboo’ to talk about is imperative to stop DV at the start.

Just as it is said in Chinese philosophy, ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ are seemingly opposite or contrary forces which are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world. The word ‘woman’ and ‘women’ include the words ‘man’ and ‘men’ respectively. Human beings can reach their full potential if one realises that helping a woman also helps a man, and results in a better society for all.

Pallavi Sinha is Principal of Lawyers with Solutions and will be speaking on 15 March at a launch of the Department of Social Services national CALD campaign to reduce domestic violence against women and children.

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Dateline: Married at 13

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WA govt plays up ACCC’s backing of sale

The Barnett government has seized on Australia’s competition chief Rod Sims comments that the plan to privatise WA’s poles and wires utility Western Power would lead to lower prices.

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Mr Sims told The West Australian newspaper a new private owner would run it more efficiently and he believed the regulator would ensure those efficiencies resulted in lower prices for consumers.

Treasurer Mike Nahan said Mr Sims’ comments showed up union and Labor “lies” about the planned 51 per cent privatisation of Western Power leading to higher prices.

“Rod Sims, who actually will regulate the business in the future, says that’s simply not true,” Dr Nahan told reporters on Tuesday.

Premier Colin Barnett said privatisations of other poles and wires business in Australia showed that prices did not rise.

“If anything, they fall,” Mr Barnett told reporters.

“Bear in mind Western Power does not sell electricity. All it does is transport it.”

Mr Barnett said he believed Western Power was well run but private operators would change the culture of the organisation, creating efficiencies.

Last month, the Australian Services Union was forced to withdraw a pre-election advertisement in WA after Mr Sims complained footage of him warning privatisation leads to higher consumer prices was taken out of context.

He said he was referring to consumers paying higher prices when monopoly assets that were not well regulated, such as ports, were privatised.

The ASU and Electrical Trades Union hit back on Tuesday with their own report, claiming the government would reap a much smaller windfall from the sale than forecast.

The report by Orion Consulting Network concluded the sale would only yield net proceeds of just under $1 billion, compared with government claims of $3 billion.

The consultants also concluded the state government would be $276.5 million a year worse off including factors such as dividends.

But Mr Barnett talked up the planned sale, which is a central plank of the Liberal re-election campaign, saying the WA government would always have a direct say in what happens with Western Power as its biggest shareholder with a 49 per cent stake.

“Yes, it may not be popular but the Liberal party policy of selling half of Western Power gives us a clear financial plan, one that will reduce debt to very manageable proportions … and one that will allow us to return to surplus over the next four years.”

WA Labor won’t sell Western Power, saying it provides much-needed revenue, while the ETU fears maintenance standards will fall, presenting a bushfire risk.

The union has cited Victoria’s deadly Black Saturday bushfires as an example of why such important infrastructure should not be placed into private hands.

Meanwhile, Pauline Hanson says her One Nation party will also not support the sale.

RBA signals flat interest rates in 2017

The Reserve Bank of Australia remains upbeat about the nation’s economy, signalling it doesn’t intend to move interest rates this year.

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The RBA left the cash rate at a record low of 1.5 per cent at its March board meeting on Tuesday, saying that was the best way to maintain growth and push low inflation back into its two to three per cent target band.

Governor Philip Lowe was upbeat about exports, business investment and consumer spending growth at the end of last year.

At 1620 AEDT the Australian dollar had jumped to 76.16 US cents, from 75.96 US cents at 1430 AEDT.

Westpac chief currency strategist Robert Rennie said the RBA was more optimistic about global growth, China and the domestic economy as well as consumer and business confidence.

“It feels as if the statement that we got was a glass that was slightly more than half-full, so I’m not surprised the dollar is up,” he told AAP.

CommSec senior economist Craig James said while Tuesday’s commentary from the RBA was “boring”, the central bank had signalled it intended to leave rates on hold.

“In short, the Reserve Bank is saying ‘move on, move on, nothing to see here’,” he said.

However, UBS economists said the RBA was less relaxed about housing, noting that investor loans had picked up and removing last month’s comment that “some lenders are taking a more cautious attitude to lending”, meaning the central bank no longer viewed that to be the case.

Royal Bank of Canada senior economist Su-Lin Ong said the unchanged commentary on the labour market, wages and inflation should not be overlooked either.

“They continue to capture a sense of uncertainty over labour market outcomes and the composition of job creation, which is intertwined with weaker than expected wages growth and a slight nudging down of the RBA’s core inflation forecasts over the medium term,” she said in a note.

ABC axing up to 200 jobs in major shake-up

The ABC will axe a fifth of its management and plough millions of dollars worth of savings into making new content and beefing up its presence in regional Australia under a massive shake-up of the national broadcaster.

