An 18-year old female novice singer and a 23-year old barber-turned-rapper are the unlikely finalists of a televised talent contest providing Afghans a welcome distraction from the daily bloodshed in their country.
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The two are vying to become the next Afghan Star. This year’s season is the most tradition-breaking yet in a deeply conservative country where the Taliban once outlawed music and Western-style popular culture is widely frowned upon.

Originally due to be broadcast live, the final will instead be pre-recorded following a wave of Islamist attacks in Kabul, with the winner announced on Tuesday night.

Finalist Zulala Hashemi, from a militant-plagued province in the east, quit school and overcame resistance from relatives unhappy with her singing publicly. When Hashemi auditioned, she was one of only two women out of three hundred contestants.

“I showed people that a woman can do it. I ask every woman to make an effort to reach this point,” she told Reuters, her mother by her side between rehearsals at a television studio protected behind blast walls and Kalashnikov-wielding guards.

Wowing audiences with bright traditional outfits and jewel-encrusted tiaras, and off-stage sporting brown-rimmed Ray Bans, Hashemi’s songs in Pashto and Dari have won her thousands of fans, who vote by text message and on Facebook.

Up against Hashemi is Sayed Jamal Mubarez, a barber from the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif who spent several years in Iran, one of thousands from Afghanistan’s Hazara minority that sought refuge across the country’s western border.

Having ditched his shalwar kameez in early auditions for jeans, a zipped black jacket and a Street Swagg baseball cap, Mubarez said he discovered rap in Iran and has been writing his own lyrics ever since.

“My parents are illiterate, but when I was singing they were encouraging me, so I believed that I could win people’s support,” he said backstage. “But I never thought of being a finalist.”


Afghan Star, now in its twelfth season, is produced by the private television channel Tolo. Tolo’s reporting has earned it the wrath of the Taliban, who last year killed seven Tolo employees in a suicide attack on a staff minibus.

The contest was moved to inside a compound in Kabul’s city centre.

Obaid Juenda, a judge on the show who now lives in London, said the percentage of women auditioning had fallen sharply to five per cent amid the deteriorating security.

Juenda hoped the show gave contestants a springboard for a career, but in a country where opportunities for public performances are limited, past winners have faded into obscurity.

“There isn’t an industry here. We have too many people here who love female singers but we can’t sell our music legally. They can’t perform in public,” he told Reuters.

Hashemi said she had received nothing but support so far.

“Right now I don’t have any problem,” she said, her eyes darting nervously to her mother. “If in the future there are some challenges I’ll try to cope with them to fulfil my dreams.”


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Strata fees could fall in buildings that allow owners to list their properties on Airbnb, under a building program launched by the home sharing platform this week.
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The Friendly Buildings Program, which has been piloted in the US, will redirect a recommended 5 to 15 per cent of an Airbnb booking fee back to the strata body, giving it a cut of the lucrative home sharing market.

The program required Airbnb hosts and their owners corporation to sign an agreement, that includes a “rule book” for home sharing in the building, as well as insurance of $1 million for every booking.

It will also make way for a “multi-stack” arrangement, whereby tenants in a rental property can rent out a room or home on Airbnb, while ensuring a profit share for both the landlord and the owner’s corporation.

At the two-bedroom apartment he owns in Redfern, Spencer Kirk has hosted nearly 300 guests in the past five years, renting out his second bedroom.

“The one thing you have to do is keep everyone in the loop,” Mr Kirk, 42, said.

“I don’t tell the owner’s corporation about every guest…though I would have no issue whatsoever if they asked me to do it all the time.

“In this building there are more people in apartments inviting total strangers in from Tinder or Grindr.”

It may not be a requirement right now, but Mr Kirk could soon find himself opening his booking calendar to the owner’s corporation, if his building joins the new program.

“[The program] will provide transparency so that strata can understand what type of home sharing is taking place, when and by whom.” said Jaja Jackson, Airbnb’s global director of multifamily housing partnerships.

“The profit share component also has the potential to reduce strata fees for apartment owners, depending on how strata bodies wish to allocate the additional income.”

Current strata laws in Sydney give an owners corporation the right to ban short-stay lets if their building is zoned residential only, however zoning changes are currently being considered by the NSW government that would make holiday lets exempt.

An 18-month long parliamentary inquiry last year determined that home owners should be given the green light to let out spare rooms without risking fines.

