Council: instability at the top

By KIERAN FINNANE After just six months in the job, the Town Council’s Director of Community Development, Kim Sutton, has resigned. The resignation appears to be effective immediately as an email to Ms Sutton on her council account receives an automatic reply: “Please be advised that Kim Sutton is no longer employed by the Alice […]

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Putin, Long the Sower of Instability, Is Now Surrounded by It

YEREVAN, Armenia — In Russia’s self-proclaimed sphere of influence, Russia is losing its influence.

Concurrent crises in Belarus, Central Asia and the Caucasus region have blindsided the Kremlin, leaving it scrambling to shore up Russian interests in former Soviet republics and undermining President Vladimir V. Putin’s image as a master tactician on the world stage.

“There is nothing good about these conflicts for Moscow,” Konstantin Zatulin, a senior Russian lawmaker and Putin ally who specializes in relations with what Russians call their “near abroad.”

Mr. Putin has spent years building up Russia as a global power, with a hand in hot spots from Latin America to the Middle East, and even meddling in presidential elections in the United States. But after working for years to destabilize the West, he suddenly finds himself surrounded by instability; once seen as sure-handed in foreign affairs, he seems to have lost his touch.

In Belarus, Mr. Putin responded to a street uprising in August by propping up the country’s unpopular autocrat, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, turning public opinion against Russia in what had previously been Europe’s most Russia-friendly country.

In Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, protesters this week appeared on the verge of toppling President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, less than two weeks after Mr. Putin pledged to him in a rare in-person meeting that “we will do everything to support you as the head of state.”

And in the Caucasus, the long-simmering conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh erupted last week into the worst fighting since the 1990s, threatening to undo the balancing act that had allowed Russia to cultivate diverse links to the region.

“Russia was doing all it could to maintain ties both with Azerbaijan and Armenia,” Mr. Zatulin said. “Every day of conflict in Karabakh is, effectively, helping zero out Russia’s authority.”

The spate of new challenges to Russian influence strikes at the heart of Mr. Putin’s yearslong effort to cast himself as the leader who restored the great-power status that the nation lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even as the Kremlin denied Russian interference in the 2016 American presidential election, Russian state television gleefully reported on the American allegations of that interference as a sign that Moscow was being reckoned with again on the world stage.

Now, rather than react decisively to emergencies close to home, Mr. Putin sounds ambivalent about Russia’s role.

“We hope the conflict will end very soon,” he said of Nagorno-Karabakh, in a television interview broadcast Wednesday. Minutes later, referring to Kyrgyzstan, he said, “We hope that everything will be peaceful.”

The confluence of crises in Russia’s own neighborhood is such that some pro-Kremlin commentators are already accusing the West of an organized campaign to sow discord in the post-Soviet regions.

More balanced analysts, however, have singled out one constant factor in the growing unrest. Both Russia and its neighbors, they say, have been destabilized by the coronavirus pandemic, which has exposed distrust in institutions and in out-of-touch leaders across the region.

It helped undo the fragile truce between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and in Belarus and in Kyrgyzstan, the disease set the stage for public uprisings by exposing the ruling elite as disconnected from people’s suffering.

Mr. Lukashenko angered Belarusians by playing down the danger of the virus, joking that vodka would cure it; in Kyrgyzstan, critics blamed officials for using coronavirus aid money to enrich themselves.

Within Russia, the economic hardship caused by the pandemic has helped deepen public anger against Mr. Putin. In the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk, for example, thousands of protesters angry over the arrest of a popular governor spilled into the streets last Saturday for the 13th week in a row.

Some analysts say that public discontent within Russia means that Mr. Putin needs to turn more of his focus to domestic issues such as economy hardship, pollution and poor health care, rather than delving into global geopolitics. But developments in recent weeks have given Mr. Putin more reason to focus on the latter.

“For Putin, practically his entire mission and his vision of Russian greatness and success revolve around his foreign-policy agenda,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, a research organization focused on politics and policy. The new series of crises, she went on, “will very much distract Putin from domestic problems.”

The centrality of the former Soviet lands to Mr. Putin’s foreign policy was evident in the Kremlin’s list of world leaders who called Mr. Putin to wish him a happy birthday on Wednesday, when he turned 68. Of the 12 who called, only three leaders — those of Israel, India and Cuba — head countries outside the former Soviet Union.

In Armenia, which hosts a Russian military base, some hope for a more forceful stance by Russia in the conflict, which has already killed at least 250 people, according to official reports. But Russia’s ability to influence events in the Caucasus now appears limited, despite its past role as a mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkey, Azerbaijan’s most important ally, has taken on a more assertive regional stance.

