Monday, June 30, 2008


Red News Readers,

From Crikey today, 30.6.08.

Not a good time to sell electricity assets:

"Gloom in June. Unless there is a powerful recovery tonight, Wall Street is about to record its
worst June since 1930. The Dow Jones Average closed on May 31 at 12,638.2 and last Friday at 11346.5, a fall of just over 10 per cent. This is not the Great Crash all over again, although we may be seeing the Great Housing and Credit Crash. But gloom has returned to the markets and the brief optimism of March and April has evaporated. The March lows are likely to be breached, if not today then in early July. A bounce will follow, as it usually does, but the great risk now overhanging the market is of more credit write-offs and defaults. -- Alan Kohler, Business Spectator"

Jenny Haines

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Red News Readers,

The professed concern by NSW Health and the Assistant General Secretary of the NSW Nurses Association Judith Kiejda in the Sunday Telegraph today, 29.6.08, about the nursing shortage comes just after the leadership of the Association persuaded nurses to accept a package which takes nurses wages and conditions backwards. Brett Holmes himself admitted in public the wage increase does not meet the rate of inflation over the next two years, although admittedly it was better than what the State Government first offered. But to achieve that wage increase, nurses in NSW were persuaded to accept an unprecedented package of offsets. How does this wages and conditions package meet the demand of the campaigns theme "Fair Conditions, Fair Pay, Nurses Stay - its that simple?"

I would like to be able to upload the article but the Sunday Telegraph has it in their paper version but not online.

Jenny Haines

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Red New Readers,

My letter to Brett Holmes re the acceptance of the pay and conditions deal and the CCH reporting of the deal,

Jenny Haines


You and the Officers of the NSW Nurses Association should be ashamed of yourselves. At
a time when the Nurses Association has considerable bargaining power due to the
difficulties the health system faces, you persuade branches to accept a deal that you
admitted on radio this morning was less than the rate of inflation, but the best nurses
could get from the current State Government. I cannot remember a time in recent history
in the Association when nurses have been asked to trade off so much for a wage
increase. It is true that the wage increase itself is better than the government
offered intially, but it is only a 2 year deal. What happens in the remaining 2 years
of the usual 4 year arrangement? Even if we are facing a resturctured health system in
2 years time, would it not have been better to put nurses in a more secure position for
the first 2 years of that restructuring, rather than facing negotiations in a new and
complex environment?

Nurses are now working in a tough and busy system. I am sure that most nurses would
feel that they are giving offsets on a daily basis when they put up with the working
conditions, the hours, the forced overtime (I hear from my students that is is rife),
the shift shortages, the unreasonable workloads (which the Reasonable Workload Process
does not seem to be addressing). So to impose on them at this time this set of offsets
is reprehensible. I know you say that 91 and 97% of branches voted for the package.
Frankly I don't believe those figures. They rank with the claims made by Mugabe that he
won the last election in Zimbabwe. If you have faith in the results, then place them on
the Association website, so all members can see which branches voted which way. I would
also be interested to see the number of nurses at each branch meeting.

On reasonable workloads, I note from the Memo to Officers that was circulating on the
email system that your officers promised to campaign on reasonable workloads in 12
months time if the branches and members accepted Option One. I would urge you to start
campaigning on reasonable workloads now. It seems to me that a number of workplaces no
longer have Reasonable Workloads Committees and many that do are dominated by
Administration representatives, so that the Association voice is not as effective as it
should be. There was great promise in the Reasonable Workloads process when it was
established and it is a shame to let the process fall into disrepute through lack of
effectiveness. If we can't make the Resonable Workloads process work then it is time to
start talking about ratios.

There will no doubt be great anger amongst nurses at the acceptance by the Association
leadership of this wages and conditions package and the rumblings will continue for
some time. I can only guess at the consternation among nurse administrators at the
proposed review, yet again of senior nurse managment positions. The removal of access
to GREAT is an offset that would make past leaders of the Association turn in their
graves. The commitment by the Association leadership to co-operate with workplace
reform is something that all members and branches need to monitor closely.

It has always seemed to me that the primary role of a union is to pursue with vigor its
members best interests and to utilise what ever campaign resources it can to achieve
that end. That responsibility extends to other unions and their members where they are
affected by the decisions made. While no one wants to see a non Labor Government in
NSW, there was plenty of bargaining room available to the NSW Nurses Association
leadership and you chose to take the path of least resistance. The members have not got
a good deal, and they have not got the best deal they could have got if they had
Officers who were dedicated to representing their best interests.

Jenny Haines
Member of the NSW Nurses Association since 1977.

NSW: Nurses forfeit entitlements for higher pay

27 June 2008 Content provided to you by AAP.

SYDNEY, June 27 AAP - NSW Nurses have grudgingly given up a host of entitlements in exchange for a 7.80 per cent pay increase over the next two years.More than 91 per cent of members voted yesterday to approve the pay offer of 3.9 per cent per year, starting in July.

But the deal also means they will get less pay on certain shifts and will have limits on how many scheduled days off they can accrue.Nurses Association of NSW general secretary Brett Holmes said nurses were better off in money terms but not happy about the lost conditions.

"The ones that have been the most controversial for our members, the ones that are causing the most angst, are the reduction in the additional days off," Mr Holmes told AAP.

Nurses normally receive one day off a month but the maximum number they can accrue under the scheme has been reduced from seven days to three under the new agreement.Mr Holmes said nurses often accrued the maximum "to try and balance their work and family responsibilities".

Nurses will also forfeit the extra pay they used to get when required to work the shifts of more senior staff."The high grade duty is (now) only paid after a full five days of undertaking that higher duty and our members are pretty upset about that," Mr Holmes said.

But the state government did agree to the union going ahead with two cases before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.In these cases, nurses are seeking penalty rates for night shifts increased from 15 per cent to 25 per cent and higher pay for more experienced, full-time nurses.

Mr Holmes said inflation rates of around four per cent meant nurses' pay would at least keep pace with current economic conditions."We believe that in the current financial environment, where people are facing higher costs, that we needed to at least ensure that our members were not going backwards in their take-home pay," he said."Overall, I think nurses are better off."

© 2008 AAP Disclaimer


Red News Readers,

Geoffrey Robertson has done the world a favour with this article, telling us more about Obama's legal background. He will be a welcome relief as President after George W!!

Jenny Haines

June 28, 2008, smh

The fate of liberal jurisprudence in the world's superpower hangs in the balance of a White House race, argues Geoffrey Robertson.

If Barack Obama is elected president of the United States, it will be the result of another presidential election, in February 1990.

Then, 80 of his Harvard classmates chose him as the first black scholar to preside over the editing of the 140th edition of their law review. That instantly brought him to national attention, with featured articles in The New York Times and other major newspapers, a book contract and 700 job offers from all the best law firms. He was a mature student of 27 at the time and after graduation worked for several years as a community lawyer before ascending the greasy pole of Illinois politics. What does this period of this life, as a lawyer, foretell?

There are very few back issues of the Harvard Law Review available in Britain. I tracked down volume 140 in a deserted floor of the Middle Temple library, above the amazing Molyneux globe that guided Sir Walter Raleigh to the new world. It was unthumbed, probably since 1990; so much for the curiosity of our law students. It weighed in at 1964 pages, comprising learned articles, students' case notes and book reviews, with many thousands of footnotes compiled by its eager editors.

The university law review is an American phenomenon that has no parallel in Britain's lazier and less academic law schools: the notion of an elite group of students determining, by the juristic contributions they choose to solicit, the focus of contemporary legal thinking would cause apoplexy in Oxbridge common rooms. But in the US, law reviews are important in shaping the law, and Harvard is the most important of all.

Hence the newsworthiness of Obama's election. Never before had there been a black editor-in-chief. "The fact that I've been elected shows a lot of progress," he said at a news conference. "But you have to remember that for every one of me there are hundreds of thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don't get a chance" because of poverty and family drug environments.

It was a worthy beginning and earned him an affectionate impersonation in that year's Harvard Law Revue. ("In Chicago I discovered I was black, and I have remained so ever since").

The 1990-91 legal term was an unsettling and unsettled time. Justice William Brennan, architect of Supreme Court activism (for example, The New York Times v Sullivan) had just retired, and Obama's volume begins with a tribute to him from Thurgood Marshall, the court's first black judge. William Rehnquist now held the reins, and Reagan and George snr appointees were in the majority: the candle of liberal jurisprudence, burning bright in classrooms inspired by the philosophy of Ronald Dworkin, was beginning to tremble.

Volume 104 is full of civil liberty issues (Obama had been an editor of the previous year's Civil Liberties Review) and full of apprehension lest Dworkin's moral theories would cut no ice with the likes of Justice Scalia. The first major article (solicited, it was noted with surprise, from a non-ivy league professor) analysed the philosophy of Vaclav Havel and argued that his "individual responsibility" approach might be better suited to protecting freedom than Dworkin's appeals to individual rights. Volume 104 exhibits a refreshing interest in foreign cases (some Republican justices regard the citation of British court decisions as tantamount to treason) and there is a contrast between Stephen Sedley's views on the need to censor hate speech and the ACLU's support for the right of racist utterance.

Barack Obama leaves no byline in this volume, but as president he would have been responsible for selecting the topic of the major student disquisition: a 180-page analysis of the need for new law to protect the environment. Introduced with quotes from Chekov, U Thant and the Grateful Dead, this closely argued segment appears prescient today: it was produced long before climate change became topical, and its advocacy of "green helmets" and extra-territorial law enforcement against corporate polluters is more relevant than ever.