The inquiry’s recommendations received a mixed reception from critics who have long called for powers to allow owners corporations to ban hosts from strata buildings.

The government is due to respond by April.

However Airbnb argues the new building program eliminates the common concerns voiced by opponents to the platform.

“The executive committee will establish a set of rules…including things like caps [on the number of guests] or blockout dates,” Mr Jackson said.

“If there is a disagreement, the purpose of the partnership is for us to provide support to strata…and it is entirely free.”

If an apartment owner is found to be violating the rules, the owner’s corporation is required to notify Airbnb. If mediation is unsuccessful, Airbnb can shut down the account.

During a visit to Sydney this week Mr Jackson is meeting with strata groups to discuss the program.

Chris Duggan, president of strata sector peak body Strata Community Australia (NSW), said short-term booking platforms required “a solution…that is sympathetic to the issues that can arise with inappropriate use.”

“[Our] position continues to be that the matter should be one for both local and state government authorities concerning approved uses….and we call on the major online platforms to work with lot owners, strata managers and government,” he said.

Mr Duggan said he could not comment on whether the program would reduce strata fees until more details were revealed.

Spokesman for the Owners Corporation Network Stephen Goddard said buildings should be able to have a say on whether Airbnb is allowed or not, an issue the program failed to address.

“Call me cynical, but the timing of this plan…does not seem like a co-incidence…We welcome Airbnb’s new position that there needs to be regulation, rules and compensation, but they also need to add ‘building permission’ to that list.” Interact with us on Facebook – Savvy ConsumerLatest consumer news

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News. Nauru. september 19. photo by Angela Wylie. pic shows asylum seekers on their first day in the compound at Nauru after their long voyages on the Tampa, Aceng and Manoora. fairfax. digital. ajw010920.002.002. Photo: Fairfax MediaTwo Australians in Nauru believed to be working with detention centre contractor Wilson Security have been detained by local police and will be deported back to Australia.
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The Nauruan government confirmed on Tuesday two Australian citizens were awaiting deportation after being detained under the country’s immigration laws, but did not explain the reasons for their arrest.

“They are being provided with consular access. The government reserves the right to revoke any visa by a foreign national if deemed to be in our national interest,” Nauru’s media and public information unit said in a statement.

Fairfax Media has learnt through multiple sources the two people, understood to be a man in his 20s and a woman in her 30s, work for Wilson Security at the Australian-run detention centre on the island.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Australian government was providing consular assistance to the two Australians who were in detention.

“The Australian government has no jurisdiction to interfere in the legal or immigration processes of other countries,” a DFAT spokeswoman said. “Due to privacy obligations, we are unable to provide further information.”

A source at the Australian consulate in Nauru said consular staff had visited two people at the Nauruan police station on Monday afternoon.

“They were working at the detention centre,” the source said. “They don’t know why they were detained.”

A man who claimed to be in contact with the two detainees told Fairfax Media they had been held without charge for three days. Fairfax Media was not able to confirm this with Nauruan authorities.

It is understood the two Australians will be deported on a commercial flight to Brisbane on Wednesday.

There are several foreign companies providing services to the detention apparatus on the tiny island nation on top of Wilson Security, including Broadspectrum, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) and Canstruct.

Two non-government sources with contacts on Nauru told Fairfax Media that Australian Border Force officers and Wilson Security employees were frequent visitors to Nauru’s prison facility on Monday.

Workers at numerous international organisations are responsible for 380 men, women and children currently residing at the Australian-run facility in Nauru, as well as refugees living in the community.

The facility is designated as “open”, meaning refugees and asylum seekers can leave during the day and return at night.

In 2015, Nauruan police arrested nearly 200 refugees and asylum seekers after a wave of protests about their detention.

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Hancock Prospecting executive chairman Gina Rinehart.Gina Rinehart has consolidated her position as Australia’s wealthiest person with the prominent magazine Forbes saying the mining magnate’s net wealth jumped to $US15 billion ($19.4 billion) over the past 12 months.
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In what was a record year for the number of uber-wealthy around the world, Forbes said Ms Rinehart’s position on their annual index skyrocketed from 127 in 2016 (with a fortune of $US8.8 billion) to the 69th spot in 2017, making her the only Australian in the top 100. According to the index, her wealth has climbed by $US6.2 billion($8 billion)over the last year.

It was a different story for the newly-minted US President Donald Trump, whose wealth shrunk to $US3.5 billion on the back of a softening New York property market. It sees Mr Trump tumble more than 200 spots to No.544 on the list.

