Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Monday, 28 April, 2008
By Ross Smith

Here is a journalist and a newspaper (see below) that have finally had the integrity to show the public what has been suspected for many a year - that the Macquarie Group Model is a huge charge on the public purse and a recipe for potential financial disaster.

The vehicle used by the model has heavily featured the Public Private Partnership {PPP] concept. The result is the extraction of massive fees as well as the conventional rate of commercial return on funds invested. The income stream generated by the Macquarie Group Model practitioners is ultimately financed by the public, whether as users or taxpayers.

The model, through the use of various accounting practices that have the capacity to provide an overly robust picture of a fund's profitability, presents a glowing picture in good times, but when the market turns ........

The article and the report it refers to should be ringing alarm bells loud and clear in the ears of all governments that are using the PPP model as a vehicle for infrastructure supply.

The lure of instant supply should not dazzle the reality that the government of the day has to pick up the bits and pay for their repair in the event of collapse of the private component of any PPP.

There have been some recent PPP model disasters in NSW, such as the Green Square railway station and Toll Roads/Tunnels that failed to perform financially [ not to mention the ones that physically collapsed]. NSW is currently looking to utilising a Macquarie model style operation for its electricity system and is engaged in a Macquarie model style operation for housing. Other states have also endured PPP disasters.

It would seem that our politicians should take a lead from the media and have a very close look at the expense of the Macquarie model, both short and long term, before deciding to embrace it. History is a good building block, especially when building for the future, and is also a good teacher. Lets hope our politicians are equally good pupils.

Ross Smith

Macquarie model blowtorched

'Of prurient interest is their work on fees.'

SMH April 4, 2008 New York-based corporate governance service RiskMetrics Group has delivered a stinging rebuke to Australia 's infrastructure sector, and in particular the "Macquarie Model" which has been mimicked by Babcock & Brown, and has spawned a generation of toll-roads, airports, telecommunications and power generation stocks.

In the most detailed independent research of Macquarie Group and Babcock satellites to be published, Risk Metrics critiques the financially-engineered infrastructure model for its high debt levels, high fees, paying distributions out of capital rather than cashflow, overpaying for assets, related-party transactions, booking profits from revaluations, poor disclosure, myriad conflicts of interest, auditor conflicts and other poor corporate governance.

The RiskMetrics research is likely to send shockwaves through the sector and give both state and federal governments cause for concern as governments have mostly privatised public assets via these structures.

RiskMetrics is a leading adviser to institutional investors both in Australia and overseas. They have been a critic for some time of individual transactions, but this is first time they have strung all the pieces together, and raised doubts about the model's viability.

An example of RiskMetrics' previous scepticism was its advice to domestic institutions to vote against the Macquarie Bank remuneration report last year. The result was a 20% protest vote against the bank's pay structures.

Anyway, this report is a haymaker.

Although the report has not put a figure on it, fees in the billions above normal public-private partnership (PPP) rates of return have gone to the investment banks.

"The infrastructure model raises investment-related concerns that can be grouped as follows: a series of issues related to the sustainability of the model; a danger of overpaying for assets; fee structures that deliver high fees and provide an incentive to increase a fund's size; and accounting practices that have the capacity to provide an overly robust picture of a fund's profitability,'' says the report.

The model was "pioneered by Australia's Macquarie Group" and the research covers Macquarie Airports, Macquarie Capital Alliance Group, Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group, Macquarie Media Group and the original and largest fund:

Macquarie Infrastructure Group and Babcock & Brown spinoffs Babcock & Brown Infrastructure, Babcock & Brown Capital, Babcock & Brown Environmental Investments (presently subject to a takeover offer by Babcock & Brown), Babcock & Brown Wind Partners and Babcock & Brown Power, as well as Rivercity Motorway, Duet, Hastings Diversified, Challenger, ConnectEast SP AusNet and Spark Infrastructure.

The initial success of the model, at least in capital raising and fee generation terms, has allowed the growth in infrastructure funds to expand overseas into US and European markets.

RiskMetrics, meanwhile, had been chipping away earlier at the more ambitious deals being done by Macquarie-type acolytes, such as Allco Finance Group.

For example, it recommended strongly against the Allco proposal to buy Rubicon Asset Management last year, and institutions came close to voting the deal down.

Allco principal David Coe had led an Allco roadshow to spruik the merits of the deal and it finally scraped through.

In retrospect, Allco shareholders should have taken RiskMetrics' advice. The Rubicon transaction proved disastrous.

The three Rubicon trusts are now down more than 80% in just a few months and Allco teeters on the verge of insolvency.

In the case of Allco, the proxy adviser raised doubts about corporate governance and potential conflicts of interest on the Rubicon.

It should also be noted that the adviser was a critic of MFS, Centro and ABC Learning for some of the same reasons it has criticised Babcock and Macquarie in its latest, most in-depth, paper.

Those three, like Allco and Rubicon, are close to corporate extinction.

MFS, Allco and Centro all favoured the externally-managed model as does the Hedley pubs stable of companies which has just fallen into trouble. Many real estate trusts or REITs also have the trust structure.

Their underperformance has been significant since the downturn in credit markets as the aggressive financing practices, and booking profits from revaluations, hamper performance when credit spreads blow out and asset values come under pressure.

But back to the latest RiskMetrics report. Of prurient interest is their work on fees.

As an extreme example, it takes Babcock & Brown Wind Partners which "had operating cash flow of $14.2 million in the 2006 financial year, but paid distributions totalling $48 million in relation to that year. The distributions were equivalent to 54% of the total cash receipts from customers during the year,'' says the report.

"Even the most mature infrastructure fund of all, Macquarie Infrastructure Group, is no exception.

It had operating cash flow of $306.9 million in the 2006 financial year, but paid distributions totalling $512.9 million in relation to that year.

Furthermore, the distributions were equivalent to 116% of the total toll revenue received during the year.''

The ''stapled'' entities of the infrastructure model "have multiple boards, and are run by an external management company employed under a management agreement providing for substantial fees.

Many of the features of these vehicles appear to make it practically difficult, and possibly expensive, for investors to replace the external manager if dissatisfied with its performance.''

In sum, RiskMetrics finds the model probably has more in common with private equity than with publicly traded property funds.


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Dougal Siam

Monday, April 28, 2008


Chaser APEC case dropped: DPP tells why

Published in Crikey, 28.4.08

A statement by the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, 28.4.08:

ABC Online reports: The case against members of ABC TV's The Chaser's War on Everything has been dropped.Eleven people associated with the popular program were arrested last September for breaching an APEC restricted zone without justification. As part of a comedy sketch, they drove a fake motorcade through Sydney's CBD. The stunt was only uncovered when the convoy stopped and Chaser team member Chas Licciardello climbed out dressed as Osama bin Laden.

The DPP tells why:

Direction Today

I have directed that there be no further proceedings on all charges against 11 persons involved in The Chasers War on Everything entry into a restricted area during the APEC Meeting in Sydney in September 2007: Julian Morrow, Charles ("Chas") Licciardello, Nathan Earl, Giles Hardie, Lauren Howard, Geoffrey Lye, Alexander Morrow, Benson Simpson, Esteban Alegria, Mark Kordi and Rodrigo Pena.

The matters are listed for mention in the Local Court tomorrow, 29 April 2008, when the charges will be withdrawn. In the unusual circumstances of this case I consider it appropriate to give some explanation for this course.


On Thursday 6 September 2007, during the APEC Meeting in Sydney, two presenting members of The Chasers War on Everything ABC comedy/satire team were charged, along with six Chasers crew and production team members and three hire car drivers, with entering a restricted area without special justification, contrary to section 19(1) of the APEC Meeting (Police Powers) Act 2007. The legislation (which was in force from 4 July 2007 to 13 September 2007) provided for "declared areas" (setting in effect an outer perimeter of affected space) and "restricted areas" inside declared areas established around APEC Meeting venues and accommodation. The relevant areas for present purposes were along Macquarie Street, Sydney, north of King Street where a declared area was in place and north of a gate approximately 30 metres south of Bridge Street where a restricted area commenced. Short Facts The Chasers created a fake "motorcade" consisting of, in order: two motorcycle outriders, a black 4WD vehicle, a black sedan and another black 4WD. Five male members of the team (including Morrow who was directing operations) walked alongside the motorcade.

After reaching Bent Street the motorcyclists dropped to the rear. The three vehicles had obviously bogus APEC identification stickers and Canada identification stickers on their windscreens. The sedan had Australian and Canadian national flags on its bonnet. All had tinted windows. The five runners also wore obviously bogus identification. One of the motorcyclists wore jeans. Nine cameras were in operation, some fixed, some handheld and worn and some with audio recording. Recordings from those cameras have been taken into consideration. At about 11.30am on Thursday 6 September 2007 the fake motorcade approached along Macquarie Street from the south and stopped at the intersection of Bent Street. One of the motorcyclists and Morrow pointed forward. Police waved the motorcade on and indicated in a northerly direction along Macquarie Street towards the restricted area. It then proceeded through an open gate further into the declared area. The motorcade then stopped briefly before moving north again towards a second open gate which in fact marked the beginning of the restricted area (although police in the vicinity were unaware of that and the Chasers were uncertain where the restricted area began).

