Demand for new maids high despite extra costs amid COVID-19 restrictions, risk of imported cases


SINGAPORE: Demand in Singapore for new foreign domestic workers is going strong despite the extra costs involved in bringing them in amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said employment agencies. 

Employers have to pay for the helpers’ COVID-19 tests and their stay-home notice. 

From Jan 1, employers must also get medical insurance with a coverage of at least S$10,000 for the workers’ medical expenses if they develop COVID-19 symptoms or test positive within 14 days of arrival in Singapore. The insurance must be bought before they arrive in Singapore. 

Service costs charged by agencies have also gone up because of the various administrative arrangements required amid the pandemic. 

Still, agencies CNA spoke to said they are seeing an increase in the number of clients making requests for new domestic workers.

This is likely because between March and October, there were few or no domestic workers entering Singapore, said president of the Association of Employment Agencies K Jayaprema. 

“Employers have been holding on for a long time to hire, and many of them have been facing a situation where their own current existing workers wanted to go back. Transfers have not been successful,” she added. 

“Employers might not want to hire and take this financial risk, but many actually don’t have much of a choice because of the way things have been. So although they have reservations, I think the ones who really need the help at home are moving forward to hire.”

Inter Great Employment Agency’s general manager Chew Soon Chiah agreed that requests for foreign domestic workers have grown steadily over the last few months, while Orange Employment Agency owner Shirley Ng said that the employers willing to fork out extra costs now are the ones who “can’t live without a helper”. 

WATCH: Fewer employers letting go of domestic workers during COVID-19

Among them are Mr Caleb Lim and his wife, who hired a foreign domestic worker in December to help with their newborn. “We felt that it would be good to have extra help, especially once we go back to work,” he told CNA. 

They started looking for and interviewing foreign domestic workers in April, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, the domestic workers were unable to come to Singapore at the time. They also tried to look for transfer maids but were unsuccessful. 

Finally in November, after approaching several agencies, they were put in touch with someone from Myanmar who was keen to work for a family with a baby.

The process of applying for a foreign domestic worker and helping her get to Singapore was “very smooth”, but Mr Lim said there was a “minor hiccup” when they could not get a plane ticket for her on the valid dates of her entry approval.

The agency had to cancel the first entry approval and apply for another one a week later, said Mr Lim. 

WATCH: More entry approvals for foreign domestic workers compared to previous month: Maid agencies

DIFFICULTIES JUGGLING VARIOUS REQUIREMENTS

On top of obtaining entry approval from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), employers and agencies must also deal with limited flights and the validity periods of COVID-19 tests. This makes the process an administratively tedious affair, they said. 

Orange Employment Agency’s Ms Ng explained that she has to first get in-principle approval for the worker’s entry. After ensuring there are available flights, she then applies for entry approval, which is only valid for three days.

If there are no flights for the dates that the worker’s entry approval is valid for, the employment agency or employer must reapply for approval, she said. 

According to the MOM website, domestic workers must also take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test within 72 hours before departure, and present a valid negative test result to enter Singapore.

The result can only come from laboratories that are internationally accredited or recognised by the respective countries’ authorities.

“Assuming I apply for (entry approval on) Dec 10, but now on Dec 10 there are no flights. You must also remember the girl has a 72-hour (validity window for the) PCR test, which will expire. We have to factor all this in. The stress is from this juggling,” Ms Ng told CNA. 

Mr Chew added that getting flights is also a challenge particularly for workers from Myanmar, due to an international flight ban.

“Now the only flights available are relief flights arranged by the embassy. Fighting for tickets is a weekly thing,” he told CNA.

WATCH: Myanmar looking to recruit more volunteers for COVID-19 response

During the “circuit breaker” period, MOM approved 630 requests for foreign domestic workers mainly from Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar to enter Singapore, out of about 4,100 entry approval applications and appeals received, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in response to a parliamentary question in October.

The Manpower Ministry did not provide updated figures in response to CNA queries for the number of entry approval requests that have been approved to date.

READ: Commentary: It should not be this hard to hire a foreign domestic worker

FOREIGN DOMESTIC WORKERS WHO TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 

Despite taking COVID-19 tests before entering the country, foreign domestic workers continue to make up a significant portion of Singapore’s imported cases every day.

