Friday, May 30, 2008


Red News Readers,

What game are the NSW Liberals playing here? They are represented here as being satisfied by Costa, but on radio they are saying don't count on us to support privatisation?

Jenny Haines

Costa agrees to Opposition's electricity wishes

Brian Robins and Andrew West, smh

May 30, 2008

IN THE clearest indication yet that the Premier will win the dispute about electricity privatisation, the Treasurer, Michael Costa, has revealed the Government will support the Opposition's proposed changes to the legislation.

The tactic will force the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, to support the legislation and thus decrease the likelihood of Labor MPs voting against it.

The move was revealed as the secretary of Unions NSW, John Robertson, said talks with the Government on the sale had broken down.

"I want to state clearly and emphatically today that there are no meaningful negotiations going on with the Government," Mr Robertson said.

"At no point has this Premier or his Treasurer offered to give any ground on the Treasurer's fundamentalist, ideological agenda to privatise electricity. Negotiations are over. They are finished."

But Morris Iemma said talks were continuing. "We're disappointed in the comments, as my door has always been open - and remains open - to allow the unions to put propositions to the Government," Mr Iemma said.

Mr Costa said yesterday the Government would meet the Opposition's demands. "We will meet all their conditions. They're being specific about the Auditor-General, in some things. I think statutorily it can't do some of the things they've asked for. But there are other ways around that."

The Opposition wants the Auditor-General to assess the sales of the electricity assets before they occur. Routinely, the Auditor-General would assess deals after they have been concluded.

"This is a major transaction involving state crown jewels, and it shouldn't just be decided in the back rooms between Iemma, Costa and the unions," said the Opposition's treasury spokesman, Greg Pearce. "The big one is the independent check by the Auditor-General, which includes timing and the pricing, and also the consumer guarantees."

Along with having the Auditor-General do "probity assurance" and "assess the pricing and terms and conditions" of sales, the Opposition wants a "rural and communities impact statement" and an independent body to monitor the use of funds raised. The body would include the Auditor-General, a community representative and a financial expert.

"And we also want a parliamentary oversight committee to guarantee the improvements in clean, green and renewable energy" the Government had committed to, Mr Pearce said.

A spokeswoman for the Premier said legislation was likely to go before Parliament in the week of June 17.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


The Struggle of the Chamoru people

Sent around by Hannah Middleton, IWYRAW email, 28.5.08.

The Chamoru people of Guam (indigenous name Guahan) have resisted the take over their land and waters since the arrival of Europeans in 1668. They are not prepared to give up that struggle.

In October 2006, a delegation of young Chamoru stood before the United Nations’ Special Political and Decolonisation Committee and demanded that they “hold the United States accountable, as Guahan’s administering power, to its moral and legal responsibilities to ensure the ... right to self-determination of the native Chamoru people” and put an end to the “massive US military build-up [which] hinders the right of Chamorus to decolonization and violates the human rights of all people from Guahan”.

Militarisation of the Pacific U.S. militarisation of the north-west Pacific is anchored around the small island of Guahan east of the Philippines. Guahan is only four hours' flying time from China or North Korea.

In addition to massive upgrading of facilities and increased deployments of planes, submarines and other equipment, the US and Japan have agreed to move 8,000 Marines to Guahan from Okinawa by 2014. The build-up means a total increase in Guahan's current 170,000 population of 35,000.

The link with Australia Australia’s military alliance with the United States allows US Air Force planes from Guam to fly across our country for exercises and use bombing ranges here. The alliance makes us complicit in the denial of Chamoru indigenous rights and in the threat to regional peace and security posed by the militarisation of Guahan.

In addition, the Australian Defence Force participates in various military exercises with US forces based in Guahan and ADF elements visit and/or transit through Guahan during these war games.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Nurse alleges bullying, abuse

May 27, 2008, smh

A NURSE broke down while giving evidence at an inquiry into hospitals, saying management bullied staff at Blue Mountains Hospital.

Jane Morley, a midwife at the Katoomba hospital for 21 years, wept yesterday as she told the Special Commission of Inquiry into Acute Care Services in NSW Public Hospitals that maternity staff were forced to take cord blood from newborn babies for testing without knowing why.

She had been talking about heavy workloads - in the past fortnight she worked an 18-hour and an 11-hour shift back to back. "Another thing I want to talk about is the bullying that goes on in the system," she said, breaking down.

Asked by the commissioner, Peter Garling, SC, if the bullying was between colleagues or from the top down, Ms Morley replied: "It's vertical."

"We get … abuse and threats … Most recently we were told that we would suffer disciplinary action if we didn't start collecting [cord blood] from every delivery regardless of whether there was an issue or not."

Mr Garling suggested she speak to his staff confidentially about the bullying allegations.

Natasha Wallace

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Red News Readers,

Alan Gardo's admission that half the nursing staff in RPAH's Intensive Care are under 2
years experience, is a cry of frustration by a manager struggling with the realities of
the nursing workforce created by the policies and actions of the Howard Government, the
State Government, NSW Health and the human resources policies pursued by the Area
Health Services. In recent years experienced staff left the nursing workforce, not just
because they were nearing retirment age, but also because they were encouraged to
leave, as they were considered too expensive to pay for wages, superannuation and leave

In previous years, NSW Health and the nurses union pursued strategies to recruit and
retain nursing staff which met with some measure of success. Where are those strategies
now? Are they still being pursued? Why are they not as effective as they should be?
What needs to be done to recruit and retain nurses is not rocket science. All of the
work has been done. It just needs to be implemented and resourced, and for that we need
to commitment of the Federal and State Governments, and the efficient performance of
NSW Health and the Area Health Services. At a time when the nurses union is negotiating
the next wage round, efficiency by the employer is a very relevant concept.

Jenny Haines

Junior nurses a 'strain'

Kate Benson Medical ReporterMay 21, 2008

HALF the nurses in the intensive care unit of one of Sydney's busiest hospitals have less than two years' experience, and most spend more time filling in paperwork than caring for patients, an inquiry was told yesterday.