“Turkey, indeed, in this current situation probably should be considered as a balance to unilateral Russian interference,” said Farid Shafiyev, chairman of the Center of Analysis of International Relations in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku. In the Caucasus, he added, “the Russian role is probably diminishing.”

Across the former Soviet Union, Russian remains the lingua franca, and the proliferation of mostly uncensored internet access across the region means that protests in one country can easily inspire a disenchanted populace in another.

Some protesters in Belarus carried signs supporting the demonstrations in Khabarovsk, over 4,000 miles away. And ahead of Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary elections last Sunday, government critics were keeping an eye on Belarus, where it was a blatantly falsified election in August that sparked the uprising against Mr. Lukashenko.

“In Kyrgyzstan it was often said that we will copy the Belarusians,” said Aybek Sultangaziyev, director of a news agency in Kyrgyzstan, K-News. “In fact, we surpassed the Belarusians in effectiveness and precision.”

Mr. Sultangaziyev said that if his country’s uprising succeeds, the new leadership will seek to maintain close ties with Moscow. In Armenia, too, the government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan retained its alliance with Russia after the prime minister came to power in a popular uprising in 2018.

“We have never been pro-Western or pro-Eastern,” said Ruben Rubinyan, head of the foreign affairs committee in the Armenian Parliament. “Russia has been and is an ally of Armenia, a very important ally.”

But, for Moscow, recent events in Belarus offer a cautionary tale that illustrates the fragility of Russia’s standing among its neighbors — carrying echoes of Ukraine’s more violent departure from Russia’s orbit in 2014. Some Belarusians who had been well disposed toward Mr. Putin turned against him after he propped up Mr. Lukashenko in the face of the protests.

Mr. Zatulin, the Russian lawmaker, said officials “at the highest levels of the Russian Federation” believed that Mr. Lukashenko would need to step down “sooner or later.” But Mr. Lukashenko had argued to Russian officials, Mr. Zatulin said, that his stepping down in the face of street protests could set a dangerous precedent for what might happen to Mr. Putin himself.

“By unconditionally supporting Lukashenko, we are creating an enormous problem for ourselves in the future with the majority or a significant part of the Belarusian population,” Mr. Zatulin said. “We are creating a problem for ourselves with the other Belarusian politicians and public figures, who are increasingly forced to seek sympathy in the West. Russia wants that least of all.”

Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting from Moscow.

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New report reveals gig economy thrives off hardship and instability

A recent Victorian Govt report on the gig overall economy reveals a sector ruled by regulations that act against workers’ passions, writes Sam Brennan.

THE GIG Economic climate exploded on to the scene right after standard and safe get the job done plummeted close to the globe right after the World wide Financial Disaster. The sector is dominated by tech giants who make their profits by connecting employees with shoppers, like Uber, Menulog, Airtasker and much more.

The Victorian Government recently released a landmark report by an inquiry into the on-demand workforce (the gig economic system), which explores the intricate laws encompassing the concern and damning lack of employee safety.

You might be not an employee

If you are a driver for Uber, if Uber decides your pay, if you get your wage from Uber and if you can be fired by Uber, are you an personnel of Uber?

The reply is no, you are not an personnel at all.

In its place, you are – in the flowery language of company jargon – an “entrepreneur”, “partner”, “tasker” or “freelancer”. If you search carefully, you will locate a slate of less flattering, more lawful jargon describing you as a “non-employee”, “independent contractor” or even a “small company owner”. These terms all emerge from a hole in current labour legislation.

Australia’s labour law stems from the “wage-function bargain”, in which an employee will get compensated for a willingness to function for a established period of time of time even if there is no perform to be completed. The principle came from learn-servant associations of the 18th Century, in which the servant would mull all over waiting on their master until eventually they ended up necessary. 

Gig financial state businesses argue that this wage-work bargain is not relevant to them, because their “partners” get to determine their individual times and wages are primarily based on a single undertaking, not several hours invested ready to do responsibilities.

This hugely theoretical authorized difference has quite serious substance impacts. As an employee, you are assured a least wage, the proper to collective motion, superannuation and additional. But a non-staff (a gig overall economy worker) gets none of this.

For instance, a 2018 study located that the ordinary driver for Uber earns $16 an hour irrespective of the national least wage staying $19.84.

On top of that, in 2018 when an Uber driver submitted an unfair dismissal software to the Good Work Fee, his circumstance failed due to the fact he was discovered not to be an worker and for that reason could not be unfairly dismissed.

This lawful loophole indicates Uber only has a handful of staff in comparison to their 60,000 “rideshare driver-associates”, the latter of whom are paid out by 50 percent a dozen subsidiary firms that allow Uber to shell out only $5 million in taxes from its earnings of $474 million, or one particular for each cent. 

