Friday, February 29, 2008


ALP Left ready to fight Costa

Andrew West, smh

February 29, 2008

IEMMA Government MPs are on the brink of rebellion after one of the Labor Party's most senior figures endorsed the right of ALP politicians to vote in Parliament against the planned privatisation of the state's electricity industry.

Luke Foley, the party's assistant general secretary who leads the Left faction, has told his MPs that if the Treasurer, Michael Costa, introduced privatisation bills before the issue is debated at the ALP conference in May, the Government would be breaching an agreement with unions.

Mr Foley declined to comment to the Herald, but three MPs, two union leaders and several delegates present at the Left's annual general meeting on Monday night have confirmed he made the statement.

Mr Foley reportedly told the meeting: "A commitment was given that no legislation would be introduced prior to the party conference. If privatisation legislation is introduced prior to the conference, then MPs would be within the their rights to tell caucus that they would not vote for it when it came before Parliament."

Mr Foley was responding to a question from the Sydney bookseller Bob Gould, one of 250 members at the gathering in the Haymarket auditorium of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union. Another Left member, the Sydney solicitor James Shaw, said Mr Foley was even more explicit, arguing that loyalty to party policy, which opposes power privatisation, was more important than the rule demanding caucus members vote together in Parliament.

"Luke expressed the view that ALP rules on policy overrode the principal of caucus solidarity," Mr Shaw told the Herald.

"He said that he supported caucus solidarity in general but, because electricity privatisation was so obviously against party policy, Labor MPs were free to cross the floor - and everyone in the room totally supported Luke."

Mr Shaw said the delegates also passed a resolution unanimously opposing the privatisation.

Mr Foley's comments will embolden the 15 Labor politicians, including the right-wingers Paul Gibson and Grant McBride, who marched with 5000 unionists on Tuesday against the privatisation.

His statement also directly contradicts Wednesday's claim by the Energy Minister, Ian Macdonald, that no MP would cross the floor. Left MPs told the Herald they were only revealing the details of Mr Foley's comments to the meeting "because Macdonald has no influence and no support within the Left and is in no position to predict what will happen".

Mr Foley is walking a tightrope on the issue of privatisation. He and the party secretary, Karl Bitar, both confidants of the Premier, are trying to broker a compromise with the party members and unions before the issue reaches the conference. Mr Foley has already felt the heat from unions and activists, who elected him at the last ALP conference, for helping to thwart a special anti-privatisation conference.

The assistant secretary of the Public Service Association, Steve Turner, who also attended Monday's meeting, has vowed his union will support any Labor MP who crosses the floor to oppose power privatisation. "If any bill goes before Parliament before the conference it would violate written undertakings from the Premier and we would call on every MP to vote against it," Mr Turner said. "And we will support any MP who gets in trouble over the issue."

In December, the United Services Union leader, Ben Krause, pledged union resources for rebel MPs at the 2011 election.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Unions seek 4% rise for low-paid workers

Mark Davis, Political Correspondent, smh

February 27, 2008

UNIONS NSW has called on the Federal Government to support pay rises of 4 per cent for the country's lowest-paid workers despite inflationary pressures in the economy.

The secretary of the peak union body, John Robertson, said yesterday that a looming wages review by the Fair Pay Commission would give the Rudd Government an opportunity to meet its election pledge to look after working families.

But the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will ask the commission to award a minimum wage rise below the inflation rate this year.

The Fair Pay Commission is calling for submissions for its annual review of the minimum wage rates which set the pay levels of an estimated 1.2 million workers.

The Government has called for wage restraint to contain inflationary pressures and has decided that federal MPs will not have their pay increased at all this year to set an example.

But it has not announced its approach to the Fair Pay Commission review.

Mr Robertson said Unions NSW had lodged a claim with the NSW Industrial Relations Commission earlier this month for a $24 a week increase in state minimum wage rates.

He said the Fair Pay Commission should deliver a similar rise of 4 per cent for workers regulated by the federal minimum wage system. "The low-paid should not be the ones caught in the middle of dealing with inflation," Mr Robertson said. "They are already struggling, they need to be looked after and, frankly, that is what a Rudd Labor government was elected to do.