The motorcade then stopped just short of the second gate. Morrow asked people with whom he was in contact about the restricted area and was given to understand that it commenced at Bridge Street. The motorcade then proceeded again through the second open gate towards the intersection of Macquarie and Bridge Streets. There was no attempt by police lining the route to inspect or stop it. The motorcade then stopped short of the intersection of Bridge Street and Morrow told police that there had been a change of plans and that they needed to turn back. Morrow suspected that they had entered the restricted area, which he had not intended to do. Macquarie Street had been narrowed by fencing and barriers between Bent and Bridge Streets and it was necessary to advance into the intersection to turn around. Police waved the motorcade forward into the intersection to enable that to occur.

The motorcade then stopped in the turn, Morrow consulted with Licciardello and he (dressed as Osama Bin Laden) got out of the sedan and with Morrow started to walk south in Macquarie Street. Police then arrested the 11 accused and seized items. (The two motorcyclists rode away.) The Chasers had carried out an examination of the area on 5 September 2007 when police procedures had been different from those followed on 6 September 2007. The Chasers had also conducted a planning session on the morning of 6 September 2007 and some video and audio recording of that has been considered. The evidence establishes that the Chasers plan, in what was considered the unlikely event that they were allowed to pass through any gates, was to stop short of the restricted area and to get Licciardello out of the vehicle. Referral to ODPPPolice prosecutors were primarily responsible for the conduct of the prosecutions, they being for summary offences in the Local Court. A large amount of evidentiary material was made available to the police prosecutors, along with representations on behalf of the accused and advice from senior officers and the Crown Solicitor. Police could have prosecuted or withdrawn any or all of the charges.

The case was first referred to the ODPP for the purpose of giving advice on 13 March 2008. On 14 March 2008 it was decided that the ODPP would conduct the matters and they were then taken over from police. The matters have been assessed in this Office in the usual way for all briefs received. Regard has been had to the applicable law, the admissible evidence and the Prosecution Guidelines.

There has been some urgency in the treatment of the matter by reason of the elapsed time since the events and the listing of the matters in court. Reasons It was an offence to enter a restricted area without special justification. Special justification was defined in section 37 of the Act and included circumstances where a person was permitted to be in the area by a police officer and where the person was required to be in the area for a work-related purpose. The offence is one of strict liability. Consequently, the defence of honest and reasonable mistake of fact is available to the accused. Put another way, it is a defence to establish, or to raise a reasonable doubt that there existed, an honest and reasonable but mistaken belief in a set of facts which, if they had existed, would have rendered the conduct innocent.

In the cases of all 11 accused I am satisfied that on the evidence presently available the prosecution would not be able to negate, beyond reasonable doubt, the existence of an honest and reasonable (but ultimately mistaken) belief that they would not enter or be taken into the restricted area and that, when they did enter it, it was with the permission of police (given by waving them through the Bent Street intersection towards the first gate north along Macquarie Street, then allowing them through the second gate unhindered and then directing them to turn in the intersection of Bridge Street). Police permission in fact constitutes special justification for entry.

Accordingly, there is no reasonable prospect of conviction and for that reason the prosecutions should not proceed. In the cases of Licciardello, the six crew and production staff members and the three hire car drivers a further defence may be available that they had special justification by reason of their requirement to be there for work-related purposes in the circumstances that unfolded. Morrow was directing the progress of all who were employed for the purposes of the stunt and they either followed or were swept along by the directions that he gave.

I am also satisfied that, if the prosecution proceeded against Morrow only on the basis that his situation could be distinguished from the rest, the court would be bound to find that the motorcade entered the restricted area in error and if the offence were otherwise proved (which I consider unlikely) it would be probable that a magistrate would dismiss the charge without conviction under section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (considering also Morrow’s otherwise good character). That would provide an additional discretionary basis for not proceeding in Morrow’s case, in accordance with the Prosecution Guidelines.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Red News Readers,

It seems that aged care workers and care service employees have finally caught up with the aged care providers!

Jenny Haines

Elderly abuse reporting hotline set up

Article from: AAP

April 27, 2008 12:05pm

VICTORIA'S elderly people who suffer abuse now have access to a telephone helpline, launched today by the State Government.

The Seniors Rights Victoria hotline will provide support and advice to older people suffering abuse, Senior Victorians Minister Lisa Neville said.

She said the $2.6m service would allow anyone to access support and advice to respond to the abuse, mistreatment or neglect of older people.

Ms Neville said elder abuse was not just physical but could be financial, emotional, social or psychological, and involve mistreatment or neglect.

"It can include such instances as families pressuring elderly relatives for money, forcing them to sign documents they do not understand or restricting their contact with friends.

"Other examples include older people's health needs being ignored or physical abuse, including pushing and shoving.''

Studies have estimated that between one and five per cent of older people experience some form of abuse or neglect, Ms Neville said.

Research commissioned by the Department of Planning and Community Development showed 15 per cent of people over the age of 18 had either witnessed financial abuse of an older person or knew the person affected.

The survey also found that 18 per cent of people either witnessed or knew of a senior suffering psychological abuse and 90 per cent supported action to prevent it.

The hotline 1300 386 821 will begin taking calls from 10am (AEST) tomorrow (April 28.)


Red News Readers,

It is easy to make allegations, and not all of them have to be proven as perception is everything in politics. But the problem for Pauline is that this is not the first time such allegations have been made. In fact she has been to jail over financial irregularities with party money. And here we are again. Pauline is once again being shown for the greedy, grasping, selfish person that she is. It is vile that the media give her celebrity status when she has done so much damage to the fabric of this nation and it is about time that those who supported her in the past realised that they were misled by Pauline and finally move on to someone who can more ably represent them.

Jenny Haines

Pauline Hanson please explain missing $200,000

By political editor Glenn Milne, Sunday Telegraph

April 27, 2008 12:00am

PAULINE Hanson has been accused of siphoning off more than $200,000 in taxpayers' money from the bank accounts of her own party.

In a recorded telephone call between the former MP and her party treasurer, Ms Hanson admits taking funds because she was not "going to put the money in the hands of anyone else''.

The tape, heard by The Sunday Telegraph, is likely to increase pressure on the Federal Government to crack down on serial campaigners like Ms Hanson.

The $202,440 was paid into the accounts of Ms Hanson's United Australia Party - the vehicle for her Senate candidacy last year.

Bank records, sighted by The Sunday Telegraph, show transfers of Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) funds - out of an account controlled jointly by party officials and Ms Hanson, into another account controlled by Ms Hanson and a close friend.

Citing privacy laws, Suncorp Bank refused to explain how Ms Hanson was able to transfer funds out of an account that required two of the three signatures of the party treasurer, Graham McDonald, his wife Jan and Ms Hanson.

Mr McDonald, a Brisbane businessman, told The Sunday Telegraph he now believed Ms Hanson stood at the election in order to receive public funding.

"I'm so disappointed,'' he said. ``She never really put the effort into the campaign. If she's not going to run (again), what's going to happen to the money?

"You just don't have this money as a gift. I thought she'd changed. I feel just stabbed in the back.

"I feel more sorry for the members. We paid most of the bills.

"So whatever she ran up in expenses, I don't know. But they should have all been done through the party. I should have receipts for them and pay them out.''

Mr McDonald said he hadn't seen one receipt from Ms Hanson. He recalled a "threatening'' visit after the election by Ms Hanson and three men, including her Queensland Senate running mate, David Saville, when they demanded that he hand over all party bank records, membership lists and cheque books.

He refused and told Ms Hanson's ex-adviser, John Pasquarelli, of the visit. Mr Pasquarelli notified Australian Federal Police.

Confronted by The Sunday Telegraph, Ms Hanson claimed she and close friend, Bronwyn Boag, who earlier stood as a Tasmanian One Nation candidate, had put the money into another party account. She refused to say who controlled that account.

She said Ms Boag was the party "designated agent'' with the AEC and the funds had been put into the wrong account by the AEC. Ms Boag had alerted the AEC, which rectified the "mistake''.

An AEC spokesman denied this: "Once the monies have been disbursed in the first instance, the AEC has no further involvement''.

An angry Ms Hanson told The Sunday Telegraph: "Everything's above board. I'm not going to justify myself to you. I'm not going to have discussions with you and the media. You've reported s***. You've given me bloody hell.''

But the taped phone recording reveals Ms Hanson admitting she now has the money

Responding to Mr McDonald's warnings that this is "not the right way'' to do things because the money belongs to the party, Ms Hanson responds: "I've haven't put all this bloody hard work in to hand control over to it (the party).

"I'm not putting the money in the hands of anyone else. I haven't even drawn any money out of the account myself, as yet. My bills are still sitting there.

"There's nothing illegal about it. It's not going to happen to me again. I'm not going to be just out there, just pushing the wheelbarrow for everyone else. I'm sick of all these bloody idiots around me.''

Mr Pasquarelli said: ``The unauthorised removal of the election funding monies from the (party) account is beyond belief, inexcusable and possibly punishable under the criminal law.

"These monies do not belong to Pauline Hanson, but to the party, which is a properly constituted and recognised body. This sorry mess will result in urgent and drastic corrective legislation

Taxpayer funding of elections should be abolished, but the big parties would never agree to this.''


Red News Readers,

Isn't it interesting! Costa and Iemma talk up what they see as the benefits of privatisation but if you go online and read the blogs, those who live in states where electricity has been privatised for some time can tell us of the disadvantages as they have already experienced them, higher prices, job losses, unreliable supply, poor service, particularly after storms. There is no doubt that Labor Party members and the people of NSW don't want their utilities privatised. Costa and Iemma - listen before it is too late!!

