Essential Report

Can we stamp out racism?

Jun 5, 2012


Dr Helen Szoke explains that people need to learn how to identify and react to racism in social settings.

For the past decade, Australia has become the home of multiculturalism. Half of us were born overseas. In city suburbs Gen Y mixes easily with different nationalities and cultures. The fight against racism appears to have been won. Or has it?

The Racial Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Helen Szoke, tells 3Q racism is still a pervasive problem in Australia, with ethnic minorities and Indigenous people continuing to experience discrimination in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Read a transcript of a recent interview with Dr Szoke on the issue.

Unless they’re celebrating their ethnic diversity through a weekend festival or harmony day at their local school, most Australians want people to drop obvious cultural ties.

The Australian Human Rights Commission is developing a national anti-racism strategy to educate the public on what constitutes racism and how it can be prevented and reduced.

Can we save Asia from asbestos?

Jun 5, 2012


Peter Jennings says over 100,000 people die each year from mesothelioma with two thirds of cases from South East Asia.

It seems unbelievable that it took so long to ban asbestos in Australia, decades after we knew about the dangers. Now it is banned in 51 countries with more joining each year. Yet Canada and Russia continue to export asbestos to developing countries where almost no protection systems exist. In fact, 80 per cent of the growth in asbestos is in South East Asia.

Peter Jennings of Union Aid Abroad — APHEDA tells 3Q about the agency’s work teaching Vietnamese factory workers how to protect themselves while continuing to lobby the Vietnamese Government to ban the toxic building material.

Vietnam imports tens of thousands of tonnes each year to produce cheap asbestos-cement roofing tiles and its continuing use is of international concern. (Read a Wikileaks cable from US embassy in Hanoi about asbestos concerns)

Workers in these factories handle asbestos with their bare hands and use nothing but paper masks at best. Their knowledge of the dangers is close to zero. Although Vietnam planned to ban all forms of asbestos several years ago, strong lobbying from the pro-asbestos forces mean it is still being used.

The agency is hoping for additional AusAID funding (on top of the donations it receives from unions and the public) to assist the mammoth task ahead in not just VIetnam but also bordering Laos.

What lessons can we learn from Trio?

Jun 5, 2012


Matthew Linden warns people with self managed super to do their homework because  — unlike members of retail and industry funds — they have no safety net.

With almost $200 million lost after the collapse of fraudulent investment house Trio Capital,  questions continue to be asked about many aspects of Australia’s biggest super fund scandal. One such question is the lack of compensation for fraud for self managed superannuation funds.

A summary of the report and ramifications

Trio Capital was a sophisticated fraud which roped in clients with the promise of low risk investment for high returns. About 6000 people signed up to invest only to have it wiped out six years later.

Matthew Linden, chief policy adviser for Industry Super Network, believes there were warning signs with Trio which went unheeded. He tells 3Q that financial advisers, acting on large commissions, failed to investigate the fund before recommending the investment. With the introduction of new legislation starting this July which prevents future commissions to financial advisers, he believes the incentives which have driven poor quality advice will be largely prohibited.

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