Alan Gardo, a nurse manager at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, told a special commission into acute care services in NSW public hospitals that about 47 per cent of his staff were juniors who had only been nursing for "one to two years", putting a huge strain on the senior staff in the unit.

He said it was "extraordinarily hard" to find new nurses in NSW, and the hospital was forced to employ foreigners on short-term contracts of three to six months, increasing staff turnover and causing permanent staff to feel perpetually anxious.

"We just do not have enough staff, and finding more has become a real problem," Mr Gardo said."Putting people on short contracts may be a Band-Aid solution, but just as they settle in they are gone again."

Mr Gardo said the hospital's intensive care unit, which has the capacity for 54 patients, was too big to manage effectively, and nurses spent too much time on "bureaucracy and documentation" when they should be caring for patients.

"It is extraordinarily difficult for one nursing manager to oversee 130 staff. If we want it to work, the unit needs to be a lot smaller."

In other evidence yesterday, a vascular surgeon told the hearing he was concerned that country patients were being refused beds in tertiary hospitals, even though they desperately needed help.

Associate Professor Geoffrey White, the head of vascular surgery at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, said an Ulladulla patient seeking treatment last week for an aneurysm had been rejected by up to five tertiary, or major, hospitals, all citing a lack of beds.

"We have a situation now where patients are accepted or rejected based on resources, not clinical need. To my mind it verges on being unethical and immoral. We can no longer rely on big hospitals, which have everything required to treat people, to be available to patients in smaller city of regional centres."

Monday, May 19, 2008


Eddie Cross, distributed by the Search Foundation, 18.5.08

We have been in close touch today with the President and his most senior staff. Firm intelligence has been obtained that rogue elements in Zanu PF who fear defeat and its consequences in the June 27th run off are attempting to assassinate him in Zimbabwe. Information was received that his arrival in Harare this morning was to be intercepted and our own assessment was that his unarmed security details and soft skin vehicles were insufficient protection.

Accordingly - and despite the need for him to urgently return home to start his election campaign, it was decided that he should remain in South Africa for a short while longer. Despite this, the rally in Bulawayo will go ahead as planned and the people will be told why he is not yet in the country.

MDC has appealed to the SADC to ensure his security and safety while campaigning for the run off but no satisfactory assurances have yet been obtained. This situation is ongoing. The ruthless use of force in the present campaign against the MDC throughout the country lends substance to this threat as does the arrival of new weapons recently imported from China with the apparent assistance of both South Africa and Angola.

Such actions give us little confidence in the willingness or ability of the SADC leadership to provide security for our leadership or their willingness to help halt the use of force and political violence by Zanu PF in the campaign now under way. This is a completely intolerable situation.

Eddie Cross
17th May at 20.00 hrs.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


"Clown show" … Hugo Chavez rails against the Interpol findings, alleging a conspiracy between the US and Bogota.

Other related coverage:

Files prove Chavez's rebel links, paper says
Chavez accuses Colombia of warmongering

Rory Carroll in Caracas, smh

May 17, 2008

THE President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is facing serious allegations about his country's links to Colombian guerillas after Interpol bolstered the credibility of intercepted rebel documents.

The international police organisation announced that a two-month forensic investigation of laptops seized in a raid by Colombian security forces concluded they belonged to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Leaks from the collection of 16,000 files and photographs have suggested high-ranking Venezuelan officials plotted to help the Marxist group obtain weapons and funding for its decades-long insurgency against the Colombian state.

The secretary-general of Interpol, Ronald Noble, said his experts had found "no alteration of the data by Colombian officials". The amount of information - 37,872 documents and 210,880 photographs - was much greater than previously thought.

Analysts have cautioned that FARC's memos may contain misinformation or wishful thinking.
Mr Chavez's ideological affinity with South America's most powerful guerilla force is no secret.

Earlier this year he negotiated the release of six hostages they held.

Providing logistical support, however, would be a radical escalation, given that the US and the European Union list FARC as a terrorist organisation and cocaine trafficker.

Mr Chavez maintains the documents are fakes and an attempt by the US and "imperialist lackeys" in Bogota, Colombia's capital, to smear his style of socialism.

The report, he said, was an Interpol "clown show" and, relations with Colombia as well as co-operation with Interpol would undergo "deep review".

The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, whose leftist Government is also accused of conspiring with FARC, said the documents "prove absolutely nothing".

The raid on March 1, which resulted in the deaths of at least 25 people, yielded three laptops, three USB memory sticks and two external hard disks, which have been dubbed FARC's "brain".

In one leaked email, dated January 2007, FARC's military chief, Jorge Briceno, tells the rebels' governing secretariat that he planned to ask Mr Chavez for a loan of $US250 million, "to be repaid when we take power".

Republican hawks in Washington want Venezuela listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, along with Syria, Iran and North Korea.

The White House, hostile to Mr Chavez but wary of disrupting oil imports, has soft-pedalled on the issue, asking Venezuela to explain why some officials were "conspiring against a democratic neighbour".

Guardian News & Media,
Agence France-Presse


Details of health cuts still to be spelt out

Mark Metherell, smh

May 17, 2008

THREE days after the budget revealed there would be $503 million of unspecified cuts to the health budget, the Government has kept silent on where the axe will fall.

The cuts were signalled in the budget papers under the title "responsible economic management" and were described as "adjusting the funding for specific health programs" with total savings of $503.7 million over five years.

By late yesterday the office of the Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, had detailed less than half of the savings - a total of $246.8 million. A spokesman said the big cuts had been detailed, but numerous smaller items were still to be announced.

It is understood the Health Department came under intense pressure from the Finance Department to cut a swathe through programs where spending had failed to match original estimates.

The savings will offset the Government's promise to establish a $10 billion health infrastructure fund, its $600 million elective surgery campaign, and the planned 31 GP super clinics, which will cost $275 million.

Despite the big promises, health spending will struggle to keep pace with inflation, according to the budget figures, which show total spending will rise from $44.4 billion to $46 billion.

The cuts revealed by Ms Roxon's office yesterday show that areas Labor has identified as priorities have been hit by the Health Department's failure to spend the money as sought by the previous government.