It is tempting to detect the young Obama's hand in a few of the many unsigned articles and book reviews. There is a scathing dismissal of a book by Roy Grutman, a great courtroom advocate ("money is what makes his legal world go round") reminiscent of Obama's later comments that law "is a sort of glorified accounting that seems to regulate the affairs of those who have power".

I strongly suspect his contribution to the last and best article in Volume 104, titled Talking of Unconscionable Niggers.

This is an acidic review of a biography of Frederick Douglass, the slave who became a formidable orator for abolition and later a respected public servant (the title is a quoted reaction to Douglass's modest request to be paid for his services). The review notes how most white abolitionists (including Lincoln) were opposed to equal rights for freed slaves, and severely criticises the author (a white historian) for failing to notice black women. This is not an admission that Obama, shortly to marry Michelle (who had graduated from Harvard before him) could readily forgive.

Obama himself graduated Magna cum Laude with the legal world at his feet. He could have taken a highly paid job at a prestigious law firm, or a year's clerkship with a Supreme Court judge followed by an even more highly paid job. Instead he returned to community work for a small firm in Chicago that specialised in housing, welfare and employment and that billed him out at a modest $167 an hour. For all his rhetorical genius he never tried a case, preferring the solicitor's work of researching briefs and preparing witness statements. His clients were whistle-blowers and NGOs anxious to use the law to assist the registration of voters who were poor and black and mainly Democrat. Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate, although he continued to lecture for 12 years on constitutional law as a visiting professor in Chicago. By all accounts, especially those of his students, he was an outstanding teacher.

There is one abiding mystery about Obama's legal career. Although (as his books attest) he is a fine writer, he never put his name to any article, anywhere. It was a time when the very ambitious had become very cautious: Robert Bork had been denied Supreme Court confirmation on the strength (in fact, the weakness) of his earlier writings, and the mysterious David Souter passed muster only because he had written nothing that Democrats on the Senate's judiciary committee could sink their teeth into (to Republican fury, he turned out to be a closet liberal).

Perhaps young Barack decided to leave no hostages to fortune in a career trajectory that might take him to the Supreme Court, or to the White House. Or perhaps he was too busy with his humble work in and for poor communities than to bother about reshaping a legal system that he had come to believe would inevitably serve the powerful.

Ironically it is that system which is most at stake in this election. George Bush leaves a bloc of four dyed-in-the-wool conservatives seated for many years yet on the nine-judge Supreme Court. Three of the remaining moderates (Justices Stevens, Ginsberg and Souter) are likely to leave in the next few years.

"Gentleman John" McCain has promised to appoint strict constructionists, judges who will find no constitutional bar to executing juveniles, or limiting abortions or abolishing habeas corpus.

The fate of liberal jurisprudence hangs once again in the balance as it did, in 1990, for the president of the Harvard Law Review.

Just how vital - and how insecure - that balance is, was demonstrated by the 5-4 US Supreme Court decision this month to strike down as unconstitutional the Bush Congress law depriving Guantanamo Bay inmates of the right to habeas corpus.

The moderates in the majority drew upon Anglo-American legal history, from Magna Carta onwards, to insist that "the great writ" could not be suspended by the government on the pretence that Guantanamo is a foreign country. The minority, led by Bush's chief justice, mean-mindedly accepted this pretence and exhibited a cruel insouciance over the fact that the inmates had already been detained without trial for six years. Obama, out on the stump, immediately and courageously went into battle for the principled, but unpopular, majority decision.

"… you remember during the Nuremberg trials, part of what made us different was even after these Nazis had performed atrocities that no-one had ever seen before, we still gave them a day in court. And that taught the entire world about who we are, but also the basic principles of rule of law. Now the Supreme Court upheld that principle yesterday."

It is sobering to think that unless Obama is elected it is unlikely that the Supreme Court, its balance changed by just one more Republican appointment, will uphold that principle again, at least for the next decade.

Obama's legal career never took off, for all its historic promise at Harvard. He turned his back on the glamour of trial attorneyship and the mega bucks of a prestige partnership, preferring to help house the poor. That may have been the result of careful calculation, as the quickest way to a political career. Or it may simply be that Barack Obama, despite being a lawyer, is in fact a good person.

Geoffrey Robertson, QC is author of The Justice Game (Vintage), and a member of the UN's Internal Justice Council.


Red News Readers,

The Your Rights at Work Campaign did not campaign for change in 2010. It campaigned for change in 2008 and that is what should happen. This delay smells of a deal with employers. The ACTU needs to pull its finger out of its proverbial and put some weight behind the demand for the implementation of the new IR legislation in 2008 and stop namby pambying around, or the unions with the will should start campaigning.

Jenny Haines

Unions push for earlier workplace system start

Mark Davis Political Correspondent, smh

June 28, 2008

UNION leaders are pressing the Federal Government to introduce key elements of its planned new industrial relations system sooner, rather than waiting until 2010 for the laws to take effect.

The ACTU secretary, Jeff Lawrence, said the Government's planned protections against workers being sacked unfairly and its rules regulating collective bargaining should come into effect as soon as possible.

The Government has said it will introduce its industrial relations legislation to Parliament later this year, but that much of the new regime will not come into effect until 2010.

The legislation will dismantle the Coalition's Work Choices system, creating a new industrial regulator, Fair Work Australia, national employment standards and modernised industrial awards from January 2010.

But Mr Lawrence said Labor's unfair dismissal and collective bargaining provisions should commence as soon as the legislation has passed Parliament.

"Australians had voted last November to get rid of Work Choices," he said. "They are expecting those rights to be restored and there is no reason, given Labor has flagged their policies in these areas, why they should not take effect immediately."

The collective bargaining provisions in the legislation set out the ground rules for unions and employers when negotiating workplace agreements.

The provisions the ACTU wants in place before 2010 include:

■ requirements for employers and unions to bargain in good faith;
■ measures allowing ballots of workers to determine whether they want to be covered by a collective agreement, and;
■ removal of legislative restrictions on the content of collective agreements.

The Government is consulting unions and employer groups about the details of its industrial relations legislation before introducing the measures.

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, has insisted Labor will stick to the industrial relations policies it took to the last election.

But the unions believe an early start-up date for parts of the legislation is not inconsistent with Labor's election promises.

Employers have been resisting the union push for parts of the legislation to commence earlier.

The Australian Industry Group's chief executive, Heather Ridout, has said the best approach would be to have all elements of the new system come into operation from January 2010.

The group is concerned that having different starting dates for different elements of the legislation would create confusion in workplaces and would make the Workplace Relations Act more complex through the need for additional transitional arrangements.

The commencement date for the collective bargaining ground rules will have important ramifications, because hundreds of enterprise agreements are due for renegotiation in the manufacturing industry early next year.


June 28, 2008 - 10:48AM, smh

A star-studded cast of artists helped Nelson Mandela celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday with a giant concert in London in support of his 46664 AIDS campaign.

Queen, Amy Winehouse and Annie Lennox were among the performers in Hyde Park for the gig, which was hosted by Hollywood star Will Smith and was held to mark Mandela's birthday on July 18.

The former South African president looked frail and leaned on a cane as he was helped onto the stage by his wife, Graca Machel. But the crowd fell silent when the global icon spoke, his brief speech bringing thunderous applause.

"Where human beings are being oppressed, there is more work to be done. Our work is for freedom for all," Mandela said.

"It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now. I thank you," added Mandela.

Mandela, who retired from public life nine years ago, is now expected to retreat further from the limelight.

Anglo-Swedish rockers Razorlight got the crowd going, before Scottish singer Lennox gave an impassioned speech about combating the virus.

"We must do something to prevent a virtual genocide upon your people," she said, speaking of Mandela's fellow South Africans.

She performed acapella with a choir from the Agape children's orphanage in South Africa, where most residents have lost their parents to AIDS.

Troubled British soul singer Winehouse, who has been battling drug and lung problems, was back in form with a powerful performance of two of her best-known songs, Rehab and Valerie.

Topping the bill, Queen and Paul Rodgers rocked the audience with hits like All Right Now and We Will Rock You.

To close the show, Winehouse led the ensemble in a rendition of Free Nelson Mandela, with the anti-apartheid anthem's writer Jerry Dammers on keyboards.

Mandela did not repeat his comments on the Zimbabwe crisis, but Razorlight frontman Johnny Borrell, Ugandan artist Bebe Cool and Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell did mention the troubled situation.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told host broadcaster ITV that Mandela was an inspiration.

"You know when you go into a room and you meet Nelson Mandela you are in the presence of a great man - the greatest man of our generation, the leader who ended apartheid and the man whose faith in the future was such that he risked execution, prison, intimidation, violence to serve the cause that he believed in," he said.

Ben Motsumi, 45, a nurse from Klerksdorp in South Africa, brought his wife and children.
"I'm here to see Nelson Mandela," he told AFP.

"He's a hero to me. I've got all pictures of him in my house. I've been in Britain for nine years.

This is an incredible occasion for us. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't be here."

Other performers included Simple Minds, Josh Groban, Joan Baez, Leona Lewis, the Sugababes, Eddy Grant, Jamelia, the Sudanese "war child" rapper Emmanuel Jal and a host of other African artists.

Today's concert, which was broadcast around the world, came 20 years after a concert at London's Wembley Stadium that helped press South Africa's apartheid authorities for Mandela's freedom.