"This is a Government elected saying it was going to look after the interests of working families and people who rely on minimum wages are the most vulnerable working families in our community."

The acting chief executive of Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peter Anderson, said the employer group would propose a wage rise for the low-paid slightly lower than inflation to help avoid a wage-price spiral.

Mr Anderson said the chamber would argue such a wage rise combined with the Government's planned tax cuts would still ensure low-paid workers had a real increase in after-tax income.


Andrew Clennell, Andrew West and Brian Robins

February 27, 2008, smh

FIFTEEN Labor MPs openly defied Morris Iemma yesterday and stood side-by-side with 4000 unionists protesting against the Premier's electricity privatisation plans.

As the MPs from the Left and Right factions revolted outside Parliament, Mr Iemma's Government came under sustained pressure in the Legislative Assembly over the Wollongong sex-and-development scandal.

Then, at a caucus meeting, the Government whip, Gerard Martin, and others spoke out against the Treasurer, Michael Costa, and the electricity reforms he is driving with Mr Iemma.

Later Mr Iemma said he would take no action against the 15 MPs in the protest organised by Unions NSW. One of the MPs, Blacktown MP Paul Gibson, wore a protest T-shirt into Labor's caucus meeting. Another, Ian West, took the red flag of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union into the meeting.

"There are bigger issues here to focus on, [such as] securing the state's future energy needs, not who participated in a march," said Mr Iemma's spokesman.

In question time, Mr Iemma accused Liberal MPs of having consorted with the corporate criminals Rodney Adler, Ray Williams and Steve Vizard as he attempted to defend his embattled Minister for Ports, Joe Tripodi, over his association with Joe Scimone, the former Wollongong planning official embroiled in the development scandal.

The Government is awaiting an Independent Commission Against Corruption report on Mr Scimone's appointment to NSW Maritime to see whether the minister should be stood down.

"He is entitled to a presumption of innocence," Mr Iemma told Parliament when asked if Mr Tripodi should be removed immediately. "You might tell us all of those Liberal Party ministers and members, branch members, all of those who have ever met, over the years … met Adler, Vizard, Williams - would you make a negative imputation on their character simply because they knew someone who at a later time might have been guilty of something wrong? … You want to come in here and hang the Minister for Ports without any evidence, without any basis of moving against him, simply because you want to smear him."

The MPs in the protest with Mr Gibson were Grant McBride, Alan Ashton, David Borger, Robert Coombs, Sonya Hornery, Kerry Hickey, Paul Pearce, Matthew Morris, Mick Veitch, Ian West, Helen Westwood, Penny Sharpe, Peter Primrose and Linda Voltz.

In caucus Mr Martin criticised the way party officials, such as Labor's state president, Bernie Riordan, had been targeted by Mr Costa and how the Treasurer had said he "didn't care" whether he was expelled from the ALP should its state conference reject the power sale, sources said. The implication by Mr Martin and others was that the Treasurer's attitude was not helping MPs promoting the $15 billion sale.

A Legislative Council member, Christine Robertson, who belongs to Mr Iemma's right-wing faction, said upper house MPs would face a dilemma if a bill endorsing the electricity sale proceeded despite a vote against it at Labor's state conference in May.

Two caucus sources said that Ms Roberston argued that Legislative Council members were selected by the state conference and owed loyalty to it. She declined to comment but did not deny she had warned colleagues of a possible upper house revolt.

At least four other MPs - Mr McBride, Mr West, Mr Pearce and Tony Catanzariti - spoke against the sale.

The secretary of Unions NSW, John Robertson, warned the Government it faced the same fate as the Howard government did over Work Choices, referring to yesterday's Herald/Nielsen poll showing 64 per cent of voters opposed the sell-off.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Red News Readers,

Anti privatisation members of the ALP, this is what we are up against!

Jenny Haines

Unity is Power

By Kirk McKenzie, New Matilda


The Iemma Government's plan to privatise the State's electricity has divided the Labor Party and sidelined a vital support base, writes NSW ALP insider, Kirk McKenzie

Unity within the Australian Labor Party can lead to great things. During last year's election campaign, disputes within Labor's parliamentary and organisational wings, trade union affiliates, local branches and even factions were suspended. As a participant in some of these disputes in the past, it was good to see the result of everyone pulling in the same direction - the Rudd Government.