The biggest hit has been to the chronically underfunded area of mental health nursing, which has yielded "savings" of $188 million over four years.

The official explanation is that due to the "limited available workforce", few took up the incentives program for mental health nurses to work in the community.

The Government has left $49.5 million funding for future needs and says targets for the demand-driven program will not be lowered.

Other losers were infrastructure training and support for general practitioners in primary and co-ordinated care, another Labor priority. This would generate cuts of $20 million over four years. A separate primary care fund for one-off projects will save $11.5 million.

A pathology project for remote areas is to lose $12 million in unused funds because "relevant services are now funded under Medicare", and a $10.5 million electronic health project is to be scrapped.

Ms Roxon's office said the Government had adjusted funding for several health programs that had a history of lower than expected spending "by aligning future funding more closely with anticipated demand".

The president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, said spending was already "playing catch-up".

"You have to ask how they are going to screw down the real cost of delivering proper care."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Red News Readers,

Good on these nurses. Given the frustration that must exist amongst mental health nurses about the lack of acute beds in NSW and repeated promises by politicians that so far have not come to much there would be ample justification for all mental health nurses in NSW supporting this action by imposing the same bans. What is needed now is action by governments, state and federal, not just promises of more money one day soon!

Jenny Haines

Nurses place work ban on mental health patients

Natasha Wallace Health Reporter, smh

May 14, 2008

NURSES at the mental health unit at Prince of Wales Hospital are so fed up with bed shortages they have voted to begin work bans from today.

At a union meeting yesterday they decided that no mental health patients would be admitted to the 50-bed Kiloh unit when beds were not available. Until now nurses have had to put patients on couches and in seclusion rooms.

The Herald has been told the ban would include patients being escorted to the hospital by police.

It is understood there has not been a spare bed for several months and up to five patients a night are sleeping on couches or the floor.

The work ban comes after evidence given at the NSW public hospital inquiry that the emergency unit at Prince of Wales was overloaded with mental health patients because there were not enough ward beds.

Sally McCarthy, head of emergency, told the inquiry on May 1 that on average almost five of the 12 acute beds were taken by mental health patients.

The NSW Nurses Association said recently that some patients had to be restrained and sedated because there was not enough staff to properly care for them. Nurses in emergency were frequently assaulted.

Dr McCarthy told the inquiry there had been an 80 per cent increase in the number of mental health patients presenting to emergency since 2002, and most of this had occurred since 2005.

"Taking six beds out of our capacity just for mentally-ill patients severely limits our ability to assess the vast majority of our patients who suffer from other illnesses," she said.

She said the emergency department did not meet any of the NSW Department of Health criteria for a safe environment for mentally ill patients.

"The prolonged stays these patients have is due predominantly to the lack of capacity of the mental health inpatient service to place them in appropriate beds. Our emergency department is not a suitable environment."


Iemma signals power impasse

Andrew Clennell and Brian Robins, smh

May 14, 2008

MORRIS IEMMA indicated that talks between unions and the Government over electricity privatisation were in trouble, as one of his most senior ministers warned caucus that similar splits between the party and government in the past had led to the "collapse of Labor governments".

The Premier's statement yesterday that unions and the Government may have to "agree to disagree" on the power sale is the clearest signal yet that, despite paying lip service to negotiation with the unions, he is prepared, if necessary, to concede nothing.

Earlier yesterday, the NSW Industrial Relations Minister, John Della Bosca, warned a Labor caucus meeting that the Government could be in severe trouble should the party and the Premier and cabinet remain split.

A rift has emerged between state Labor's general and assistant secretaries, Karl Bitar and Luke Foley, on one side, and Mr Iemma and the Treasurer, Michael Costa, on the other since the Premier announced he would proceed with the sale despite the party conference voting against it.

A caucus source said yesterday that Mr Della Bosca had told caucus he wanted to avoid a situation where the Government was "out of sync" with the party's machinery and the party. He spoke of splits in 1913 and the 1960s when Labor governments had "collapsed", the source said.

Several Left MPs spoke to a motion put up by the upper house MP Linda Voltz to recognise the state Labor conference's 702 to 107 vote against the proposed privatisation.

The caucus vote was lost on factional lines, with Left ministers unable to vote against it.

A Right source later said: "What we couldn't work out was why the Left brought the motion on.

We saw Luke Foley and [the union secretary] Andrew Ferguson were floating around today so we wondered if they had anything to do with it."

The source claimed the vote was lost by about 59 votes to 12.

Mr Foley later confirmed he was in Parliament and said he was "talking to lots of people including parliamentarians with a view to solving this dispute".

Mr Iemma told a media conference yesterday that he had had a couple of discussions with the Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson. But it appeared the issue of joint venture proposals - involving private and public ownership of power stations - was a sticking point.

"I'm not holding anything up - I've said we are proceeding and we are and in that context my door's open for discussions. We've had a couple," Mr Iemma said.

While discussions on "pricing, the environment, jobs [and] employment" had been more positive, there had been problems concerning the "structure" of a sale, the Premier said.

"If there's not [a resolution] it'll have to be one of those things we just agree to disagree on when it comes to structure. Certainly as far as some of the other issues, they've raised fair points and we'll go away and do some detailed work on that."

Today, there are question marks as to whether at least two Labor Left MPs will cross the floor over a bill the Greens are introducing to ensure legislation would have to be passed through Parliament to facilitate the sale.

The Greens were confident a small number of Labor Party members would cross the floor to vote for the legislation, which would receive Opposition support, ensuring it went before the lower house for debate.

The Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, said yesterday the Auditor-General should check any proposed transactions to ensure taxpayers got the best deal.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Red News Readers,

So it I read this story correctly, the overall number on the waiting list has increased, but the length of times they are waiting has decreased. And the Liberals seem to be saying there should be no adjustment of the Medicare threshold from $50,000 to $100,000. So that means those on middle to low incomes should be penalised for not taking out private insurance, and that the Howard Government were wrong when they set the thresholds 10 years ago? Is that what the Liberals are saying? If they are, they are saying that those on middle to low incomes should financially support the private health system by paying the Medicare levy, when these people are already supporting it through the taxpayer billions that are subsidising the private health insurance industry and private hospital services.

