Service club battles tyranny of distance


The Rotary Club of Alice Springs Education Fund pumps close to $22,000 a year into tertiary education of local young people studying far from home.

The principal funding is through the John Hawkins Fellowship under which students receive $6000 a year for three years.

There are always three recipients, receiving a combined total of $18,000 a year.

Added to that is the $3000 a year Bill van Djik fellowship for post-graduate students.

The club’s main fundraiser is the Melbourne Cup Sweep with a first prize of $7000 ($2000 second, $1000 third plus $50 for everyone drawing a horse not placed).

Apart from ticket sales by the club members around town the Sweep is sponsored by 18 local businesses.

The fund has been operating for more than 20 years.

PICTURED are, from left, club treasurer Neil Ross and chair of The Education Fund Virginia Loy presenting the first prize cheque to Gwenyth White.

[Declaration of interest: The writer is a member of the club.]

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Bartleby – Countering the tyranny of the clock | Business

TWO HUNDRED years ago, a device began to dominate the world of work. No, not the steam engine—the gadget was the clock. With the arrival of the factory, people were paid on the basis of how many hours they worked, rather than their material output.

In the “putting out” system that prevailed before the factory era, merchants would deliver cloth to be woven, spun, stitched or cut to a worker’s home. Each worker would then be paid for the items they produced. That gave the weavers and spinners freedom to work when it was convenient. At the factory, in contrast, workers were required by the owner to turn up for a set shift.

The tyranny of time was marked by a number of innovations. As few workers owned watches or clocks in the 19th century, people known as “knocker-uppers” would roam the streets rapping on doors and windows to wake workers at the right time. Later, factories would use hooters and whistles to signal the start and end of shifts, and employees would punch in and out using a time clock. Eventually, as workers moved farther away from their place of employment, the power of the clock led to daily rush hours, as millions headed to and from work. Often they paid a penalty in terms of time wasted in traffic jams or awaiting delayed trains.

The clock’s authoritarian rule may at last be weakening. Flexible working existed well before the pandemic. But it only offered employees the ability to choose when in the day they worked their allotted hours. Remote working has brought a greater degree of freedom. A survey of 4,700 home-workers across six countries commissioned by Slack, a corporate-messaging firm, found that flexible working was viewed very positively, improving both people’s work-life balance and productivity. Flexible workers even scored more highly on a sense of “belonging” to their organisation than those on a nine-to-five schedule.

It is hardly surprising that workers prefer flexibility. Working a rigid eight-hour schedule is incredibly restricting. Those are also the hours when most shops are open, when doctors and dentists will take appointments, and when repairmen are willing to visit. Parents on a conventional routine may be able to take their children to school in the morning but are unlikely to be able to pick them up in the afternoon. Many families find themselves constantly juggling schedules and giving up precious holiday time to deal with domestic emergencies.

On reflection, it is also not too shocking that home-workers feel they are more productive. After all, few people have the ability to concentrate solidly for eight hours at a stretch. There are points in the day where people are tempted to stare out of the window or go for a walk; these may be moments when they find inspiration or recharge themselves for the next task. When they do this in an office, they risk the boss’s disapproval; at home, they can work when they are most motivated.

Remote working is not possible for everyone, of course. There is a long list of industries, from emergency services to hospitality and retail, where people need to turn up to their place of work. But for many office workers, remote working is perfectly sensible. They may maintain some fixed points in the week (staff meetings, for example) but perform many of their tasks at any time of the day—or night. Office workers can now be paid for the tasks they complete rather than the time they spend (which firms would have to monitor by spying on people at home).

What is striking about Slack’s study is the widespread nature of support for home-working. Overall, just 12% of the workers surveyed wanted to return to a normal office schedule. In America black, Asian and Hispanic employees were even more enthusiastic than their white colleagues. Women with children were generally keen, reporting an improvement in their work-life balance—though a gap exists between discontented American women and those in other countries, who are much happier (the availability of state-subsidised child care helps explain the difference).