Alas, after the November poll, the incentive to co-operate receded and less than three weeks later conflict erupted over the electricity privatisation plans of the NSW Labor Government under Morris Iemma.

In essence, those plans are to lease out to the private sector the State's power stations, all of which are currently Government owned, although two have already been leased out. The Iemma Government also intends to sell off the retail arms of the electricity industry, which it also owns, but retain the "poles and wires" - the grid itself.

NSW Treasurer Michael Costa argues that this is necessary to avoid the State having to bear the cost of a new baseload power station which he says will be needed by approximately 2014. His argument goes that if the generators are (partially) privatised, a new market for electricity generation will be created and with it the incentive for the private sector to fund, build and operate the new power station.

Some of the Government's critics argue that there will be no net economic benefit in the sale and with the adoption of appropriate energy efficiency measures, a new baseload power station will not be necessary until 2020 or later. Perhaps the principal critic is Bernie Riordan, the Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, who is also NSW Labor's President. Among other things, he is worried about the jobs of his members under new, private sector management. Any job losses would also affect his union.

The Government disputes that economic benefits will not accrue to the State and has attempted to counter the unions' argument by pointing out that in Victoria, where the whole industry was privatised some years ago, staffing ratios under privatised generation are now roughly the same as in the NSW power industry. The Iemma Government has also promised to guarantee the jobs of the workers affected, and to further sweeten the deal by offering compensation averaging $40,000 to the affected workers, even though their jobs are to be secured.

So why all the heat of recent weeks between the Government and the unions?

Partly it is a matter of process. NSW Labor party policy, often referred to as "the Platform", says that a privatisation proposal must be considered on a case by case basis. It prescribes that the Government appoint a committee to prepare an impact statement on any proposal, guided by 12 separate criteria. These criteria were added to the Platform some years ago after lengthy negotiations between various stakeholders. Part of the problem is that the Government announced its decision before the committee had even met to consider the matter.

The unions and the Party's local branches, which are traditionally suspicious of privatisation proposals, were unimpressed by this, particularly after both groups worked hard to re-elect the Iemma Government in March last year, and even harder in the lead up to Federal Labor's victory in November. Branch and union activists now claim a greater degree of ownership of the Party and its direction, because of that heavy and vital commitment.

The dispute has been worsened by personality clashes between the major participants. Costa, the Trostskyite turned Labor right-winger, would concede that he is not a natural diplomat. He occupies a role once filled by Paul Keating in the federal sphere - that of policy battering ram. As such he seems unaffected by his former role as Secretary of Unions NSW before entering Parliament.

Riordan on the other hand, is the son of Joe Riordan, a respected Whitlam Government Minister and former union Secretary. Bernie has been steeped in Labor politics all his life. He knows that both the NSW and Federal Labor Governments needed and received the strongest support of the trade unions and branches last year and he is determined to ensure that their views are not ignored in this debate.

The Iemma Government has other concerns. One is the likely value of the State's coal-fired power stations in 10 or 20 years time. If the proposed international carbon trading scheme has its intended effect, coal-fired electricity will become much less economic and therefore the value of those power stations may decline substantially in the medium to long term. Unless it divests itself of those assets now, the Government may lose its chance to extract real money from them.

A second concern is the financial position of the State of NSW. It was only in the last financial year that the revenue from the Goods and Services Tax passed on to the State by the Federal Government exceeded that expected from the State taxes abolished in 2000 when the GST was introduced. NSW has not had any significant GST windfall and the Howard Government ensured that none of the states shared in the enormous resources-boom revenues accruing to the Commonwealth over the same period.

Related to this is the highly elastic nature of revenues directly levied by the NSW Government. Almost two-thirds of these tax receipts comprise property transfer duties and land and payroll taxes which are heavily reliant on the level of economic activity, particularly of the property market. The NSW property market has gone off the boil over the last three years and although revenues have not declined as yet, there is a possibility they may decline very significantly with interest rates increasing, potentially stalling activity.

The Government is probably also worried that the expected transfusion of funds to the States from the Rudd Government will not materialise because of the need to maintain Federal surpluses to take the pressure off interest rates.

