Thursday, July 31, 2008


Rogue surgeon referred to DPP

Natasha Wallace, smh

July 31, 2008 - 3:40PM

The case of the so-called Butcher of Bega has been referred by the State Government to the Director of Public Prosecutions for possible criminal charges.

It was the chief recommendation made by commissioner Peter Garling, SC, in his report into the circumstances surrounding the employment of obstetrician Graeme Reeves at two South Coast hospitals even though he was banned from the specialty in 1997.

The first of Mr Garling's reports into the public health system was handed down at 2pm today.

Mr Reeves has been accused of botched operations and the sexual assault upon hundreds of women at Bega and Pambula hospitals after he was illegally employed there in 2002.

Today, the NSW Minister for Health Reba Meagher said the Government accepted all 10 recommendations made by Mr Garling in regard to his report on the circumstances surrounding the hiring of Mr Reeves by the Greater Southern Area Health Service.

However, as yet, no health department official has been held accountable for the debacle. They were involved in hiring him.

NSW Health chief Debora Picone said two of them, Jon Mortimer and his boss, Robert Arthurson, will now come under scrutiny and whether they will be disciplined will be known within weeks.

A third, former chief health officer, Denise Robinson, resigned in May.

Mr Garling said Dr Arthurson failed to obtain any referee report in relation to Mr Reeves before appointing him in April, 2002.

He also said Dr Mortimer's referee checks were inadequate and insufficient - and said he should have contacted more than one referee.

Mr Garling said Dr Robinson, who was CEO of the health service at the time, "failed to take sufficient steps" to stop Mr Reeves from practising once she became aware of it in November, 2002.

However, Mr Garling said these findings against the three doctors had been made with the benefit of hindsight.

"I, specifically, do not find that the conduct of these individuals was unreasonable or inappropriate," his report said.

"That is because I find myself quite unable to ignore the basis of hindsight which arises by reason of my investigation and the exercise of fact finding in which I have engaged."

Professor Picone said the report highlighted that Mr Reeves had "lied and cheated his way into this job".

In regards to her executives, she said: "We'll look at the report and then meet with them as soon as possible to go through the findings ... in a very short period of time."

She confirmed that it would be known within weeks whether anyone would be punished.

Dr Mortimer was suspended on full pay in May pending the outcome of the report.

Ms Meagher said she hoped that the alleged victims of Mr Reeves would "feel encouraged by the fact" that he had been referred to the DPP.

His report found that Mr Reeves's "dishonesty was the key reason he was recruited to a position he was legally unable to fill".

It also said that there was a "deficiency in the implementation" of health department policy regarding reference checking.

The Herald revealed in May that some checks were in fact made and a diary note of April 2002, made by Dr Mortimer, since tabled in Parliament, said that Mr Reeves was "not meant to do obstetrics".

Ms Meagher ordered a review into the appointment of Mr Reeves - who has yet to be charged, despite a lengthy police investigation - and the handling of his case by the NSW Medical Board and the Health Care Complaints Commission.

Today's report was the first from Mr Garling's Special Commission of Inquiry into Acute Care Services in NSW Public Hospitals held earlier this year.

The Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said Ms Meagher had failed to hold anyone accountable beyond Mr Reeves himself for his appointment.

"I really feel for the victims of Dr Graeme Reeves that they have no answer as to who was to blame for employing him down at Bega and Pambula hospitals that led to terrible mutilations," Mrs Skinner said.

She said she welcomed Mr Garling's recommendation to tighten up the Health Services Act 1997.

Natasha Wallace is the Herald's Health Reporter

Friday, July 25, 2008


Red News Readers,

No wonder union membership is falling when you have self serving bureaucracies sitting contentedly in their air conditioned offices with cozy relationships with Labor governments helping to deliver whatever gains are made. Union officials need to get off their bums and redevelop a close relationship with their members and their members concerns. That may mean getting rid of the ACTU's Organising Model which seems to mean that union delegates in the workplace do all the hack work and organisers swan around holding high level meetings that the members hear nothing about. The Workchoices period was diffiicult for unions, but we are getting past that now, and a new approach is called for. Unless we adopt this new approach I predict union membership will fall even lower.

Jenny Haines

Union membership rates halved in two decades: ABS

24 July 2008 Content provided to you by AAP.

CANBERRA, July 23 AAP - The number of trade union members in Australia has almost halved in the past two decades, new statistics reveal.

The figures, from Australian Social Trends 2008 released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today, show 46 per cent of employees (2.6 million) belonged to a trade union in 1986.

By 2007, the rate of membership had fallen to 19 per cent (1.7 million).Older age groups were more unionised, the figures show.Union membership among employees aged 15-24 saw the biggest decrease from about one in three (36 per cent) to one in 10 (10 per cent).

During the same two-decade period the rate among employees aged 25-34 dropped from 48 per cent to 15 per cent.

Similar trends were recorded for the baby boomer generation born in the 1950s.

