Goodbye to the crowded office: how coronavirus will change the way we work together



from http://www.shutterstock.com

Rachel Morrison, Auckland University of Technology

As lockdowns are relaxed around the world and people return to their workplaces, the next challenge will be adapting open office spaces to the new normal of strict personal hygiene and physical distancing.

While the merits and disadvantages of open plan and flexible workspaces have long been debated, the risk they posed of allowing dangerous, highly contagious viruses to spread was rarely (if ever) considered.

But co-working spaces are characterised by shared areas and amenities with surfaces that need constant cleaning. Droplets from a single sneeze can travel over 7 metres, and surfaces within pods or booths, designed for privacy, could remain hazardous for days.

Even in countries such as Australia and New Zealand where efforts to “flatten the curve” have been successful and which have relatively easily controlled borders, it’s fair to ask whether communal workspaces might be a thing of the past.

Perhaps – if vigilant measures are in place – some countries can continue to embrace collaborative, flexible, activity-based workplace designs and the cost savings they represent. But this is unlikely to be the case in general in the coming years. Even if some organisations can operate with minimal risk there will be an expectation they provide virus-free workplaces should there be future outbreaks.

Working from home

Worldwide, there will undoubtedly be fewer people in the office – now workers have tried working from home, they may find they like it. And organisations may have little choice but to limit the numbers of workers on-site. Staggered shifts, enforced flexitime, and 24/7 operations may become the norm, along with working remotely.

Video meetings, even within the same workplace, could become the new normal.
from http://www.shutterstock.com

The open plan model has been criticised for everything from lowered productivity, less interpersonal interaction, antisocial behaviour, reduced well-being, too much distraction, a lack of privacy, and making workers feel exposed and monitored.




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Get out of my face! We’re more antisocial in a shared office space


But it has also been shown to improve cooperation and communication. Whether these innovative spaces are within a large organisation or are communal workspaces where start-ups, freelancers, and contractors can sit together (such as GridAKL in Auckland or The Commons in Sydney), their popularity is undeniable. The sense of community and the ability to share knowledge and ideas are key attractions of co-working.




Read more:
Open plan offices CAN actually work, under certain conditions


Riding the shared/flexi-space wave have been companies such as WeWork – popularising communal tables within co-working hubs and providing “pods” for private conversations. But there is now little doubt WeWork will be an early casualty of COVID-19. Already in financial trouble before the pandemic, WeWork will cut more than 1,000 jobs this month.

But what about the thousands of organisations that retooled their densely populated work environments to encourage flexibility, activity-based work, and movement within and between spaces?

James Muir, CEO of sustainability start-up Crunch and Flourish has no doubt using co-working offices in central Auckland has been a positive: “We benefited from the great community at GridAKL,” he says. “And before long we were collaborating with other start-ups on marketing and design as well as getting great advice from more experienced entrepreneurs.”

Shared workspace company WeWork is expected to be another casualty of COVID-19.
from http://www.shutterstock.com

Missing social cues online

Those fortuitous conversations and information exchanges will inevitably become rarer as we avoid the risk of interpersonal contact – and they are almost impossible to mimic online. Personal interaction (even within the office) will be replaced with the already familiar virtual video meeting – or even, as TIME magazine reports, holograms and avatars.




Read more:
How women’s life-long experiences of being judged by their appearance affect how they feel in open-plan offices


However, communication is more challenging when conducted remotely. We are more persuasive in person, particularly if we know the person. Being on a video call is more draining than a face-to-face chat because workers must concentrate harder to process non-verbal cues such as tone of voice and body language. Anxiety about technology is another barrier, and some find lack of eye contact in virtual meetings (mimicked by staring at the “dot” of your own camera) disquieting.

New norms of hand sanitising, cleaning equipment and wearing masks will emerge. Handshaking or friendly pecks on the cheek may soon be things of the past, as will family photos and mementos on desks, if they prove too difficult to sanitise.

Aside from behaviours, policies, and attitudes, the physical office will need to change. Already, a company in the Netherlands has coined the term the “6 feet office”, aiming to redesign workspaces to help workers maintain social distancing at work.

We may even see the return of the high-walled cubicle, and the introduction of wide corridors and one-way foot traffic, already found in some hospitals. Activity-based work and hot-desks (which oblige people to move throughout the day) could be replaced by assigned desk arrangements where workers sit back to back.

New builds might incorporate touch-free technology such as voice-activated lifts, doors and cabinets, touchless sinks and soap dispensers, improved air venting and UV lights to disinfect surfaces overnight.

In the meantime, will James Muir resume running Crunch and Flourish from his co-working office after the pandemic? “Yes,” he says, “once the risk of any new cases is under control.”The Conversation

Rachel Morrison, Associate Professor, Auckland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Yes, we’re too dependent on China, but changing that is easier said than done


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

After the COVID crisis, what will be the “new normal” in Australia’s relations with China?

The short answer is, probably both worse and more complicated than pre-COVID.

This week has seen a fresh low point, with the Chinese government threatening economic retribution in response to the Morrison government’s call for an independent international inquiry into the origin and handling of the virus.

More generally, the pandemic has put front and centre two questions. The first is long-standing: has Australia become too dependent on China? The second has taken on a new urgency: can the dependency be reduced?

Appropriately, in the health crisis this dependency has been highlighted by the issue of medical supplies, much of which we import from China, including the vital but simple product of masks.

At a Wednesday news conference, Health Minister Greg Hunt celebrated mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s securing for the federal government of 10 million COVID-19 tests from China (for which the government will pay).

Forrest stressed his close relationship with, and gratitude to, the Chinese company that provided the $320 million worth of testing gear. Unbeknown to Hunt until the function, “Twiggy” had repaid the favour by inviting along the Chinese consul-general to Victoria, Long Zhou, who was accorded a platform to defend his country’s handling of the pandemic (which was “open and transparent”, he said).

Hunt had been ambushed; the government was furious.

Forrest is one of many in the business community who don’t want the China boat rocked.

Media magnate Kerry Stokes was quoted this week saying, “If we’re going to go into the biggest debt we’ve had in our life and then simultaneously poke our biggest provider of income in the eye it’s not necessarily the smartest thing you can do.”