A final worry for the Iemma Government is the need for substantially increased capital spending in NSW. Critics, including the Property Council of Australia, have criticised the level of infrastructure spending in NSW over the last half century under all governments. The Iemma Government has made a fine start over the last two years with large increases in such expenditure, but with health, education and transport crying out for further public spending, depreciating assets like power stations are prime candidates for sale, if only to allow room for further infrastructure spending.

Both sides now await the impact statement from the committee considering the privatisation, headed by former Labor Premier Barrie Unsworth, and including MPs, trade union officials, environmentalist Jeff Angel, UnitingCare Director, Harry Herbert and two of the State's most senior public servants.

Meanwhile, NSW Labor's Finance and Economic Policy Committee, which I chair, is shortly to deal with resolutions from party branches on the issue, almost all of which, I predict, will oppose the sell-off. Our committee will report on the issue to NSW Labor's Annual Conference in May and we are not sure we are looking forward to it!

My view, which may or may not be shared by other committee members, is that the Government has adhered to party policy - albeit belatedly - by ensuring that the Unsworth Committee assesses the privatisation proposal. The Platform does not rule out privatisation in any industry and impliedly leaves the decision in a particular case up to the government, guided by the impact statement of its appointed committee.

It is not the role of our Policy Committee to make the Government's decision for it, although we may express a view to the forthcoming Annual Conference, which may or may not adopt it.

If an Annual Conference resolution supports or opposes a privatisation proposal but does not change the Platform, it is not binding on the Government. In the present case, the Conference set the policy years ago and the Government has followed it.

The Party has no role in directing Executive Government action when the Government is acting consistently with the Platform. The Conference can hardly change policy retrospectively after the Government has made a policy-based decision. There is therefore no sense in expulsions, or sustained acrimony, by either side over this issue.

The Electrical Trades Union's motto is Power is Unity. I prefer Unity is Power.

Discuss this article
To participate in the discussion Sign in or Register

Homerjunior 20/02/08 4:17PM

If you want Power Stations of the calibre of the Bathurst Hospital debacle, sure, why not privatise? People will miss their power. They only miss a hospital when they’re sick.

juswhe 21/02/08 1:58PM

Doesn’t the Platform say there will be no electricity privatisation until their is a consensus in the Party supporting such a move?

If so, that certainly suggests the Gov’t has absolutely defied the Platform.

GraemeF 22/02/08 4:36PM

The Iemma government are a bunch of incompetant mongrels. Little better than the recently ousted federal Liberals and displaying the same amount of arrogance and hubris. I pity anyone who joined the Labor Party on the basis of its past because the right wing of Sussex Street have bastardised a fine organisation.

If you disagree then I suggest that like every crime you should follow the money. Who donates it to them and who pays them after they leave politics and then tell me again about the ‘workers’ party.


Red News Readers,

How else are they going to keep the numbers down so they can say the Rally wasn't a success?

Jenny Haines

Iemma bans workers from protest

By Simon Benson, dtm

February 23, 2008 12:00am

PREMIER Morris Iemma has slapped a ban on the state's 300,000 public servants attending a planned protest against electricity privatisation outside Parliament House on Tuesday.

Director-general of the Premier's Department Robyn Kruk sent a circular to all state public service managers telling them to dock the pay of any worker who took the day off to protest.

In a move compared to the Howard government's attempts to thwart opposition to WorkChoices, the circular included a ban on lunch breaks longer than one hour, sick leave without a medical certificate, and flex time.

Unions NSW has organised a rally to picket Parliament House on Tuesday when MPs return for the first sitting day of the year.

All public servants have been encouraged to attend the rally, but only state-employed workers in the electricity sector are planning to conduct an official "stop work".

However, fearing many MPs may be pressured to hold the picket line, Mr Iemma has tried to kill off the rally by threatening to take action against any public servant who attends.

"Employees who absent themselves from work within the core times on February 26 . . . will not be paid for any time lost," Ms Kruk warned in the memo sent to all agencies.

"Please ensure that there are arrangements in place to ensure that staff who are absent from the workplace without approval are not paid for the period of the absence. This circular applies to all public service departments."