Of the 29 imported cases reported in Singapore on Wednesday (Jan 6), 12 were foreign domestic workers. All of them were placed on stay-home notice or isolated upon their arrival in Singapore, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).

As of Dec 22, there were 303 COVID-19 cases who are foreign domestic workers, or about 0.5 per cent of the total number of cases in Singapore, said MOH in response to CNA queries. 

Of these, 273 were imported cases and 30 were locally transmitted. All the imported foreign domestic worker cases were detected while they served their stay-home notice at dedicated facilities, said MOH. 

Among the 30 locally transmitted cases, 24 were linked to a previous case in the employer’s household. Of the remaining six, none had spread the coronavirus to anyone in the employer’s household. 

Ms Ng said the number of imported cases among foreign domestic workers was surprising given the testing requirements for entry.

“You cannot go to any clinic in your neighbourhood. I reckon the places that the (authorities) appointed must be fairly credible and big hospitals,” Ms Ng told CNA, adding that other medical factors might explain why the workers tested positive upon arrival.

To avoid COVID-19 cases, some agencies make arrangements for workers to stay in an isolation facility in their home countries after they take their COVID-19 test and before they leave for Singapore, said Ms Jayaprema. 

“Because if they do their PCR test and they’re still mobile or they go around, the chances of being infected are very high. So we actually have to provide them with these additional isolation facilities,” she added. 

“In the past, we used to provide them with some kind of housing before they take their flight, but now additional resources have to be invested because we have to ensure that it is in isolation.” 

READ: Philippines prolongs partial COVID-19 curbs in Manila to Jan 31

With this “intensified work”, the cost incurred by employment agencies has also increased. Even sourcing for potential workers can be challenging because some countries are still in lockdown, said Ms Jayaprema. 

“Like for the domestic workers to be sourced, for them to travel out to town for deployment or to reach the airport, to go through the PCR test, everything is a lot more challenging now. It’s time-consuming, very difficult to access and it’s a lot more expensive,” she added. 

HIGHER COSTS FOR AGENCIES AND EMPLOYERS

Making it to Singapore is just the beginning. Depending on where they are arriving from, most new foreign domestic workers have to serve their stay-home notice in a dedicated facility.

They must also take a COVID-19 test before their stay-home notice is over. 

Only foreign domestic workers who arrive from Australia (excluding New South Wales state), Brunei, mainland China, New Zealand, Taiwan and Vietnam need not serve a stay-home notice if their test result is negative. But they must remain isolated in a hotel before the negative test results are out. 

Employers or employment agencies must also ensure that the domestic worker has a Singapore mobile number. Her phone must have Internet connection and WhatsApp installed.

WATCH: Maid agencies, employers to bear cost of COVID-19 stay-home notices for new foreign domestic workers

The costs add up. 

Employers should be prepared to pay upwards of S$3,000 in total fees to the agency and MOM, said employment agencies CNA spoke to. 

“It used to be like S$1,800 or more if you’re looking at agency fees plus disbursements. It used to be about under S$2,000. That’s what your actual costing would be,” said Ms Jayaprema, estimating that employers pay more than S$3,000 now, including the costs of stay-home notice and PCR tests.  

Specifically, costs for stay-home notice facilities come up to about S$1,500, while COVID-19 tests cost about S$200 each, said Orange Employment Agency’s Ms Ng.

She added that service fees have also gone up because “a lot more administration and coordination” is involved, requiring more man-hours.

Overall, she estimated that costs for employers have almost doubled, from S$2,500 to about S$4,800.

WATCH: What the shortage of foreign domestic workers means for Singapore

For Mr Lim and his wife, their employment agency did all the necessary applications for the couple and offered to absorb 40 per cent of the stay-home notice cost. 

The domestic worker arrived in Singapore on Dec 11 and ended her stay-home notice on Christmas Day. She stepped into the couple’s home on Dec 30 after her PCR test came back negative and she got her work permit registered. 

For the whole process, Mr Lim and his wife paid the employment agency about S$1,900 for their services.