The report also shows that the number of industrial disputes declined markedly over the past two decades.In 1987, there were 1,519 industrial disputes.By 2005, the number of disputes fluctuated between about 520 and 770, before falling to 135 in 2007.


Women in labour sent packing

Natasha Wallace Health Reporter, smh

July 25, 2008

Latest related coverage

Free ambulances as talks falter

WOMEN in labour at Blue Mountains Hospital were routinely transferred to Nepean Hospital - some of them minutes from giving birth - because no obstetrician was available.

An ambulance officer has revealed he lodged a formal complaint against the hospital, which closed its maternity unit suddenly this week.

In January, he and a midwife had been ordered to transfer a woman despite both protesting that the patient would give birth in the back of the ambulance.

Tom Williams, a Katoomba paramedic, said the obstetrician had called in sick that day.

The ambulance had been called about 7am but when it arrived the midwife had told Mr Williams and his colleague they were no longer needed because the patient was so close to giving birth, he said.

However, the hospital ordered the woman be sent to Nepean. The birth took place 10 minutes later, and before the transfer could be made.

Birthing services at Blue Mountains Hospital were closed indefinitely on Monday, causing a public outcry because pregnant women had been given less than five days' notice.

Another Blue Mountains midwife, who did not want to be named, said "women are transferred routinely" to Nepean, even low-risk patients. In the January incident, Mr Williams said he thought it was unsafe to take the patient and refused without first seeking advice from his superiors.

He said he intercepted the midwife and his partner to stop them from putting her on the trolley but was told by his supervisor that he had no choice but to follow the hospital's instructions.

"The only saving grace was that, by the time I hung up, the baby was born. It was clear to me that the hospital was attempting to download its responsibility for that patient. It was playing risk-aversion roulette. It was a very stressful situation."

Mr Williams has been refused access to the review of his complaint. "I said that the ambulance service has an old expression, it's CYA … covering your arse …

"The hospital management had their arse covered and the ambulance management had their arse covered - but the only person whose arse is left uncovered is the patient. I believed a patient was being treated improperly."

In March he wrote to the chief of Sydney West Area Health Service, Steven Boyages, saying he found the incident "personally distressing". Professor Boyages commended him for lodging the complaint and said that policies and procedures had been reviewed and some "rewritten" as a result but that he could not release the details.

"The findings and recommendations are not shared with third parties [such as the NSW Ambulance Service] unless specifically requested by that service," he wrote in his reply.

The Sydney West Area Health Service would not explain its policy of transfers of women in labour.

A spokeswoman said that 30 women in the past year were transferred to Nepean Hospital for a variety of reasons but mainly due to staff shortages.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


President's Letter to the people of Zimbabwe

By Morgan Tsvangirai

Published: Saturday 19 July 2008, Zim Daily News

Zimbabwe — Throughout the world today, people are commemorating the 90th birthday of one of Africa's greatest leaders, Nelson Mandela.

To Mr. Mandela, we say, Makorokoto. You remain a shining light to our people, to me, and to fellow leaders in the struggle for true liberation of all our people.

As Mr. Mandela sagely advised years ago, the road to freedom is long and requires great sacrifices.

Our colleagues in the MDC and the democratic movement -- students, churches, civil society organizations – have all made courageous sacrifices on this long road to free Zimbabwe from tyranny.

As a result of your brave spirit and peaceful heroism, the international community knows now more than ever that Zimbabwe's leadership crisis has hit new depths of shame. They know Mr. Mugabe is an illegitimate President.

Your voices were heard. SADC, AU and Pan African Parliament observers heard your voices on June 27th and reported to the world your words: "this is not an election," you said, "this is a war to silence the people."

So, my Fellow Zimbabweans, are we today still strong enough and brave enough to make it through the next stage of our liberation? We are tired, yes. But, of course, we shall not give up!

We shall not waiver now! The will of the people shall prevail!

As much as some would try to confuse our people with mind games, detours and delays, we still know what we want. Our goal has not changed.

We must not let exhaustion and despair cause us to lose sight of our only destination – a New Zimbabwe where once again our people enjoy the basics of life -- food, jobs, dignity, peace and hope.

We are in a different struggle now. There are those who want to wear us down. There are those who want to wear down your belief that change is possible.

They want us to forget that we are the winners – that we won a historic victory on 29 March.

There are those who want each and every one of us to feel beaten, physically and psychologically – into submission and into compromise.

But, let me tell you now, their attacks have had the opposite result. Those who have tried to crush our spirits have not succeeded. They have further emboldened us. Our people still want change. Our people still demand change.

Where are we then, today? So many mixed messages and lies are being told to our people. Now is the time for truth. Now is the time to stop the violence. Now is the time to take genuine steps to move the process forward.

Many of our brothers and sisters in Africa, from SADC to the AU, continue to stand with the people of Zimbabwe as we begin this process. On this historic day of celebration of Madiba's birthday, another important meeting has taken place between President Mbeki and AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping.