Anyone who failed to show up at work for the day would be reported to management so their pay could be docked.

But the unions warned legal action could follow.

"These are the types of intimidatory tactics which the Howard government used against federal public servants," Unions NSW secretary John Robertson said.

"The Federal Court ruled these tactics were illegal."

Public Service Association (PSA) general secretary John Cahill wrote to Ms Kruk telling her to correct her original memo because it was based on a false premise that a general stop work had been called.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Landmark asbestos compo claim won

By Nicolas Perpitch, dtm

February 19, 2008 08:19pm

A PERTH motor mechanic has been awarded $840,000 compensation for exposure to asbestos in brake linings while working at two Ford car dealerships.

Antonino Lo Presti, 58, who suffers from serious fibrosis and requires constant oxygen assistance, has become the first mechanic in Australia to win a successful negligence verdict against a car company for exposure to asbestos.

His lawyer, Michael Magazanik from Slater and Gordon, said today's judgment in the Western Australian Supreme Court could open the way for thousands of other mechanics who suffer from asbestos related diseases.

"This decision will set a precedent because it's the first time a mechanic has succeeded against a car manufacturer in this country and there are literally thousands of mechanics who have been exposed to asbestos while working with brakes," he said.

Between 1970 and 1987 Mr Lo Presti used compressed air to blow out the brake drums and handle asbestos brake linings when brakes were serviced or changed.

"It would generate large amounts of dust containing asbestos which would blow up into my face and stick to my clothes and hair," Mr Lo Presti said in his witness statement to the court.

"It would cause a cloud or haze in the air and fall down in the area where I was working."

The Sicilian-born Mr Lo Presti was diagnosed with asbestosis and pleural disease in July 2001.

But the Ford Motor Company of Australia argued it was not asbestosis but a pulmonary fibrosis of unknown cause.

Ford admitted it knew by 1970 that exposure to certain asbestos fibres could cause asbestos related diseases but denied it knew Mr Lo Presti's type of work could increase the risk.

Mr Lo Presti said while he worked for Ford he was not aware of the asbestos in the brake linings or the danger it posed.

Justice Andrew Beech today ruled Ford ought to have known that if no protective measures were taken the asbestos fibres released from the brake linings could cause life threatening injury.

Justice Beech said Ford owed its mechanics a duty of care and should have warned them of the dangers.

An emotional Mr Lo Presti today expressed his relief that the five years of courts battles were at an end.

"Now I can go on with my life," he tearfully said.

His wife, Connie Lo Presti, worked three jobs, seven days a week after he became sick and could not work.

She said she could now slow down and spend more time at home caring for her husband.

Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia president Robert Cojakozic said the matter should have been resolved earlier.

"He is at the end stage of a respiratory disease, he life is precarious. It could be a matter of months that Mr Lo Presti has got left," Mr Cojakozic said.

Ford was being sought for comment.


Red News Readers,

Cuba never was a socialist paradise but you have got to admire a man who lived to retire when the Americans for the last 50 years have spent a good part of that time trying to kill him, and overthrow the Cuban State. When you look at Cuba you can see old cars in the streets and old buildings but the children go to school and the health system functions for all. You don't see the chaos and decay of other Carribean, Latin American and South American countries that have been allies of the United States. Even if there were what George Bush calls free and fair elections, I wonder how Cubans would vote?

Jenny Haines

Castro declares his reign at an end

Latest related coverage
Bush welcomes Castro departure
Video: Castro steps down

GALLERY: Fidel Castro's 50 years of revolution
After half a century in power Fidel Castro steps down as Cuba's president.

February 20, 2008,smh

THE ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro has announced he will not return to lead the country, retiring as head of state almost 50 years after he seized power in an armed revolution.

"I neither will aspire to nor will I accept - I repeat - I neither will aspire to nor will I accept, the position of president of the council of state and commander-in-chief," he wrote in a message published yesterday in the online version of the newspaper Granma.

Dr Castro, 81, is the world's longest-serving head of government and has been the leader of the Americas' only communist country since he seized power in a 1959 revolution. The only heads of state to have served longer are the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej (since 1946) and the Queen, Elizabeth II, (since 1952).