Former resources minister Matt Canavan, usually on-song with business, declared that “too many of our business elite are concerningly vague about whether we should have an independent foreign policy”.

A separate strand of criticism of the government has come from those who argue its call for an inquiry lacked diplomatic acuity. They say it was made without lining up international partners to reinforce it, and came too hard on the heels of President Trump’s announcement he’d stop funds to the World Health Organisation.

Be that as it may, the inquiry proposal is logical enough, given the enormity of the pandemic’s consequences, and sub-optimal performances by both China and the WHO.

No doubt the government expected China to react, but the bite-back was ferocious, with the Chinese threat of retribution delivered by ambassador Cheng Jingye followed by the leaking of a conversation between him and Frances Adamson, secretary of the foreign affairs department.

Sources say Morrison feels personally affronted by China’s bullying. Also, they say, he has toughened his attitude towards China in the past year.

As well as showing its defensiveness over COVID-19, the Chinese reaction is just the latest manifestation of its approach in foreign relations.

It is a familiar playbook. In his recently-published memoir Malcolm Turnbull, referring to China’s “bullying tactics”, writes, “If a foreign nation disappointed China – for instance by criticising its conduct in some manner – then it could expect both criticism and economic consequences”.

COVID-19 has simply brought to the surface, in dramatic fashion, the deep and long-term bind Australia is in. As China has become more powerful, and in recent years its regime increasingly assertive and diplomatically aggressive, the problems of Australia’s dependency are more obvious.

The pandemic has sparked calls for diversification of both our export markets and import sources, and greater self-sufficiency.

Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie, chair of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, urges a review of “all industries and sectors that are vulnerable to supply chain disruption and that are also essential to our strategic resilience as a country”.

Canavan said the pandemic had clarified that “we must reduce our dependence on one country”. He wants to see Australia working with other countries to “diversify the world’s production of materials critical to the international economy. This is already happening with the processing of rare earths”.

Canavan says Australia, as the world’s largest producer of iron ore and the largest exporter of coking coal, has “a strategic interest in developing alternative customers for those products”.

But diversification is achievable only to a degree. Australia’s high level of economic reliance on China will inevitably continue for the foreseeable future. Most immediately, for instance, Australia’s recovery from the looming recession will need the help of the Chinese economy.

China’s purchases of iron ore and coal are bedrocks of our exports. Wider markets for them would depend on demand in other countries.

Nevertheless, the pandemic will lead to some rethinking and changes.

For example, the over-reliance of many Australian universities on Chinese students has been recognised for some time. It is now obvious this should be rectified.

It may be COVID will do that anyway, with the border closure producing a longer-term reset.

On the import side, Australia needs to address the issue of certain medical supplies. This is a matter of national security, broadly defined.

Beyond such products however, Australian consumers are best served by markets operating: the last thing we want is a return to protectionism.

Foreign investment is an interesting area.

To protect Australian companies made vulnerable during the crisis, all proposals (not just those above certain thresholds) currently must go to the Foreign Investment Review Board.

This is temporary but post crisis, there is likely to be public pressure to have a tougher approach to certain Chinese investment bids.

For some time, however – probably since the controversy around a Chinese company acquiring the lease of the Darwin port – Chinese investment proposals affecting key areas, such as energy and infrastructure, have been scrutinised more critically.

Crucially (although not a FIRB matter) Huawei was excluded from the 5G network.

At the same time as COVID is highlighting some harsh realities of the China relationship, it is also providing a reminder that the nature of the regional situation Australia will face in the next few years is something of a lottery.

Trump’s behaviour during the pandemic has been worse than erratic. Can anyone doubt if he is re-elected, his conduct would likely become even more unpredictable? The consequences for the US’s engagement in the region – or disengagement from it – are deeply worrying for Australian foreign policy.

If Joe Biden wins in November, there’d be considerable relief around Canberra’s foreign policy establishment. Morrison, wooed by Trump as a “bestie”, would have to do something of a pivot, but we know he’s the ultimate pragmatist.

Biden would mean US policy in the region would be more predictable and thus better for Australia.

But it would not make Australia’s long-term relationship with China any more straightforward.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia’s links with China must change, but decoupling is not an option


Hans Hendrischke, University of Sydney

Two events this week have illustrated two fundamental tensions in Australia’s relationship with China.

The first event was China’s ambassador to Australia suggesting a Chinese boycott of Australian exports, due to Australia pursuing an independent inquiry into the early response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In an interview on April 27, ambassador Cheng Jingye said Chinese tourists and students might have second thoughts about a country “not so friendly, even hostile”.

“And also,” Cheng added, “maybe the ordinary people will think why they should drink Australian wine or eat Australian beef.”




Read more:
China-Australia relations hit new low in spat over handling of coronavirus


The second event was the “blindsiding” of federal health minister Greg Hunt at press conference with mining magnate Andrew Forrest on April 29, when Forrest invited China’s consul-general for Victoria and Tasmania to speak.

The diplomatic kerfuffle wasn’t the most significant aspect. It was the point of the press conference: Forrest’s procurement through Chinese business contacts of 10 million coronavirus tests – increasing Australia’s testing capacity 20-fold.

These two events point to two fundamental realities about the economic relationship between China and Australia.

First, the two nations are deeply important to each other.

Second, this coronavirus pandemic has exposed the need to increase local manufacturing and reduce dependence on imports of critical supplies.

Australia’s recovery planning must include policies to underwrite local manufacturing capability. It means our economic relationship with China will change.

But despite the veiled threats from the Chinese government, and the desire in some parts of the Australian community for a split, a great economic decoupling is not an option.

Mutual dependence

Australia depends on exports to grow employment, tax revenue and welfare expenses.

About a quarter of all corporate tax revenue comes from mining. Most that is from exports to China, Australia’s largest trading partner by far. Coal and iron ore exports sales have been holding up well. Fortescue, in fact, expects to export more iron ore (177 million tonnes) this financial year.



There are no substitute markets of a similar scale to take up Australian exports in mineral resources, nor in agricultural produce or international education.

But China has few viable alternatives to Australia as well.




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Australia depends less on Chinese trade than some might think


Certainly not in the supply of iron ore, gas and coal.

Not for agricultural produce, where Australia has high a reputation in China.

Nor for education. There are few English-speaking countries to begin with, and the biggest market for Chinese students, the United States, is looking decidedly more hostile and unsafe.