Of course, the new schedule carries dangers: people may lose all separation between work and home life, and succumb to stress. To inject some human contact, companies may embrace a hybrid model in which workers go into the office for part of the week. But overall office-workers’ freedom from time’s yoke is to be welcomed. The clock was a cruel master and many people will be happy to escape its dominion.

This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline “Stop all the clocks”

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Tyranny Takes More Lives Than Coronavirus

It’s safe to say that a lot of people think America bungled its response to coronavirus. The United States has lost 212,000 Americans, more deaths than any other country. In contrast, Australia is sitting pretty with less than a thousand deaths and a contracting, but not crashing, economy. Still, can we really call Australia a success story when Aussies have given up so many freedoms? The cost of coronavirus cannot be measured in merely coronavirus deaths and jobs lost. Tyranny comes with its own expenses.

It makes sense that people see Australia as a success story. After all, unemployment is only 6.8 percent compared with 7.9 percent in the United States. Only 895 Aussies have died from coronavirus—39 deaths per million, compared to 644 per million in America. But that’s just a small part of a grander story.

Coronavirus was not the only killer of Australians this year. Lockdowns have taken a very heavy toll. In a single Tuesday last month, Lifeline, Australia’s suicide hotline, received 3,326 calls, breaking the service’s fifty-seven-year record for calls in a day. The budget recognised this additional crisis and, according to the Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the country doubled our medicare budget for mental health services this year. But the government is playing catchup as it tries to clean up its own mess.

Humans are not meant to be locked up for months at a time. Many haven’t seen their families in other states since before March. We have missed weddings, funerals, and last goodbyes.

In some cases, the restrictions that were meant to keep us safe have even proved fatal. Australia has some of the world’s strictest border restrictions in response to coronavirus. The Queensland state premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk coldly stated, “Queensland hospitals are for Queenslanders.” Later, she retracted her words after a pregnant woman living in a border community didn’t receive bureaucratic approval in time to cross from New South Wales to Queensland and her unborn daughter died.

In another state, Victoria, a fourteen-year-old autistic boy went for a run in the bushland. When he didn’t come back, his family and other volunteers started searching for him in earnest. But in Victoria, residents are only allowed to travel within five kilometers of their home for fear of the virus spread. They cannot go out after curfew or stay out more than two hours. Police sent the rescue teams home and refused to allow them to search. For their part, the police failed to find the boy in time, and he passed away.

In response to Australia’s harshest lockdowns, many Victorians want to flee the state. My own real estate agent admitted their office has been overwhelmed with calls from Victorians wanting to sell their homes and move. While the Australian economy may as a whole bounce back eventually, Melbourne will bear the scars of coronavirus and the lockdowns for many years to come.

People do not want to live under tyranny. The costs are too high. Australians have lost freedom of association, freedom of movement and freedom of speech.

Many Aussies cannot even protest their lost freedoms. Consider the case of expectant mother Zoe Buhler, who posted a Facebook event for a freedom protest. The event encouraged attendees to take every safety precaution and was to take place in an area where gathering was technically legal. The police showed up at Buhler’s door, handcuffed her, and took her away for “incitement”—all in front of her two small children.

Before the United States starts calling for Donald Trump and Senate Republicans to consider safety first and to mimic the Australian system, they should consider the full costs of heavy-handed governance.

Some U.S. states attempted to restrict travel from other states only to learn it was unconstitutional, and many are trying to require two-week quarantines for interstate travelers. Thankfully, U.S. states haven’t started locking people in airless hotel rooms under military guard, but they are creeping in the Australian direction.

Henry Olsen said last week, “Australian conservatives know that the people want safety first, and they are willing to pay the price in lost economic output to provide it.” On paper, Australia looks good with our few coronavirus cases and a budget expected to boomerang the economy back into action. But we have lost so much more than jobs and GDP growth. If it appears that Aussies want safety first, it’s only because if we objected the police could show up at our doors.

Australia can no longer with any integrity call itself young, rugged, and free.

Emilie Dye is the Executive Director of the H.R. Nicholls Society, the Director of Policy for the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance, and a Young Voices Contributor. Find her on Twitter @emilie_dye.

Image: Reuters.

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