El Comandante (the Chief), as Dr Castro is known, outlasted nine US presidents, and survived the fall of the Soviet Union - for long his main benefactor - the end of communism in Eastern Europe, as well as numerous attempts to assassinate or oust him.

At a summit of South American leaders in Argentina in 2006, he said: "I'm really happy to reach 80. I never expected it, not least having a neighbour - the greatest power in the world - trying to kill me every day."

Anti-globalisation activists saw the leftist firebrand as a hero, along with revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, his Argentine-born comrade-in-arms.

But in his last interview, in December, he said his duty was "not to cling to office", indicating for the first time that he might step down before death. Dr Castro temporarily handed power to his brother, Raul, in July 2006 after undergoing stomach surgery. Since then his public appearances have been rare.

A new book, Without Fidel by the CBS correspondent Ann Louise Bardach, concludes that Raul Castro, who is 76 and has been in charge since July, may prove to be the leader who brings Cuba out of decades of isolation.

The book says: "A few weeks after Fidel Castro's surgery, his son, Antonio Castro, an orthopaedic surgeon and the doctor for Cuba's national baseball team, was more forthcoming with some of his foreign counterparts at an international baseball event.

"Asked solicitously about his father's health, the amiable Antonio shook his head sadly, and said: 'What my old man has is insurmountable."'

Since Raul took the reins of power, some dissidents have been released from prison and there have been discreet overtures towards the US.

Some Western diplomats believe the younger Castro may follow a similar path to Vietnam, where markets have been gradually opened by communist rulers, although there is scepticism about this in the US.

Dr Castro was until yesterday the leader of one of the world's last communist states.

He projected the persona of a romantic, bearded revolutionary dressed in crumpled military fatigues. Yet, for all the romanticism associated with his regime, and notwithstanding agrarian reforms and achievements with universal education and medical services, his one-party communist state tolerated no dissent and fell into near economic ruin.

Under his rule jails have reportedly held up to 50,000 political prisoners, and about 1.7 million Cubans fled into exile.

Dr Castro's fierce nationalism and determination to keep Cuba independent of US economic and political control led to the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. The world was dragged to the brink of nuclear war when the Soviet Union moved to install tactical nuclear missiles in Cuba, resulting in a US blockade.

The world held its breath before the US president, John Kennedy, and the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, reached a compromise: the Soviet Union abandoned plans to base nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba and the US agreed not to invade Cuba.

The loss of billions of dollars in subsidies from Moscow after the Soviet collapse plunged Cuba into a crisis in the early 1990s.

Widespread hardship sowed discontent that triggered a renewed exodus of tens of thousands to Florida, 145 kilometres away. The crisis forced Dr Castro to open Cuba to foreign investment and tourism, and legalise the currency of his enemy, the US dollar.

Telegraph, London, and agencies


Red News Readers,

This has got to be a first - a Minister saying he has too much power!! But good on him, undoing the centralisation of power that was created to administer the cruelties of the Howard Government,

Jenny Haines

I should not play God: Evans

Mark Metherell, smh

February 20, 2008

THE Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, is rethinking his godlike sway over the fate of would-be immigrants whose appeals pour into his office at the rate of more than 11 a day.

Pleas for ministerial intervention from refugees and others whose requests to settle in Australia have been rejected by officialdom have soared to more than 4000 a year, more than 10 times the level of 12 years ago.

"I have formed the view that I have too much power," Senator Evans told a Senate estimates committee yesterday. "I think the [Immigration and Citizenship] Act is unlike any other act I have seen in terms of the power given to the minister to make decisions about individual cases.

"I am uncomfortable with that, not just because of concern about playing God, but also because of the lack of transparency and accountability for those decisions and the lack in some cases of any appeal rights against those decisions."

Senator Evans said he believed the ministerial intervention powers were established to be used in rare cases, but had now become "very much the norm".

Intervention by the minister may be sought by those who have exhausted their rights before the Refugee Review Tribunal or the Migration Review Tribunal. Senator Evans said many cases involved difficult decisions such as balancing the rights of children and those with a criminal history. There were "no easy solutions".