Jenny Haines

Natasha Wallace Health Reporter, smh

May 13, 2008

THE number of patients waiting for surgery at NSW hospitals has climbed to nearly 59,000, or about 55 extra people each week since Reba Meagher became Health Minister just over a year ago, the Opposition says.

"Under Reba Meagher's watch, there are now more people waiting for surgery in NSW than at any other time during the last three years," the Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said yesterday.

The waiting list would increase further if the Federal Government doubled the Medicare levy surcharge threshold, which applied to taxpayers who did not have private health insurance, because at least 140,000 patients would flood the NSW public system, she said.

Ms Skinner called on the State Government to ensure NSW received more funding for its hospitals to cope with the expected rise in demand. Already overstretched doctors and nurses would come under more pressure from 140,000 extra patients.

Ms Meagher said the numbers waiting for surgery would "naturally rise as the population grows and ages, and the demand for medical services increases".

The Opposition had "missed the point", she said, citing a drop in how long patients waited for surgery from an average of 3.6 months in June 2005 to 2.8 months in March this year.

She said the number of patients waiting more than a year for elective surgery had dropped from more than 10,000 to 255 in March and those waiting more than 30 days for urgent surgery had decreased from more than 5000 in 2005 to 102. "What matters is that people who need elective surgery have their procedure within the clinically recommended time frame, and that is what is happening," she said.

The Opposition says the hospital waiting list dropped from 58,461 in March 2006 to 51,779 in December 2006, the last reported figures before the state election. The figure then jumped to 55,972 in March last year, and was 58,839 a year later, it says.

The Federal Government announced in January it would spend $150 million on cutting elective surgery waiting lists, of which NSW would receive $43.3 million.


Power play claims Debnam

Brian Robins,smh

May 13, 2008

THE former leader of the Opposition Peter Debnam has promised to vote against power privatisation if it comes to a vote in State Parliament, after quitting the Opposition front bench over the issue yesterday.

His move to the back bench follows the Opposition decision last week to give in-principle support to the State Government's plan to privatise the state-owned power industry.

The Opposition came under pressure from the Government to clarify its stand on the issue in question time last week. "If it is put to a vote I will vote against it," Mr Debnam said yesterday.

"There are people in Government and Opposition for privatisation; there are people opposing it."

Senior party figures, such as the former premier Nick Greiner, wanted the Liberal Party to take the issue of power industry privatisation to the last state election, but Mr Debnam, the then opposition leader, refused, pointing to the drubbing the party took on the issue in the 1999 election.

Labor would "take a hammering on the issue of privatisation" at the next state election, Mr Debnam said yesterday.

He returned from overseas last Wednesday, and was part of Opposition talks on power privatisation later that day and on Thursday, although Opposition sources said he kept his own counsel during those discussions.

"Peter Debnam is entitled to his view," said the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell.

"When you are part of a team, you abide by the team decision."

After Mr Debnam quit the shadow cabinet, Michael Baird was appointed Opposition spokesman on energy, in addition to his role as finance spokesman. Brad Hazzard will add infrastructure to his role as planning spokesman.

Anthony Roberts is to join the shadow cabinet as spokesman for emergency services and juvenile justice, which maintains the factional balance.

Mr Debnam and Mr Roberts are both from the right. Mr Roberts, since his election to Parliament in 2003, has been a parliamentary secretary. Rob Stokes has been appointed parliamentary secretary for planning and infrastructure.

Mr Debnam led the Opposition to a disastrous defeat at the last election, suffering from a voter backlash against the federal government's Work Choices legislation. With Work Choices no longer an issue following a change of government, power privatisation is now dominating the political landscape.

The Treasurer, Michael Costa, had "introduced an enormous weight into the saddles of the ALP on the issue of [power] privatisation", Mr Debnam said.

"Both Morris Iemma and I reassured the community power wouldn't be privatised [at the last election]. Everything changed once the ballot box changed."

Mr Debnam is still believed to harbour leadership ambitions.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Alternative to invasion - a court for our times

Cynthia Banham, smh

May 12, 2008

Australia almost never runs late in paying its dues to international institutions - it is not another United States, which regularly fails to pay its United Nations fees on time. However, in the final 12 months of the Howard government, it did forget to pay its annual contribution to the International Criminal Court. It wasn't deliberate - merely an administrative oversight - but it does say a lot about the ambivalence with which the previous government viewed the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.

While the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade handles Australia's day-to-day involvement with the court, the Attorney-General's Department handles the budget. The former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer was a big supporter of the court, and fought hard against a divided Coalition for Australia to ratify it in 2002. However, Philip Ruddock, the former attorney-general, was not as keen, and it showed.

The Rudd Government is demonstrating greater interest in the court - and so it should. If the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, wants Australia to become an activist middle power, which embraces multilateralism and backs international institutions, it could do no better than throw its support behind a body established to end impunity for politically motivated crimes.

The Rudd Government sees a powerful International Criminal Court as a preferred alternative for dealing with evil politicians who commit atrocities against their own populations, rather than sending in invading armies Iraq-style to rid a people of their dictator.

The Government is understood to be looking at the possibility of having an Australian appointed to an administrative role in the court's registry (it sought advice from the bureaucracy about also having an Australian appointed to the Office of the Prosecutor, but was told that would be too difficult). More immediately, Australia will run for a position in the Bureau of the Assembly of States Parties, which meets monthly and has the day-to-day running of the court.

But there is much more Australia could do to help make the court a truly viable jurisdiction for dealing with individuals who engage in crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes, as the Rome Statute, which sets out the court's parameters, purports to do.

The court has limited membership; only 106 countries have ratified the treaty establishing it. Of all the regional groupings, the Asian states - Australia's neighbourhood - have the least members. Japan is there, but there is no China, no Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore or Papua New Guinea. Australia could play a bigger role, perhaps jointly with New Zealand, in trying to encourage more of its neighbours to join.

