Stronger laws sought for super payments

The Nick Xenophon Team wants stronger laws to help millions of Australian workers claw back billion of dollars of unpaid superannuation from dodgy employers.

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NXT say there are at least 2.4 million workers who have been underpaid their super entitlements, totalling some $3.6 billion in retirement savings.

“If we don’t do something to make it easier for workers to find out that they haven’t been paid their full entitlements, and give them more power to stand up for their rights, that retirement rip-off is going to balloon out to $66 billion by 2024,” NXT MP Rebekha Sharkie says.

Ms Sharkie introduced a private bill into parliament on Monday aimed at assisting workers who feel they are being ripped off.

The suite of provisions includes giving employees a direct legal avenue to recover unpaid super, a more effective way of tracking whether contributions are being made and removing a loophole which allows salary-sacrifice contributions to be claimed as employer contributions.

The bill will remove an exemption that allows workers who are paid less than $450 in a month not to be paid a super contribution, while it also requires the taxation commissioner to conduct a review of employers’ compliance with their super obligations.

“All too often, the employer eventually winds up their business, and manages to avoid paying either most or the entirety of the outstanding amount of superannuation that they owe their employees,” NXT leader Nick Xenophon said.

Fellow crossbench MP Cathy McGowan backed the proposal, saying it addressed a serious problem.

She urged the government to allow the draft laws to be debated and voted on.

“Let’s do something about this,” she told parliament.

Aust road crashes costing $30b a year

The federal government is being urged to do more to reduce the number of road crashes in Australia after a new report found they are costing the economy nearly $30 billion a year.

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The Australian Automobile Association says while the number of people killed on our roads has dropped by a quarter since 2006, the annual cost of road trauma has not fallen by anywhere near as much.

A report commissioned by the AAA estimates the cost of road trauma was $29.7 billion in 2015. In 2009 the cost of road trauma was estimated by the Australian government to be $27 billion. In today’s dollars that’s equivalent to around $35 billion.

AAA chief executive Michael Bradley says the report’s findings suggest that the federal government’s 2011 National Road Safety Strategy, which aims to reduce annual road deaths and serious injuries by at least 30 per cent by 2020, is doomed to fail.

He wants the federal government to re-establish the National Office for Road Safety, which was shut down 15 years ago, to help improve driver education and research about crashes including the roles played by drug driving and mobile phone use.

Mr Bradley also argues the billions of dollars the federal government spends on road infrastructure projects each year should be linked to specific safety targets.

“The government can choose not to act, but choosing not to not only kills a lot of Australians but it costs billions of dollars every year,” he told AAP on Monday.

“Even though fewer people are dying, more are getting injured probably because crashes are getting more survivable thanks to car technologies and airbags so when you have a crash what used to kill you will now just disable you or maim you.

“The cost of that disability care and the income support for carers, that’s a huge part of this.”

The report, prepared by Economic Connections, found while road fatalities dropped by a quarter to 1205 between 2006 and 2015, the number of people needing to be hospitalised rose by nearly the same amount and pushed up overall costs in the process.

The number of road crashes also rose four per cent to 679,359.

It estimates the direct cost to government for just one year’s worth of road trauma is about $3.7 billion, which covers expenses relating to healthcare, emergency services, forgone future tax revenue and income support for the people injured or killed.

In terms of the $30 billion overall cost of road trauma to the economy, fatalities, health and wellbeing are make up the biggest share of the pie at more than $9 billion, followed by vehicle damage at $4.3 billion and $2 billion for disability care.

Mr Bradley said the federal government should be playing a leadership role for the states when it comes to reducing road trauma by co-ordinating the collection of standardised data on crashes so better research can be done to help reduce the road toll.

Injured Pope Francis ends Colombia tour

Pope Francis, his eye bandaged and blackened after a minor accident in the popemobile, has left Colombia after appealing to the country to “untie the knots of violence” after a 50-year civil war.

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His last day in the Andean country got off to a rocky start when he lost his balance and bumped his head while riding in the popemobile. He bruised his cheekbone and cut his left eyebrow, blood staining his white cassock.

The Vatican said he received ice treatment and was fine. A smiling pope continued the trip wearing a bandage over his cut. “I was punched. I’m fine,” the 80-year-old pontiff joked afterward, the bruises on his face clearly visible.