He has commissioned a former Victorian public servant, Elizabeth Proust, to advise him on his powers. Senator Evans also reported on the resolution of the cases of seven Burmese and 82 Sri Lankans apprehended under the previous government and sent to Nauru as part of the now abandoned Pacific solution.

He said the "discredited" policy had cost taxpayers $300 million and "ultimately saw the majority of refugees who were held offshore end up in Australia".

Having announced a review of the citizenship test introduced last year, Senator Evans said he was also moving to quickly settle 247 cases of unlawful detention, as identified by the Ombudsman.

The president of the Refugee Council of Australia, John Gibson, said yesterday that there had been concerns about the use of ministerial powers, and the review was welcome.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


From Crikey 19.2.08:

Last night's edition of Four Corners was instructive.

"Most cabinet ministers in the former Howard government did not realise that workers could be worse off under Work Choices, former workplace relations minister Joe Hockey says."

Other things the Howard Cabinet didn't understand:

That innocent people might die if we helped invade Iraq.

That putting asylum seekers in high security detention could be construed as harsh and inhuman treatment.

That the Australian Wheat Board was giving lots of money to Saddam Hussein.

That there would never, ever, be a GST.

That we could say sorry to black people.

That the Australian flag was not a party political symbol.

That climate change was a bit of a worry really and quite possibly our fault.

That Don Bradman couldn't help.


From Associated Press, 15 February

Zimbabwe inflation triples in December

By Angus Shaw

Harare - The official rate of annual inflation in Zimbabwe tripled in the space of one month to 66,212 percent in December, by far the highest in the world but less than half the rate calculated by independent analysts. The state Herald newspaper published the figures from the central bank Friday, showing a dramatic escalation from November's already dizzying rate of 24,470 percent. In early October, the state central statistical office gave official inflation at just below 8,000 percent. It then suspended its monthly updates on inflation because there was not enough in the shortage-stricken shops to calculate a regular basket of goods. The National Incomes and Prices Commission, the government's price control body, this week allowed sharp increases in the prices of the corn meal staple, sugar, bread and other basics in a bid to restore viable operations by producers and return the goods to empty shelves.

But the new prices were still roughly half the price demanded on the black market and were unlikely to guarantee regular supplies to food stores. Even the Herald predicted that "in most cases, the products will be available only immediately after the price increases" and would disappear again as production costs rise. Independent analysts estimate the real annual rate of inflation is closer to 150,000 percent. They cite supermarket receipts showing the price of chicken rose more than 236,000 percent to 15 million Zimbabwe dollars, or about $2.15 for 2.2 pounds between January 2007 and January 2008. Zimbabwe, a former regional breadbasket, is facing acute shortages of food, hard currency, gasoline and most basic goods in an economic meltdown blamed on disruptions in the agriculture-based economy after the often-violent seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms began in 2000.


Red News Readers,

Rudd's bluff worked!! The Libs are backing off big time!! They know that to face a double dissolution election now, would be annihilation for them,

Jenny Haines

Coalition makes 'U-turn' on AWAs

February 19, 2008 - 1:21PM, smh

The federal coalition will not oppose the passage of legislation dismantling the Howard government's workplace laws through the House of Representatives.

Opposition workplace relations spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the position had been endorsed unanimously by the shadow cabinet and the joint party room.

"The coalition will not oppose the passage of Labor's workplace relations bill introduced on the 13th of February through the house," she told reporters.

Ms Bishop said the legislation had already been referred to a Senate committee.

"I can't pre-empt the Senate committee but given what the coalition position is in the house, you can have an expectation that there will be a similar position in the Senate, subject to the Senate inquiry."

Ms Bishop said she will propose two amendments to Labor's bill to ensure it provided both fairness and flexibility in the workplace.

Firstly, the federal opposition would move to extend the expiry date of new individual contracts directly negotiated between employees and employers, she said.

"The amendment I propose to move in the house is that the nominal expiry date of Labor's individual agreements be extended to five years," Ms Bishop said.

"This will give certainty to employers and employees, particularly those that are involved in longer term projects, as well as enable Labor to move more quickly on its substantive legislation to set up its new regime."

Labor's no disadvantage test would apply to the new individual contracts, Ms Bishop said.

© 2008 AAP