So our dependence is mutual. Decoupling won’t happen.

Onshoring on the agenda

But nor it is an option to return to the pre-COVID-19 status quo.

The model of Australia “being willing to export commodities and import finished goods is old and broken”, declared a member of the federal government’s new National COVID-19 Coordination Commission this week.

The commission was established last month to advise the government on “actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social effects of the global coronavirus pandemic”.

Liveris is a Darwin-born chemical engineer who rose to become chief executive of The Dow Chemical Company (now DowDupont, the world’s biggest chemical maker. Top of the agenda he signalled this week is “onshoring”. In other words, restoring local manufacturing capability.

“Australia drank the free-trade juice and decided that offshoring was OK. Well, that era is gone,” he said. “We’ve got to now realise we’ve got to really look at onshoring key capabilities.”

A new form of globalisation

There is a clear national interest in developing our own manufacturing in critical export industries such as health, cybertechnology, renewable energy and agribusiness.

Doing so will include Australia in a global trend to reduce reliance on one continent or one country.

Some might call this deglobalisation. It is not.

Diversifying production and bringing it closer to markets and consumers is simply a new form of globalisation.

To achieve it, Australian businessess will need to invest heavily in new technology to take advantage of digital manufacturing, automation and artificial intelligence.




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A fourth industrial revolution is powering the rise of smart manufacturing


With the possible exception of some critically important services or products, only globally competitive manufacturing will be sustainable. It will need to be high-tech and innovative manufacturing. It will not mean the return of traditional manufacturing industries.

We’ll still need each other

Australia needs China to make this transition.

Advanced digital manufacturing requires substantial investment in technological capability and production facilities. China is already manufacturing and exporting advanced production equipment.

China will also be a crucial market for any exports, with many opportunities for Australian manufacturers that align with demand in the huge Chinese market. Chinese investment will help develop these export opportunities, as it has with exports like dairy.




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Vital Signs: Why can’t Australia be friends with both US and China?


So neither Australia nor China stand to gain from decoupling the two economies. Our economic co-operation will change with onshoring. But mutual dependence will not.The Conversation

Hans Hendrischke, Professor of Chinese Business and Management, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How might coronavirus change Australia’s ‘Pacific Step-up’?



Scott Morrison attends the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu in 2019.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Tess Newton Cain, Griffith University

Across the globe, the coronavirus pandemic has prompted countries and governments to become increasingly inward-looking. Australia is not immune to this. One of the effects of this situation has been that the “Pacific Step-up” appears to have dropped entirely off the political radar.

The step-up is – or was – the signature foreign policy of the Morrison government. Although it predates Scott Morrison becoming prime minister, under his leadership it had really come to the fore. We saw an increase in ministerial visits to the region, a ramping up of labour mobility opportunities for Pacific islanders, and the establishment of a A$2 billion infrastructure financing facility.

So, how does the Pacific Step-up need to evolve to help respond to the challenges posed by coronavirus?

It’s important to acknowledge that Australia and the island members of the “Pacific family” share more than just an ocean. They have many common challenges. Addressing them requires sharing resources. The coronavirus response presents an opportunity to move the Pacific Step-Up from something that is done “to” or “for” the Pacific to something that Australia does “with” the Pacific.




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It is too easy for the Australian media (and indeed the Australian public) to perpetuate the trope that Pacific people are helpless – chronic victims who need to be rescued from whatever calamity has most recently befallen them. Now is the time for Australian policymakers to step up and demonstrate real respect for their Pacific counterparts.

On top of the increasingly devastating effects of climate change, Pacific island countries are now managing the twin challenges of a potential public health emergency and its severe economic ramifications.

When it comes to the former, the focus has been on prevention. Many countries took swift and significant steps to minimise the risk of the virus entering their communities. Borders have been closed, restrictions on movements enforced and health and medical systems enhanced.

Pacific island countries are also already feeling the economic impacts of the global shutdown. This is particularly evident in those countries that rely on tourism and remittances for revenue, livelihoods and employment.

Several countries have moved quickly and decisively to introduce economic support and stimulus packages to meet some of the most pressing needs of their populations. Maintaining these into the medium and longer term will be a challenge.

In Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, the impacts of the recent Tropical Cyclone Harold are presenting additional challenges. Reaching Category 5 strength, it caused more than 30 deaths and left large amounts of damage and destruction in its wake. Australia and other partners (particularly France and New Zealand) have provided assistance to government agencies in the region that are charged with responding to disasters of this type.

In the Pacific, and among many Australian commentators, it is widely acknowledged that the step-up is driven largely by geo-strategic anxiety about the growing influence of China in the Pacific islands region. Coronavirus has done little to dilute this angst. In some instances, it appears to have accentuated it. Certainly, China has made it abundantly clear it is ready, willing and able to be a friend in need for Pacific island countries.

A more sophisticated and nuanced Pacific Step-up that addresses the challenges posed by coronavirus provides Australia with an opportunity to demonstrate to Pacific counterparts its ability and willingness to offer something that is different and more valuable than is available elsewhere.

This can take one or more of several forms. First of all, Australia should continue to advocate to the global community the need to provide tailored financial support to Pacific island countries. This must include lobbying for meaningful debt relief to underpin economic recovery.

The IMF has already made some moves in this regard. Australia has also moved quickly in relation to its most recent loan to PNG. When the Pacific Islands Forum’s finance and economic ministers meet online in the near future, this will likely be on the agenda. Australia should look to have something concrete to put forward in support of this, including offers to lobby the G7 and G20.




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Can Scott Morrison deliver on climate change in Tuvalu – or is his Pacific ‘step up’ doomed?


Recently, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters raised the possibility of a New Zealand-Australia “bubble” based on low numbers of infections in both countries. He saw this as a basis for reopening the borders to allow for freer movement of people and goods.

Pacific island countries that have no COVID-19 cases – there are several – should look to be part of a “Pacific bubble” if this conversation goes forward. This would maintain Pacific islanders’ participation in labour mobility schemes.

Australia and New Zealand are also the key markets for Pacific tourism. The sooner tourists can be welcomed back to the resorts and beaches, the sooner island livelihoods can be restored.