The magazine said Ms Rinehart was the female billionaire who had the “best year” but noted that with Ms Rinehart’s wealth built on ironone,”her fortune can either jump or plummet depending on the price of the commodity.”

“Unlike all the other women ahead of her, Rinehart also has bragging rights for actively building her fortune. Rinehart took her late father’s bankrupted estate and rebuilt it into something much larger,”says Forbes.

Ms Rinehart is the daughter of late iron-ore developer Lang Hancock. She owns shares in the Ten television network and cattle stations in Australia’s north.

But the West Australianis a controversial figure in Australia because of her links to prominent right-wing politicians and support for lower wages for Australian workers citing international competitiveness. Last year Ms Rinehartpraised Mr Trump’s election and called for a replica of his policies in Australia, in a speech delivered on her behalfby the former Liberal MP SophieMirabella.

Ms Rinehart is a personal friend of the deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and attended his maiden speech when he switched from the Senate to the lower house in 2013.

In2011, Ms Rinehartflew Mr Joyce and the deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop and another coalition MP to Indiato attend a wedding in the wealthy Reddy family.

Property developerHarryTriguboffwas Australia’s second highest ranked billionaire at number 153with a net worth of $11 billion.

The founder of the Australiansoftware firmAtlassiandebutedas the youngest onthe Billionaires List.Mike Cannon-Brooks is said to have a net worth of $2.7 billion.

Forbes says it calculatesthe wealth of the listedbillionaires by using stock prices and exchange rates to calculate their net worth as of February 17, 2017.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates topped the list for the fourth time in a row with a net worth of $112 billion. Facebook founder MarkZuckerbergmoved up into fifth position.

The magazine said it was a “record year” for the world’s richest, with the number of billionaires increasing by 13 per cent to 2,043 and their combined value jumping by 18 per cent to $9.9 trillion.


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BROKEN: The unethical use of 457 visas is not being addressed, the author argues. When I speak to workers about the challenges they face in the modern economy it’s sad to hear that some workers don’t feel supported by the companies that employ them.
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Recently I co-hosted a roundtable with the Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Shayne Neumann in my electorate of Shortland. We met with worker representatives and heard how businesses are using 457 visa workers for jobs that could be filled by locals.

Companies that operate in Australia should employ Australians.

457 visas and other temporary skilled migrants should only be used after rigorous labour market testing. The inappropriate use of 457 visas undermines Australian workers at a time of intense changes globally. We also have seen some very serious cases of exploitation.

One example I was given was of nearly 40 Filipino welders on 457 visas who were forced to work 60-70 hours per week. They were sacked without notice in the middle of the night and were grossly underpaid. In fact, the construction union has recovered over one million dollars in underpaid wages to these workers.

It’s not the first time I’ve been told of unethical use of the 457 program. InDecember last yearI received confidential figures revealing the number of local nursing graduates able to secure work in the public health system had fallen from 80 per cent to 50 per cent. 10,000 Australian nurses are looking for work at same time as over 3300 nurses came to Australia as 457 visas in the last three years.

To be clear, Labor does not oppose foreign workers coming here when there is a legitimate need. Our opponents paint our position as xenophobic and anti-competitive, yet they never consider that 457 visa holders are often underpaid and overworked by Australian standards; they’d just prefer a Gordon Gekko ‘let the market rip’ approach without thinking of the consequences to thousands of Australian workers and youth looking for work. This is at a time when wages are stagnant and company profits are soaring (set to continue if the Coalition gets their way and introduces a $50 billion tax cut for corporations).

The only consistency I’ve seen from the Turnbull Government is their myopic and out of touch approach; it’s obvious the 457 system is being rorted and the Coalition is content to let it continue. Labor has introduced tough legislation which will require employers to advertise locally and to genuinely try to fill jobs with Australian workers before recruitment from overseas is an option. The migrants will also be required to be paid the market rate of pay. Under this proposal, if businesses have significant numbers of temporary workers, they must have a plan for training locals too.

The alternative is continued exploitation of temporary skilled migrants and undermining of the wages and conditions of Australian workers.

If we are to combat the rise of right wing populists; a movement that offers plenty of blame but no solutions, we must give people confidence in our economic system.

We must have a system that shares the spoils of the economy in a fair and considered manner. Not a system that sets worker against worker, centred on a race to the bottom.

Pat Conroy is the Member for Shortland, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy and the Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure.

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