They paid another S$1,625 to the Government for the maid’s stay at the dedicated stay-home notice facility and her COVID-19 test. When the helper was cleared to start work, they paid another S$900 for her security bond, after deducting the promised 40 per cent discount.

These extra costs were what initially put Mr Lim and his wife off from hiring a foreign domestic worker.

“We felt that it’s not worth paying that money. For young families like us, the S$1,700 is really a substantial amount, so that was why it put us off for so long,” said Mr Lim.

While some agencies may offer discounts on agency fees or absorb part of the stay-home notice or PCR test costs, it is unlikely to be a large sum, said Ms Jayaprema. 

“We have to be very logical about this. Agencies might partially absorb (costs), meaning they might be cutting their profit, but they’re still going to charge some form of agency fee,” she added. 

“I would generally look at it as a higher probability that the employer is the one who’s going to be absorbing all the costs, bearing all the costs. What we probably might see agencies do is probably do some profit cuts and that’s it. It’s not logical to say that agencies are going to bear it. It doesn’t work like that.” 

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Saudi offers extra oil output cut as part of OPEC+ deal: Sources


Saudi Arabia has offered to make voluntary cuts in its oil output in February in a bid to persuade fellow OPEC+ producers to hold steady amid concerns that new coronavirus lockdowns will hit demand.

Two OPEC sources said Saudi Arabia made the offer on Tuesday at a meeting of OPEC+, which combines OPEC producers and others including Russia, after failed talks on Monday.

It was not clear how much Saudi Arabia offered to cut on its own.

OPEC+ sources told Reuters that Russia and Kazakhstan were pushing for the group to raise production by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) while Iraq, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates suggested holding output steady.

An internal OPEC+ document, seen by Reuters on Tuesday and dated Jan. 4, set out several scenarios for 2021, including the possibility of cutting by 500,000 bpd in February.

It highlighted bearish risks and “stressed that the reimplementation of COVID-19 containment measures across continents, including full lockdowns, are dampening the oil demand rebound in 2021”.

Three OPEC+ sources said chances of a collective cut were slim as very few producers supported it and most countries favoured either steady supply or an increase in February.

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman on Monday said OPEC+ should be cautious, despite a generally optimistic market environment, as demand for fuel remained fragile and variants of the coronavirus were unpredictable.

New variants of the coronavirus first reported in Britain and South Africa have since been found in countries across the world.

OPEC+ producers have been curbing output to support prices and reduce oversupply since January 2017.

As COVID-19 hammered demand for gasoline and aviation fuel, benchmark Brent oil futures plunged below $16 a barrel last April, forcing OPEC+ to boost its output cuts to a record 9.7 million bpd in mid-2020.

With Brent holding above $50 per barrel, OPEC+ took the opportunity to raise output by 500,000 bpd in January, putting its current cuts at 7.2 million bpd.

Brent was trading up nearly 4% at above $53 per barrel at 1626 GMT.



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EU is asked to approve extra dose from Pfizer vaccine vials


A healthcare worker holds a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine vial at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center in Glendale, California, U.S., December 17, 2020.

Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

The European Union was asked on Tuesday to allow an extra dose of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech to be taken from each vial, a practice allowed elsewhere that would make scarce supplies go further.

Experts say it is possible to obtain six doses from each vial, more than the five approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said he had raised the matter with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen with a view to seeking EMA clearance for the extra shot as soon as possible.

The vaccine, made by Pfizer of the United States and the German biotech startup BioNTech, is the only one to win EU approval so far, and is already being administered.

But supplies are tight and rising coronavirus infections are stretching hospitals to the limit.

BioNTech said each vial was guaranteed to yield five doses, but that it was possible, with the right needle and syringe, to extract a sixth.

“We are in discussions with regulatory authorities whether and how the sixth dose, as well as the required needles or syringes for such a low-dead-volume system, could be made available,” a BioNTech spokesperson said.

Italian regulators have already approved the drawing of six doses, overriding EMA guidance for the EU as a whole.

Similar approvals have been issued by regulators in the United States, Britain, Switzerland and Israel – which all made an earlier start to their vaccination campaigns.

Soren Brostrom, head of the Danish Health Authority, said it was even possible to draw a seventh dose from some Pfizer vials, and that it might be feasible to vaccinate more than the 250,000 people envisaged in the first two months of Denmark’s campaign.