Mandela said the giant 1988 concert at Wembley Stadium, which marked his 70th birthday and called for his release from jail, served to "inspire us in our prison cells".

Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr told reporters: "At the original one, there was anger involved because of the circumstances.

"This time, there's a lot more joy. It's a unique occasion."

Precisely 46,664 tickets - after Mandela's prison number during his 27-year incarceration for trying to topple South Africa's apartheid regime - went on sale for the three-and-a-half-hour concert.

The 46664 campaign, which has seen four previous multi-artist concerts, aims to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is rife in sub-Saharan Africa.

South Africa is one of the countries worst hit by HIV - 5.41 million people there have the illness. Mandela lost a son to AIDS in January 2005 and has now made fighting the syndrome his main cause.

"I came to support a great man and a great cause," said Lisle Lewis, 34, from Cape Town.

"I came to say thank-you. Mandela means freedom, understanding and love. I'm going to start crying in a minute!" the dentist told AFP.

"He's taught me to be more appreciative and accepting of other races."


Thursday, June 26, 2008


AIDS epidemic is disaster like drought, floods for Africa: Red Cross

June 26, 2008 - 10:46AM, Source: ABC

The AIDS epidemic in southern Africa is so severe that it should be classed as a disaster comparable to floods or famine, a new study by the Red Cross says.

In its annual "World Disasters Report", the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said that there was "no doubt" that HIV/AIDS matches the United Nations definition of a disaster.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs classes a disaster as a "serious disruption of the functioning of a society, causing widespread human, material or environmental losses which exceed the ability of a society to cope using only its own resources".

The IFRC said that such a situation exists in sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to about two-thirds of the world's HIV-positive cases.

At least one person in ten is living with HIV in nations such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zambia, the report said.

The consequences of the epidemic are felt by all of society and not just those who are sick, due to the economic strain and social tensions.

"Reflecting on the lives of most people living in sub-Saharan Africa raises more alarm than hope," the IFRC said.

"The virus is directly responsible for restraining and reducing human and resource capacities across societies because HIV infections and AIDS deaths are common among workers of all qualifications and expertise, and in all industries.

"Coupled with the high costs of caring for people living with HIV, those capacity constraints lead to withered health and education systems, declining food security, skilled labour shortages and an increasingly ramshackled infrastructure," the report warned.


Red News Readers,

Mandela's rebuke to Mugabe is timely. There may be a shift in thinking in South Africa. We can only hope that there is. The fact that Mugabe has been able to go on for so long hurting his people shames the world.

Jenny Haines

Mugabe's leadership a failure, says Mandela

By Europe correspondent Rafael Epstein, abc

June 26, 2008 - 7:58AMSource: ABC

Pressure increasing ... Nelson Mandela and Gordon Brown this week.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela has spoken out against Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

He was speaking in London after the British Government stripped Mr Mugabe of his honorary knighthood.

At a London dinner to mark his 90th birthday, Mr Mandela made a brief criticism as he listed global problems.

"We have seen the outbreak of violence against fellow Africans in our own country and the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe," he said.

It is thought to be the first time he has made such an explicit public criticism.

The Queen has approved the annulment of Mr Mugabe's knighthood on the recommendation of Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

The Foreign Office said it was a mark of revulsion at his abuse of human rights and abject disregard for democracy.

The Government had ignored previous calls to strip him of his knighthood, fearing it would merely fuel the President's anti-British tirades.

And British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's senior Sport Minister has written to the England and Wales Cricket Board, insisting they cancel cricket tours involving Zimbabwe. They have done so.

Mr Brown's Government has also announced that it will extend economic sanctions.

That may mean extending the list of people in the regime who face financial and travel restrictions.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Immigration delays attacked

Yuko Narushima, smh

June 25, 2008

THE Commonwealth Ombudsman has released a damning report on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's handling of freedom-of-information requests over the past three years.

The report, triggered by a surge in complaints in 2005, found the department breached the 30-day statutory deadline in responding to requests in four of 10 cases last year, and stymied requests for personal information by unnecessarily using the FoI Act.

This contributed to a "significant" backlog of cases, the oldest open for two years, the Department Of Immigration And Citizenship: Timeliness Of Decision Making Under The Freedom Of Information Act 1982 report said.

"FoI delays can disadvantage members of the public who need official documents in order to access other legal rights," said John McMillan, the Commonwealth and Immigration Ombudsman behind the report. "Delay also undermines the open government objective of the FoI Act."

The department received 14,917 FoI applications in 2006-07, the most of any government agency. It used FoI legislation to respond to clients who could have had access to personal information without having to resort to the often time-consuming FoI.

Professor McMillan said the effect of delays was real. He gave the example of a 15-year-old child who needed copies of his/her immigration status to transfer to a new school. The claim was lodged with five months to spare but it took a complaint to the ombudsman to have it processed in time to enrol for the new school year.

Additionally, inadequate explanations of visa rejections were leading people to use FoI to gain information they could be offered voluntarily in a letter from the department at the time of rejection, the report says.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship agreed to and had began acting on each of the report's 10 recommendations, including more staff, the establishment of an "FoI taskforce" and improved communications over the progress of cases.

Yesterday, the department's secretary, Andrew Metcalfe, said the taskforce had made headway in clearing the backlog. It had 847 cases on hand, compared with 3030 last November.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


June 22, 2008

Sunday Telegraph

AS if families across NSW weren't doing it tough enough already, the state's electricity prices will go up by another $90 a year.

As Premier Morris Iemma lobbies Labor and State Parliament to embrace a power privatisation, the independent pricing authority yesterday increased electricity prices by up to 8.5 per cent from July 1.

It comes on the back of an increase of $245 a year in water bills by 2012 announced on Monday.

Add rising petrol prices, interest rates and soaring costs of living into the mix and families are finding themselves worse off than ever before.

"Electricity and water are the necessities of life and we're really starting to see the enormous pressure on families and individuals from increasing charges on these necessities," Salvation Army spokesman Pat Daley said.

"We've already seen people cutting back on entertainment and luxury items and now these essentials are starting to hurt.

"There is a working poor emerging, particularly in Sydney, and we are now seeing this demographic presenting for help and it is putting quite a bit of pressure on the welfare groups."

The increases will apply to both residential and small business customers.

A typical EnergyAustralia or Integral Energy customer on regulated tariffs can expect to pay between $1.40 and a $1.70 extra a week for electricity from the beginning of next month.
Country Energy customers will pay an additional 60-80 cents a week on average.

IPART chief executive Jim Cox explained away the rise as necessary to provide for increased costs in purchasing electricity purchase costs and improvements to network reliability.

"Increases are needed to ensure the NSW residents and businesses continue to have access to a safe and reliable supply of electricity," Mr Cox said.

"Retail prices need to be sufficient to recover the costs incurred in selling electricity, and the investments made in the transmission and distribution networks to increase reliability standards and meet peak demand."

And there is no relief in sight, with energy emissions trading set to increase the cost of electricity even further.

When Mr Cox announced the three-year pricing schedule last year, he said the rises were needed so energy companies could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and purchase renewable energy.

Christopher Zinn, from consumer watchdog Choice, said the cost of energy made it essential to start investing now in ways to reduce the utility bills.

"We don't quite know what the emissions trading is going to do but when it begins all these things - new investment in infrastructure, water, gas - will cost more," he said.

"All utilities around Australia are going up and the best advise is to reduce your use where possible and take advantage of rebates on insulation, rain water tanks and solar hot water heating."


Red News Readers,

Instead of weeping crocodile tears over these deaths, Kevin Rudd would do well to abolish the ABCC, so building unions can do their work in ensuring safety standards in the industry.

Jenny Haines

25 storey death plunge

Melissa Singer, Sun Herald

June 22, 2008

TWO construction workers died when scaffolding collapsed at a Gold Coast building site yesterday.

The men, aged 52 and 36, from the Gold Coast, were patching concrete on the side of the Meriton Pegasus high-rise complex at Broadbeach about 8.30am when the scaffolding collapsed, sending them on a 25-storey plunge.

Both men, one of whom is believed to have two young children, were killed instantly. Police said no one else was hurt.

Union boss Michael Ravbar said it appeared the accident occurred after the swing-stage scaffold the men were working on "flicked out" and a counterweight faltered, sending the men plummeting to the ground.

A Meriton spokesman said senior executives, including company chairman Harry Triguboff, travelled to the Gold Coast as soon as they received the news.

He said the men were employed by a subcontractor and were not direct employees of Meriton.

They were on a platform similar to those used by window cleaners.

A woman who works at a holiday-unit complex in the next street, who gave her name only as Sherry, described hearing an "almighty crash" coming from the direction of the building site.
Resident Stephen Grey also heard the accident.

"I came outside to have a look and could just see a couple of dead bodies within the scaffolding," he said.

"I just feel for their families," construction worker Ari Gara said.

Mr Ravbar, Queensland secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, said work had been suspended on the site and would not restart for up to a week but he expected some workmen would not be able to return.

"When deaths happen, some men can't go back to where their workmates died," he said.

"Different people have different ways of dealing with their grief."

Investigations by the Queensland office of Workplace Health and Safety will continue this week.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was on his way to the Queensland Labor Party conference across the road from the site of the accident near the time it occurred, offered his condolences to the victims' families.

"As Labor people, our thoughts are with the families of those men and this terrible accident reminds us all of the dangers which continue to affect so many of the work sites of Australia," he said in his address to the conference.