Nor is the US a member. Professor Tim McCormack, the director of the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, believes that after the US presidential election, Canberra should use its relationship with Washington to "push for a more benign attitude on the part of the US" towards the court. The Bush Administration has been extremely antagonistic towards the court because of fears its young soldiers would be targeted by politically motivated prosecutions. Those fears haven't been realised. The Bush Administration's most passionate opponents of the court, Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton, have gone, and the three presidential nominees are more predisposed towards it. Although it is still unlikely the US under a new administration would become a member - getting the necessary legislation through the US Senate would be very difficult - a less antagonistic US might encourage other countries to join the court.

One of the court's major weaknesses is enforcing arrest warrants. Because it has no police force, states must agree to hand over their nationals indicted by the court. Often the only way to get states to do this is by applying international pressure. Sudan, for instance, is refusing to hand over two of its indicted nationals.

Fergus Hanson was a former Australian diplomat who worked on the court. Now writing for the Lowy Institute's blog, The Interpreter, he believes Australia "should be far more proactive in making public statements" to keep up pressure on recalcitrant states such as Sudan that refuse to co-operate with the court.

Finally there is an opportunity for Australia to play a major role in completing the court's unfinished business on the crime of aggression. It is listed as the fourth of the crimes covered by the court's jurisdiction, but was left undefined by the Rome Statute. Work on this is being done now ahead of the court's 2010 Review Conference.

What the court needs more than anything, however, say diplomats, is to get runs on the board and to conduct some hearings. This will come with time.

The world needs an International Criminal Court if it is to hold individuals to account for outrages against humanity of the kind we've witnessed in Rwanda, the Balkans and Nazi Germany. But not only that. It also needs a court to act as a deterrent for leaders contemplating barbarism. To quote Hanson again, with a more powerful court, the Robert Mugabes of the world might think twice "about launching all out assaults on their opponents, for fear that if things don't work out they might eventually find themselves in the dock".

Thursday, May 08, 2008


> ----- Original Message ----- > From: >

To: undisclosed-recipients:

Sent: Wednesday, May 07, 2008 2:44 PM

Subject: [Refugee] Rudd harder than Howard on asylum seekers

Postscript to this story 2.34pm >

A few minutes ago, an asylum seeker was given the bad news that he had been rejected. An ambulance has just taken himto hospital becasue he attempted to kill himself. He is unable to face return to the country from which he fled.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

Rudd harder than Howard on refugees

Margaret Simons, Crikey, 7.4.08

Labor is being tougher and more ruthless with asylum seekers than the Howard Government, according to an analysis of decisions made by the new Minister for Immigration, Senator Chris Evans.

The analysis of the exercise of ministerial discretion shows that Evans has rejected 97.6 per cent of applications since coming to power - the highest rate of rejection since 2001.

The handling of applications for ministerial discretion has been sped up, with 41 rejections being issued in five weeks and other applicants told their cases have been "escalated" which on the current pattern is not good news for them.

Most of those rejected feared for their safety if returned to their countries of origin. Many have mental health problems and spouses and children in Australia from whom they will be separated if deported.

The analysis of the rejections is contained in a document distributed to volunteers by the Asylum Seekers’ Resource Centre, which is the leading aid and advocacy organisation for refugees in Australia. Read the whole document here.

Authored by the CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis, the document analyses 42 decisions made by Evans. All but one of these applications were rejected.

"The injustice continues under an ALP Government when it comes to asylum seekers," Karapanagiotidis says.

"It's still too early to get a complete picture of how the Minister will exercise his power, however it’s sadly looking like a change of government may have brought no real change for asylum seekers."

According to Asylum Seeker Resource Centre campaign co-ordinator, Pamela Curr, the cases Evans has rejected include one of an African woman who had been kidnapped and trafficked to the Middle East. She was abused by her "owners". She came to Australia with her "owners" when they were on holiday. When she was attacked again, she ran away. Since then Australia has been her only experience of relative security.

"This case just shattered us all," says Curr.

Curr says others rejected include compelling cases of people who have good reason to fear death if they are returned to their countries of origin, and families that will be split up if people are deported.

"The people making these decisions are old immigration department officers, the same kind of people who handled Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon. They are still there and they are just saying no."

There has been no cultural change in the department, Curr says.

"This Government will be six months old on the 24 May. We have been patiently waiting to see the new compassionate Government. At this rate we will be disappointed."

In this speech last February Senator Evans talked about the 2000 applications for ministerial intervention on his desk, and expressed reservations about whether he should have so much power.

He said the ministerial discretion, intended as a check on the system, had instead become part of the process. Different personalities and priorities among Immigration Ministers led to different outcomes. He indicated he favoured arms’ length decision making by better supported tribunals.
In fact Philip Ruddock was the only Immigration Minister to closely supervise the exercise of Ministerial discretion, and it was his period in the hot seat that led to the big increase of its use.

He intervened on 2513 occasions from 1996 to October 2003, compared to his predecessor, Nick Bolkus, handling just 311 in three years.

Since Ruddock, the reality is that the so-called Ministerial discretion has been handed to Department of Immigration bureaucrats. Evans has indicated he wants the 2000 files cleared fast, and they are moving through them with ruthless toughness.

Karapanagiotidis writes that he has urged the Department not to send bulk refusals "because they are unmanageable and create a crisis that neither ourselves, other agencies or they can deal with."

Nevertheless, the Centre has had 41 rejections in five weeks.

The Asylum Seekers’ Resource Centre plans to try again for ministerial intervention on some of the most compelling cases.

Meanwhile, Crikey sent a copy of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre document to the Minister’s staff yesterday afternoon, but did not receive comment in time for today’s deadline.


Keating's views as elder statesman respected, but not relevant now

May 8, 2008

Letters to the Editor,smh

I do not agree with Paul Keating in relation to my role as president of the Labor Party ("Unions in the dark ages, says Keating", May 6). Times have changed in the ALP over the past 30 years.

The factional infighting which besieged his presidency is now virtually non-existent.

I view my role as supporting the general secretary and officers, guaranteeing that the views of the members of the party are heard in the appropriate forums and ensuring that the rules of the party are complied with by all party members. I do not see my role as selling out the rank and file of the party.