Jenny Haines

By Linda Silmalis and Andrew Chesterton, Sunday Telegraph

April 27, 2008 12:00am

PREMIER Morris Iemma and Treasurer Michael Costa have lost the support of the party membership, with just one ALP branch backing the proposed power sale.

In a further blow to the Government, industry experts have warned that it may receive far less than the $10 billion it anticipates from privatising electricity resources.

The National Generator Forum claims tough new environmental guidelines and ageing infrastructure have decreased the value of power generators by as much as $20 billion over the past 10 years.

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal Labor's rank and file is almost unanimous in its opposition to the privatisation plan.

And, in a move that reflects the deep political tensions facing the party, the resolutions to be put to the ALP State conference next Saturday carry strong anti-government sentiment targeting Mr Iemma and Mr Costa.

Labor members in the Marrickville, Merewether, Paddington, Vaucluse and Westmead branches have warned the plan could spell the end of the Iemma government.

In a combined statement, the branches say public ownership of the NSW electricity industry is the only way to ensure a reliable power supply and acceptable pricing.

"Any form of electricity privatisation is clearly opposed by the vast majority of NSW voters,'' they say.

"The proposal puts the re-election of the Iemma government in great jeopardy.''

In Newcastle, members of the ALP's Adamstown branch have warned of job losses, particularly in regional areas.

"Consultation on this proposal has been abysmal,'' they said.

"There was no inkling that such a proposal was on the table at the last election: it was not election olicy.''

Members in Balmain and Leichhardt - in the seat of Balmain, held by Labor's Verity Firth _ have attacked Mr Iemma and Mr Costa directly.

"It is unacceptable that Premier Iemma and Treasurer Costa appear intent on treating the party's membership withdisdain,'' they wrote.

"Accordingly, the conference calls on the Government to discontinue the pursuit of this inherently stupid program.''

The resolutions follow revelations last week that the Alexandria branch had lodged a formal misconduct complaint against Mr Iemma and Mr Costa for declaring they would defy the State ALP conference.

In a separate move, the NSW National Party has come out to oppose the plan.
National Party leader Andrew Stoner said that members would move to block the legislation whenit is introduced in Parliament.

"Members have serious concerns about jobs, services and prices and none of these concerns have been adequately addressed by the Government,'' he said.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Red News Readers,

Thank you Cynthia Banham for addressing the amazing inertia in the developed nations over action on Zimbabwe. How much of a basket case does Zimbabwe have to become before we see some real action by Great Britain , the US and Australia. Turning back the arms shipment is the first step. Surely more can be done to make South Africa, the African Union and the Southern African Development Corporation take a more interventionist role in the situation in Zimbabwe. How much more do the Zimbabwean people have to suffer? What are we waiting for? A genocide?

Jenny Haines

Excuses ring hollow as the world idly waits for Mugabe's disaster

Cynthia Banham, smh

April 26, 2008

Other related coverage

China defends weapons cargo
Tsvangirai fears attack should he return

A decade ago I travelled through Zimbabwe, where I befriended a family with whom I have stayed in contact until this day. Zimbabwe was a very different place then to the country that now stands on the precipice of a major humanitarian disaster. As I trucked through game parks and white-water rafted down the mighty Zambezi River - just a couple of years before the President, Robert Mugabe, made his great grab for white-owned farms - it seemed to be one of the most stable countries in Africa.

Tourism, of course, no longer exists in the Zimbabwe of today. The place is in economic ruins, with agricultural production having almost completely halted, inflation running at more than 165,000 per cent, and widespread food shortages.

My friends no longer live in Zimbabwe. They fled the country, like a third of the population have, a few years ago. But they remain close to people who are still there, and they have insights into what daily life is like in their former home, insights they have shared with me.

What they show is how ominous things have begun to feel inside Zimbabwe. Nearly a month has passed since Mugabe lost the March 29 presidential election, yet his electoral commission refuses to release any official results, while it conducts a recount, which is widely believed will be rigged (results of the recount will supposedly be announced this weekend).

Stories have emerged of violence and killings of political opponents, and a few days ago the churches warned of possible genocide similar to what has occurred in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi. This week dock workers in South Africa (thankfully) refused to unload a ship of arms from China which - chillingly - were en route to Mugabe's regime.

A few days after the election, my friends told me there was nervousness about the possibility of violence breaking out, and a belief that the delay in publicising election results was deliberate, meant to "stir the people up and cause bloodshed". People "want change now, and to wait the extra time will be pure agony" they told me. If there was no change, locals predicted industries would grind to a halt by August. Inflation was already ridiculous, with shops having to knock off three zeros on their checkout tills because the machines could not cope. Zimbabwe's inflation levels were underscored by the banks releasing two new notes, a $25,000,000 and a $50,000,000.

A week later, the mood in Zimbabwe had dropped. Mugabe was clearly hanging on, and the frustration was growing at not knowing what would happen next. Their few friends left in Zimbabwe, though they did not want to leave, were beginning to contemplate how they might do it. Inflation soared again. "One good thing is at least the rest of the world can see just how desperate this man is, and how little regard he has for the law." Then came this insight, from just a couple of days ago: "I have no words to describe the level of frustration felt by everyone and of course the underlying fear of violence erupting." Those friends left in Zimbabwe were now fretting about getting out of the country safely should things explode - what would they do with their pets? What about those who did not have passports? The Government in Zimbabwe has stopped issuing new ones. Would they be able to make it across the border? There were widespread reports of post-election intimidation and beatings. An extraordinary number of police patrolled the streets, they had set up multiple road blocks and were pulling cars over at random. The shelves in the shops were getting emptier than ever. International intervention, these friends believe, is the "only answer to our problem".

Which brings us to the question: what exactly is the international community doing about Zimbabwe? Diplomats say the situation is tricky, that so dire is Zimbabwe's economy, suspending it from global financial bodies such as the World Bank or imposing further sanctions (Australia has had "smart sanctions" targeting the regime since 2002) will have little effect. Zimbabwe has already been expelled from the Commonwealth, so that card has been played, and any moves by the United Nations Security Council will never get up because of expected opposition from China and Russia. Diplomats argue tough action by Western nations will only isolate Mugabe further, allowing him to portray their moves as a colonial plot. They argue countries such as Australia have done all they can. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, like the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and the United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, have all spoken out in strong terms against Mugabe's regime. The best thing now, diplomats say, is to work with Zimbabwe's African neighbours and regional bodies such as the African Union and the Southern African Development Community who have the moral force and the ability through direct action (South Africa for example could cut off electrical power to Zimbabwe) to force out Mugabe.

Unfortunately many African nations have been reluctant to do this, and South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki's insistence on "quiet diplomacy" - publicly denying there is any crisis in Zimbabwe - has met with disappointment and outrage. This might yet change.

Is there really no more the international community can do in a situation such as Zimbabwe's, without waiting for some genocidal catastrophe to occur first, at which point it will have no choice but to send in troops as has happened elsewhere in Africa in the past? Certainly there are those within the Rudd Government who say there is more that could be done, even if it is through the UN's various human rights bodies. A friend from South Africa likened the situation in Zimbabwe to a family in crisis, where nobody wants to call DOCS until it is too late and the children have been abused.

Cynthia Banham is the Herald's Diplomatic Editor


Labor protects MPs opposing Iemma

Andrew West and Andrew Clennell, smh

April 26, 2008

Latest related coverage:

There's a price to pay for power sell-off

THE president of the NSW Labor Party has confirmed he will protect any Labor MP who votes against the privatisation of the state's electricity industry, setting the stage for a split in the Iemma Government.

Bernie Riordan, secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, and chairman of the ALP's powerful administrative committee, has told the Herald that MPs who uphold party policy by defying the Premier will not be expelled or lose their endorsement.

His statement - before next weekend's ALP conference, which is now almost certain to reject a privatisation push by Morris Iemma and the Treasurer, Michael Costa - could license up to 20 Labor MPs who have publicly opposed privatisation to cross the floor.
If the Coalition also rejects the privatisation, the bills will be defeated, inflicting the worst blow on a Labor premier since William Holman was expelled from his own party in 1916. "I expect every Labor MP to follow the policy that our party democratically resolves next weekend, and that includes the Premier," Mr Riordan said.

"Any MP who follows party policy by opposing privatisation in the parliament will certainly have my support in any disciplinary matter that comes before the administrative committee."

Mr Riordan's stand is backed by all the left-wing members of the administrative committee, and most of the right-wing members.

The unions are unlikely to use the blunt instrument of expelling Mr Iemma and Mr Costa because they do not want to bully a premier but to support MPs loyal to the party platform.

The right-wingers on the administrative committee also plan to make pro-privatisation MPs endorsed before the last election without the support of local branches face rank and file preselections before 2011. This would mean the defeat of at least eight MPs, including Jodi McKay in Newcastle, Lylea McMahon from the Illawarra, Tanya Gadiel in Parramatta and David Harris on the Central Coast.

Last night a spokeswoman for Mr Iemma said only: "The cabinet and the caucus have already voted in favour of doing what is necessary for the future of NSW."

The Premier is so concerned about a likely loss by 650 votes to 150 that he has enlisted the backroom powerbroker Eddie Obeid to lobby union secretaries and backbench MPs.