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Managing director Michelle Guthrie announced the sweeping changes to ABC staff on Tuesday, saying they were essential to the 85-year-old broadcaster’s long-term health at a time when its funding situation was “tight” and its audience no longer “rusted on”.

Between 150 and 200 middle managers in support areas like legal, IT and finance are expected to lose their jobs by June 30.

ABC TV and ABC News will also have extra cuts made in production and support jobs.

Money saved will be tipped into a new $50 million Content Fund, with $15 million a year to be invested in expanding the ABC’s coverage of regional areas by creating 80 new jobs and increasing digital and video output.

“We face a tough few months,” Ms Guthrie told ABC staff.

“The actions announced today will result in a stronger, more confident and better-equipped ABC.

“An ABC that unlocks our full potential and puts our investment directly where it matters – with audiences.”

The ABC board has backed Ms Guthrie’s plan, which she has been working on since becoming the broadcaster’s first woman managing director last May.

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Ms Guthrie said the ABC was not immune from widespread changes in the media sector driven by the emergence of new players such as Netflix and Amazon.

With the ABC’s TV and radio audiences in decline and its digital offerings struggling to breach the gap, “transformational change over the next year is essential”, she said.

The Content Fund sits at the heart of Ms Guthrie’s planned changes, with an initial $20 million to be injected to fund innovative ideas for new programming and services thought up by ABC staff.

Its coffers will eventually swell to $50 million, which Ms Guthrie said would be the biggest sum the ABC had ever committed to such a venture.

Regional projects will be a priority, while ideas on how to expand the ABC’s digital news service and new ideas for arts, science, business and sport projects will also be sought.

The Content Fund will be overseen by Leisa Bacon, the ABC’s former audience and marketing director who will now head the new Audiences Division.

Digital and corporate strategy boss David Anderson was also confirmed as the ABC’s new head of TV.

Regional Communications Minister Fiona Nash welcomed news of the ABC’s investment in regional content as a “good start” and said she hoped the remaining $35 million in the Content Fund would be allocated to regional journalists and content.

ANZ favours reviews over royal commission

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott believes bank customers benefit more from reviews focused on single issues than they would from a wide-ranging but slow-moving royal commission into the entire industry.

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Mr Elliott’s rejection of a royal commission came on Tuesday as he appeared before a parliamentary committee, also saying that the bank has had up to 100 whistleblowers annually in recent years.

“We get about 70 to 100 every year, about half of those in Australia, half outside,” Mr Elliott told the House of Representatives economics committee hearing in Canberra.

“About 40 per cent of them after investigation have some merit, and are taken further.”

ANZ had never had an incident where somebody complained of being unfairly treated or faced any consequences as a result of making a report, he said, with many whistleblowers remaining anonymous.

Earlier on Tuesday, Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ian Narev had bristled at the suggestion during that a royal commission was necessary.

Mr Elliott told the same committee that it was simply easier to tackle customer problems in isolation.

“We’re already getting change in our industry: we are making real change,” Mr Elliott said.

“We think it is more effective to have narrowly focused targeted reviews that get things done rather than involving us in a multi-year process with uncertain terms of reference,” Mr Elliott said.

But Mr Elliott he would have no problem if the competition watchdog was asked to start monitoring the banking sector on a systemic basis.

Mr Narev and National Australia Bank’s Andrew Thorburn both told MPs there is no need for additional oversight, but Mr Elliott told the committee that he would have no problem if the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission became involved.

“I have no issue with that whatsoever,” Mr Elliott said.

Mr Elliott said that declining net interest margins – the difference between what a bank makes on loans and what it pays to fund them – and customer churn suggested that banking competition is already strong.

Takeovers Panel refuses probe on Macmahon

The corporate adjudicator, the Takeovers Panel, has declined to look into construction giant CIMIC’s claim that takeover target Macmahon Holdings’ target statement was misleading and deceptive.

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MIning services provider MacMahon is subject to a takeover bid from CIMIC which closes on March 9.

On March 1, 2017, Macmahon announced that it had entered into a heads of agreement with Indonseian miner Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara (AMNT) for a proposed transaction that could give AMNT a stake of 44 per cent in Macmahon.

CIMIC submitted to the Takeovers Panel that Macmahon’s target’s statement and supplementary target’s statement was misleading and deceptive in several respects including regarding prospective financial information about Macmahon, the AMNT proposed transaction and the independent expert’s report.

The Takovers Panel says that considering Macmahon’s overall disclosure, and CIMIC’s confirmation before making the application to the panel that its takeover offer was final and would not be extended, the panel was satisfied that further disclosure by Macmahon was not required.