The rhetoric of the Pacific Step-Up has been couched in terms such as “Pacific family”. We now need to know what this means for how Australia can and will support Pacific states and communities in the face of coronavirus.The Conversation

Tess Newton Cain, Adjunct Associate Professor, Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

As coronavirus widens the renter-owner divide, housing policies will have to change


Rachel Ong ViforJ, Curtin University

What began as a global health crisis in the form of COVID-19 is now also an economic crisis of historic proportions. Much of the housing policy focus during the pandemic has rightly centred on the plight of people who are insecurely housed or homeless. Another strand of commentary has focused on a likely fall in property values.

But what does the pandemic mean for housing market inequalities in Australia? And what are the policy implications?




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Homelessness and overcrowding expose us all to coronavirus. Here’s what we can do to stop the spread


The renter-owner gap will widen

Despite concerns about house prices plummeting, the spread of COVID-19 is exposing a widening gap in housing markets between those who own zero housing wealth (renters) and those with substantial housing wealth (owners).

Australians with little to no housing wealth were already experiencing at least three key types of vulnerabilities before the pandemic in the form of work insecurity, financial stress and ill-health.

The charts below show the comparisons between renters and home owners in these three categories of vulnerability, using data from the HILDA Survey. Owners are ranked in quintiles by housing equity, from the bottom 20% (Q1) to the top 20% (Q5).

Renters were much more likely to be unemployed or in casual jobs than people with high housing wealth.

Note: Sample includes all persons aged 25+ no longer living in their parents’ homes. Housing equity is defined as family home value minus mortgage debt. Population weights have been applied.
Author’s calculations from 2017 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics Survey data, Author provided

Both renters and owners with low housing equity were more likely to have difficulty paying their rent, mortgage and utility bills on time. They were less likely to be able to raise emergency funds when needed.

Note: Sample includes all persons aged 25+ who are no longer living in their parents’ homes. Housing equity is defined as family home value minus mortgage debt. Population weights have been applied.
Author’s calculations from 2017 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics Survey data, Author provided



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Rents can and should be reduced or suspended for the coronavirus pandemic


Renters were also more likely to report poorer physical and mental health.

Note: Sample includes all persons aged 25+ who are no longer living in their parents’ homes. Housing equity is defined as family home value minus mortgage debt. Population weights have been applied.
Author’s calculations from 2017 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics Survey data, Author provided

The spread of coronavirus has added to these existing vulnerabilities. Casual workers have been particularly vulnerable to job loss.




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Coronavirus puts casual workers at risk of homelessness unless they get more support


The social gradient in health is well-known. People on the bottom rungs of the socioeconomic ladder tend to be in poorer health. They are then more likely to develop serious health problems from the coronavirus.

Post-pandemic markets will add to inequalities

COVID-19 is making existing economic inequalities worse. And even in a post-pandemic world it can be expected to slow down wealth accumulation among renters.

Hysteresis is a term used to describe an economic event that persists into the future, after the factors that led to the event have disappeared. In labour markets, the long-term unemployed also suffer long-term damage to their job prospects as their skills deteriorate and they are regarded as less employable.

This hysteresis effect will likely spill over into housing markets. Any crisis-driven falls in house prices may be short-term as housing values remain relatively insulated by record low interest rates. People who are exposed to job loss, insecure work or ill-health during the crisis will face a greater struggle to regain their economic footing after the pandemic than those from more affluent backgrounds.

This means the wealth-accumulating capacity of people with little to no housing equity is further compromised during and after the pandemic. In short, renters could fall further behind in their ability to buy a home. The gap between the haves and have-nots will grow.




Read more:
Fall in ageing Australians’ home-ownership rates looms as seismic shock for housing policy


3 principles for post-pandemic policy

An even more unequal housing future for Australia is undesirable. The post-crisis housing debate will need to be conducted with three key elements in mind: equity, solidarity and security.

Equity in access to housing opportunities must not slide off policymakers’ radar. It is not a debatable fact that governments have long provided generous concessions for property buyers. These measures include capital gains tax discounts, family home exemptions from land tax and income support means tests, and negative gearing for investors.

These preferential tax treatments have far exceeded government spending on renters. Notwithstanding the benefits commonly associated with home ownership, restoring some balance in the distribution of subsidies between owners and renters is essential to narrow the widening chasm between them.

Solidarity between generations will be more crucial than ever before to preserve Australia’s social and economic fabric. The surge in national debt created in response to the crisis will likely be a multi-generational burden.




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Some might be tempted to return to pitting the young against the old in housing debates. Policy thinking that encourages solidarity, rather than stoking tensions between generations, will be increasingly important. For instance, abolishing stamp duty together with levying land tax on all land will remove a key financial barrier to home purchases for both young first-time buyers and older downsizers.

The formation of the national cabinet to oversee the response to COVID-19 also provides a post-pandemic forum to forge federal-state cooperation on the required reforms. Federal support will be needed to help cover state revenue shortfalls in a gradual transition to land tax. On the other hand, the release of housing equity by older downsizers should ease pressures on the federal retirement incomes system.

Finally, it is time to reprioritise housing security as a foundation for fostering good health and economic participation. Critical public health measures to avoid the spread of disease, such as social distancing and staying at home, are inherently shelter-related. These measures are rarely achievable for people who are homeless or in overcrowded housing.The Conversation

Rachel Ong ViforJ, Professor of Economics, School of Economics, Finance and Property, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why coronavirus may forever change the way we care within families



AAP/Maria Zsoldos

Leah Ruppanner, University of Melbourne; Brendan Churchill, University of Melbourne, and William Scarborough, University of North Texas

The global spread of COVID-19 has illuminated the “care crisis” that has been building for decades.

Women, through their unpaid housework, childcare and elder care, have kept families functioning. However, COVID-19 is putting a strain on women’s abilities to keep the cogs of daily life turning. We are now starting to see the impact of what happens when women are unable to do it all.

What is the care crisis?

For decades, scholars have warned that the bulk of the unpaid domestic work carried by women is unsustainable. The ageing of populations across Western nations will add to the burden even more as women care for elderly parents, spouses, friends and family. This will in turn significantly reduce the employment pool and add strain on those providing the care.