I believe I know a little bit about the electricity industry in NSW, having been involved in the industry all of my working life as an apprentice, tradesman, union official and director. Mr Keating was a depot clerk about 50 years ago.

In 1997, the figure used by the privatisation proponents Bob Carr and Michael Egan was $25 billion, not $35 billion as quoted by Mr Keating. Also, anyone who knows anything about the industry knows the real value in the industry is tied up in the transmission and distribution networks.

Mr Carr wanted to sell these, Morris Iemma does not - which explains the price differential from $25 billion in 1997 to $10 billion in 2008.

Mr Keating fails to understand that the national energy market does not work as he would have planned because of the lack of capacity in the interconnectors between the states. There is an engineering problem, not to mention the electrical theory of voltage losses, which provides a restriction. The fact is that the provision of baseload generating capacity in NSW is basically a monopoly. Mr Keating's assertion that "much of the electricity is provided by private electricity generators in other states" is simply not true.

The facts are that less than 10 per cent of the state's electricity is supplied from other states (Owen Report).

Finally, the role of the trade union movement in the re-election of the Iemma Government was there for all to see in March last year. Even the Premier made special mention of it in his speech to the conference last Saturday. Mr Keating was in Europe.

Mr Keating is an elder statesman of the ALP. He is entitled to his views and his opinions deserve to be respected - their relevance is up to others to determine.

Bernie Riordan Secretary, Electrical Trades Union of Australia, NSW Branch

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Red News Readers,

What a strange democracy we live in! Surveys of the people of NSW repeatedly show that 75 to 85% of the population do not want privatisation of the State's electricity assets. The peak policy making body of the State ALP makes a decision by a vote of 7 to 1 to oppose the sale of the State's electricity assets. Yet the Iemma Costa clique in Macquarie Street and their business mates, including Paul Keating who has a clear conflict of interest in that the firm that he consults for Lazard, Wylie Carnegie stands to gain millions of dollars in fees from the sale, completely ignore the people's and the party's wishes.

It is the right of citizens to expect in these circumstances that their elected representatives in the State Parliament will stand up and represent their concerns but instead what we saw yesterday was an extraordinary display of the Labor Parliamentary Caucus's inability to place their trust in the democracy they are supposed to live in, putting their own as yet unexplained concerns ahead of the protection of State assets and the protection of future living standards of the State's citizens.

Our democracy is diminished.

Jenny Haines

Conflicted Keating's retro-analysis does him no favours

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Alex Mitchell writes in Crikey:

Although he is a national living treasure, Paul Keating has done himself no good by weighing into the war between Premier Morris Iemma and the NSW Labor Party over the privatisation of the state’s electricity industry.

The former PM has contributed an opinion piece to today’s Sydney Morning Herald with the clear intention of giving the embattled Iemma some ballast.

Characteristically, his arguments are made incisively and convincingly – with two important exceptions.

First, he delivers this throwaway line mid-way through the piece:

Critics will say that I am writing in these terms because of my association with Lazard Carnegie Wylie, a company chosen to co-advise the State Government on its privatisation proposals. But what motivates me is seeing the last block of the Keating government's electricity reform program into place.

This declaration – more like the admission of a howling conflict of interest? – should have been made at the start of the article. And Keating is being uncommonly modest when he writes of his “association” with Lazard Carnegie Wylie – he’s the International Chairman for heaven’s sake!
And as Crikey financial whizz Stephen Mayne pointed out last week Keating’s fellow director John Wylie is “Australia’s leading energy sector privatisation exponent”.

Wylie led the $30 billion Victorian energy sell-offs for Jeff Kennett in the 1990s for his old firm CS First Boston which collected mouth-watering, Grange-stocking fees of $100 million. Wylie’s take-home from these transactions was well over $20 million, according to Mayne’s contacts.

Now let’s turn to the Latham Diaries, Tuesday, July 15, 2003: “A meeting with Keating and his business partner Mark Carnegie at their office in Park Street, Sydney.” That’s the Carnegie at Lazard Carnegie Wylie, which was formed last July, whose offices are at No 2 Park Street.

So let’s be clear: as the hired help to organise the Iemma Government’s power sell-off, Lazard Wylie Carnegie – that’s John, Mark and Paul – stand to collect tens of millions in fees.

Keating's second error is the concluding flourish in his Herald piece in which he blasts ALP conference delegates who voted down privatisation by a thumping seven to one majority:

The irony is that it is Iemma who is seeing this important part of federal policy into place while the NSW industrial obscurantists are doing their best to retro-rivet the largest state to the 20th century. What is more, they are determined to do it by jettisoning the parliamentary seats of individual state MPs who won their places in difficult circumstances without much help from them.

This is inflammatory stuff, and also deeply ignorant of the 2007 state election campaign. The unwinnable election was won by Iemma because of the support of the NSW trade union movement.

There’s no question about it. It’s a matter of fact. In a novel electioneering approach, the unions mobilised rank and file members in a campaign on the ground in marginal electorates across the State to oppose the Howard Government’s WorkChoices legislation.

From Penrith to Wollondilly, from the Illawarra to the Hunter and the Central Coast, literally hundreds of volunteers gave out leaflets, letterboxed streets and worked shopping centres to secure Iemma his victory.

It proved to be a rehearsal for the union’s highly successful contribution to the federal election in November and the victory of Kevin Rudd.

To claim that individual state MPs were elected “without much help from them” (unionists and rank and file activists) is a gross distortion of history.

State MPs are entitled to accept Keating’s retro-analysis if they like, but they can also forget about any campaign help from the grassroots at the next state election in 2011.

Another beneficiary of "NSW industrial obscurantists”, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, might also pause before rubbishing the democratic decisions of the NSW Labor Party. He has an election one year earlier.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Red News Readers,

Paul Keating has actually done the anti privatisation movement a favour with his outburst today in that he has made it very clear to everyone how out of touch he is now with his own party, the party that once fostered and supported him, elevating him to the highest office in the land.