Another controversial Labor figure, the former senator Graham Richardson, has publicly acknowledged the privatisation plan is doomed, and privately counselled Mr Costa against defying the party and proceeding with the sell-off.

The Herald has learned that Mr Obeid has lobbied several right-wing union leaders, including the influential secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, Nick Lewocki, asking them to "talk round" Mr Riordan. The Premier's spokesman would not comment on Mr Obeid's role in the negotiations. Mr Obeid could not be reached for comment.

Mr Richardson confirmed meeting Mr Costa two months ago and discussing privatisation but would not give details. He also conceded to a Labor branch leader that the Premier would be trounced at the conference.

The secretary of the Darlington branch, Trevor Davies, said that when he encountered Mr Richardson last week "Graham … grinned, like he always does, and told me he expected a massive victory for our side of the debate".


Andrew West, smh

April 26, 2008

John Robertson is prepared to gamble Labor's future when he votes down its plans to privatise electricity next weekend, writes Andrew West.

IN EARLY January, as union leaders basked in the summer warmth and reflected glory of Labor's federal election victory, the NSW union chief John Robertson found himself sharing a corporate box at the Sydney Cricket Ground with an adviser to the Premier, Morris Iemma.
Iemma and his Treasurer, Michael Costa, had recently unveiled their plan to privatise the state's electricity industry, igniting a war with unions, ALP branches, consumer and green groups and much of the public.

But the cricket had brought a temporary ceasefire, until Robertson, midmatch, leaned over to the adviser and joked: "You're going to learn a lesson about Robbo today."

Throughout the afternoon, Robertson proceeded to vanquish his opponents in a pie-eating contest, wolfing down 24 of them. After demolishing his final pie, he turned to the adviser and asked: "So what have you learnt about Robbo?"

"That you like meat pies?" she volunteered.

"No," Robertson replied. "That I like to win."

Next weekend, at the NSW Labor Party conference, the 45-year-old secretary of Unions NSW - who maintains an Olympian's physique, despite his diet, by swimming two kilometres each morning - will get the chance to sate his appetite for victory.

He is preparing to lead the biggest rebellion in almost 100 years by union delegates and party members against a Labor premier. Even Iemma privately concedes he will probably lose a proposal to privatise electricity by about 650 votes to 150 votes. It would be the most complete repudiation of a Labor leader since 1916, when William Holman, a founder of the ALP, was defeated, and ultimately expelled, by his party for supporting conscription during World War I.
Rodney Cavalier, a former NSW minister and now party historian, sees a parallel between the two chapters in Labor history. "In 1916, the state executive of the ALP, the Labor Council, the Australian Workers Union, and every Labor league had resolved it was opposed to conscription," he says. "Then, as now, the issue was: who decides?"

Does the parliamentary caucus - or more precisely, the right-wing majority in cabinet, cajoled by Iemma and Costa - or the mass of union and branch members who worked to get them elected, determine party policy?

For Robertson, who also serves on the ALP's powerful administrative committee, the answer is simple. "We had a state election in 2007 with a Premier who said, 'More to do but heading in the right direction.' But when he talked about more to do, he didn't mention electricity privatisation," Robertson says.

"I keep going back to the point that there is no mandate for this in the community or the Labor Party. I've not seen anyone from the Government out there trying to persuade the public on privatisation.

"The only thing I've seen from the Government is a recent article [in The Australian] about a Treasurer who, in his own words, wants to tell people to go and get f----ed. I reckon that's a pretty good indication of what is wrong with this debate."

Robertson is not just steeled for the fight; he is honed.

As the architect of the Your Rights At Work campaign - a 12,500-strong movement of union members and community activists who campaigned against Work Choices in 46 seats across NSW at November's federal election - Robertson was critical to defeating the Howard government. Labor's vote was strongest in seats where his teams were active.

It is one of the reasons Robertson enjoys relatively easy access to the Prime Minister. Kevin Rudd phoned Robertson in January, just to chat about their summer holidays, and last Sunday night Robertson sent a text message to Rudd to thank him for "a great weekend" at the 2020 Summit, to which he was a delegate.

His success as a campaigner also scares Iemma's backbench. "There is certainly an awareness among my colleagues about the dangers of alienating the broader labour movement," says the Coogee Labor MP Paul Pearce. "They know the risks of having our union base against us."

But Robertson also knows that the reputation of the unions will depend on how they respond to Iemma's threat to simply ignore the verdict of the conference and plough on with the privatisation. According to party rules, the conference is the democratic decision-making body that decides policy. The MPs are bound to follow its decisions.

If Iemma, Costa and the caucus members snub their noses at the conference, and the unions passively accept their behaviour, they will have demonstrated their waning influence - even impotence - in the party they founded 118 years ago.

In 1997, Iemma's predecessor, Bob Carr, immediately abandoned his bid to sell electricity after the conference overwhelmingly rejected it. But four years later, Carr ignored union protests - including a picket line around Parliament House - and passed tough changes to compensation laws that capped payments to severely injured workers. And yet the unions not only fell dutifully into line, backing Carr's re-election in 2003, they even endorsed the nominations of nominally left-wing ministers, such as Ian Macdonald, who worked with Carr to drive the changes.

Things have changed, insists Robertson. "The message is that, if we have to make decisions about legislation, and if we have to make that call between supporting the party at the expense of the union movement, well, that's never going to occur," he warns. "Where we can, we'll advance a common cause. If that's not achievable, then in the end, we're not going to be doormats."

What Robertson is implying - if not threatening outright - is that the Iemma Government will be on its own at the 2011 state election, the very moment when it will need all the solidarity it can muster as it asks the electorate to give Labor 20 unbroken years in power.

"If we reach a point where it's a decision between union members or a Labor government, I've said this to plenty of people, then, in the end, I'm union, mate. If we have to make that call, then we're union and we'll go out and campaign for working families above all else. Let me repeat myself. Above. All. Else."

ROBERTSON began his working life in the industry he is now defending. At 18, he was an apprentice electrician - a sparkie - helping to wire up the new parliament house the Wran government was building on Macquarie Street, and where the Iemma Government now plans to defy the party and introduce privatisation bills, possibly as early as next month.

After nearly a decade on the tools, Robertson became an organiser with the Electrical Trades Union and in 2001 he succeeded Costa as head of what was then the NSW Labor Council. As part of a deliberate strategy to create a more "independent", and arguably hipper, organisation, Robertson rebadged it Unions NSW, a practice quickly emulated in other states around Australia.

"It looked odd to many people having something called the Labor Council criticising a Labor government," he said. "One of two things had to change and we decided it would be the name."
Robertson also began building alliances with consumer and green groups and leading Labor for Refugees, which overturned the party's policy on asylum seekers at the 2002 conference. Before last year's election, he brought in the Midnight Oil vocalist-turned-Labor MP Peter Garrett, whose music had helped politicise Robertson in the '80s, to front the anti-Work Choices campaign directed at young voters.

Robertson's closest friend, John Lee, a senior NSW public servant, says the dispute about power privatisation is deeply personal for union leader. "For John - and I stress this is his view, not necessarily mine - it is not only the economic argument about privatisation that doesn't add up.

"He is a sparkie by trade and this issue is fundamental to his DNA. He knows what 10,000 volts can do to a man and, as a union organiser, he's seen the short cuts a lot of private companies take in safety. Robbo has dealt with electrocutions, he's seen them occur more often on the private sector than the public sector side."

Four years ago, Lee was best man at Robertson's wedding to his second wife, Julie. The unionist has a teenage son and daughter from his previous marriage and a stepdaughter.

'Robbo's like about half the blokes in Australia," Lee says. "He's had a marriage break-up but it worked out pretty well. When you spend your life as a union negotiator, you know there are two sides to every story and it's better to meet in the middle."

The difference with the current dispute is that, so far, Iemma and Costa are determined not to compromise.

Robertson could have dodged this fight had he accepted an offer of a safe Labor seat in western Sydney. "He had all sorts of options about 18 months ago," Lee says. "Federally, I think. But he wanted to spend his time riding around in that [Your Rights At Work] bus defeating Work Choices."

Taking such an option would have almost certainly put Robertson in Rudd's Government and Rudd may have been tempted to repay a favour by offering him a frontbench job. The unionist was, after all, an early supporter of the Prime Minister's ambitions.

While Robertson's role in replacing Kim Beazley with Rudd as Labor leader in late 2006 has been identified, he has never discussed it publicly. In mid-2006, during a meeting in Federal Government's parliamentary offices in Philip Street, Sydney, Robertson spoke bluntly to Beazley. "It was a bloody awful conversation along the lines of 'Mate, we love you but you've got to go,"' Robertson confirms to the Herald.

"It really was out of sadness. This bloke had given the best part of his life to the labour movement. He had huge sympathy for working families, he was a decent human being and extremely bright. So it was very tough to have to go and see a guy you love and say, 'Mate, you're as close as you're ever going to be to being prime minister."

Robertson says Beazley acknowledged the unionist's status in the party, saying, "I owe it to you to take the conversation seriously."

As Robertson recalls, "I had been talking to Rudd for 18 months before the election. We never talked directly about leadership but obviously, Kevin was very ambitious and I was sick of us losing."