The EU has signed deals to buy a total of 2 billion vaccine doses, which will be distributed to member states in proportion to their populations. The EMA did not respond to a request for comment.



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Our building is tipping staff 25% extra due to COVID-19. My husband wants to maintain this in 2021. I disagree. What should we do?


I am an Upper East Side wife and mother with two children. The residents of our building have agreed to tip our doormen, super and two gardeners who tend to our common areas 25% more this holiday season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We usually give $200 to our favorite doorman, $200 to our super who never complains and always has a smile on his face even though he deals with everyone else’s complaints, and $100 to the other two full-time staff, and $100 to the two gardeners.

The Moneyist: My father wants to deed his kids his home before Prop 19 takes effect. I suggested a life estate instead — he said I’m ungrateful

My husband says we should continue to give 25% more in 2021. I disagree. We have been giving the same amount to the people who work in the building for the past five years because it doesn’t create increased expectations year after year. It’s simpler that way.

We have been working from home this year and have not had any pay cuts. We live in a privileged world, and we are fortunate to be able to work remotely when millions of people have lost their jobs, sure. But New York City is an expensive place to live, and these “holiday envelopes” are not cheap.

What do you say?

Upper East Side Wife and Mother

Dear Wife & Mother,

If you are giving 25% extra this year, give the same dollar amount or even a little more next year. Your tips haven’t gone up in five years, even to keep pace with inflation, so this is the year to make a grand gesture, and stick with it.

If anyone understands what it’s like to have to budget to make ends meet, it’s your doormen, super and other staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes. The average pay for a doorman is around $16 per hour — although that’s probably higher in New York, especially in Manhattan — and they clearly rely on tips at the end of the year to buy gifts for their loved ones and enjoy the holidays, just like the residents of the buildings they tend.

See also:Meet the most generous tipper in America

Also, people who work in buildings already know everyone’s business. They know who comes home late at night smelling of gin, stumbling in the doorway and requiring help getting to their apartment. They know the couples who bring home an overnight guest every time their partner is away on business (or not). They know whether you’re stressed out, whether your kids are well behaved and if you’re having marital problems. You may never see the night-shift doorman, but he sees all.


Money talks, especially in a year when so many people have had to do without.

Supers, gardeners and doormen — unlike neighbors — are paid to smile and say “good morning” even if they got out of bed on the wrong side, are going through a messy divorce or need a kidney. They are there to cater to your needs and be as pleasant as humanly possible. For every neighbor who gives you a biannual “hello” in the elevator, you can usually rely on the staff’s good manners once you leave your apartment.

They see and hear everything, so they know if your daily routines have changed — and a holiday envelope with a sum of money that’s more than what you normally give will come as a welcome surprise. Monetary gifts help, especially when they’re given to people who provide a service all year long and don’t get enough appreciation. But so, too, do handwritten notes detailing all the little things they did for you during the year.

Numerous studies show that positive recognition and affirmation are appreciated more than money in the workplace. One such study found that over 80% of people said they value recognition of their hard work over a monetary increase. Well, I don’t buy it. Money talks, especially in a year when so many people have had to do without. Your finances have been largely untouched by the coronavirus pandemic, so it’s time to pass on some of that goodwill.

Read also: How much to tip everyone

I also generally advise against leaving one envelope with a lump sum. That will only give them more work to do and could possibly cause ill will among the staff. A tip is a ‘thank you,’ and should have the person’s name on the envelope. Don’t forget other people who come to your home this time of year: dog-walker, piano teacher, babysitter, nanny, housekeeper or personal trainer. A general rule of thumb — there are no hard-and-fast rules — is one week’s pay.

Give 25% more to your building staff, and thank them for all the hard work. Make each note personal. (They may compare them.) Unemployment is difficult and challenging enough, and they may have family members who are struggling. Job insecurity and job loss create stress, fear, loathing and arguments among households over budgets, but they can also bring with them a sense of shame. We put so much of our own worth in our jobs, and when that job is taken away, what’s left? Character.

People want to feel valued. And they want to be seen.