The argument that regular personnel get compensated by the hour, when impartial non-employee gig workers get compensated by the job is also a phony binary, as there are labour laws that cover staff who get the job done to a undertaking. 1 case in point is piece fees in agriculture, where the worker is paid out primarily based on how substantially they harvest. Importantly, piece premiums warranty least wage and superannuation.

Uber promises that their motorists like the present deal for the reason that it presents them with the flexibility to pick out the periods they function. This is not totally genuine, as Uber will adjust prices to force drivers to work specific times. The term “flexibility” results in being even much more disingenuous when it can be put in opposition to protection. 

Morrison's JobMaker plan and the 'skill' shortage

Uber’s reclassification threat

Uber, in its submission to the inquiry, mentioned versatility was the most important aspect for their motorists and that introducing employee protections would threaten this.

The business claimed:

‘…present employment regulation means platforms like Uber are constrained in providing further assist to individuals who use the application to locate function. This is since offering advantages and coaching to our partners could compromise the self-utilized position of the individual.’

This is regarded as “reclassification risk”, where enterprises are unwilling to give benefits and safety to their personnel mainly because it may reclassify them as an worker, risking their substantially-liked adaptability.

However, all through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have found millions of personnel doing the job from dwelling at times that fit them, nonetheless still keeping fundamental protections and added benefits, indicating this trade-off is not innate.

Moreover, it potential customers to companies like Uber making the strange argument that they simply cannot supply advantages to their staff, mainly because in doing so they would be tacitly acknowledging them as workforce and therefore mandated to present rewards. 

Persons acquire what they can get

Business groups say we shouldn’t actually treatment about all this because it is this sort of a smaller part of the workforce. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Business mentioned the gig economy is ‘non-statistically significant’ and advises in opposition to ‘unwarranted, misplaced or premature’ regulation. 

The gig overall economy is tricky to pin down, running throughout various professions. On the other hand, a study executed by the inquiry found that close to 14 for each cent of the inhabitants had engaged in the gig financial system at some place, a not-insignificant sum.

Wanting into why persons perform in the gig economic system only even further reveals the value of very good pay back and stability.

Praise and regret for the casual worker

Inspite of Uber proclaiming overall flexibility was the reason drivers utilized the app, the survey uncovered that the principal purpose people engaged with the gig financial state was to receive extra funds.

The report famous:

‘This is dependable with a vary of data that signifies system [gig economy] cash flow gives secondary alternatively than key money for the vast majority of platform employees.’

This should not be stunning as wages stagnate and people today struggle to come across stable get the job done with a continuous increase in underemployment exacerbated by COVID-19.

Staff want additional cash because they are not receiving compensated sufficient or operating sufficient several hours. As opposed to businesses raising wages or the Authorities furthering stimuli, the gig financial system paves about the failures of the economic procedure by compounding them, featuring even lessen-compensated positions to deal with the shortfall in low-shelling out work opportunities.

Who’s the manager?

Uber reported:

‘…the flexibility Uber gives is proving an desirable alternative for quite a few… business owners. …associates explain to us they value the freedom of getting their own manager and deciding upon if, when and in which they travel or deliver.’

Typically, a manager has control around the item that employees use to make products and then requires a slice of the earnings. The boss owns the stitching equipment at a textile manufacturing facility, the coffee machine at a cafe and the software package that connects motorists and passengers.

On the other hand, in a strictly authorized perception, Uber is correct — our latest technique does not consist of gig financial state staff as employees. This has permitted gig financial system organizations to thrust all their personnel into a authorized grey area in which they do not have to supply basic worker protections.

Gig financial state personnel nevertheless engage in this exploitative connection since the weak economic instances go away them very little preference. It is not a coincidence that numerous gig financial state staff occur from susceptible socioeconomic groups, notably migrants and younger individuals.

The report built some crucial recommendations to proper this situation, together with new labour guidelines. Having said that, with the Authorities preaching the positive aspects of versatility and people desperately seeking for no matter what career they can discover, action requirements to be taken sooner alternatively than afterwards.

Economic recovery post-COVID-19 looks dire without a healthy migrant population

Sam Brennan is a freelance journalist. You can abide by him on Twitter @samkbren.

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Turkey Supports Azerbaijan to Cause Instability in Russia’s ‘Soft Underbelly’, the Caucasus

The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has become increasingly serious. Both countries claim the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and between the late 1980s and early 1990s there was a war between them to decide the control of the region. Tens of thousands of people died in the conflict, which ended in 1994 with a ceasefire agreement, without a winner. The agreement places the Nagorno-Karabakh region as a de facto autonomous republic, remaining de jure as part of Azerbaijan. This agreement gave a break in the massacres but did not prevent the continuation of the territorial disputes between both countries, which until today claim the region, and the situation has worsened even more recently.