He also started introducing Rudd to other union secretaries, who knew him only as "Dr Death", the job-slashing former Queensland bureaucrat. "I spent a lot of time talking to people encouraging them to think about backing Kevin," Robertson says. "I don't think Kevin needed much encouraging."

If next weekend's conference follows the predictions and humbles Morris Iemma with a landslide vote against electricity privatisation, Robertson may find himself kingmaker again.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Dr Thomas Karplus blames media for hospital crisis

By Janet Fife-Yeomans, dtm

April 25, 2008 12:00am

THE crisis in confidence in the state's hospitals is nothing more than a media beat-up, a leading specialist told the Garling inquiry into the health system.

Dr Thomas Karplus, head of vascular medicine at Concord Hospital, blamed the bad publicity for demoralising staff and driving away talented nurses and doctors.

"Our public hospital system is one of the best in the world," said Dr Karplus, telling medical staff to stand up and be proud.

His testimony came in dramatic contrast to other evidence given to the inquiry, sitting at Concord Hospital, as one widow told how her husband lived for three years after doctors advised turning off his life support.

Sandra Gendron cried as she told how doctors at Concord encouraged her to switch off her husband's ventilator in 2003, telling her there was nothing else they could do for him.

She refused and Daniel Gendron subsequently went home and lived for another three years, dying aged 51.

Widow Jacqui Day, whose husband Andy, 45, died on the floor of Concord Hospital in the middle of the night after being admitted for pneumonia, told the inquiry that doctors lacked accountability.

And Dr Jean Lennane, national vice-president of Whistleblowers Australia, said a lot of staff were worried about speaking out even to the inquiry.

However Dr Karplus, chairman of the hospital's medical staff council and chairman of the medical staff executive council of Sydney South West Area Health Service, said the media was to blame.

"The current media portrayal of the public health system in crisis erodes public confidence in the hospital system, demoralises the workforce, antagonises the administrators, and does little to address the real issues affecting the system," he said.

"Negative reporting drives away the very people with talent we need to have to improve the system."

However even he acknowledged some problems - such as not enough money, too few doctors, nurses and administrators, too much paperwork and more and more patients.

Dr Karplus said doctors had to sacrifice patient care time to deal with increasing amounts of paperwork and meet key performance indicators which achieved little.

There was a shortage of doctors, blamed on decisions in the 1980s limiting training places and a shortage of nurses, again blamed on the media.

"There is little to entice older workforce members to rejoin the service, especially in view of the negative publicity," he said.

Public hospitals were being asked to do "more and more as ever-increasing numbers of people accessed the system" while GPs were stretched to provide services in the community, Dr Karplus said.

The inquiry continues next week at Lismore and Tweed Heads.


Tsvangirai won clear victory in Zimbabwe: top US envoy

April 25, 2008 - 6:13AM, smh

The United States government has called time on Robert Mugabe's 28 years as leader of Zimbabwe, saying he had clearly lost an election last month and his opponent should now head a new government.

After talks with officials in neighbouring South Africa, Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said the people of Zimbabwe had voted for a change on March 29, even though results were still to be announced.

"The most credible results we have today are a clear victory for Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round and maybe a total victory," Frazer told reporters in Pretoria.

"According to what we know, Morgan won in the first round and there should be a change."

Frazer also responded coolly to the idea of a national unity government to end the political deadlock between Mugabe's ruling party and the opposition, saying there was no way the president should be allowed to stay in office.

"You don't need a government of national unity, you simply have to respect the result of the election," she said.

"There may need to be a political solution, a negotiated solution but any government should be led by Morgan Tsvangirai."

Tsvangirai has already claimed he passed the 50 per cent threshold needed to avoid a second round run-off, although Mugabe's supporters have said a run-off is inevitable.

While the United States has heavily criticised the delay in releasing the results of the polls,

Frazer's comments mark the first time the Bush administration has declared that Tsvangirai was the winner.

The South African government, like most of Mugabe's neighbours, has been urging the authorities in Zimbabwe to stop sitting on the results but Frazer said any results would now be regarded with deep scepticism.

While Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party was initially declared the winner of a simultaneous legislative election, that result is also now up in the air as officials stage a partial recount.

"It is hard for us to accept that any result at this point would have any credibility," said Frazer.

"The Zimbabwean people voted for change and we feel the will of the people must be respected."

Frazer also said that Washington was "increasingly concerned about the violence and human rights abuses taking place in Zimbabwe after the elections."

"This has created a climate of intimidation and violence ... we can't stand back and wait for this to escalate further."

Her comments come after an association of Zimbabwean doctors said its members had treated at least 323 patients who had been beaten and tortured since the elections.

Frazer's onslaught represented a further tightening of the diplomatic pressure on Mugabe after a controversial Chinese arms shipment which was headed for Zimbabwe turned back.

China had been under massive international pressure not to go through with the planned delivery of a massive cache of weapons from a ship, the An Yue Jiang, despite defending the purchase by the Mugabe regime.

After the United States publicly called for the ship to turn back, and lobbied neighbouring countries not to help it reach its final destination, the Chinese government announced that the mission was being abandoned.

"To my knowledge, the Chinese company has decided to bring back the boat," Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, told reporters in Beijing.

"The cargo was not unloaded because the Zimbabwe side failed to receive the goods as scheduled, so the Chinese company made the decision according to this situation," Jiang said.

There was no immediate reaction from Zimbabwe's government, which insisted earlier this week that it had a "sovereign right to buy weapons from any legitimate source worldwide".


Thursday, April 24, 2008


Justin Berkhout's family unable to farewell him

By Kate Sikora, dtm

April 24, 2008 12:00am

HOSPITAL staff have been accused of derailing a police investigation into the death of a patient, whose parents are still waiting to scatter his ashes.

Justin Berkhout, 29, committed suicide last July after being left alone in a room despite concerns over his mental health.

His parents Yvonne and Adrian Berkhout, of Wagga Wagga, have been waiting for 10 months, unable to scatter their son's ashes while a coroner awaits a report from police.

The Daily Telegraph understands some staff at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital have not given statements to police. Only 12 of 24 requested statements had been received by police who told the family they were frustrated with the delays.

A lawyer acting for the family said it was insulting no one had been held accountable over the death.

"The family are incredibly disappointed at the lack of progress of the investigation undertaken by the hospital," Robert Mooy said.

The Greater Southern Area Health Service, in charge of Wagga Wagga Hospital, refused to comment on the matter.


Detective Inspector Andy Day died on Concord Hospital floor

By Janet Fife-Yeomans, dtm

April 24, 2008 12:00am

CONCORD Hospital and a leading specialist have been secretly disciplined by the Health Care Complaints Commission after a patient was found dead on the floor in the middle of the night.

Widow Jacqui Day complained about the treatment of her husband Andy, a top undercover police officer, after an anonymous letter from nurses at the hospital said: "Mr Day should not have died."

Detective Inspector Day, 45, was being treated for pneumonia and died when his oxygen tube fell out of its wall tap for the second time in six hours.

After an inquiry behind closed doors, the HCCC found that Concord, a major teaching hospital, had provided below standard care to Mr Day "in a number of respects", The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

The commission also found that Professor Matthew Peters, the head of respiratory medicine at the hospital, had "departed from the acceptable standard of care" in two areas.

He was referred to the Medical Board's conduct committee for "counselling" for not transferring Mr Day to the intensive care unit and for failing to appropriately monitor his oxygen needs.

Mrs Day will today appear before the Government's special commission of inquiry into the state's ailing health system, sitting at Concord, to demand answers and ask why the complaints procedure is shrouded in such secrecy.

There was evidence before the HCCC from four medical experts that Mr Day should have been moved to intensive care.

Professor Peters told the inquiry there were no intensive care beds available and Mr Day did not want to be moved.

The commission's report, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, said there had been at least one bed available on five of the eight days Mr Day was in hospital and there was no record in the medical notes of Mr Day's comments.

"In 2008, you can't leave your loved one in a public hospital on their own," Mrs Day said yesterday, adding that all adverse HCCC findings should be made public.

"I still do not know how a 45-year-old man can be admitted to hospital and die on the floor in the middle of the night."

It will be Mrs Day's first visit to the hospital since her husband died at 3.30am on November 14, 2003, after eight days treatment. The HCCC took 18 months on its inquiry.

The anonymous letter from nurses was sent to the coroner who conducted a 2006 inquest into Mr Day's death.

The cause of death was recorded as a lack of oxygen "due to displacement of oxygen supply", however coroner John Abernethy found Mr Day's condition was so serious he would have died even with different care.

HCCC executive officer Kim Swan said legislation limited what the commission could release to the public.

The Medical Board did not return calls. Professor Peters is overseas.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Distributed by Peter Murphy for the Search Foundation

A ship carrying AK47 machine guns and 3 million rounds of ammunition bound for Zimbabwe is currently trying to find a way of delivering its deadly cargo. It is highly likely that these weapons will be used to fuel violence, killings and intimidation in Zimbabwe's growing political crisis.


Please help stop these arms getting through to Zimbabwe.

We need all of you and your networks to add your name to the IANSA petition to Stop the Zimbabwe Arms Ship NOW.

Sign on at: http://www.iansa.org/stoptheshipment/index.php

The ship could arrive in Walvis Bay in Namibia by Monday 21 April 2008.