You agree to your emailed letter to the Moneyist will be published here anonymously. It may be edited for style and space.

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Holiday motorists urged to allow extra travel time


Earlier, motorists were also encouraged to drive carefully due to heavy holiday traffic on and around John Renshaw Drive at Tarro, near Newcastle, between the New England Highway and Hexham Bridge.

“That’s about a five-minute delay at the moment, it’s been busy since mid-morning,” said Transport Management Centre spokeswoman Bronwyn Martin about 3pm.

Traffic on the M1 Motorway north of Sydney was “moving quite well” by mid-afternoon, she said.

In Sydney, there was some heavy traffic around shopping centres at Homebush, Parramatta and Liverpool on Saturday morning, however, those conditions had also eased by the afternoon.

On Saturday, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant stressed that a holiday was not considered an essential reason for residents to leave the lockdown on Sydney’s northern beaches due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I could not be clearer. Going on holidays is not one of the four essential reasons for leaving,” Dr Chant said.

Dr Chant said health authorities were asking NSW residents to be “particularly COVID-safe at this period of time”.

“Limit [your] interactions, limit large gatherings, particularly indoor gatherings .. please enjoy outdoor environments, they’re much safer from the transmission risk of COVID.”

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The NSW government advised traffic on Boxing Day and December 27 is expected to be busiest overall during the holidays, according to livetraffic.com predictions, as Sydneysiders migrate north, south and west after Christmas.

Northbound travellers at Hexham near Newcastle face delays up to 30 minutes between 9am and 11am from December 26 to 30, according to the predictions.

Southbound traffic at Nowra and Batemans Bay could be delayed 20-45 minutes between 11am and 6pm from December 26 to 29. Traffic northbound into Ulladulla and around Jervis Bay is predicted to be busiest from 11am to 1pm between December 26 and 31.

Generally, travellers heading north or west from Sydney should avoid leaving the city between 9am and 3pm, and also try to time their return outside peak hours.

For those going south, it’s best to leave before 11am or after 6pm and on the return aim to avoid the 9am-3pm window.

This holiday period marks the first since the NorthConnex tunnel opened, enabling northbound drivers to bypass suburban Sydney and busy Pennant Hills Road.

However, the extra cost of the tunnel adds to the toll burden for motorists using the M7, M2 and NorthConnex. A journey from the Southern Highlands to the Central Coast costs $20.19 one way.

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Chinese developer Chambroad granted extra two years to start project at Kangaroo Bay on Hobart’s eastern shore


A Hobart council has granted a Chinese company behind a controversial $80 million waterfront development on the city’s eastern shore an extra two years to start the project.

At a meeting on Monday night, the Clarence Council voted seven-to-five to give developer Chambroad the additional time to start work on its proposal for a tourism and hospitality training school at Kangaroo Bay.

In a tied vote in October, the council blocked the company’s request to have more time to start construction on the project.

Mayor Doug Chipman said legal advice received late last week found that decision was in breach of contract.

“Unless we rectified the situation quickly, we were vulnerable to considerable damages claims,” Mr Chipman said.

Chambroad has blamed coronavirus for its inability to get the $80 million development off the ground.

There has been community opposition to the plans since they were first proposed about five years ago, mostly related to how the land was made available to the developers and the size and scale of the project, which some argue is out of step with the area.

Protesters gathered outside the meeting.(Facebook: Alderman Beth Warren)

Kangaroo Bay Voice member Cheryl Davison, who protested outside Monday night’s meeting, said she was sceptical coronavirus was behind the delay.

“I think many people in the community don’t believe those comments at all,” she said.

‘Secret’ meeting criticised

The council meeting was supposed to be held in secret, but a majority of alderman voted to make it public.

However, after the council agreed to open the meeting, it failed to unlock the doors to the council chambers and no-one was available to livestream the event.

Clarence alderman Luke Edmunds said it was “embarrassing” the open meeting could not be accessed by the public.

“The topic that we discussed had been done in [an] open meeting under public pressure before; there really wasn’t much extra detail,” he said.

“Anything that was commercial-in-confidence could’ve stayed in the closed part of the report.