The Meriton spokesman said the company would co-operate with all aspects of the police and workplace safety investigation.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


June 21, 2008, smh

Some goals of the intervention seem closer, others less so, writes Jo Chandler in Mutitjulu.

IT IS a year since a cavalcade of four-wheel-drives and army trucks followed a police car past the oblivious crowds of tourists photographing Uluru and turned down the no-go road into Mutitjulu.

This is where John Howard's emergency intervention into remote Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, to rescue children at risk of abuse and neglect, began. So one year on, what has the intervention has brought to Mutitjulu?

"Lots of Toyotas," an elder, Bob Randall, dryly observes as he drives home past the traffic delivering the day's quota of bureaucrats.

Some changes are starkly apparent. Others take longer to see. And much is as it always was.

The community office, decked stridently in the colours of the Aboriginal nation, and the buzzing epicentre of the action a year ago, is locked shut. Its funding has dried up, muting the voice of the fiery community activists who tackled governments, administrators and media over their conceptions and depictions of troubled Mutitjulu.

Next door, by contrast, the then-dormant child-care centre, locked for two years, is open.

Behind a tall fence 11 children squeal and play, chasing each other around a dust track on tricycles.

According to Mutitjulu women young and old, their most vulnerable children are better off for the intervention. They have full bellies, courtesy of the quarantining of welfare payments into household accounts, which started here last September. Weekly deductions of $35 put money into delivered school lunches, and women have "money to spend on food and clothes, instead of it going on grog and ganja," says the community chairwoman, Judy Trigger.

While a few begrudge the blunt instrument of blanket income management catching up careful parents along with delinquents and drinkers, the grandmothers left with children when their parents head "into town" for a drinking session embrace it.

Now they can access children's welfare through accounts at the store, which has extended its inventory to meet demand. The check-out register immediately accesses and debits 300 welfare accounts, and the new manager, Todd Brown, says a good number of them are accruing savings.

Outside the store children who should be in school still congregate. Between six and a dozen was the count taken by the Herald on each of three days in town this week.

The roll call at the Mutitjulu school shows a 10 per cent increase in attendance, to 80 per cent, in the past year. More astonishing is the enrolment, up by 10 to 30 students.

This follows a dive in numbers a couple of years ago, when a series of crises - petrol sniffing; allegations of violence, pedophilia and sexual abuse; questions over the community's management put Mutitjulu on the map for all the wrong reasons, sending people away in droves.

Another casualty of those bleak times was the health clinic, losing programs and its doctor. Now the doctor is back. But outreach work, preventive programs, substance and alcohol programs are virtually non-existent.

Perhaps most surprising, given the child health priority of the intervention mandate, is the claim by the health worker and local intervention critic, Mario Guiseppe, that since the early round of health checks, there has been no reappearance by outside health workers, and no follow-up for children with things such as chronic ear, nose and throat problems. Emergency response headquarters say services are expected next school term.

Another cornerstone was to rebuild the slum housing. Half a dozen of the community's 40 homes remain uninhabitable, and some of those occupied shouldn't be, though they have all had a safety sweep to fix things such as dodgy plumbing and dangerous wiring, and to secure external doors.

In the next weeks, with money that must be spent before the end of the financial year, some will get new whitegoods and other improvements. Big repairs must wait until the next phase.
Senior Constable John Fuller cruises by, a long way from his old Hawthorn beat. He's been here two weeks, the latest occupant of the showpiece new police station. It's dealt with just over 70 reports, 20 arrests and 30 summons in its first year of business.

Speaking on the intervention, an elder, Donald Fraser, said: "It was a good thing, a bit of a shake-up, right across the Territory." But it had lost momentum since the change of government.

"It's very disappointing to people, to be back where they had been, struggling."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Coalition rescues Iemma

Alexandra Smith and Brian Robins, smh

June 17, 2008

MORRIS IEMMA last night caved in to the Opposition's central demand that threatened to wreck the Premier's attempt to privatise the power industry, paving the way for the $15 billion sale.

After last-minute talks yesterday, the Treasurer, Michael Costa, agreed to postpone the final vote on privatisation until September to meet the Opposition's demand that the auditor-general review the proposed sale and report back to Parliament.

Without Opposition support the Government had faced a humiliating defeat on the power sale, with up to 14 Labor MPs in both houses ready to cross the floor to oppose it.

The bill outlining the auditor-general's role will be introduced to Parliament this week and will be backed by the Opposition. Last night Mr Costa told the Herald that the agreement was reached after the Government held several meetings with the Opposition over the past few weeks.

"This doesn't change our sale timetable, which will see the first transaction proceed by the end of the year," Mr Costa said.

Mr Costa said Opposition backing for privatisation was always inevitable given its policy support for private enterprise.

"This was always the way it was going to proceed."

It is understood the deal was deliberately delayed until after the NSW Nationals conference at the weekend because the Government feared it would further inflame the Nationals, who are divided over privatisation.

A loss would have been a devastating blow for Mr Iemma, who came under fire from his party after he defied delegates at the state Labor conference last month and vowed to press ahead with the sale despite their opposition.

A Government source said the deal made Mr Iemma look like he was "hostage to the Opposition".

"I wouldn't call it a win when you have to postpone a vote because you can't get your own MPs to vote for it," the source said.

Mr Iemma is also under pressure over his handling of the Iguanas Waterfront affair.

As well as the auditor-general's report, the Government has agreed to a rural and regional communities impact statement and for an independent committee to oversee the way the proceeds of the sale are spent.

The Government has maintained that selling the state's power industry is critical to kick-start important infrastructure projects such the long-awaited M4 East and the recently announced North West Metro.

The Opposition said it would formulate its position on the sale after examining the Auditor-General's report but the deal would isolate those Labor backbenchers who said they would cross the floor to vote against selling the power industry.

In a statement, the Liberal leader, Barry O'Farrell, and the Nationals leader, Andrew Stoner, said the community safeguards should have been included from the outset.

"We welcome the Iemma Government's belated decision to put the public interest first, but this decision confirms Mr Iemma's weakness within his own party," the statement said.

"It's typical of Morris Iemma's dithering that he waited until the 11th hour when he could have resolved this matter by engaging the Opposition months ago."

Business groups welcomed the resolution last night.

"This is a major win for taxpayers and consumers," said a spokesman for Infrastructure Partners Australia, Brendan Lyon.

"The focus must now be on a well structured and speedy resolution that allows the public sector to reform the energy market as soon as possible.

"Further undue delay would be unwelcome."

The Opposition spokesman on energy, Mike Baird, said: "It's a good result for the people of NSW. Our role is to ensure a transaction of this magnitude is done in the interests of NSW. Hopefully the Auditor-General's report will provide that."

Monday, June 16, 2008


Refused asylum seeker commits suicides

June 16, 2008 - 8:34AM, smh

An asylum seeker who was denied an Australian protection visa and deported back to China has committed suicide out of despair, a refugee advocate says.

The man, referred to only as Mr Zhang, had claimed he would be persecuted because of his involvement with pro-democracy groups if he was sent back to China.

Refugee advocate Frances Milne said she worked on the case and kept in touch with Mr Zhang after he had been sent back to China in April last year.

"To find that he has now committed suicide to avoid, I guess, further persecution and torture is very, very disappointing and upsetting," she told ABC Radio.

Numerous letters to former coalition immigration minister Kevin Andrews and his Labor successor Chris Evans had been ignored, Ms Milne said.

"If there is any decency in our government then having a policy of giving protection to people that we have wrongly determined not to be refugees is absolutely crucial. They must do it."

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties said Mr Zhang's deportation had been in breach of Australia's obligations under the convention against torture.

"He immediately faced torture on his return to China and evidence of that was presented to the Australian government," secretary Stephen Blanks told ABC Radio.

"We have been pleading with the Australian government to bring him back and there has just been inaction."

A spokesman for the immigration department said Mr Zhang's suicide was regretted but declined to comment on details of his case.

Speaking last year, Mr Zhang said he was interrogated for more than 15 days as soon as he arrived back in China.

"Policemen pushed me down on the ground. One ... stepped on me ... it was broken, the left hand, the middle finger," he told ABC Radio through an interpreter.

While in Australia, Mr Zhang supported protests by the Falun Gong spiritual group, which is banned in China, and was involved in a hunger strike at the Villawood detention centre.

© 2008 AAP

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Red News Readers,

Babcock's might have been a buyer for electricity in NSW at one point. Now, no chance. NOTE: the last paragraph

Jenny Haines

Babcock collapse to be a global blockbuster

Friday, 13 June 2008

By Stephen Mayne, shareholder in 11 Babcock vehicles, Crikey 13.6.08

The astonishing Babcock & Brown collapse and humiliation continued apace today with the following share price moves by late morning, ranked according to percentage falls:

B&B unsecured notes: down 31% to $38, suggesting the equity is worthless
Babcock & Brown: down 28% to $4.95m, breaching $5 float price for first time
B&B Power: down 26% to 66c, 74% loss on 2006 float price
B&B Infrastructure: down 24% to 64.5c, equity now worth just $1.5 billion supporting $9 billion in debt.
B&B Communities: down 19% to 32c
B&B Capital: down 16% to $2.99
B&B Japan: down 14% to 84.5c
B&B Wind: down 11% to $1.37
Everest Babcock & Brown: down 8% to 41.5c.

That’s a record low for nine Babcock vehicles representing the destruction of more than $1.5 billion in a morning. Wow!