Let's aim for 1,000,000 signatures in 24 hours! The petition will be hand delivered to the chairperson of the Southern African Development Community(SADC).IANSA Secretariat

Monday, April 21, 2008


David Marr, smh

April 21, 2008

EXTENSIVE soundings among delegates confirm I was not the only one who suddenly realised on Saturday morning as I was singing Advance Australia Fair that among the urgent tasks we face as a nation is ditching this wretched anthem. Dud tune. Dud words. Dud song.

But that was not an idea 2020 shook out of the tree and no doubt the professional facilitators were relieved. They had enough to deal with. And if you thought the ideas summit produced mostly fuzzy expressions of good intentions, understand that was a job well done by teams of facilitators who fought for two days to order, abstract and distil our ideas.

"Mush," declared Jack Waterford of The Canberra Times as he read their attempt to boil down the first day's work of our "Open Government and the Media" substream - sorry about the language - of the Governance stream. He demanded to know: "What's happened to all our ideas?"

Pity the poor facilitators who copped us: lawyers, journalists, a discreetly attentive Sir William Deane (abstaining on the republic) and Allan Fels pushing the case for absolute media deregulation in the presence of Seven's Kerry Stokes. "We're here to come up with new ideas," murmured Stokes, "not debate your old ACCC reports."

Time was short. Speeches were many. Though we assembled soon after breakfast on Saturday, it was 11.05 before the first participant participated: Professor Helen Irving calling for a convention to "completely reconsider the appropriateness of the constitution in the 21st century".

Within minutes our bright ideas collided with the needs of the facilitators. We have to build a house, we were told, and out came the butcher's paper. Ideas make up the foundations - scratch, scratch with a marker pen - the walls are our themes, and the roof is our ambitions.

So, we were asked, did we think "making the constitution say what it means and mean what it says" an idea, a theme or an ambition?

At that point, we knew we were in trouble. And as we struggled with these vital distinctions, the facilitators hit us with another: "the articulation of a theme" which is not quite an idea and not really an ambition.

A day of housebuilding reduced many of us in many streams to teeth-grinding frustration. None of this made it to the big screens in the Great Hall of the People that evening. Up there it was all "amazing", "fantastic" and - the buzz word of 2020 - a wonderful "challenge" .

I don't want to hear these words again for a while: discourse, engagement, connection, centrality, model, accommodate and opportunities. Perhaps the Prime Minister might avoid a few he wore out at the microphone this weekend: benchmark, benchmark, each and every one, overarching and benchmark.

Don't get me wrong. These two days rootling around in the national too-hard basket were a great thing. Ideas were found. We had to fight for their preservation, but the summit sent out a message that this is a country still willing to have a go at getting the fundamentals right.

It was worth a trip to Canberra to hear how the rhetoric has shifted and the faces changed.

These are the early days of the post-Howard era, but it's already possible to grow a little nostalgic for elite bashing. All gone.

And it was worth the drive down to the national capital just to hear John Hartigan, the chief executive of News Ltd, telling the Governance stream he chaired: "We're sick and tired of vituperative combat that passes for political discourse in this country."

Less encouraging was hearing time and again that the young leaders of tomorrow can't pronounce the name of their own country. What's going to happen to the place if the tongue roll on the "l" goes missing?

More troubling is the return of a cringing question that disappeared in the Howard years. "What does the world think of us?" was the theme of a one-hour Sky News broadcast for which the thousand delegates were co-opted - though time was short and getting shorter - as a Sunday morning studio audience.

We could have used that hour as we fought to rescue our ideas from the mush. We had them on the white board but then they disappeared again. The pre-fab house was taken apart and never reconstructed. Youngsters from think tanks commanded the microphone. Hardened senators held their heads in their hands.

The republic was lost, it seemed to me as the guillotine was about to fall. So I made a heroic last ditch stand in its defence. After all, we had voted 98 for with only Sir William abstaining and Senator George Brandis opposing. But it was always safe and sound, just on another sheet of paper.

So all the streams fed paper into the great maw of 2020 and after lunch all our good intentions emerged in the Great Hall digested, homogenised, wrapped in conference-speak and welcomed by Kevin Rudd. One of the dozen overarching points the Prime Minister made was spot on: "It's just the beginning."

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Red News Readers,

It is easy to understand the frustration and anger behind the decision by the Alexandria Branch to take this action, but I think they are a bit early. Surely the immediate task after the Conference is to ensure that Iemma and Costa abide by the Conference decision. If they don't, then this action may become appropriate.

Jenny Haines

Iemma faces ALP censure on power

By Linda Silmalis, Sunday Telegraph

April 20, 2008 12:00am

NSW Premier Morris Iemma could face suspension from the Labor Party after he was formally charged under party rules with disloyal conduct.

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that Labor's Alexandria branch formally made the charge against Mr Iemmawith the ALP's NSW head office last week.

The charge comes after Mr Iemma declared that he would not toe the party's line over the Government's pending power sale at next month's ALP state conference in Sydney.

The same charge has also been brought against Treasurer Michael Costa.

The action will now trigger a formal process whereby both Mr Iemma and Mr Costa could be forced to appear beforean internal party hearingto defend himself.

Mr Iemma could also face disciplinary action ranging from a formal warning to suspension from the Labor Party.

Labor insiders claim that itis the first time in recentyears that a formal chargehas been brought against a sitting NSW premier.

The move is symbolic of the growing divide between the Labor Party's grassroots membership and the party leadership.

While Mr Iemma has painted the war over his controversial power sale as one being waged with the unions, the growing revolt within party branches suggests otherwise.

Many branches have moved recommendations against the proposed $15 billion power sale and are expected to voice their anger at the May conference.

Mr Iemma has been charged under the ALP rule 35 (a), which relates to acting contrary tothe principles and solidarityof the party, disloyal conduct and not supporting the platform of the party to the bestof that member's ability.

The charge was lodged by Alexandria branch secretary Ben Aveling. Mr Aveling confirmed that he had lodged the charge last week.

"It was lodged by me on behalf of my branch,'' he said. Party officials, meanwhile, yesterday would not confirmor deny whether the party had received the charge.

NSW ALP state secretary Karl Bitar was unavailablefor comment yesterday.

Under party rules, charges lodged with the party are referred to the 35-strong ALP administration committee.

The committee will consider the charge against Mr Iemmma at its next meeting, which is to be held on Friday, June 6.

Labor insiders say it is likely that the committee will refer the case to the party's 15-member disputes committee to conduct a formal hearing.

And both Mr Iemma and Mr Costa could be called toappear before the panel to answer the charge. Following the hearing, the panel will make recommendations that are referred back to the administrative committee.

The Sunday Telegraph has been told the recommendations could range from Mr Iemma and Mr Costa receiving a formal warning to suspension.

The latest development comes two weeks out from the much-anticipated ALP state conference, where it's expected Mr Iemma will be booed and jeered for his refusal to back down on the privatisation plan.

Labor insiders claim the vote against the plan could be as high as 650 against to 150 in support of Mr Iemma.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Summit participants less kingpins than slaves to status quo

Andrew West, smh

April 19, 2008

Kevin Rudd and his fellow organisers of this weekend's 2020 Summit reportedly ploughed through 20,000 pieces of paper from 8000 applicants wanting their say in Australia's future.

They could have saved themselves the trouble and read a concise 23-page essay by Martin Luther King.

This week marked the 45th anniversary of King's most famous treatise, the "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" (written on April 16, 1963 and published in Why We Can't Wait, 1964). It was the great civil rights leader's call to moral arms in the face of pleas for restraint from Birmingham's "respectable" citizenry.

In the letter, written from his cell after his arrest during a demonstration, King told the city's white religious leaders that their faith in the "moderate" administration of Birmingham's new mayor Albert Boutwell - who had replaced the uninhibited racist, Eugene "Bull" Connor - was misguided. "While Mr Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr Connor," King wrote, "they are both segregationists, dedicated to the maintenance of the status quo."

King also hit out at white moderates who, while mouthing platitudes in support of racial equality, condemned efforts to achieve it, insisting black Americans wait for a "more convenient season".

"Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will," King added.

Almost a century after Abraham Lincoln had emancipated the slaves, more than 150 years after William Wilberforce passed the first act to end slavery in British colonies, and almost 2000 years after St Paul's injunction that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; but all are one in Christ Jesus", the man who walked in the footsteps of Christ was saying the time for talking - for tinkering - was over.

King no longer cared about the approbation of the respectable middle class.

There is a lesson in King's letter for this weekend's summit participants. We no longer live in a country of enshrined racism, but over the past 25 years the social solidarity of Australia has frayed. Public services, such as health, education or transport, have been wilfully ignored or actively undermined by economic policies that emphasise private gain over public good.

Rudd understands this, as his 2006 essay on the "brutopia" of rampant free markets indicates. He knows a society in which the chief executive of a bank can earn 600 times the average wage is unhealthy, even obscene. But then look at the list of summit participants pondering the future of the Australian economy.

David Morgan, the former Westpac chief whose last pay cheque was $10,570,442, is running a discussion that is scheduled to include fellow bank boss Ralph Norris; a media magnate, Lachlan Murdoch; the country's wealthiest man, Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest; Michael Chaney, the former Wesfarmer's chief executive, whose $7.9 million salary was described by the company's chairman as "outrageous"; and, of course, Alan Moss, whose Macquarie Bank salary reached $33,489,818 before his recent retirement.

Does anyone honestly believe that people with such a vested interest in the barely regulated economy are willing to change it by restoring genuinely progressive taxation or giving shareholders the power of veto over executive excess?