Those in the party who still harbour illusions about Keating, should read his contribution in the Herald today carefully. This is not a man who cares about what happens to working families when services are privatised. Jobs are lost, prices go up, supply of the service is unreliable and service levels go down. This is a man speaking for the interests of the big end of town, despite his denial that he is compromised by his corporate relationships.

Bernie Riordan and John Robertson don't deserve a blast from Keating. They have been courageous, calm and committed through all of the difficulties they have faced, including the bizzare outbursts and behaviour of the Treasurer Michael Costa. Now there's a man who deserves a Keating outburst!!

Jenny Haines

Keating blasts unions

Alexandra Smith and Andrew Clennell, smh

May 6, 2008

Other related coverage

Paul Keating: Iemma deserved better than naked obstructionism

THE former prime minister Paul Keating has delivered a scathing assessment of the unionists leading the charge to stop the State Government privatising the power industry, describing one as "woeful" and the other as a mere T-shirt provider.

As the Premier, Morris Iemma, implored wavering MPs yesterday not to vote against privatisation in caucus - saying it would be a vote against his leadership - Mr Keating came to his rescue.

Writing for the Herald's opinion page today, Mr Keating attacks "lemmings" at the weekend state Labor Party conference and the "industrial obscurantists" who led the humiliating defeat of Mr Iemma with a 702-107 vote against privatisation.

Mr Keating describes Bernie Riordan, the Electrical Trades Union secretary, as a woeful state president of the ALP.

"Bernie Riordan's last foray into this issue was a decade ago when he downed Bob Carr and Michael Egan [when they tried to privatise the industry]," Mr Keating writes. "Then the power stations were worth $35 billion. A decade later the price discussion for the same stations is around $15 billion. That is, $20 billion in lost value; $20 billion that could have been spent on education, health and vital new infrastructure."

He also lambasts the Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson - who "sees his role as providing T-shirts to protesters" - and argues the union chiefs are refusing to accept reality: that there has been no economic or commercial reason for state ownership of power generation since the

Keating government established a national electricity market in 1995. "When lights are turned on in NSW now, much of the electricity is provided by private electricity generators in other states," Mr Keating argues. He says power stations are "expensive lumps" of old technology and the only assets worth owning are the poles and wires, which the Iemma Government intends to keep.

Despite Mr Iemma's internal battle, the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, still refused yesterday to reveal his position on the proposed power sell-off.

There is understood to be a split in the Opposition over the sale that could cause Mr O'Farrell some difficulty, with the energy spokesman and former leader, Peter Debnam, expressing opposition to privatisation.

At least six Labor MPs, including some from the Premier's Right faction, have confirmed publicly they would be prepared to cross the floor in Parliament if legislation to privatise power is introduced. Mr Iemma has been calling right-wing MPs to shore up their support for him before today's caucus meeting and he has written an open letter to taxpayers, which runs in newspapers today, explaining the sale.

"We're taking this action because demand for electricity is growing and will outstrip supply within a few years, unless we act now," the letter says.

Tensions were underlined by a clash in cabinet yesterday between the Industrial Relations Minister, John Della Bosca, and the Treasurer, Michael Costa, over the way the negotiations have been handled, forcing the Premier to intervene.

Mr Della Bosca is understood to have defended himself against Mr Costa's suggestion that he leaked details of negotiations at the state conference. Mr Iemma, Mr Della Bosca and the Deputy Premier, John Watkins, are believed to have told ministers they must remain calm and hold their nerve.

Fireworks are expected at the caucus meeting today, when left-wing members will push for a fresh vote on power privatisation following the conference vote. But they are likely to be blocked by the Right, which will argue that caucus has already voted to support the sell-off.

The party's joint campaign committee - which includes the Premier, Mr Watkins, Mr Costa and Mr Della Bosca, as well as Mr Riordan and senior party officials - will hold an urgent meeting tomorrow.

Mr Robertson said yesterday he would not rule out industrial action over the power sale.

"If the Premier embraces the proposals that were put yesterday at the conference, I don't anticipate any industrial action being taken, [but] I'm not going to speculate on what might happen," he said.

Much of the NSW National Party, including the frontbencher George Souris, is opposed to the sale, and Mr O'Farrell said he needed to see the "detail" before giving the Coalition's position.

He would not indicate if he supported it "in principle", saying: "You can't take the in-principle decision. I could make an in-principle decision to take the train home this evening, but unless I know which way the train is going, it may not be worth my while."

Mr Keating denied he was motivated by his involvement with the investment bank Lazard Carnegie Wylie, which advised Treasury on the privatisation proposal. Rather, he wanted to see the final stage of his own electricity reform implemented.


Baby born in hospital toilet, says dad

May 6, 2008 - 11:20AM, smh

A father says his wife had to give birth without anaesthetic in a toilet at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital.

The man, identified as Nick Patfaidif, called Fairfax Radio Network in Sydney on Tuesday, saying staff had been "too busy" to administer an epidural.

"Basically we were told to wait, there was no staff," he said.

"She was basically screaming down the whole place, she was screaming in agony.

"(We) requested an epidural an hour and half before the water was broken.

"(We were told) `Guess what guys, the anesthetist is too busy' ... the anesthetist never showed up."

Mr Patfaidif said his wife got up and screamed in agony.

"The midwife's not done anything, just held my wife there, not done an internal examination or anything," he said.

"My wife then said, `I need go to the toilet'.

"As she's in the toilet, the midwife's disappeared.

"My wife says, `Something's coming out of me, there's a head coming out of me'.

"And I ran into the toilet, and there's my little baby girl, coming out of my wife with the umbilical cord around her neck, turning blue.

"This baby gets pushed out, I held it, then all the nurses come in, and basically I went into shock myself, lost complete control, walked straight out."

Mr Patfaidif said both his wife and daughter were in good health. The Nine Network said the incident happened on Tuesday.

He also said that he was then barred access to his wife by hospital security.

"The midwives got the security on to me ... to basically tell me that I can't go up there unless I calm down," he said.

He was very critical of the hospital's staff and expressed concern that the alleged incident happens regularly.