And how did the mothership respond to this crisis? It announced the $7.5 billion acquisition of Angel Trains from the teetering Royal Bank of Scotland to become the biggest rail company in Europe.

Well, arranged rather than acquired as the Babcock equity is coming from its European equity trust. CEO Phil Green was defiantly hailing it a "landmark" deal.

"The completion of this transaction demonstrates our continued ability to originate, structure and close a uniquely complex deal."

Not quite, Phil. It demonstrates that there was one last deal in the pipeline that has staggered over the line but it is game over from here on, even if the mothership has extracted $100 million-plus in fees on the transaction.

The media hasn’t quite cottoned onto the scale of this story as only Fairfax’s Michael West pointed out the sensitive infrastructure assets involved, which now includes Europe’s biggest rail business.

The whole world will be watching because never before has one house fallen over with $50 billion in debt saddled on top of a massive pile of ultra-sensitive infrastructure assets, including:
Victoria’s $1.4 billion Royal Children’s Hospital redevelopment

The controversial St Kilda triangle project in Melbourne
Eircom, Ireland’s equivalent of Telstra which sits inside Babcock & Brown Capital.
WA’s gas retailing monopoly
Dozens of power stations and windfarms
More than $1 billion worth of British ports
$150m worth of NSW schools
The transmission cable under San Francisco bay
The giant Dalrymple Bay coal terminal in Mackay

We haven’t got the space to list about $80 billion worth of assets but there will be governments, investors and bankers around the world scrambling for their contracts to establish what on earth this all means.

A fire sale is coming with the jewel in the crown on the block first – the large portfolio of European windfarms.

UBS has today predicted the deal can secure $300 million in net profit whilst Merrill Lynch claims up to $550 million.

Even if Babcock survives with a blockbuster wind deal, it will not be able to raise capital in the future and the independent directors of the various funds should already be exploring a series of MFS-style divorces and name changes because the Babcock brand is dead.

And as for the parent company being able to provide Babcock & Brown Power with its missing $600 million, surely the market cap trigger yesterday will prevent that from happening.

That only leaves assets sales at the worst possible time given NSW is pushing ahead with power privatisation and the uncertainty surrounding the emissions trading means coal-fired plants are virtually unsaleable.


Unions seize chance to press pay claims

Brian Robins, smh

June 14, 2008

PUBLIC sector employees have lost little time hitting the new acting Industrial Relations Minister and the new acting Education Minister with demands - the NSW Teachers Federation threatening more strikes as its members protest about changes to the transfer system.

The teachers union wants to hold talks with the Premier, Morris Iemma, in an attempt to avoid an escalation of their dispute.

The Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, was appointed acting Education Minister yesterday and the Roads Minister, Eric Roozendaal, acting Industrial Relations Minister, a sensitive job at a time when a host of public sector unions are seeking wage rises of about 4 to 5 per cent rather than the 2.5 per cent cap the Iemma Government is proposing.

"How much negotiation will take place place with an acting minister?" Bob Lipscombe, deputy president of the NSW Teachers Federation, asked. "We're keen to have the Premier enter the negotiations to bring about a political settlement. If that is not achieved, there will be further industrial action.

"People in acting positions are reluctant to take too much action. You really need someone substantial to hold the position to make the decisions without a minster."

It may be six weeks or more until the police investigations into the events at Iguanas are finished, leaving several crucial negotiations in limbo.

Over recent months a number of disruptions have occurred as ministers have been stood down or left the ministry.

NSW teachers went on strike for a day recently to protest about changes to their staffing system and are preparing for new award negotiations, demanding at least a 5 per cent-a-year wage rise and better superannuation.

Fire brigade employees were also quick off the mark, calling for Mr Roozendaal to override the 2.5 per cent cap on salary rises imposed by Treasury.

"We call on the new Industrial Relations Minister to reconsider the 2.5 per cent cap for firefighters," Simon Flynn, NSW state secretary of the Fire Brigade Employees Union, said. "It is time for this Government to get more in step with other state governments around Australia, who are all offering more."

Sunday, June 08, 2008


Memorial call for 'Aboriginal Wars'

By Glenn Milne, Sunday Telegraph

June 08, 2008 12:00am

IN the wake of the Stolen Generation apology, the Rudd Government is considering erecting an official memorial in Canberra commemorating indigenous Australians killed by white settlers in the so-called "Aboriginal Wars''.

The plan, which was immediately rejected by the RSL, would see a memorial erected alongside existing statues and sculptures to Australia's war dead on Anzac Ave, leading to the Australian War memorial.

The proposal comes from The Canberra Institute, headed by ACT Labor Senate candidate and former Hawke government adviser Peter Conway.

The government responded last week, advising Mr Conway the proposal would be considered by the Canberra National Memorials Committee, which approves the erection of national memorials on national land.

In its submission, the institute argued that the government's recent decision to erect a national memorial for the Boer War - "a British Colonial War conducted over a century ago'' - meant an "Aboriginal Wars'' memorial was also justified. The submission nominates a number of conflicts to be commemorated, including the Pemulwuy-led Hawkesbury and Nepean Wars from 1790, the Black Wars of Tasmania, the Port Phillip District Wars from 1830 to 1850, the Kalkodoon Wars of North West Queensland 1870 to 1890, and the Western Australian Conflict of 1890 to 1898.

The institute points out other colonial wars conducted at the same time as the "Aboriginal Wars'' are already recognised in Hall of Valour dioramas at the Australian War Memorial.

If such a memorial is built, it will face fierce resistance from the RSL. The RSL's Major-General (Ret) Bill Crews told The Sunday Telegraph the RSL would oppose the plan.

He said there was already a memorial for Aboriginal service men and women behind the Australian War Memorial.

"All of the memorials that have been established generally commemorate the role of Australians in conflicts outside Australia and there is no precedent for a civil-style conflict to be commemorated,'' he said.

The Federal Government yesterday announced the inclusion of the Myall Creek Aboriginal massacre site, near Inverell, on the National Heritage List at a 170-year memorial service.


Fury at plan to link rural services to privatisation

Lisa Carty NSW Political Editor, Sun Herald

June 8, 2008

CLAIMS of political blackmail and double-crossing now pose the most serious threat to the State Government's controversial power privatisation plan.

It is understood five lower house MPs from rural and regional areas have been affronted by what some believe is the Government's attempt to link the privatisation to spending in country NSW.

They believe Premier Morris Iemma committed a major breach of faith when the state budget failed to contain a response to the recommendations of the Rural and Regional Taskforce, which was formed in June last year.

The taskforce was headed by former Premier's Department director-general Col Gellatly and its members were independent Northern Tablelands MP Richard Torbay and Labor's Monaro MP Steve Whan.

Mr Torbay is understood to be furious at the snub. What is said to have outraged him further is a Government budget release which referred to the taskforce, and then said: "The Government will be making announcements about enhanced infrastructure investment in rural and regional NSW in the context of utilising proceeds from its electricity reforms".

"This was never tied to privatisation and to link the two now smacks of blackmail," an insider said.

Mr Torbay, a vociferous opponent of privatisation, now seems determined to do all he can to derail the plan. Yesterday he told The Sun-Herald he was bitterly disappointed the budget did not address the taskforce's recommendations on infrastructure, telecommunications, broadband, the authority of local government, and transport.

"The taskforce was designed to deliver good policy to the people of rural and regional NSW and the fact that was not considered in the budget is a major disappointment," Mr Torbay said.

"Most people in rural and regional NSW do not support the privatisation. They do not like it."

A spokesman for Mr Iemma said the Government took its obligations to deliver better services and infrastructure to rural and regional areas seriously.Source: The Sun-Herald

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Hunger summit leaps the free-trade barrier

Tracy Wilkinson in Rome, smh

June 7, 2008

Other related coverage

Lower food barriers to avert crisis, UN pleads
UN chief calls for food output hike at crisis summit

A WORLD summit on hunger almost collapsed when Latin American countries objected to a final, watered-down resolution designed to boost agriculture and control soaring food prices.

But the declaration was adopted with about 180 countries pledging late on Thursday to work to eliminate hunger and secure access to food "for all, today and tomorrow" through urgent actions including the easing of trade barriers and the supply of seeds and fertiliser to poor farmers.

The resolution did not contain stronger language sought by critics of biofuels, which are strongly supported by the Bush Administration.

The three-day summit was called by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation as an emergency response to food prices that officials say could threaten nearly 1 billion people with starvation.

UN officials said between $US20 billion ($20.8 billion) and $30 billion a year was needed to fight hunger, which can trigger social and political unrest.

Numerous issues split the delegates and at times a final agreement seemed elusive.

Led by Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela, a revolt by much of Latin America dragged negotiations past the original deadline and frayed the nerves of some participants. One African delegate chided her colleagues for creating the "appearance of grandstanding … as people are dying."

But the Latin American delegates said the declaration was paying lip service to the starvation crisis. They noted that the final document did not condemn subsidies maintained by wealthy nations or challenge the price-aggravating control exercised by big agricultural companies.

Argentina and Venezuela argued that the free-trade policies being promoted risked exacerbating poverty and hunger in Latin America. Argentina was especially forceful in objecting to language, which remained in the final document, that criticises export curbs similar to the ones it has imposed.

Venezuela protested the resolution as "a step backwards" because it treated the food-price crisis as the result of a convergence of factors rather than as a result of structural flaws in capitalism.

The summit declaration "frankly neglects the vital needs of those who suffer from hunger," the Cuban delegate, Orlando Requeijo Gual, said.