“The panel concluded there was no reasonable prospect that it would make a declaration of unacceptable circumstances,” the panel said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Accordingly, the panel declined to conduct proceedings.”

CIMIC had sought orders from the panel for the reversal of or rights to rescind on-market purchases of Macmahon shares since the release of the target’s statement, and orders for corrective disclosure.

Macmahon shares were steady at 15 cents on Tuesday.

CIMIC shares were 24 cents higher at $37.52.

Dragons won’t alter forward-attacking ways

St George Illawarra will stick with their successful forwards-first attacking strategy after it provided them 42 points in their NRL season opener against Penrith on Saturday.

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The Dragons ran the most metres of all teams on opening weekend, with their forwards getting their hands on the ball more and regularly taking it to the advantage line instead of passing it out the back.

It resulted in their equal-highest score in three years, with second-rower Joel Thompson reaping the biggest reward in the form of a hat-trick, while Jack de Belin also bagged a try.

The approach was particularly successful given it suited Sydney’s big wet but Dragons players say they are unlikely to change a winning formula headed into the rest of the season.

“We’ve got some big boys, some quality forwards there with (Paul) Vaughan and (Russell) Packer and the rest of them,” Thompson said on Tuesday.

“The more times they get their hands on their ball, the better it is for the team.”

The Dragons’ attack was written off by their critics all summer but coach Paul McGregor opted to stick with their strengths in formulating a new attacking game.

They have two big-minute players starting in the middle in the form of Packer and Vaughan, while their back row of Tyson Frizell, Thompson and de Belin is one of the best in the competition.

Packer (174) and Vaughan (189) ran for more than 360 metres between them over the weekend, while Thompson and de Belin combined for 14 tackle busts.

“Our strength is definitely our middle,” Frizell said.

“We played a pretty simple game through the middle and that gave opportunities for the backs like Gareth (Widdop) and (Josh Dugan) to be able to play footy too.”

The approach also had a clear benefit for captain Widdop.

His record alongside Josh McCrone improved to five-from-eight and he continued to look comfortable with more control without Benji Marshall alongside him in the Dragons’ halves.

He also equalled the merged club’s record haul of 22 individual points in a game, scoring two tries and kicking seven goals in one his best performances since arriving from Melbourne in 2014.

“He takes a fair bit of the criticism which is unfair on him a lot,” Thompson said.

“It’s a 17-man team there, we all have to take it on the chin. We all put our hand up and rip in and Gaz had a great game there, he’s worked really hard.”

Pacific nations want UN to investigate Indonesia on West Papua

Seven Pacific island nations have called for a UN investigation into allegations of human rights abuses in Indonesia’s West Papua and Papua provinces, where a separatist movement has simmered for decades.

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A statement to a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, read on behalf of the seven states by Vanuatu’s Justice Minister Ronald Warsal, accused Indonesia of serious human rights violations of Indigenous Papuans including extrajudicial executions of activists and beatings and fatal shootings of peaceful protesters.

The statement called on the council to request a comprehensive report from the high commissioner for human rights and Indonesia’s co-operation in providing unfettered access to the two provinces, which independence supporters refer to collectively as West Papua.

Pacific island leaders angered Indonesia last year when they used their speeches to the UN General Assembly to criticise Indonesia’s rule in West Papua.

Jakarta accused them of interfering in Indonesia’s sovereignty and supporting groups that carry out armed attacks.

Mr Warsal, who spoke on behalf of Vanuatu, Tonga, Palau, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and the Solomon Islands, said they also wanted to highlight the Indonesian policy of encouraging the migration of Javanese and other ethnic groups, which has led to the dramatic outnumbering of Indigenous Papuans in their own land.

The Indonesian government “has not been able to curtail or halt these various and widespread violations,” he said.

“Neither has that government been able to deliver justice for the victims.”

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Mr Warsal said over the past 15 years the Indonesian Commission on Human Rights had “collected evidence of gross human rights violations by Indonesian security forces in three principal areas of West Papua: Wasior, Wamena, and Paniai”.

“The Commission has described the sets of cases in the first two places as crimes against humanity, which are punishable under Indonesian and international laws,” he said.

“In light of these violations and the Indonesian government’s inaction, we call on the UN Human Rights Council to request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to produce a consolidated report on the actual situation in West Papua.

“And the report must make recommendations for immediate action to halt the pattern of human rights violations.”

However the Indonesian government had vehemently denied the Pacific nations’ claims.

“Indonesia rejects categorically the allegation made by the Vanuatu delegation on the issue of Papua, which does not reflect the real situation on the ground,” the government said in a statement to SBS News.