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At the end of the day, when he said Mass for about 500,000 people in the city’s port area, the bruise had swollen and he had a black bag under his eye.

“If Colombia wants a stable and lasting peace, it must urgently take a step in this direction, which is that of the common good, of equity, of justice, of respect for human nature and its demands,” he said in a strong voice in the homily of the Mass, accompanied by Caribbean and salsa music.

“Only if we help to untie the knots of violence, will we unravel the complex threads of disagreements,” he said.

The pontiff left Colombia on an Avianca flight to Rome after watching a “cumbia” troupe perform traditional coastal singing and dancing with President Juan Manuel Santos and his wife, Maria Clemencia.

Cartagena, a top tourist destination famous for its colonial walled ramparts, was the home to Saint Peter Claver, a Spanish priest who ministered to slaves in Colombia in the 1600s, defying Spanish colonial masters who treated them as chattel.

The pope also used the occasion to again decry modern slavery and human trafficking and defend the rights of immigrants.

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Shark attacks surfer on NSW north coast

A Byron Bay surfer was hospitalised on Sunday after an apparent shark attack left him bleeding and his board snapped in half on the NSW north coast.

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The 35-year-old-man was surfing at Main Beach, Iluka, about 6.30am on Sunday when his board was hit hard from below by what he thinks was a shark.

The board snapped and he was thrown into the air.

“He’s told police the shark began to circle and then turned away,” police media said in a statement.

He then grabbed the pieces of his board and swam to shore.

One of Mr McGrath’s friends posted an image of his broken board to Instagram.

“Life could have been very different this morning,” he said.

“So stoked to still have our mate and not witness something far worse.”

He said Mr McGrath limped up the beach after the attack.

An image of the injury posted to Facebook showed Mr McGrath’s wetsuit torn at the hip, exposing a bleeding laceration.

Friends drove him almost 100 kilometres to Ballina District Hospital where he was treated before being sent to nearby Lismore Base Hospital.

Main and Bluff beaches were closed after the incident.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries said a shark biologist would assess the injury and try to determine the size and species of shark involved.

A second shark net trial for the region was announced this month for five beaches in Ballina, Lennox Head and Evans Head.

The department began deploying 25 drum lines daily, as well as drone and helicopter surveillance, in response to several incidents on the same stretch of coastline.

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Paperwork busting plan for NSW principals

NSW principals will be freed up from drowning in paperwork, coordinating school repairs and IT troubleshooting under a $50 million-a-year plan by the state government aimed at getting school leaders back to teaching.

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NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes announced the plan, which aims to give principals more time to focus on actual teaching, curriculum planning, teacher quality and student progress, at Sydney’s Killara High School on Monday.

It comes after a study by Deloitte found that principals in NSW’s 2200 public schools spend just 30 per cent of their day on teaching.

Dealing with the daily deluge of administrative tasks is a struggle said Killara High School principal Jane Dennett who describes it as “being pecked to death by ducks”.

“A typical day can range from anything from negotiating canteen menus to working out what trees are about to fall down or why the water was suddenly cut off,” Ms Dennett told reporters on Monday.

“I know that more time spent with professional development and reflection to drive improvement can only be a good thing, but I just can’t compromise that quality time.”

The NSW government hopes the money will allow government schools to appoint business managers, similar to those in private schools, to take on the bureaucratic load.

The ongoing funding will be distributed among schools based on their scale and complexity, with smaller schools advised to pool their resources to get the administrative support required.

Mr Stokes said principals have been burdened with administrative tasks that has relegated their role to being managers rather than leaders.

“(It is about) providing principals with the capacity to give them back the time so that they can be in classrooms supporting our teachers or they can be in the schoolyard supporting our students,” Mr Stokes told reporters on Monday.

A new team of trained officers also will be established to remove the compliance burden on principals, including annual work, health and safety inspections.

The strategy has been welcomed by the NSW Primary Principals Association and the NSW Secondary Principals Council.

“We believe this is one of the most comprehensive multi-phased strategies put in place to support schools for some time,” Secondary Principals Council President Chris Presland said on Monday in a statement.