Another point of dispute was biofuels. The US delegation, led by its Agriculture Secretary, welcomed the declaration's support for further study, timid language compared with the restrictions that some countries had sought.

The secretary-general of the convening UN organisation, Jacques Diouf, said the gap between supporters and opponents of biofuels was too wide.

"The main thing is we brought attention to this problem" of hunger, he said. "It's an economic problem, a political problem. It's a problem of peace and security if you don't address it."

Los Angeles Times


Mugabe suspends all aid work

David Blair in London and Christopher Munnion in Johannesburg, smh

June 7, 2008

Other related coverage

British, US diplomats detained in Zimbabwe
Mugabe threatens to expel US ambassador
Mugabe at food summit 'obscene'

ZIMBABWE'S Government has ordered all humanitarian aid groups to suspend their operations in the deeply impoverished nation, a prohibition that relief agencies estimate will deprive 2 million people of food aid and other basic assistance.

The Government had already barred CARE, one of the world's biggest aid groups, from providing humanitarian aid in the country, accusing it of siding with the political opposition ahead of a presidential run-off this month.

The ban came as Zimbabwe's ambassador was summoned to the British Foreign Office in London after a mob loyal to the President, Robert Mugabe, surrounded a group of British and American diplomats, hurling abuse and threatening to set their cars ablaze.

The gang massed around four British and five American diplomats when their three vehicles were stopped at gunpoint at a police roadblock north of Harare. A black Zimbabwean driver was severely assaulted, car tyres were slashed and windows broken.

James McGee, the US ambassador to Harare, said the gang had "threatened to burn the vehicles with my people inside unless they accompanied police to a nearby police station".
David Miliband, Britain's Foreign Secretary, said all the diplomats eventually returned safely to Harare. Denouncing the incident as "intimidation", Mr Miliband said it betrayed the scale of violence in Zimbabwe.

"It gives us a window into the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans because this sort of intimidation is something that's suffered daily, especially by those who are working with opposition groups," said Mr Miliband.

The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said the "outrageous behaviour in the treatment of diplomats" had been reported to the United Nations Security Council.

The incident began when the diplomats paid a joint visit to the town of Bindura, north of Harare.

As they left, Mugabe supporters ordered the envoys to drive to the police station. The convoy was pursued until it was halted by armed police at a roadblock.

Mr McGee blamed Mr Mugabe, saying the orders had "come directly from the top". The envoy added: "Zimbabwe is now a lawless country … the Government is trying to intimidate diplomats from travelling to the countryside to witness the violence they are perpetrating against their own citizens."

The New York Times; Telegraph, London


Iemma told list of foes growing

Andrew Clennell and Brian Robins, smh

June 7, 2008

THE Blue Mountains MP, Phil Koperberg, warned the Premier, Morris Iemma, this week there is a growing list of Labor MPs prepared to cross the floor in the lower house to defeat the Government's planned sale of electricity assets.

Mr Koperberg also told the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, about the MPs willing to stop the sale, Labor sources said yesterday.

Mr Koperberg's warning was made in a week when Mr O'Farrell met the Treasurer, Michael Costa, and the Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, over the Opposition's position on the sale.

The Government's concerns over the passage of the bill were also illustrated last week by an hour-long meeting Mr Costa had with the independent MP Richard Torbay to attempt to gauge the independents' positions on the sale.

If the Opposition were to oppose the bill, joined by independent MPs and six of seven Labor MPs understood to be prepared to cross the floor on the sale, it would be defeated.

Paul Gibson, Robert Coombs, Sonia Hornery, Gerard Martin, Alison Megarrity, Paul Pearce and Kerry Hickey are the MPs the Herald has been told are prepared to vote against the sale.

At least three Labor upper house MPs are understood to be prepared to vote against the bill should the Opposition oppose the sale.

The Government has already met several conditions governing the sale demanded by the Opposition, but has failed to meet one, that the Auditor-General produce a report on the sale.

The Premier now faces having to amend the Auditor-General's Act governing the audit office in order to meet Mr O'Farrell's demand for such a report to be prepared on the sale.

Any report by the Auditor-General criticising or questioning the sale could give Mr O'Farrell grounds to oppose it, and if it were to be voted down, Mr Iemma's leadership would be under threat.

Ultimately, the manoeuvring means the Government's electricity bills are likely to be delayed.

Mr Koperberg refused to comment on his discussions with Mr Iemma or Mr O'Farrell but said he had not decided which way to vote on the proposal and it was being overwhelmingly rejected in his electorate.

The Labor Party's chief governing body - its administrative committee - passed a resolution yesterday inviting Mr Iemma to attend next month's meeting of the committee to attempt to sort out the dispute between the party machine and the Premier over his decision to defy the state conference of the party and press ahead with the sale.

"The decision of the leadership … to proceed in open defiance of the policy of the NSW branch … constitute the most serious threat to the balance of relationships within NSW Labor since the 1939 Unity Conference reunited the party in this state," the resolution said.


Red News Readers,

This story reflects the rhetoric of union officials in the heat of negotiations. We don't know what the outcome of those public sector negotiations are yet. Why 3.9% over only one year in the offer to nurses? What about the other 3 years? With what cost offsets? The Nurses Association are giving the vote to their branches next week. Lets hope the branches have the full facts before them when they make their decision. It seems the decision by nurses may be used as a benchmark for the rest of the public sector.

State Elections are 3 years away. Those negotiating wage outcomes know that by the time the election comes around, other factors become important, and whatever disappointment was felt at the time of the wage negotiations, fades into secondary importance against the need to re-elect an at least partly union friendly government. Anyone who believes for any length of time that the NSW Liberals are union friendly is nuts!

Jenny Haines

Wage cap angers Labor faithful

Andrew West, smh

June 7, 2008

TEACHERS, firefighters, nurses and other public sector workers are planning to turn on the Iemma Government at the next election, ousting it from up to 12 seats, according to confidential Labor research.

The research, obtained by the Herald, shows the decision by the Treasurer, Michael Costa, to cap public sector wage increases in Tuesday's budget at 2.5 per cent, below the inflation rate, could damage Labor in an arc of seats around metropolitan Sydney.

The data shows that nearly all the seats in western Sydney, the southern suburbs and the Central Coast have high numbers of school teachers and are held on margins of less than 10 per cent.

In the Blue Mountains, there are more than 2000 school teachers, making up almost 7 per cent of the workforce. Camden is home to at least 1600 school teachers, while Heathcote has close to 1400; Menai, 1500; Miranda, 1200; Penrith, 1300; The Entrance, 1000; and Wyong, 800.

Nurses are concentrated in the same seats, close to their workplaces at Campbelltown, Nepean, Liverpool, Gosford and Wyong hospitals. Nurses and teachers are key occupational groups in the inner-city seats of Marrickville and Balmain, which are vulnerable to a Greens takeover.

The Government's resolve appeared to weaken on Thursday, when it revised the pay increase for nurses up to 3.9 per cent. The Opposition slammed the offer as a "slap in the face for nurses".

Union leaders who campaigned for the Iemma Government at the last state election are now warming to the Coalition, because the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, denounced the Howard government's industrial relations law immediately on becoming leader in April last year and jettisoned the policy of slashing 20,000 public sector jobs.

"The strong feeling among our members is that they are willing to walk away from the Government because it is forcing a wage cut on them," the Public Service Association's assistant secretary, Stephen Turner, told the Herald.

"The last state election was won because the Government gave a commitment to protect the public sector, but if this is no longer an issue, and if Mr O'Farrell continues to neutralise what were once problems, our members could easily vote for the Coalition."

The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maree O'Halloran, who is pushing for a 5 per cent increase for members, said Mr O'Farrell's "positive statements about rewarding teachers properly" would win him goodwill in the profession.

Firefighters were "three-fourths down the road of dumping the Labor Party", said the secretary of the Fire Brigade Employees Union, Simon Flynn, especially after Mr O'Farrell's strong support for "wage maintenance".

Mr Flynn said many of the state's retained, or part-time, firefighters were community leaders such as councillors or heads of chambers of commerce or service clubs. "They are the wrong people to get off side."

The endangered seats also include Drummoyne and Ryde, the seat of the Deputy Premier, John Watkins. His electorate is home to an estimated 950 teachers and 650 nurses and last year he suffered a swing of 9 per cent against him.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


June 5, 2008,

International community must react to detention of Morgan Tsvangirai

The detention of the entire campaign party of MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai in Lupane, Matabeleland, yesterday should ring alarm bells from Pretoria to Canberra to New York,” said Peter Murphy of Australia’s Zimbabwe Information Centre today.

The June 27 run-off election is not going to be free and fair, nor will its result be respected, unless there is powerful international intervention now,” said Mr Murphy.

In response to the repression following the March 29 elections, the Zimbabwe Information Centre called on the Australian government to cancel the visas of close relatives of those ZANU-PF leaders who are on the smart sanctions list. Two adult children of Mr July Moyo are in Newcastle at present, one studying, one working.

July Gabarari Moyo is a former Minister of Energy and Power Development and former Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. He has sharply aligned himself with Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former security chief now in direct control of Robert Mugabe’s Joint Operations Command for the current repression. Under the ‘smart sanctions’ July Moyo should have no financial assets or transactions in Australia, or be able to visit Australia.

When former Foreign Minister Downer acted against nine relatives of ZANU-PF leaders last July, it sent a powerful message of support to the people of Zimbabwe, and rebuke to Mugabe. It told all of Africa that Mugabe’s violence was unacceptable. We need the new Australian government to send a similar message now, one that will be heard in the United Nations,” said Mr Murphy.