"They were too busy, everyone was too busy. The whole day we were there, there was no activity," he said.

"Apparently this is normal, guys, and this happens all the time."

The case has similarities to the ordeal of Jana Horska at the same hospital in September last year.

Ms Horska miscarried in a toilet after waiting in the emergency department for two hours.

Her husband Mark Dreyer said the hospital staff provided no care and comfort to his wife.

An inquiry into hospitals in NSW, triggered by another incident at Royal North Shore Hospital, is currently underway.

Urgent comment is being sought from health authorities.

© 2008 AAPBrought to you by

Monday, May 05, 2008


Andrew West and Andrew Clennell, smh

May 5, 2008

MICHAEL COSTA stormed across the room - his face flushed, his hands clenched - towards John Robertson, the secretary of Unions NSW. "You blokes can get f---ed," he screamed.

"You're going to look like dickheads on Monday morning."

The state Treasurer was enraged that his ministerial colleagues and union leaders were trying to compromise his dream of privatising the state's electricity industry.

One witness, a vice-president of the NSW branch, Sarah Kaine, later told Robertson she "thought Costa was going to thump you".

It was the flashpoint in a weekend of extraordinary drama at the Labor state conference, as Robertson and the senior minister John Della Bosca, tried to throw the Premier, Morris Iemma, a lifeline that would spare him the humiliation of his party voting down his planned sale.

The confrontation occurred about 2pm on Saturday, in a meeting room at the Sydney Convention Centre.

A spokesman for the Treasurer said: "The discussion was conducted in the usual colourful Labor fashion, with colour coming from both sides." Della Bosca and his colleague the Minister for Energy, Ian Macdonald, had been cloistered since noon with Mr Robertson, Bernie Riordan, the ALP state president and leader of the Electrical Trades Union, Stephen Turner of the Public Service Association; Lorraine Usher of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Paul Bastian of the Manufacturing Workers Union, and Ben Kruse of the United Services Union.

At various times the party's general secretary, Karl Bitar, the Minister for Roads, Eric Roozendaal, and Mr Costa's most devout ally, the Minister for Ports, Joe Tripodi, scurried in and out of the room.

As the tension in the room built, Mr Roozendaal opened the door, revealing tables littered with hamburger wrappings."We were only eating McDonald's," he joked as he left the room.

The deal involved Mr Iemma accepting the party's opposition to privatisation.

In turn, the party that had put Mr Iemma into Parliament, and the machine that had delivered him the premier's job, would allow him to revise his plan for electricity.

The Herald understands that Mr Della Bosca and Mr Macdonald began their negotiations with Mr Iemma's blessing but the compromise the party was proposing was ultimately unacceptable - and Mr Costa told them so.

A senior Government source said: "The deal was being discussed and Costa spoke to the Premier and said: 'This is what they're offering.' He ran through the points, and Morris said: 'No, go in and tell them it's not acceptable."'

As it turned out, Mr Iemma held a news conference at 2.30pm yesterday, saying he was going ahead with the sale no matter what, but he was still prepared to talk to unions. Although he had rejected a deal, a senior party source insisted that until Mr Costa's dramatic intervention, they were on the cusp of a face-saving deal. Holding up his thumb and index finger, he said the negotiators had been "this close".

The proposed resolution would have kept the Government and unions talking. It would have given Mr Iemma some wriggle room to retreat from the hardline position that Mr Costa had advocated.

The motion was to have been moved by Macdonald and seconded by Mr Robertson - a tangible sign of co-operation between the party's parliamentary and industrial wings.

At one stage Mr Costa appeared willing to accept a resolution that allowed continuing consultation - while he proceeded to draw up privatisation legislation - but he and Mr Iemma would not cop an accompanying resolution that explicitly ruled out a power sale.

By 3pm negotiations with Mr Costa had broken down. He and Mr Robertson appeared together briefly on an escalator, their fixed smiles and forced bonhomie clear, but Mr Tripodi was now acting as Mr Costa's proxy. At least three times he darted up the escalator, between the room full of union leaders, and Mr Della Bosca, Mr Macdonald and Mr Costa, isolated upstairs.

A Government source said: "A number of times since it all started, deals were about to be made, Costa's intervened every time and stopped them, jumped in over the top unilaterally. Della Bosca and Macdonald have been blocked at every turn by it. The lack of trust Costa has in the union movement is legendary now."

After the argy-bargy was over, a Government staffer said the final resolution had been presented only about 20 minutes before the vote. Union officials are said to have taken only a paragraph at a time into the negotiations. The staffer said unions had in effect told the Government: "We're going to stab you through the heart on the stage of conference."

In the week before the conference, Mr Robertson, Mr Della Bosca and Mr Macdonald tried to reach a compromise between Mr Costa's determination to privatise and the unions' resolve to keep the energy industry in public ownership.

The parties met on Tuesday night and then late on Thursday night. The clock was ticking down to conference and Mr Iemma was under growing pressure from his backbench to avoid what would be for them a ghastly dilemma - obey the Premier, Treasurer and cabinet and support privatisation or uphold the rules, traditions and policies of the party that put them in Parliament.

The first explosion of temper occurred on Thursday night, as Mr Robertson, Mr Riordan, Mr Bastian and Mr Kruse assembled with Mr Della Bosca, Mr Macdonald and Mr Costa in Mr Iemma's conference room on the 40th floor of Governor Macquarie Tower. The unions were pushing for a deal that would "keep the overwhelming portion of base-load electricity generation in public ownership" but allow private participation.

Mr Costa and Mr Iemma repaired to the Premier's private office but the Treasurer could be heard yelling, "How can you go and accept the conference decision? You will look like a fool."

In the end Mr Costa took to the stage on Saturday. His arms were flailing, his voice rising. On ABC TV yesterday it was referred to as a "Mussolini-like" performance. The vote went 702 votes to 107 against him.

Just before the negotiations ended, Mr Tripodi, outside the meeting room, turned to the assembled unionists and said: "We're dead, anyway."

Asked whether Mr Tripodi was referring to the union or the Government, a union source said: "I think he meant the whole shebang, the conference, the party, the lot."