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No, pregnant women aren’t primed to ‘nest’. It’s a myth that sets women up for a lifetime of housework


Mothers do almost twice as much housework as fathers, even when they are earning most of the family income. Greater time in housework is at the expense of their time in employment, leisure and sleep.

Without free childcare or flexible work, families are patching together a tenuous web of caregivers and family members to smooth before- and after-school transitions and to tend to sick children. COVID-19 exposes our care system as being held together by a thread, based on the unpaid and perpetual labour of women.

For decades, researchers have shown women are stressed, pressed and emotionally unwell from the constant struggle to manage these competing demands. The data are clear – women’s larger share of the care is making them sick.

Once COVID-19 started to spread, the world changed dramatically. Now, the invisible unpaid work started to become visible. And someone has to do it.

Worried about childcare? What our searches can teach us

To better understand how childcare during coronavirus is worrying Australian parents, we draw data from Google searches over the past 30 days from the United States and Australia. The US is further along in the coronavirus journey, so can offer some insights into how worry about the virus changes over time.

At first, Americans were more concerned about the economy. But as schools, workplaces and non-essential services start to shut down, the threat of the care crisis has emerged – the concentration of Google searches for coronavirus that include “daycare” and “elderly” intensifies. The work is coming home. Who is now going to do it?



Author provided/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Australia is now preparing more aggressive social-isolation measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, with school and non-essential service closures reported only this week and only in some states.

However, Australia, too, has been slow to respond and the federal government has resisted school closures in part because 30% of healthcare workers in Australia are women. What will happen to this group of workers if they have to look after their children and those affected by COVID-19?

Do all states exhibit the same worry?

Across the US, trends in search terms vary dramatically across states. In the past week, searches in most states have been concentrated on how coronavirus will impact the economy.

But something interesting is happening to the states in the middle of the country – Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota. In these states, searches for daycare and coronavirus are more common than searches related to coronavirus and the economy, grocery stores and the elderly.



Author provided/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Our research shows mothers in these states have access to better childcare resources – more affordable childcare, longer school days and more expansive after-school care. A forthcoming book, Motherlands, shows mothers in these states are more likely to work full-time, including right before and right after childbirth. These states are exemplars, offering parents the best childcare resources.




Read more:
Sharing the parenting duties could be key to marital bliss: study


But what happens for families in these states when everything shuts down?

When we dig a little deeper, we see searches for daycare centres being open during coronavirus soared by 100%. Questions about whether those centres will charge fees even while closed increased by 400%. Nebraskans are also worried about their financial futures, but theirs are more tightly linked to daycare.



Author provided/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Over the past week, Australians are increasing their searches of daycare, with some regional variation. People in Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria are most likely to ask Google about daycare. Families in these states average 31 hours of weekly childcare, or equivalent to another full-time job – time that families will have to fill.

What is the future of care?

COVID-19 will be devastating in its effect on our health, families and economy. But, as we face this new brave world together, it is important to understand the role of caregiving and the importance of carers in this crisis.

To date, women have done this work freely for families. But now the burden is too big and we need to see this work for what it is – important, essential and of great economic value. Individuals can use this as an opportunity to try something new, but also take stock of what we value as a society.

It is an opportunity to realise that the unpaid labour of grandparents and women is not enough – we need real solutions for a problem that, until now, has remained invisible.The Conversation

Leah Ruppanner, Associate Professor in Sociology and Co-Director of The Policy Lab, University of Melbourne; Brendan Churchill, Research Fellow in Sociology, University of Melbourne, and William Scarborough, , University of North Texas

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Sanctions, a failing economy and coronavirus may cause Iran to change its involvement in Syria



AAP/EPA/Mehdi Marizad

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

Iran’s emergence as a hot zone for the coronavirus further complicates that country’s relationships with its neighbours at a time when its economy is sliding deeper into recession.

US President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran by tightening economic sanctions coincides with a spreading health crisis that will test a hardline leadership.

Iranian confidence in its rulers is stretched in any case – there has been persistent unrest in which violent clashes with the authorities over economic hardship have resulted in dozens of deaths.

Battered by a sanctions regime, a deepening economic retrenchment and now a health emergency, Iran’s leaders will feel they are more than usually beleaguered.

Coming on top of America’s assassination of Iran’s military commander, Major General Qassim Suleimani, in early January, these are precarious moments for the Iranian leadership.




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Now the question is whether an overstretched Iran will feel obliged to pull back from its expensive involvement in Syria and its support for allies in Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere in a troubled region.

In other words, will its leadership, under considerable pressure at home, stage a retreat, or even decide it is in its interests to seek some sort of accommodation with a US administration that is bent on tightening the screws? US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week imposed additional curbs on travel by figures close to Iran’s rulers.

The alternative is for Tehran to withdraw into its shell while it rides out economic and other pressures. Given the parlous state of Iran’s economy, this will be easier said than done.

In all of this, the survival of an embattled regime in power since the overthrow of the shah in 1979 will be paramount.

Whether that prompts a rethink of Iran’s refusal to negotiate a replacement nuclear deal without sanctions being lifted first remains to be seen.

These options will be canvassed behind the scenes in arguments between moderates close to Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and hardline elements aligned with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

As things stand, it appears the hardliners have secured the upper hand.

Iran’s parliamentary elections last week made this clear. Hardliners achieved a near clean sweep after the powerful Guardians Council excluded thousands of moderate candidates from the race.

Appointed by Khamenei, the council vets suitable candidates for elections.

Dozens of moderate members of parliament were denied the opportunity to recontest.

Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group, said:

This is 2004-2005 all over again: a shift of the centre of Iranian politics to the right, harbingered by a major victory by the hardliners in low-turnout parliamentary elections, followed by a takeover of the presidency by the hardliners.

This is potentially bad news for President Rouhani, who had sought an accommodation with the US and its allies after signing a deal in 2015 in which Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear weapons program.

Iran will have presidential elections next year.

Trump took the US out of the nuclear deal in 2018. As a consequence, Tehran has been edging away from commitments made under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to halt its enrichment processes.

Complicating all of this is the coronavirus epidemic in a country where health services are already stretched.

By mid-week, Iran had reported 95 cases, but this almost certainly significantly understates the situation. The country is believed to have suffered the most deaths from the virus outside China.

Iran’s efforts to curb the contagion are vastly hampered by the fact that it is a destination for millions of Shia pilgrims annually from surrounding countries. These include Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Gulf states.