The Tsvangirai party was released after 10 hours.

Prominent Australian Jim Holland was also detained briefly yesterday at about 3.30pm outside his home in Avondale, Harare. He had just returned from a meeting with church and aid agencies about how to get blankets, food, and medical attention to people injured and displaced by ZANU-PF violence. Two intelligence agents were waiting for him at the gate, demanded money, demanded to know the source in Australia of Mr Holland’s finance, and threatened to kill him if he continued his welfare activities.

Mr Holland convinced them that he was an Australian citizen, married to a Senator-elect, and insisted that they release him. Before they left, the intelligence seized two adults sheltering in the Holland’s house – a woman whose buttocks were severely injured from beating, and her husband.

Senator-elect Sekai Holland is already in hiding, following sustained death threats. She was able to communicate that her husband had been snatched, and the news was quickly broadcast by BBC, at about the same time that news came through of the detention of MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai.

Senator Holland, along with Morgan Tsvangirai and 30 other MDC leaders, was severely beaten and tortured on March 11, 2007, and had to come to South Africa and Australia to recover.
Election Observers from the Southern African Development Community are due to arrive between June 10 and June 13, which means another week in which the Mugabe regime will feel totally unfettered in its repression. There are no UN Election Observers allowed.

For further comment: Jim Holland - +263 912 782 208; Peter Murphy 0418 312 301

SEARCH FoundationLevel 3, Suite 3B, 110 Kippax St,SURRY HILLS NSW 2010AustraliaPh: 02 9211 4164; Fax: 02 9211 1407
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Red News Readers,

Dean Mighell makes some very good points. Unions have been led along by the current Federal Government. Unions ran the effective Your Rights at Work Campaign that was largely responsible for getting Federal Labor into Government but they haven't seen the benefit of their investment. Well at least, not yet. Is it coming? We don't know. We are told very little.

The failure of the Rudd Government to commit to the abolition of the ABCC is reprehensible. There was never a need for the ABCC. The powers that it was given and that it used under the Howard Government would have made the KGB or the Gestapo very happy. It is time it was abolished.

Unions do need to take stock. They have bargaining power and should be using it inside the ALP and in negotiations with the government. The problem of jelly legged union officials worried about their career in politics can be overcome by an active rank and file.

Jenny Haines

Not much of a true believer

Dean Mighell, The Australian

June 05, 2008

IT'S ironic that Kevin Rudd comes from Queensland, the state where the Australian Labor Party was founded in the 1890s by striking unionists under the sacred Tree of Knowledge.

In 2008, it's symbolic that the Tree of Knowledge is now dead. This irony must not be lost on Australian workers when they look at our industrial relations laws.

At the last federal election, outside any major party, the Australian trade union movement conducted the best-resourced and most sophisticated political campaign in our nation's history.

The Your Rights at Work campaign was fundamentally responsible for creating awareness of the Howard government's unjust industrial laws and ultimately the removal of the Coalition government.

Many Australian workers suffered under Work Choices, and they voted to get rid of it; all of it.

They believed Rudd when he said he would "rip up Work Choices". I saw this as political spin and viewed it with caution. It's easy to say what governments will get rid of, it's another thing to replace it with something of substance.

Since the election, Rudd and Julia Gillard have really done nothing more than re-decorate the Work Choices bus. It has a fresh coat of paint and new tyres, but it's still essentially the same vehicle John Howard drove. Howard used Work Choices to force down workers' conditions and to restrain unions from looking after their members' interests. Sure, AWAs may have changed but individual contracts remain, albeit with a better safety net.

Unfair bargaining laws are entirely intact and building-industry workers are still subjected to laws that fail the most basic of human rights and International Labour Organisation conventions, to which Australia is a signatory. Remember the political witch-hunt that was the Cole royal commission into the building industry? Despite no criminal conduct from unions, we ended up with the Australian Building and Construction Commission. This political police force against construction workers was put in place for Howard's multi-millionaire property developer and builder mates, and Rudd and Gillard retain it. I don't believe Rudd understands unions or workers or the coercive powers of the ABCC's taskforce which include compelling witnesses to give evidence under threat of jail and leaving building workers with less rights than drug dealers or armed robbers charged with serious crimes.

Rudd a true believer? I think not.

Yet six months after the election, unions and workers rightly ask if the YRAW campaign was truly effective, or is there still a long way to go? Workers perceive bad laws under a Howard government as bad laws under the Rudd Government. Rudd has retained 95 per cent of Work Choices which makes the laws Rudd's, not Howard's, so let's get serious here. Was the YRAW campaign about getting rid of the Howard government or ensuring that laws consistent with our international obligations are restored to protect workers?

Having rallied many workers and community people in support of the YRAW campaign, the union movement itself has a responsibility to genuinely fight bad laws regardless of who governs.
There is no doubt that we and the YRAW campaign suffered with the defection of ACTU secretary Greg Combet. Rudd recruited our team captain and left us silent and compromised when he and Gillard backflipped on promises to Australian workers and their unions. The union movement was so committed to the removal of the Howard government that it was paralysed in terms of fighting Labor for a better deal on industrial relations, and Rudd knew it.

More than a year ago, Rudd and Gillard put forward their industrial-relations policy at the ALP national conference. Many unionists agreed to play a "team game" and reluctantly supported their policy. Backroom discussions took place and promises to unions were made to avoid a fight on the conference floor.

It was poor policy from a worker's point of view, but better than Work Choices and there was always the hope of convincing Labor in government of a better deal. Right?

In election mode, there were many "on the run" policy changes from the government-in-waiting.

Employer associations were overjoyed with the Gillard/Rudd promise to retain laws that cripple unions' bargaining rights to get a better deal for their members. And the illegitimate child of the process that was the building industry royal commission, the Australian Building Industry Taskforce, has been fully preserved along with its coercive powers. Let's not kid ourselves, Work Choices survives and there seems little planned legislation to change it.

How will the Australian union movement respond? Gone are the days of Paul Keating or Bob Hawke when the ACTU had great influence, which resulted in important social change. Industry productivity went up, superannuation was introduced and industry reform was paramount. The ACTU is now treated like a second-rate lobby group and is either pointedly ignored or, worse, deliberately opposed for the sake of a populist agenda. The Australian Industry Group and business lobbyists appear to have more influence on the Government than the ACTU. It can't be long before Gillard formally names AIG chief Heather Ridout as minister for industrial relations.

In many respects unions must accept responsibility for their lack of influence over the ALP: we have the numbers but don't use them. It may also be argued that too many union leaders are compromised by their political aspirations, and sitting Labor MPs supported by unions find it hard to stand up to the popular Rudd. His popularity will pass, and Labor MPs must be held accountable for their voting in caucus.

The bottom line is that unions should only support a political party if it's in the interests of their members to do so. The unique relationship between unions and Labor must be questioned in the interests of members if it compromises our ability to get a better deal for workers.
Rudd won the election on the back of Australian workers, not employer associations. With our members' support and effective leadership, unions can again become the most powerful political lobby group in this country. With more than two million members, resources and a commitment to working people, we are far from a spent force.

Let's be brave and committed enough to say to the ALP: we will not mobilise for you or donate a cent if you ignore ILO conventions. Unions don't want unfettered rights to run amok; however, we do demand a fair go. It's hardly a radical initiative.

It's time for the union movement to put its members' interests first and to stop waiting for someone to save us.

Dean Mighell is the Victorian state secretary of the Electrical Trades Union.


Dear All,

Those who advocate the winding back of workplace organisation by unions should take a good hard look at what has happened in nursing. Given the mangerialism of the health system bureaucracy and the conservatism of the union bureaucracy, the balance of power in the workplace has swung in favour of management, and health system workers are left feeling unprotected in the face of management by inexperienced managers who I believe resort to intimidation and harassment because they do not have the training, knowledge, skill, experience or maturity as managers to deal with the complexities of health system management. A well organised branch at workforce level can do much to counter the effect of overbearing management if the branch officers are trained in the processes of natural justice and procedural fairness and supported by an active and diligent Head Office Industrial Team. Where there is an effective balance of power between union and management, fairness can prevail, and workers can feel protected. Where these elements are missing, workers work in a fear culture,

Jenny Haines

Scared nurses' secret evidence of intimidation

Natasha Wallace Health Reporter, smh

June 5, 2008

THE bullying of nurses by hospital management is so rife that about a third who gave evidence at the State Government's inquiry into hospitals chose to do so in secret, fearing retribution if they publicly revealed their stories.

Some nurses were too afraid even to be seen seated at the Special Commission of Inquiry into Acute Care Services in NSW Public Hospitals, said Bob Whyburn, a lawyer employed by the NSW Nurses Association support nurses who gave evidence.

The nurses union was so concerned about nurses refusing to come forward due to fears of intimidation by management that it employed Mr Whyburn to attend every one of the 34 sitting days.

"Roughly a third gave evidence in closed session and it's likely that a lot of them did because of fear of retribution, because that was expressed by the others in open hearings," Mr Whyburn told the Herald.

"In some hospitals we went to the nurses were so concerned about what might occur if they did give evidence that they didn't even come along and listen to any evidence that was given. They were frightened to be even seen near the commission."

Mr Whyburn said at one hearing at Westmead Hospital, three senior managers reserved the front row and stared down witnesses during their evidence.

"The three of them stayed there all day and scowled."