“We would like to reiterate that as a democratic country based on constitutional rule of law, the Indonesian government has always endeavored to address any allegation of human rights violation as well as taking preventive measure and delivering justice.

“In this regard, it is the expressed commitment of the government of Indonesia to continuously promote the fulfillment of the rights of its people in Papua.

“Contrary to the claim made by Vanuatu, many progress have been achieved to realise this objective.”

The government said it would welcome “the visits of two Special Rapporteurs” and highlighted it’s past collaboration with the United Nations and Human Rights Council.

“We deeply regret that the Government of Vanuatu is blatantly using human rights issues to justify its dubious support for the separatist movement in Papua,” the government’s statement said.

The Dutch colonisers of the Indonesian archipelago held on to West Papua when Indonesia became independent after World War II.

It became part of Indonesia following a UN-supervised referendum in 1969 that involved only a tiny proportion of the population and was criticised as a sham. Independence supporters want a second referendum.

The Indigenous people of the two Papua provinces, which make up the western half of the island of New Guinea, are ethnically Melanesian and culturally distinct from the rest of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

West Papua is home to the world’s largest gold mine by reserves, one of the world’s biggest copper mines and vast areas of virgin forest.

The government insists it is an indivisible part of the Indonesian state and is unlikely to make any concessions to separatists out of fear that could re-energise other dormant independence movements.

Construction expands in February

A strong pick-up in house building and engineering construction has helped lift overall building activity for the first time in five months.

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The Ai Group and Housing Industry Association Performance of Construction Index (PCI) rose 5.4 points to 53.1 points in February, from 47.7 points the previous month.

A level above 50 points indicates an expansion in activity in the sector.

The February reading was the highest since mid-2016, and the first expansion since September.

The house building sub-index lifted 10.7 points to 60.9 points, while engineering improved 11.1 points to 53.9 points.

“There was a healthy lift in new orders for house builders with some additional expansion experienced among engineering constructors,” Ai Group head of policy Peter Burn said.

The gains offset the decline in new orders in the apartment sub-sector and underwrote a solid lift in overall employment in the industry as businesses increased their capacity, he said.

Apartment building was the only sub-sector in the red, even though activity levels remain high by historical standards.

The apartment building sub-index slipped 0.4 points to 46.1 points, indicating continued contraction.

“The gem in today’s result – for manufacturers, suppliers, sub-contractors, builders and the many other market participants – is the relatively strong showing for detached housing,” HIA chief economist Harley Dale said.

He said the latest reading supports the view that new home construction activity will hold up quite well in the short term, after which there will be a marked decline in medium-to-high density construction.

Employment and deliveries subindexes improved in February, while activity rose 7.4 points to 54.7 points.

Input costs also jumped 10.5 points to 76.1 points, while wages were slightly higher.

Cowboys ready for another NRL thriller

North Queensland are bracing for the possibility of back-to-back golden point games to start the NRL season ahead of Friday night’s showdown with Brisbane.

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The Cowboys won their opening-round clash with Canberra 20-16 in golden point and now face a Broncos team they have gone to extra-time with in three of their last four clashes.

Making matters worse for North Queensland is the fact they are met with a slightly shorter six-day turnaround, and will lose part of a day to travel as they head from Townsville to Brisbane.

As such, the Cowboys underwent a shortened session in the tropical heat on Tuesday, as they try to ensure they are in peak condition come Friday night.

“I’m sure mentally everyone will be able to get up for this kind of game but physically today it was a bit hot and flat today,” co-captain Matt Scott said on Tuesday.

“I think the game on the weekend has taken a bit out of us physically.

“Now it’s time to rest up and make sure we’re ready to go.”

It’s only round two but North Queensland players already expect a finals-like intensity.

The round-four clash between the two sides last season was one of the games of the season, and the 21-20 win for Brisbane marked the fifth consecutive time they had beaten the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium.

Scott admitted it was a factor his team might hard find to escape.

“We haven’t spoken about it too much but I’m sure it’s in the back of everyone’s minds,” he said.

“I love playing there personally. It’s a tough place to win for an away team.”

Despite their run at Suncorp, the Cowboys have had the better of their older Queensland brothers in recent years.

After beating them in the 2015 grand final, they held a 2-1 advantage over the Broncos last year, including a semi-final win in Townsville.

Two of those wins had been decided by a field goal, while the other was a converted try in last year’s extra-time semi-final – something Scott hoped would work in their favour.

“We’ve had a little bit of practice over the years, and on the weekend, so if it comes down to the wire hopefully we can do it again,” Scott said.