The holy city of Qom has become a hotbed of the virus. Multiple deaths have been reported there.

Symbolic of Tehran’s challenges in getting the coronavirus under control is the case of its deputy health minister.

Earlier this week, Iraj Harirchi had denied the authorities were covering up the scale of the outbreak. He later self-reported he was suffering from the disease.

This will have done little to engender confidence in the government’s ability to contain the disease or provide a credible accounting of its spread in a country of 80 million.

Adding to concerns region-wide is that Iran is believed to be the source of infections that have emerged among its neighbours, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman.

All these countries have now imposed restrictions on travel to and from the Islamic Republic. Dubai, a transit hub and home to the airlines Emirates and Etihad, has suspended all passenger and cargo flights to Iran for a week as a “precautionary measure”.

Curbs on travel will have a further dampening effect on Iran’s economy. It’s already reeling from tough sanctions, which include wide-ranging restrictions on the country’s oil exports, its economic lifeblood.

In October, the International Monetary Fund reported Iran’s economy would contract by 9.5% in 2019. This was the worst year for Iran since 1984, at the height of the Iran-Iraq war.

In 2019, the only countries to do worse, according to the IMF, were Libya, in the grip of a civil war, which suffered a 19% contraction, and Venezuela, which shrank 35%.

The IMF and World Bank had predicted incremental growth, if that, for Iran in 2020. In view of coronavirus concerns, marginal growth now seems highly unlikely.




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Iran is also stricken by skyrocketing rates of inflation. The IMF put the figure for 2019 at 35.7%. The Statistical Centre for Iran assessed the number higher at nearly 50%.

Food and fuel costs have gone through the roof. This has been the main cause of the civil unrest that continues to beset the regime. With US-sponsored sanctions in place and now a health crisis bedevilling the country, there is little relief in sight.

What is clear is Iran is facing its most challenging moment since 1988 and the end of its war with Iraq in which an estimated 500,000 Iranians were killed. War costs bled the economy dry.

In some ways, the latest situation may be more challenging for the regime given that Iranians were unified in a war effort. That unity is now a distant memory.The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

As fires rage, we must use social media for long-term change, not just short-term fundraising



Comedian Celeste Barber’s fundraising efforts have gained monumental support. But we need to think of long-term engagement in climate action too.
Facebook

Emma Hutchison, The University of Queensland

With 26 fatalities, half a billion animals impacted and 10.7 million hectares of land burnt, Australia faces a record-breaking bushfire season.

Yet, amid the despondency, moving stories have emerged of phenomenal fundraising conducted through social media.

At the forefront is Australian comedian Celeste Barber, whose Facebook fundraiser has raised more than AUD$45 million – the largest amount in the platform’s history.

Presenting shocking visuals, sites such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have been monumental in communicating the severity of the fires.

But at a time when experts predict worsening climate conditions and longer fire seasons, short bursts of compassion and donations aren’t enough.

For truly effective action against current and future fires, we need to use social media to implement lasting transformations, to our attitudes, and our ability to address climate change.

Get out of your echo-chamber

Links between social media and public engagement are complex. Their combination can be helpful, as we’re witnessing, but doesn’t necessarily help solve problems requiring long-term attention.




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Climate change is bringing a new world of bushfires


Online spaces can cultivate polarising, and sometimes harmful, debate.

Past research indicates the presence of online echo chambers, and users’ tendency to seek interaction with others holding the same beliefs as them.

If you’re stuck in an echo chamber, Harvard Law School lecturer Erica Ariel Fox suggests breaking the mould by going out of your way to understand diverse opinions.

Before gearing up to disagree with others, she recommends acknowledging the contradictions and biases you yourself hold, and embracing the opposing sides of yourself.

In tough times, many start to assign blame – often with political or personal agendas.

In the crisis engulfing Australia, we’ve seen this with repeated accusations from conservatives claiming the Greens party have made fire hazard reduction more difficult.

In such conversations, larger injustices and the underlying political challenges are often forgotten. The structural conditions underpinning the crisis remain unchallenged.

Slow and steady

We need to rethink our approach to dealing with climate change, and its harmful effects.

First, we should acknowledge there is no quick way to resolve the issue, despite the immediacy of the threats it poses.

Political change is slow, and needs steady growth. This is particularly true for climate politics, an issue which challenges the social and economic structures we rely on.

Our values and aspirations must also change, and be reflected in our online conversations. Our dialogue should shift from blame to a culture of appreciation, and growing concern for the impact of climate degradation.

Users should continue to explore and learn online, but need to do so in an informed way.

Reading Facebook and Twitter content is fine, but this must be complemented with reliable news sources. Follow authorised user accounts providing fact-based articles and guidance.

Before you join an online debate, it’s important you can back your claims. This helps prevent the spread of misinformation online, which is unfortunately rampant.

A 2018 Reuters Institute report found people’s interaction (sharing, commenting and reacting) with false news from a small number of Facebook outlets “generated more or as many interactions as established news brands”.

Also, avoid regressive discussions with dead-ends. Social media algorithms dictate that the posts you engage with set the tone for future posts targeted at you, and more engagement with posts will make them more visible to other users too. Spend your time and effort wisely.

And lastly, the internet has made it easier than ever to contact political leaders, whether it’s tweeting at your prime minister, or reaching out to the relevant minister on Facebook.




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Listen to your people Scott Morrison: the bushfires demand a climate policy reboot


Tangible change-making

History has proven meaningful social and political progress requires sustained public awareness and engagement.

Australian comedian Celeste Barber started fundraising with a goal of $30,000.
Celeste Barber/Facebook

Consider Australia’s recent legislation on marriage equality, or the historical transformation of women’s rights.

These issues affect people constantly, but fixing them required debate over long periods.

We should draw on the awareness raised over the past weeks, and not let dialogue about the heightened threat of bushfires fizzle out.

We must not return to our practices of do-nothingism as soon as the immediate disaster subsides.

Although bushfire fundraisers have collected millions, a European Social Survey of 44,387 respondents from 23 countries found that – while most participants were worried about climate change – less than one-third were willing to pay higher taxes on fossil fuels.

If we want climate action, we must expect more from our governments but also from ourselves.