“It’s really disappointing for me as an elected official that we have a vote to bring a closed meeting into the public, yet no-one on the council administration could see that coming and therefore were able to blame IT for holding the public meeting in secret.”

Ms Davison said she was disappointed the meeting was not livestreamed.

“Everyone from Kangaroo Bay Voice and anyone from the community would expect any meeting that was on formerly public, open space to be open,” she said.

Mr Chipman said it was usual practice for meetings based on legal matters to be held in private.



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Coronavirus live news: US to get extra doses out of Pfizer vaccine vials; IT glitch reveals 11,000 new cases in Wales | World news


Kremlin officials and state-controlled media touted the Sputnik V vaccine as a major achievement after it was approved Aug. 11. But among Russians, hope that the shot would reverse the course of the COVID-19 crisis has become mixed with wariness and skepticism, reflecting concerns about how it was rushed out while still in its late-stage testing to ensure its effectiveness and safety.

Russia faced international criticism for approving a vaccine that hasn’t completed advanced trials among tens of thousands of people, and experts both at home and abroad warned against its wider use until the studies are completed.

Despite those warnings, authorities started offering it to certain high-risk groups, such as front-line medical workers, within weeks of approval.

“I don’t so much worry about Sputnik V being unsafe or less effective than we need it to be,” said Judy Twigg, a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University specializing in global health. “I worry about whether or not people are going to be willing to take it in Russia.”

A poll conducted in October by the Levada Center, Russia’s top independent pollster, showed that 59% of Russians were unwilling to get the shots even if offered for free.

Some medical workers and teachers expressed skepticism about the vaccine because it hasn’t been fully tested.

Dr. Yekaterina Kasyanova of Siberia’s Kemerovo region said she didn’t trust it enough to get the shot and has advised her mother, a teacher, not to get it either, adding: “The vaccine is several months old. Long-term side effects are not known, its effectiveness hasn’t been proven.”

Dzhamilya Kryazheva, a teacher in Krasnogorsk near Moscow, echoed that sentiment.

“I don’t intend to experiment on my body. I have three children,” she said.



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A truth-telling War Memorial does not need 2.5 hectares of extra floor space


Money spent on a proposed extension to the Australian War Memorial should be dedicated to telling the truth about war, writes Dr David Stephens.

KERRY STOKES has been Chairman of the Australian War Memorial Council since November 2015. Brendan Nelson was Director of the Memorial for seven years until December last year. Nelson’s successor, Matt Anderson, has been in the job since April.

The Stokes-Nelson Memorial benefited from “the Anzac cloak” (provides protection from criticism), the slackness of parliamentary accountability mechanisms (Nelson’s appearances at Senate Estimates were command performances with soft questions) and the networking skills of Stokes and Nelson (Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November 2018 praised intensive behind-the-scenes lobbying by “Kerry and Brendan” to promote the Memorial’s expansion plans).

Nelson was a skilled spruiker for the Memorial. The stories he told were of how and how well Australians fought, of the heroism they showed, of their service and sacrifice. Ben Roberts-Smith VC, the epitome of Nelson’s heroes, became a larger-than-life mascot for the Memorial, a featured speaker at ceremonies, a meeter and greeter of visiting football teams seeking Anzac inspiration, the subject of a painting entitled Pistol Grip, showing him pretending to use a weapon.

When Nelson asked in 2017 and 2018, as the Brereton investigation ground on, where lay the national interest in tearing down our heroes, he had front-of-mind his good friend – and Kerry Stokes’ employee since 2015 – Roberts-Smith.

While the Stokes-Nelson Memorial was strong on how we fight, it was far less forthcoming on the much more difficult questions of why we fight, the causes of our wars and their consequences. Not only for Australian service people and their families but for the people in other countries, where most of our wars have been fought.

But now, in 2020, Director Anderson says he wants to do things differently, to broaden the scope of the Memorial, the matters it takes seriously.

Anderson says the Memorial is “a place of truth”, particularly about Afghanistan:

“People will come to the memorial and… because of the significance of the [Brereton] report and arguably because of the media attention that’s been given to the report, they would expect to see it acknowledged and we will seek to do that.”