Are the former premiers on the panel, Bob Carr and Steve Bracks, who sanctioned such a system and now profit from it as consultants to Macquarie Bank and KPMG, going to agitate for laws to break down concentrations of wealth, as postwar Labor and Liberal governments did, and restore the balance between public good and private enterprise that made Australia one of the world's most equitable nations?

John Robertson, the stirring secretary of Unions NSW, will need his megaphone to be heard over the chorus of consensus in favour of preserving today's economic orthodoxy.

Are the serving and retired politicians who will consider the "future of Australian governance" - George Brandis, Michael Tate, Michael Lavarch, Matt Foley, Geoff Gallop - willing to embrace participatory democracy by advocating part-time state parliaments made up of citizens with real jobs who share the economic burdens of their constituents? Are they ready to democratise the political machines that put them in power by introducing a primary system for the selection of candidates and spending caps on election campaigns?

You can bet on a recommendation for a republic where the head of state is chosen by Parliament or, at most, elected from a small list of "bipartisan" candidates (meaning uncontroversial folk who have never taken a stand on anything) whom the Parliament has approved. Rabble-rousers, progressive populists, even small-d democrats need not apply.

Writing recently in The Nation, Alexander Cockburn explained the problem with such officially sanctioned "conversations" among political and economic elites, who are after all the real elites in our society. "'National conversations' are clubby affairs," Cockburn wrote. "Their prime purpose is to exclude the unconversational, meaning intellectual or verbal excess - [to exclude] above all, unseemly questioning of the essential functionality of the existing system."

In Birmingham in April 1963 the existing system denied the very humanity of black Americans.

In contemporary Australia, the system has widened the wealth gap and increasingly exposed ordinary citizens to economic risks taken by corporate elites.

With different participants the 2020 Summit might have overcome the problem that King identified in his letter: "It is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily".

Michael Duffy is on leave

Monday, April 14, 2008


Skilled migration program to be reviewed

April 14, 2008 - 7:05AM, smh

The exploitation of migrant workers, salary levels and English language requirements will be examined in a six-month federal review of the temporary skilled migrant program.

The federal government has appointed industrial relations commissioner Barbara Deegan to head the review.

Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Evans said Ms Deegan would draw on her extensive expertise in the industrial relations sector to review the 457 visa program and provide options to improve its integrity.

The review would address concerns about the exploitation of migrant workers, salary levels and English language requirements, he said.

"Ms Deegan will consult with overseas workers, union and industry representatives as well as relevant commonwealth, state and territory agencies," Senator Evans said in a statement.

Ms Deegan will take leave from her current position as commissioner of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to undertake the independent review.

She will head a working party of industry and trade union leaders.

The review will look at measures to strengthen the integrity of the temporary skilled migration program; the employment conditions that apply to workers employed under the program; the adequacy of measures to protect 457 visa holders from exploitation; and the English language requirements for the granting of migration workers' visas.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008


Red News Readers,

Its about time the Medical Board got their act together and doctors realised that they are just like the rest of the health service employees with duties and responsibilites for standards in patient care. Doctors have been allowed to regulate themselves for too long and the Butcher of Bega is a terrible example of how that system has failed.

I thought the AMA comments were somewhat insensitive in the context of the patients of the Butcher of Bega having such a struggle to be heard and believed. It may be the case that patients do not always give their doctors reliable information on which to base their medical judgements but that was hardly the case with the Butcher of Bega whose medical practice was most irregular, and probably criminal, whatever his patients told him

Jenny Haines

No more medical secrets

By Clair Weaver, Sunday Telegraph

April 13, 2008 12:00am

COMPLAINTS against doctors will be aired at open hearings chaired by lawyers under landmark legislation to smash the code of secrecy surrounding rogue operators such as the "Butcher of Bega".

In the fallout from the Bega case, where Dr Graeme Reeves is accused of mutilating hundreds of women, the NSW Government will today announce an unprecedented overhaul of the medical regulatory system.

It means doctors will no longer be able to escape scrutiny by appearing at closed and confidential hearings presided over by fellow medics.

The laws will include:

* a ``guillotine provision'' that automatically bans any doctor who breaches conditions on their practice;

* new powers for the NSW Medical Board to urgently suspend a doctor to protect the lives or health of patients;

* making Professional Standards Committee (PSC) hearings open to the public and publishing findings;

* employing non-medical personnel to help decide on disciplinary action against doctors, with a legal representative as chairperson;

* forcing doctors by law to report colleagues they believe have engaged in sexual abuse, drug or alcohol intoxication or other serious misconduct;

* requiring the NSW Medical Board and the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) to consider all patient complaints, even after a doctor has been struck off;

* ordering professional disciplinary bodies to examine doctors' overall ``patterns of conduct'' rather than on an individual complaint basis.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Telegraph, NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher said doctors will face more scrutiny than ever before.

The new legislation will be presented to parliament early next month

It comes in the wake of revelations about Reeves, the disgraced ex-gynaecologist and obstetrician who allegedly mutilated and abused hundreds of women across NSW without detection by authorities for more than a decade.

"The Reeves case challenged public confidence in the way the medical profession was being regulated and disciplined,'' the minister said.

But the proposals have met a lukewarm response from the medical profession.
Dr Andrew Keegan, president of the Australian Medical Association (NSW), doubts they will make a lot of difference and is concerned about practicalities.

"Frankly, lay people and legal people are not going to understand (medical details at PSC hearings), so you need a medical person there,'' he said.

"Doctors need to have guidance on reporting colleagues - you can't work on hearsay.

"The other thing we know is what we are told by patients is not always reliable.''

But Dr Rosanna Capolingua, president of the Federal AMA, supported the laws, which she said "enshrine existing professional and ethical obligations''.

For the first time, anyone will be able to attend PSC hearings into alleged professional misconduct by doctors.

"At the moment, it's assumed the (hearings) will be heard in private _ we say it's going to be the other way around,'' Ms Meagher said. ``Any sort of public scrutiny is bound to make a system more accountable.''

Legal and non-medical representatives will be introduced in a bid to overturn the system of "doctors regulating doctors'' and improve objectivity.

Doctors who fail to raise the alarm about colleagues who have committed serious misconduct may face "failure to report'' penalties themselves.

This could range from counselling to being suspended or struck off.

Those who do make a report must have good grounds and will be granted immunity from defamation.

But they will not be given anonymity.

Under the "guillotine provision'', the Medical Board will be able to immediately suspend or deregister a doctor who breaks rules of practice.

It took the Board 20 months to deregister Reeves after discovering he was breaching an obstetrics ban - during which time he was able to treat other patients.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Medicare's brain drain

April 12, 2008, smh

PSYCHOLOGISTS have rapidly turned their inclusion under Medicare into a goldmine, earning more than $120 million from Medicare but still tending to charge their patients higher co-payments than doctors.

But the expansion of Medicare cover for mental health services in November 2006 has largely failed to provide the services to those most in need: patients in country areas and low-income people, according to figures published yesterday.

In the first 13 months of the scheme, general psychologists undertook nearly 1 million long consultation services of 50-plus minutes, attracting a rebate of $76.65. On average they charged patients an extra co-payment of $33.40.

Clinical psychologists were also busy and charging co-payments that were on average $27 more than a Medicare rebate of $112.45.

Mark Metherell


Lack of services for disabled children tearing families apart

Adele Horin, smh

April 12, 2008

AT LEAST 22 children with intellectual and physical disabilities have been abandoned in short-term respite care for up to two years after their parents refused to pick them up, an inquiry into the state's child protection system has been told.

A senior manager in the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, Carolyn Burlew, said respite was supposed to be short-term, "but what we are finding is that a small number of children are being put into respite and not taken home."

In July last year, six children aged 10-12, eight children aged 13-15, and eight children aged 16-17 were living permanently in a respite centre and blocking beds other families needed for short-term care, the inquiry was told yesterday.

However, the disability department came under fire for its apparent failure to respond to the needs of parents, forcing some to abandon their profoundly disabled children.

The head of the State Government-appointed Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services, Justice James Wood, said parents tried their very best to manage children with complex disabilities but if they did not get the support needed they faced the "terrible dilemma of either reporting their child to the Department of Community Services for being at risk of harm or abandoning them in respite or hospital because they cannot cope".

Justice Wood said the inquiry had heard of a number of parents in the position of Sharon Guest and Stuart Neal, whose story was told in the Herald yesterday, having to give up temporary care of a profoundly disabled child to DOCS because the disabilities department had failed to provide appropriate services.

Justice Wood, and counsel assisting the inquiry, Gail Furness, pressed Ms Burlew, a deputy director general (service development) and her colleague, Lauren Murray, executive director (community access), about the disability department's lack of group home options for children under 12. Ms Burlew said all services for children with disabilities were aimed at keeping the family together.

"Any situation where a child has to leave a home-based environment is a tragedy," she said.

The co-chief executive of People with Disability Australia, Therese Sands, said the group supported the policy of keeping children in the family but there needed to be other options, including small group homes.

Ms Guest and Mr Neal had wanted the disability department to place their five-year-old daughter, Jessie, in a group home close to their house in Randwick for half the week. She suffered a rare genetic condition that caused developmental delay, hearing loss, hyper-activity and huge sleep disturbance.