On July 12, there was an armed clash in the region, with an uncertain number of victims. Azerbaijani forces accuse Armenia of violating territorial limits. In contrast, the Armenian government blames the opposing country for such violations. Since then, according to Armenian observers, bombings on the border have been reported every 15 to 20 minutes. Data on the dead or injured people remain uncertain.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accuses Azerbaijan of initiating hostilities and says that no violence will go unpunished, promising to react to every move by the enemy country. Data from the Armenian Ministry of Defense points to records of artillery attacks against Armenian territory in the early hours of July 12, when the fighting was recorded. According to the Armenian government, Armenian troops only retaliated against the attacks received. Pashinyan accuses not only Azerbaijan, but also Turkey of involvement in the attacks.

The charges are not unfounded. Turkey has shown support for Azerbaijan in the dispute, encouraging annexation and not a peaceful resolution of the impasse. The day after the clashes at the border, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, spoke in defense of Azerbaijan, saying that this country “is not alone” in the conflict. The statement becomes controversial and dangerous amid an escalation of violence, as it connotes not only support from Ankara, but also an interest in intervening in the conflict. Armenia reacted with severe criticism, blaming Ankara for the return of the violence. According to the Armenian government, Turkey has an interest in destabilizing peace in the region to gain greater control and influence over neighboring territories.

In return, the European Union issued a public note calling on both parties to reduce violence and to avoid the use of force. Likewise, the US State Department classified violence in the region as unacceptable and urged both parties to seek a peaceful solution to the dispute. In the same vein, the Russian government has called on both countries for a peaceful resolution, without showing support for either party. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to an immediate ceasefire and to comply with the terms of the Minsk Group, a committee created in 1992 to manage peace in the region. Since both countries are former Soviet republics, the role of Russian diplomacy in managing the conflict is essential, due to the weight of its influence in the region.

It is important to note the difference in the approach of the Russians, Americans and Europeans to the Turkish stance to the crisis. Demonstrating open support for any party in the current phase of the conflict can be crucial to intensify disputes and encourage an increase in violence. Being Turkey a military potency, the declared support in a conflict in its early stages may encourage the progress of hostilities. In this sense, it is likely that Azerbaijan, with the support of Ankara and possible Turkish intervention, will continue the bombing, assuming strategic advantage and superiority over its opponent. This is the great danger behind the Turkish pronouncement.

The situation, however, must be analyzed in a complete context. Turkey has shown interest in increasing its regional and international geopolitical relevance and, for this purpose, it has called for bold and provocative acts, such as, for example, its role in the Syrian War and the recent conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, which provoked outcries all over the world for being an unnecessary attack on the memory of Greek Christianity, provoking the resurgence of religious tensions in the region that had not existed for a long time.

In fact, Erdogan has clear plans to constitute a neo-Ottoman geopolitical projection, regaining power and influence at a regional level throughout the territory where the Ottoman Empire, predecessor of the modern Turkish state, operated in the past. Relations between Turks and Armenians, in this sense, do not have a good record and are alive in Armenian memory with the ethnic-religious genocide perpetrated against Christian Armenians in the early 20th century.

In this sense, Turkish interest in creating an area of ​​instability that favors its regional influence can be costly. Russia, as the regional power with the greatest historical influence in the Caucasus, must counterbalance Turkish advances through diplomacy, while Erdogan must be internationally pressured to avoid any intervention in the dispute between neighboring countries.

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Instability stalks Nepal as calls for Oli’s resignation grow

NEW DELHI: Nepal on Thursday seemed to be headed for instability as calls for PM K P Oli’s resignation mounted from his own ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) even as he looked to dig in his heels as he met President Bidhya Devi Bhandari to get her to prorogue the ongoing budget session of parliament after a recommendation from his cabinet.
The move is being read in Kathmandu as a desperate attempt by the beleaguered PM to avoid a floor test. Reports from Nepal suggested that he was also buying time to split his party and survive in office.
The latest trigger point was his remarks that India was plotting against him, a claim that saw senior party members demand that he produce evidence. The Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda-led faction in the ruling NCP has demanded the resignation of Oli from the post of PM and also co-chair of the party. The prorogation of parliament will also allow Oli to introduce an ordinance, a report in the Kathmandu Post said.
“In April, Oli had introduced a controversial ordinance that was aimed at making it easier for parties to split. The ordinance was withdrawn after vociferous criticism. Many believe that Oli could reintroduce the ordinance and split the party,” it said. Senior members asked Oli to step down for his failure to handle a host of issues including the Covid-19 situation in Nepal.

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