This suggests Anderson wants to get beyond that simplistic, hero-centred narrative to tell a more complex and nuanced story. The Honest History website (now seven years old), The Honest History Book (2017) and the Heritage Guardians group since early 2019 have been pleading for such a change. It’s good to have Anderson on board.

Afghan War shows the need for a people’s inquiry into the U.S. alliance

It is to be hoped, though, that Anderson is allowed to follow through on his ambitions. The early prospects are not good. 2GB shock jock Ben Fordham accused Anderson of planning a “hall of shame” at the Memorial, the Prime Minister quickly insisted that “the Board” (actually, the Council) at the Memorial would ensure that the right decisions were made and the picture began to look rather like the pile-on onto General Campbell over the Meritorious Unit Citation.

It would be a tragedy if Anderson were to be thwarted but, at the same time, the proposed $498 million extension to the Memorial went ahead. It would then be a case of more and more space being devoted to telling the same old simple, how we fight, “what heroes we Aussies are”, sanitised story rather than venturing into new, more honest subject matter.

Anderson himself has tried to have it both ways: give us more floor space (2.5 hectares* of it, a considerably larger area than the MCG, some of it gained by knocking down the award-winning Anzac Hall, completed only in 2001) to tell the stories of recent wars, but still tell the truth. Afghanistan plus Brereton.

In fact, the two objectives are separable, as the July submission to the Memorial from the Australian Heritage Commission (AHC), the Government’s principal advisory body on heritage matters, made clear:

‘The [Memorial’s] documentation… while addressing alternatives relating to structural expansion, appears to have not addressed options such as operational and other functional changes that could minimise the need for additional space.’

Heritage Guardians has been saying similar things for two years and many Australians have agreed with us. The parliamentary Public Works Committee (PWC) inquiry into the Memorial project received many more submissions than the PWC has received on any project since it began work in 1913 — and 80 per cent of the submissions were against the project.

War crimes report: Changing the culture and facing the true cost of war

The Memorial’s heritage documentation under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act attracted 167 submissions, with 58 per cent “generally not supportive” of the project (the Memorial’s own figure and terminology).

Anderson tried to play down the AHC’s submission, notably in his appearance at Senate Estimates on 26 October (“We received 167 submissions. That was one of the submissions”). The legitimate concerns of the AHC, chaired by former Coalition Minister David Kemp, along with the many other thoughtful opponents of the Memorial project should not be so easily brushed aside.

The Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, should have rejected the Memorial’s heritage documentation rather than approving it under the EPBC Act. The PWC should report to the Parliament that there is no need for the project. Other options for the future of the Memorial should receive more than the cursory skim the Memorial has given them. Truth-telling at the Memorial does not need more space.

(*The figure of 2.5 hectares (24,744 square metres) comes from adding together the “new space” figures in paragraph 5.1 of the Memorial’s Final Preliminary Documentation under the EPBC Act.)

Dr David Stephens is secretary of the Honest History coalition and editor of its website (honesthistory.net.au) and a member of Heritage Guardians, a community committee leading the campaign against the proposed $498m extensions to the Australian War Memorial. You can follow him on Twitter @honesthistory1.

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6000 extra sandbags brought in as tipping point reached


THE Bellinger River officially reached the minor flood level yesterday as torrential rain continued to batter the region.

Around 10am the river hit 3.7 metres causing Bellingen Shire Council to temporarily close Lavenders Bridge ahead of the rising water level.

By late afternoon the downpour was well and truly settled in with roads in the hinterland around Upper Orara and Karangi becoming inundated with water.

The Orara River at Glenreagh was expected to exceed the minor flood level on Monday evening and the heavy rainfall forecast for the coming days could result in moderate flooding overnight Tuesday.

At Coutts Crossing, the minor flood level is expected to be exceeded on Tuesday morning with moderate flooding possible by late Tuesday afternoon.

Coffs Harbour SES unit commander James Daniels said there had been significant increase in the number of people calling for assistance and an extra 6000 sandbags had been made available for concerned residents.

More heavy rain is headed our way over the next 24 hours.

With the rain expected to continue well into the week, Mr Daniels said he wanted to emphasise that people in the outer regions of the Coffs Coast would not be forgotten.

“Those people who become isolated and require food, fodder or other essentials are encouraged to call 132 500,” he said.