Marguerite Cullen, who has been a nursing unit manager for almost 30 years, told the inquiry at Westmead on April 10 that nurses who spoke up inevitably experienced "payback". Some nurses cried because of the way they were treated by managers and felt "totally demoralised", she told the inquiry. She also told the inquiry some nurses were too afraid to attend.

"They said, 'It's not worth my job. It's not worth it. The repercussions if I went down there would be too much,"' she said. "They are too intimidated. I find that quite distressing."

Besides bullying and poor morale, nurses complained of poor workplace conditions - heavy workloads, double shifts and wards staffed by too many junior nurses. Some cried while giving evidence.

They also complained about a lack of consultation when NSW Health issued directives that affected their work practices.

The Nurses Association's submission to the inquiry reported widespread frustration and fatigue. Nurses described their hospitals like a "war zone" or being "in the trenches".

"When people become nurses they know it is hard work … but they don't know it is unsafe, that you don't get a break and you are not supported," one nurse said. "Some shifts feel out of control."

The submission recommended an overhaul of policies to prevent and resolve bullying and harassment, saying NSW Health had failed to address a "culture of fear and intimidation embedded throughout the public health sector".

The Minister for Health, Reba Meagher, has been forced in Parliament to defend the Health Department's response to bullying, particularly at Royal North Shore Hospital.

A study conducted by the University of Sydney on behalf of unions for the inquiry showed that 60 per cent of nurses said they were exhausted at work and, within the previous 12 months, 60 per cent had seriously considered leaving.

The inquiry has concluded and the commissioner, Peter Garling, SC, is due give his recommendations by July 31.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Red News Readers,

Memories are short in politics so it is good that Mr Rudd is reminding the now Opposition of its moral turpitude when in government. The Liberal National Coailition have a tendency to all important self righteousness but they have no reason to be proud of the last 11 years of government and the places that it took them, the Tampa Affair, Kids Overboard, the Detention Centres, the rush to war because the imperial power the United States said so, not that there was any reason other than the Americans getting their hands on Iraqi Oil. We did fortunately take a non combat role which saved lives and took a saner approach to safety than the Americans but the lies that set the war up and the failure to manage the return of Iraq to a non dictatorship led civil society should be placed before the current Opposition and they should hang their heads in shame that they were a part to the decision making processes that brought it all about. Instead they are behaving like delinquent children.

Jenny Haines

War based on a lie, says Rudd

Phillip Coorey, Chief Political Correspondent, smh

June 3, 2008

THE withdrawal of Australian combat troops from Iraq reopened old wounds yesterday, when Kevin Rudd accused the Coalition of taking the nation to war based on a lie.

In a terse statement to Parliament, the Prime Minister said the Howard government had embarked on the mission using abused intelligence and "without a full and proper assessment" of the consequences.

Supporting the war without approval of the United Nations had set a dangerous precedent and undermined the international system, Mr Rudd said.

The Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon, said the military was overstretched with its commitments in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Roughly half of our infantry and cavalry is somehow tied to those deployments," he said. "This is an unsustainable position." The Iraqis had not asked the Australian troops for help in 20 months, he said, and they were needed elsewhere.

The Howard government had cited several reasons for the war, including preventing more terrorist attacks, stopping Iraq giving weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to terrorists, preventing other rogue states giving WMD to terrorists, and ending the crisis in Iraq.

"On every count, we on this side of the house rejected these arguments then as we continue to reject them now," Mr Rudd said.

"Have further terrorist attacks been prevented? No they have not been. Has any evidence of a link between WMD and the former Iraqi regime and terrorists been found? No.

"Have the actions of rogue states like Iran been moderated? No. After five years, has the humanitarian crisis in Iraq been removed? No it has not."

Mr Rudd's attack riled the former foreign affairs minister, Alexander Downer. "Can't you rise above this?" Mr Downer interjected from the back bench.

"You're supposed to be the Prime Minister of Australia, not the Labor spokesman."
Brendan Nelson, the Opposition Leader and the last defence minister in the Howard government, maintained that al-Qaeda's attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, justified invading Iraq.

The world could not afford the risk that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, he said, and Iraq today was safer as a result. He reminded the House that Mr Rudd, as opposition foreign affairs spokesman, said in 2002 there was "a significant threat of weapon of mass destruction from Iraq".

Dr Nelson admitted errors had been made. In hindsight, the Iraqi army should not have been dismantled and the civil service should not have been purged of all members of the pro-Saddam Baath Party. Provision of basic services by Western contractors was also a mistake, he said.

Dr Nelson accepted that the role of the combat troops in Iraq was over but said Mr Rudd should have replaced them with trainers to help the Iraqi forces.

Mr Rudd said the Government would soon release a national security statement so war could not be waged in such a manner again.

"Our Government is committed to ensuring that our national security arrangements are focused, co-ordinated and effective, and that the actions of government are accountable," he said.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Bega Butcher warnings ignored

By Clair Weaver, Sun Herald.

June 01, 2008 12:00am

CONFIDENTIAL records have revealed for the first time the full extent of the disturbing mental state of Dr Graeme Reeves, the so-called Butcher of Bega.

The records, obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, detail warning signs detected by his psychiatrist - and submitted in evidence to the NSW Medical Tribunal in 2004, when Reeves was struck off.

These included paranoia, insomnia, uncontrolled anger and aggression, inability to handle criticism and an eating disorder that saw his weight blow out to 106kg and plummet to a skeletal 59kg.

The former doctor admitted he had difficulty "tolerating'' midwives and accused pregnant patients of "emotional blackmail''.

He was "frightened'' of criticism, knew people called him paranoid and refused to confide in colleagues because he feared "malicious rumours'', his records reveal.

The unprecedented insight into Reeves' personality emerges four days after the NSW Government released a report by retired Federal Court Judge Deirdre O'Connor, which exposed a series of bureaucratic failures that allowed the former doctor to escape detection by NSW authorities for almost 20 years.

The report revealed that health authorities knew of problems with Reeves' background before he was hired.

This was despite Health Minister Reba Meagher twice telling parliament that no background checks were done on the rogue doctor, before he was employed as an obstetrician at two South Coast hospitals in 2002.

The Opposition says Ms Meagher, now holidaying overseas, should apologise for misleading parliament.

In a series of reports to the NSW Medical Board from 1996-98, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, psychiatrist Dr John Woodforde told how Reeves had ``unresolved problems'' in his relationship with his late father.

"His father was an army officer and Dr Reeves was a medical student at that time and was a conscientious objector to conscription during the Vietnam War,'' Dr Woodforde wrote.

His father then died of a heart attack in Reeves' arms in 1972, according to the notes.

The disgraced doctor later formed friendships with a "surrogate'' father figure and felt "hurt and rejected'' when he wouldn't accompany him to a disciplinary hearing with the Medical Board, according to a later report by psychiatrist Dr Anthony Samuels.

Reeves refused to take a holiday for two years, accumulated leave and often worked weekends.

"He becomes anxious, if he is not directly in charge,'' the notes say.

Dr Woodforde revealed that Reeves experienced massive weight fluctuations from binge-eating.

When his weight fell to 59kg in 1995, he was ``happy not to eat and ceased eating meals'', was "exercising and attending a gymnasium, not like his usual self'', but didn't feel he had a problem.

After going on a ``total fat exclusion diet'', he realised he had a major eating disorder. By 2004, he was overweight again.

According to records, Reeves slept two or three hours a night and would pace around, read or lie awake thinking.

Dr Samuels reported that Reeves felt "actively suicidal" when he first consulted psychiatrist Dr Stella Dalton, who prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft - first at 50mg and later a dose of 100mg.

He would "express anger openly to colleagues'', according to notes.

When Northern Sydney Area Health Service recommended counselling, he refused to see a psychiatrist as he feared it would become ``public knowledge''.

"I suggested to him that the consequences of not taking action to resolve the issues satisfactorily might have some more serious consequences for his career,'' Dr Woodforde wrote.

He said Reeves' behaviour suggested "troublesome personality traits'', including a rigid, over-conscientious devotion to work and extreme sensitivity to criticism - but said there was no evidence of psychiatric illness.

Reeves had "severe visual problems'' from several eye conditions, exacerbated by "out of control diabetes'', and required surgery.

Meanwhile, dozens of alleged victims of Dr Reeves are being advised not to speak to police.

Legal firm Brydens is instructing clients, who are being represented on a "no-win, no-fee'' basis, to give their evidence to lawyers instead.

Solicitors will act as intermediaries for women pursuing civil claims with the State Government for medical negligence.

They will provide police, who are conducting a criminal investigation into the disgraced former obstetrician and gynaecologist, with pre-recorded personal statements and medical records on behalf of their clients, if necessary.

Brydens' senior solicitor Christianne Etienne, who is co-ordinating the firm's Reeves compensation cases, said the Government was expected to suspend the Civil Liability Act, which would otherwise render many victims' cases expired.

"If there are serious allegations or serious inquiries, the police might seek directly - but at this stage we are acting as intermediaries,'' she said.

"We put together their statements and submit them to relevant bodies, including the Health Care Complaints Commission.''

She said clients would need medical and psychological assessments to determine damage.
Children delivered by Reeves, who is alleged to have yanked newborns from their mothers' wombs, may also be examined.

Brydens has clients from the Bega Valley, Baulkham Hills and other areas of NSW on its books, with cases dating back to 1997.

Keddies Lawyers, which has had 70 inquiries from former Reeves patients, is also pursuing civil cases for at least 40 cases.