Social media should be used to consistently pressure government to take principled stances on key issues, not short-sighted policies geared towards the next election.

Opening the public’s eyes

There’s no denying social media has successfully driven home the extent of devastation caused by the fires.

A clip from Fire and Rescue NSW, viewed 7.8 million times on Twitter alone, gives audiences a view of what it’s like fighting on the frontlines.

Images of burnt, suffering animals and destroyed homes, resorts, farms and forests have signalled the horror of what has passed and what may come.

Social media can be a formidable source of inspiration and action. It’s expected to become even more pervasive in our lives, and this is why it must be used carefully.

While showings of solidarity are incredibly helpful, what happens in the coming weeks and months, after the fires pass, is what will matter most.The Conversation

Emma Hutchison, Associate Professor and ARC DECRA Fellow, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Backing Putin: Russia’s middle class is no longer a catalyst for democratic change


Cameron Ross, University of Dundee

A wave of protests rocked Moscow and scores of other cities across Russia between 2011 and 2013. The demonstrators called for free and fair elections and some even demanded an end to the Putin regime. Many Russian commentators argued these mass protests were spearheaded by members of the urban middle class, and the world’s media concurred.

History has shown that where there is expansion of the middle class, democracy develops alongside. As the middle class accumulates wealth and property, it develops a vested interest in stability and the rule of law, promoting the development of a set of democratic checks and balances on the government.

Often seen as a bastion of democracy, Russia’s middle class is popularly regarded as a major source of opposition to the Putin regime. But does it give more support to democratic values, such as support for free and fair elections, a free press and a pluralistic political system, than other classes?

Divisions have weakened the solidarity of the Russian middle class and questioned its role as a catalyst for democratic change. That crucial dividing line is between those who depend on the state for their livelihood and those who work in the non-state sectors of the economy. As commentator Andrei Kolesnikov puts it:

The … end of the post-Soviet transition created a specific kind of middle class: one that grew out of oil and gas deposits, one that demanded both bread and circuses … But there is another middle class, too, born out of something very different … the giant army of state officials and public sector workers. Then there are the security services, investigators, prosecutors, judges: the backbone of the state. The class of people working not just directly for the state but also for state corporations and banks, and private structures whose existence depends entirely on connections with the state and officialdom.

My research reveals that most of the middle class support Putin, and given the choice, will opt for stability and the political status quo, rather than risk the uncertainties brought about by democratic reforms.

Who are Russia’s middle class?

So what factors influence who belongs to the middle class? Economists focus on income and property. But defining the middle class this way fails to explain how such a diverse group of individuals could develop a shared class identity or consciousness. Income-based approaches really define middle “layers” rather than classes, and fail to capture low-income citizens who, according to other criteria such as education and occupation, would qualify for middle-class status.

Sociologists, in contrast, stress divisions between employers and employees, as well as those between “manual” and “mental” labour, and add other criteria, such as education and occupation, to those of income.

In a survey of 4,000 citizens carried out in collaboration with the Russian Institute of Sociology, we found that just 26% of the respondents could be defined as middle class, based on individuals who met criteria in three areas: income – an average monthly income not lower than the median for the country as a whole; occupation – non-manual “white collar” employees; and education – those with higher education.

Recognising the middle class’s role as a catalyst for economic development, Putin has called for an increase in its size “to encompass 60% of the population”. But his attempts to modernise the country to boost economic growth may end up sowing the seeds of its own destruction. For, as has been widely demonstrated, a society’s public values shift and become more hospitable to democracy as they become wealthier, more industrialised, more urban and better educated.

A state-dependent middle class

But it is important to stress that the middle classes are made up of a diverse group of citizens, each with a variety of political and moral attitudes, and its social composition will vary in different countries. An important factor here is the degree to which members of the middle class are dependent on the state for their livelihood, which is particularly relevant to the Russian middle class.

For example, in Russia, 76.6% of leading managers in the state sector were members of the middle class in 2011 compared to just 33% in 2007. For members of the military and security forces, the percentage of middle-class members grew from 25% in 2007 to 44% in 2011. In 2018, 48% of the Russian middle class were employed in the state sector.

We would expect there to be differences in the interests and values between those who are state-dependent for work and those who work in the private sector, and our study confirms this is the case. But the differences are not very large, and they have narrowed since the outbreak of the civil war in Ukraine
and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Support for the regime increased substantially in the wake of these developments, as the vast majority of Russian citizens supported Putin’s foreign policy towards Ukraine. Members of both sectors currently prioritise stability and economic security over liberal values, and both express high levels of trust in the Putin regime.

According to our survey, 63% of of state sector workers and 65% of private sector workers supported the idea that “Russia needs to revive national traditions and moral and religious values”, whereas just 37% and 35% respectively, supported the alternative that “Russia should move forward towards a modern way of life, such as in Europe”.

Similarly, 68% of state sector workers and 69% of private sector workers supported “strengthening the state’s power over the economy and politics”, whereas just 32% and 31% respectively, chose the option calling for “the release of citizens from excessive state control”.

Two thirds (66%) of state sector workers and 63% of private sector workers agreed that “it is necessary to introduce moral censorship over the media”, while 34% and 37% respectively, agreed that “the mass media and art should be free from censorship”. Finally, 73% of state sector workers and 64% of private sector workers expressed trust in the president.

In 2019, after almost two decades of Putin, it would appear untrue to say that Russia’s middle class universally supports liberal and democratic values. As has been the case in countries like China, those doing comfortably well seem quite happy to prop up an authoritarian regime if their interests are protected by the state.The Conversation

Cameron Ross, Professor in Politics, University of Dundee

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why a code of conduct may not be enough to change the boys’ club culture in the Liberal Party



There has been sustained criticism of the Liberal Party for its under-representation of women in parliament.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Marija Taflaga, Australian National University and Katrine Beauregard, Australian National University

Last week, two former Liberal Party staffers, Dhanya Mani and Chelsea Potter, made claims of sexual harassment and sexual assault against two Liberal party staff members.

It highlighted again how hostile political life can be for women and the fact the Liberals lack any mechanism to manage sexual harassment and assault claims. In response, the party’s federal council has decided to introduce a new code of conduct, likely by the end of the year.