“The SES has made big play staging an aviation asset here and where it is not possible to get in by boat, 4wd or our all-terrain side by sides the consideration would be to assist via air.”

The unit has now been operating 24/7 since Thursday and has been working closely with neighbouring units of Urunga, Bellingen, Dorrigo and Corindi.

So far there have been no flood rescues and that was heartening for Mr Daniels.

“There was a lot of water over the roads in February and there were multiple flood rescues so we reiterate how important it is not to drive or walk through floodwaters,” he said.

“With zero flood rescues in our area, are the community must be getting the strong message.”





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20 ways I learnt to save some extra money this year


In the meantime, let’s recap on 2020 and what a year it has been. Our first recession in Australia in nearly three decades. An incredibly tough year for so many, particularly those whose jobs have been affected by COVID-19-related shutdowns.

For many families, belts have forcibly tightened. For others, there has never been a better time to get to grips with your finances – even if it’s only to reassure yourself that it is safe to spend again. Our economy depends on it.

If looking to keep grocery costs down, Aldi is the place to start.Credit:

For me, it’s been a full year of home ownership and learning how to manage my monster mortgage.

I’ve made several tweaks to my household budget – most notably, actually having one – to get ahead in these tough times.

So, as my early Christmas present to you, here are the 20 top ways I found to save some extra cash.

1. Shop at Aldi. When I did the sums, comparing the same basket of goods at Aldi versus Coles, the winner was clear. Aldi was 11 per cent cheaper overall. Of course, they don’t stock everything and you must avoid the random middle-aisle of specials, but if you’re looking to save cash, Aldi is a great place to start.

2. Don’t buy cherry tomatoes. Those delicious little bundles of sweetness can cost up to $20 per kilogram or more, compared to $3 or $4 per kilo for ordinary tomatoes. The lesson is: check per unit pricing on price labels to make sure you are paying the lowest price per kilo or per unit.

3. Increase your insurance excesses. If you ever need to claim on your private health, car or home insurance, you’ll be out of pocket by the increased excess amount, of course. But if you take the risk, you can save hundreds a year in reduced premiums, which you can put towards any future claim.

4. Prepay your health insurance to beat annual price hikes. Every April 1 (although, due to the coronavirus it was October 1 this year) premiums get hiked. If you can afford it, prepay your annual premium the day before new prices kick in.

5. Ask insurers to quote you on a new policy. This is a tip from former competition tsar, Allan Fels, who found insurers charge a significant “loyalty tax” to existing customers. Often, premiums increase automatically each year – beyond the prices for new customers. Check what your insurer is charging new customers and if they won’t give it to you, walk away.

6. Shop around for tyres. It may not be glamorous but shopping around on tyres can save you hundreds of dollars. Search online to bag a saving.

7. Don’t use Premium 98 petrol if you don’t have to. Check your car manufacturer’s specification, which can usually be found inside your petrol flap.

12. Establish your own “Future Funds”. Otherwise known as “sinking funds”. First, identify an expense that hits annually and then set aside a regular amount each month so you don’t get bill shock when it lobs.

13. Check your mortgage interest rate. It should have a “2” in front; and a low “2”, at that.

14. Cut your own hair. Warning: this is very stressful. Results can vary.

15. Don’t cut your hair. Should point 14 prove too stressful, just grow your hair long, like me.

16. Don’t buy clothes. I didn’t, for most of the year. Until I bought a $14.99 pair of jeans from Aldi. Because they were $14.99!

17. Buy furniture second hand on Gumtree or Facebook marketplace.

18. Sell your clutter online. I’ve made nearly $3000 selling stuff on Facebook marketplace this year.

19. Use up your health insurance benefits. It’s not too late to book a dental or optometrist appointment and make sure you use up all your annual limits, most of which reset on January 1.

20. Subscribe to the Money with Jess newsletter. Shameless plug. But I’m on a mission to unearth new savings in 2021 and you don’t want to miss out!

Until then, have a peaceful break and I’ll see you next year.

Jess xx

You can follow Jess’ money adventures on Instagram at @jess_irvine_pics. Her regular Money column will re-appear in the first edition for 2021 on January 17.

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