But because group home care was counter to the department's policy, the couple eventually abandoned their child in hospital, causing her to be reported to DOCS, which placed her in a group home in Newcastle.

Friday, April 11, 2008


US hands back Afghans for makeshift trials

David Rohde and Tim Golden in Kabul, smh

April 11, 2008

DOZENS of Afghan men held by the United States at Bagram Air Base and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are being tried here in secretive Afghan criminal proceedings, based mainly on allegations forwarded by the US military.

The prisoners are being convicted and sentenced to as much as 20 years in jail in trials that typically run between half an hour and an hour, said human rights investigators who have observed them. One early trial was reported to have lasted barely 10 minutes, an investigator said.

Witnesses do not appear in court and cannot be cross-examined. There are no sworn statements of their testimony.

Instead, the trials appear to be based almost entirely on terse summaries of allegations forwarded to Afghan authorities by the US military. Afghan security agents add whatever evidence they can, but the cases generally centre on events that sometimes occurred years ago in war zones that the authorities may now be unable to reach.

"These are no-witness paper trials that deny the defendants a fundamental fair-trial right to challenge the evidence and mount a defence," said Sahr MuhammedAlly, a lawyer for the advocacy group Human Rights First. "So any convictions you get are fundamentally flawed."

The head of Afghanistan's national intelligence agency, Amrullah Saleh, said his investigators did their best to develop their evidence. But he said the Afghan judicial system remained crippled by problems more than six years after the Taliban's fall.

Since 2002 the Bush Administration has pressed dozens of foreign governments to prosecute the Guantanamo prisoners from their countries as a condition of the men's repatriation. But many of those governments - including Britain - have objected, saying the US evidence would not hold up in their courts.

Afghanistan represents perhaps the most notable exception.

Of prisoners who have faced the makeshift court, 65 have been convicted and 17 acquitted, according to a report by Human Rights First.

US officials defended their role in the Afghan trials as a legitimate way to try to contain the threats that some of the more dangerous detainees would pose if they were released outright.

■ The Afghan-born US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, has signalled that he will run for the presidency of Afghanistan in elections next year.

Mr Khalilzad is a senior figure in the Bush Administration who served as ambassador to Kabul before becoming ambassador to Iraq and then the UN. He holds US citizenship, is married to an American and is a former professor at Columbia University.

The New York Times;Telegraph, London



Natasha Wallace Health Reporter, smh

April 11, 2008

JUNIOR doctors at Westmead Hospital have been gagged over evidence they gave at an inquiry about a lack of training, chronic computer problems in gaining access to test results and a directive not to claim overtime despite working 12-hour days.

As the registrars Lisa Phipps and Timothy Tan left the public hospital inquiry yesterday, they were hastily ushered away from the media by a senior administration staff member, who told them to stop speaking. She would not identify herself.

The Opposition spokeswoman on health, Jillian Skinner, said: "This episode shows bullying is still rife within NSW Health."

On Tuesday nurses from Nepean Hospital were also told not to speak to media but were later given permission after the Herald asked for an explanation.

Dr Phipps presented the special commission of inquiry into acute care services with a memo instructing junior doctors not to claim overtime unless it related to an emergency situation.

"It seems the way that we are getting around safe working hours is to say, 'Oh, you can work these hours; just don't claim it,' so it goes undocumented," she said.

The commissioner, Peter Garling, SC, would not release the memo.

Dr Tan told the inquiry a significant shortage of computers meant doctors often could not gain access to test results. He said doctors wasted time "having to wade through piles of X-rays" because of a lack of computers. Log-ins often did not work and computers were sometimes not connected to printers.

In other evidence, an intensive care specialist, Peter Telford, said: "We frequently find the number of critical care beds for the state is one or two. There are probably, in fact, many more, as there are in our unit, because there are patients waiting to be discharged or there are beds that cannot be adequately staffed."

He said it was getting increasingly difficult to discharge patients, thus preventing chronically ill patients from being admitted. "There are times when we discharge them by swapping them for a patient who has got critically ill in a high dependency unit, and this reflects the overall lack of beds in the system."

Understaffing was also a significant issue. "We have large periods of time where we do not have senior staff or even appropriately supervised junior staff looking after sicker patients."

Another staff specialist, Dr Therese McGee, the former director of obstetrics and gynaecology, said the department was a "consultant-free zone" because of an exodus of senior doctors to the private sector. "We will not be able to staff any maternity units within this state with consultancy cover [senior doctors], and this could happen within five years."

Pathology was also struggling.

The acting director of pathology services, Jerry Koutts, said a $5 million shortfall in spending on infrastructure made it inefficient. The big problem clinicians faced was getting bureaucrats to make a decision.

"Everyone's covering their arse, basically, and not making a decision, and we just go through these layers of hierarchy where no one is prepared to make a decision in case something goes wrong. Morale has never been lower."

Professor Koutts said he had been acting director for four years as nobody wanted the job because clinicians were given responsibility for patient care without the necessary authority.

"They're saying I won't put up with that crap."

Having an accountant with no medical background [Bernard Deady] as the director of clinical operations for the Sydney West Area Health Service was "the equivalent of appointing an accountant to be the conductor of your orchestra".

The inquiry is due to hear evidence at Wollongong Hospital on Monday.


Gay judge cops a bashing of biblical proportions - for being respectable

Richard Ackland, smh

April 11, 2008

Old Testament thunderbolts are being hurled down from Bellevue Hill's Anglican parish onto the head of homosexual "sinner" Justice Michael Kirby.

The Reverend Richard Lane's missive emerged on Tuesday night at a forum at the Banco Court where Justice Kirby was conducting a "conversation" with the Herald journalist David Marr under the auspices of the Anglican parish of St James.

From the gentility of the Banco Court and the civilised dialogue on homosexuality, the church and the law, I lurched to a friend's shindig in Kings Cross to mark the opening of a hairdressing salon (don't ask).

The Banco Court assembly was Old Anglican with a sprinkling of those rather severe, if not repressed, gays. Unlike the Kings Cross hair boutique, they didn't have a fabulous drag queen called Rubella going full bore with Tina Turner's Proud Mary in an impossibly short frock and working herself into a lather of unrepressed excitement.

Frankly, if Lane is worried about Kirby's restrained and modest version of "sin", he should travel a few kilometres down the road to see how the other half do it in the real world.

The Kirby-Marr encounter was enlightening. Confirming the spirit of Lane's text, Marr observed that "the Bible doesn't like poofters".

Kirby, who keeps his Anglicanism, his homosexuality and the law all in the same gently rotating orbit, said that you've got to understand the issue of "same sex attraction" in the context in which you read the text of the Bible. He thought that, like the constitution, it's full of metaphors and that you have to be flexible in giving contemporary meaning to ancient passages.

Kirby has been a judge since 1975 and the law that decriminalised homosexuality was not passed in NSW until 1984. "So you were breaking the criminal law as a judge," said Marr.

Kirby thought this was "a load of bunkum" because the laws were not being enforced and anyway those enforcing the law would need evidence.

Still, this did not stop the prosecution of a man as recently as 2005 who allegedly had touched another man's penis before 1984. Kirby, like other gay men, could still technically be prosecuted today if plod got the evidence because the abolition of the crime did not apply retrospectively.

To clear up all uncertainty, what Vicar Lane and his ilk should be pushing for is a new law making it a crime to touch your own penis. Surely the Iemma Government would be receptive to that.

Marr suggested that Kirby had committed the even greater sin of "respectability", which has held him back. Kirby is a radical man but he's overborne by conservatism. "I'm still respectable," he said. "I'm not completely pure, but I don't shove it in people's face."

Yes, but look at your monarchical tendencies, cried his interlocutor. "There's no greater supporter of the monarchy than poofters."

But to Kirby the monarchy is a radical institution. "The freest countries are constitutional monarchies [nod, nod from David Flint]. I'm a rational republican. England is a crowned republic … A 'vanished' head of state is a clever idea."

This is radical stuff, because many people hitherto had mistakenly thought, if you have a Queen, you don't have a republic. As the judge made clear, we can have both.

What's the worst case the High Court ever decided? He didn't want to answer that because it would involve criticising an institution of which he is still a part.

What's the best decision of the High Court? Probably the one that struck down legislation seeking to abolish the Communist Party.

Interestingly, if you look at the High Court's decision in the Jack Thomas control orders case, there is some revisionist thinking about the wisdom of that 1951 decision, which just shows that along with Lane, judges are also capable of travelling a long way backwards.

Kirby returned to the nagging issue of whether he'd been "held back by his respectability".

Maybe it would have been better to have been more open about his homosexuality earlier but then, "if I was I would not have been appointed judicially".

If Kirby had been appointed earlier to the High Court his dissent rate would not have been so high. He would have sat alongside Justice William Deane, who was a guiding light on the court between 1982 and 1995. Kirby says he feels judicially closer to Deane than to Lionel Murphy.

The High Court is a frosty place these days. The Court of Appeal in NSW, on the other hand, was a collection of judges from quite diverse backgrounds, a mixture that managed to be cohesive.

During oral submissions Kirby used to draw little cartoons and doodles and pass them along to his colleagues sitting on the appeal bench. He invariably got a chortle or two. When he tried the same thing on the High Court, all he received were looks of horror. It's all rather stitched-up in Canberra.

The Marr-Kirby show was so bracing that they should take it on the road, do the club circuit.

They should take Rubella along too, as the warm-up act.