But the Liberals’ “woman” problems go deeper than this. There has been sustained criticism of the party for its under-representation of women in parliament and claims of a bullying culture dominated by a “boys’ club.”

Will a code of conduct help to change this culture? And how well do these kinds of codes actually work?

Dhanya Mani’s request for the Liberal Party to investigate an alleged sexual assault by a fellow staffer never went anywhere. ‘No one seemed to care about my life, or my career,’ she says.
Supplied by Women’s Agenda

A problem across the political spectrum

Decades of research have shown how legislatures continue to be hostile work environments for women. In Australia, research by Marian Sawer and Marian Simms, for instance, has catalogued multiple instances of sexism and sexual harassment in the Australian federal parliament.

The Liberal Party is hardly the only political organisation to be confronted with this issue. Virtually all major Australian political parties have faced scandals relating to sexual harassment in recent years.

The Nationals were criticised last year for their handling of a complaint against Barnaby Joyce. In the Labor party, former NSW leader Luke Foley resigned after allegations that he inappropriately touched an ABC journalist.




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The Greens have been wracked by internal infighting over allegations of sexual harassment, resulting in the development of both formal and informal complaints processes.

The varied nature of these cases alone shows just how complex – and all too common – the problem remains.

Sexual harassment of women in politics is not limited to Australia, either, as the
sex-pest” scandal in the UK and recent sexual misconduct allegations against two MPs in Canada have demonstrated.

Given the prevalence of sexual harassment scandals, what is the most effective way for legislatures and political parties to respond?

Luke Foley denied the allegations against him, but quit as Labor leader nonetheless.
Dan Himbrechts/AAP

The role of the parties

Organisationally, political parties straddle ambiguous ground. Parties are professional organisations that employ small numbers of staff and are subject to regulations and rules. Yet, they are also civic institutions that rely on volunteer labour. Their budgets fluctuate wildly from feast to famine. Further, political staff are paid for by the taxpayer, but they are not considered public servants.

As such, it is not always clear what recourse is available to party members who want to file a complaint for sexual harassment. For the most part, they are entirely reliant on whatever processes have been put in place by the parties.




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Perhaps it’s this complexity, as well as the fact that countless organisations seek to cover up bad behaviour, that has led so many in the Liberal Party to argue these matters should be referred to police.

It raises the issue of what responsibilities and obligations the parties have when it comes to managing sexual harassment complaints.

This is not an abstract question. There are implications for how safe people feel in their workplaces and within their civic institutions. It also has implications for which MPs are selected and elected to represent us.

How Canada’s code of conduct works

Canada has been a pioneer in this regard. In 2015, the country was the first with a Westminster-style government to adopt a legislative-wide code of conduct to govern all non-criminal sexual harassment between MPs, regardless of party.

Following the claims of sexual harassment against the Liberal MPs Massimo Pacetti and Scott Andrews, the Canadian House of Commons adopted the code in June 2015. It includes a series of measures aimed at preventing sexual harassment, as well as a specific rule that prohibits one MP from sexually harassing another. When a claim is made, the code spells out a seven-step resolution process.

Research by Canadian political scientists Cheryl N. Collier and Tracy Raney identifies some issues with the code of conduct that could be useful to consider for those seeking to implement a similar code in Australia.

One is the distinction between criminal and non-criminal sexual harassment. The Canadian code specifically addresses non-criminal actions. If a criminal offence has occurred, the matter will only be referred to the “appropriate law enforcement agency” if the complainant agrees.

But this distinction between non-criminal and criminal is blurry. Confusion over where criminal behaviour begins may prevent victims from using the code if they are unsure how to categorise their specific experience.

This is especially relevant given the recent cases of Mani and Potter in Australia. They were advised to go to the police when they made an internal party complaint. They have strongly argued, as has Liberal party veteran Kathryn Greiner, that such advice allows the party to sidestep responsibility for its culture.

Problems with the Canadian model

The Canadian code of conduct also delegates responsibility to party whips to facilitate conversation, mediation, investigation and resolution of complaints. Whips are elected offices, held by politicians. Their main job is to ensure party discipline, which might conflict with addressing claims of sexual harassment.

This may result in quick and quiet resolutions to ensure that minimal damage is done to the party. If the code is simply used to keep people quiet, this would do little to bring about a meaningful resolution process.

Further, the adoption of a code of conduct that emphasises confidentiality raises issues about what is in the public interest. This could mean the public will never know if an MP has been found to have sexually harassed someone. And this information, many would argue, is intrinsically in the public interest.




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A final important lesson from the Canadian code of conduct relates to parliamentary privileges. Importantly, it does not cover speeches inside the House of Commons, meaning that MPs can use any language they want without fear of reprisal.

As David Leyonhjelm’s use of a sexist slur against Sarah Hanson-Young in the Australian Senate last year shows, this freedom of speech can create a sexist and toxic working environment for women.

This incident, as well as previous scandals, has shone a light on the fact that political parties, just like other civic institutions, need to think about how they will respond to abuse perpetrated within their organisations.

However, as the Canadian example demonstrates, adopting a set of rules is not enough if there aren’t transparent pathways toward a resolution.

Strong leadership is also critical

This lies at the heart of Mani and Potter’s advocacy for rules that extend beyond the individual parties and would cover the behaviour of all MPs. To that end, they are trying to create a forum for women to share their stories and organise.

It also helps explain why these cases have so quickly been linked to the ongoing debate about gender quotas within the Liberal Party. The aim is to change the norms of acceptable behaviour within the party, not just deal with individual complaints of harassment when they happen.

Just 23% of the Coalition’s MPs are women, compared to 47% for Labor.
Lukas Coch/AAP

We already know it’s hard for women in political life. While a code of conduct is a step in the right direction, it is unlikely to change the internal culture of the Liberal Party, or any other party.

What’s needed is strong leadership and sustained public pressure that makes it is harder for political parties to turn a blind eye to sexual harassment and assault.

After all, it’s difficult to know how many budding careers have come to an end because of this kind of behaviour across the political spectrum. As Mani herself put it, when describing the party response to her allegations:

I was told ‘You do realise you could ruin his life and he could lose his job, don’t you?’ No one seemed to care about my life, or my career.The Conversation

Marija Taflaga, Lecturer, School of Political Science and International Relations, Australian National University and Katrine Beauregard, Lecturer, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.