A result of this meeting, we welcome today's appointment of a reference group of eminent Africans who will work with President Mbeki and the main parties in Zimbabwe to find a peaceful negotiated solution to the Zimbabwean crisis.

As we strive to restore the dignity of our country and our people, we pray that those in the regime in the position to halt the violence, persecution and starvation of our people will immediately and urgently do so. We pray that without delay they demonstrate their genuine commitment to a negotiation process that heals our ravaged land and violently betrayed people.

My fellow Zimbabweans, we share with our colleagues from throughout the democratic movement the deep desire to end the crisis as soon as possible without sacrificing justice or fairness. We share with the people of Zimbabwe the deep concern that normality and stability must be restored immediately.

We share with our fellow Zimbabweans in the security services the deep awareness that they are still being asked to carry out activities that breach professional codes of conduct. We share with many of our fellow Zimbabweans in ZANU PF the profound hope and belief that the time to heal the country is now.

On this day where the world celebrates the iconic leadership of Nelson Mandela – his heroic vision, tolerance, forgiveness and humility – let us all set our sights on ending our own leadership crisis – also with vision, tolerance, forgiveness and humility.

Together let us agree to do the right thing for the Zimbabwean people. Together let us respect their voices as expressed on 29 March. Together let us rise above the divisive paranoia, fear and selfishness that chains us to endless poverty. Together let us finally deliver to the Zimbabwean people the true liberation and peace they so desperately wait for. We have a historic opportunity to bring healing and hope. Together let us begin.

Makorokoto Mr. Mandela!May your heroic spirit continue to bless the people of Africa and the world.A luta continua.

I thank you and may God bless Zimbabwe

Monday, July 21, 2008


Red News Readers,

What strikes me as an old public system nurse and nurse trade unionist about this story is it is more of the same. It seems the bureaucrats in Western Sydney Area Health Service have made a decision with an appalling lack of consultation with the staff and patients affected, even though consultation with those affected is government policy and required in health system awards and agreements. But I suspect this is an Area decision, and I would be surprised if the minister knew about it until today.

Due to the lack of available medical and midwifery staff and the apparent need to meet Area budgetary targets, this service may need to be restructured but there are ways of achieving restructure without having a whole community in uproar and pregnant mothers feeling very anxious. I heard on the radio that one expectant mother was told by the staff, "ring up on the day when you are in labor and we will see if we can fit you in." How ridiculous! Expectant mothers need more certainty than that!! I hope the Minister make the bureaucrats come down out of their bunkers and consult with those affected.

Jenny Haines

Women told to leave town for births

Natasha Wallace Health Reporter, smh

July 21, 2008

EXPECTANT women in the Blue Mountains have been told that as of today they can no longer give birth at their local hospital because of staff shortages, and will have to travel to Nepean or Lithgow hospitals.

This is despite the fact Nepean Hospital is struggling with midwifery shortages. A Sydney West Area Health Service spokeswoman has also confirmed Lithgow, with only low-risk maternity services, has just two postnatal beds.

The Health Department did not start notifying women until the beginning of this month.

The recent Garling inquiry into public hospitals heard Blue Mountains Hospital in Katoomba - which can only take low-risk deliveries and has had no full-time obstetric service since August, 2004 - regularly sent women to Nepean Hospital or as far as Westmead Hospital to give birth.

A Blue Mountains Hospital midwife, who did not want to be named, said that in the past few years not one woman had been sent to Lithgow to give birth.

"We always send them to Nepean or Westmead. I know women [who need to be rebooked] will not go to Lithgow because there's no [comprehensive] maternity unit there and there's only a couple of beds," she said.

The Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said the decision would put increased pressure on an already strained local ambulance and patient transport service.

She said the Health Minister, Reba Meagher, and the member for Blue Mountains, Phil Koperberg, "must explain to Blue Mountains residents why staff shortages have been allowed to get so out of control … and when the birthing unit will be reopened," Mrs Skinner said.

Birthing at Blue Mountains Hospital was shut in June 2002 due to staff shortages and resumed in April 2003.

A spokeswoman for Ms Meagher said there was a worldwide shortage of obstetricians and midwives. She said the Government had recently recruited obstetricians from Britain and Canada, and was also spending $46.4 million over the next four years on maternity services.

A local childbirth educator, Natalie Dash, said women were "shocked" by the decision and were planning a rally at the hospital today at 11am.

"They're incredibly disappointed … if they wanted to birth in another hospital they would have booked in nine months ago," Ms Dash said.

The hospital's general manager, Andrea Williams, said despite extensive recruitment efforts, there were still maternity service vacancies. "We've taken the decision to suspend birthing services to ensure the safety of mothers and babies," she said.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Red News Readers,

If this strike goes ahead these truckies are going to need all the support they can get against the hysteria of the current industrial system,

Jenny Haines

Truckies' strike will stop food supplies

Simon O'Brien, smh

July 20, 2008

ROGUE truck drivers are planning a nationwide two-week strike that they say could starve people of food and fuel.

In a quest for better pay and conditions, the organisers - led by the Australian Long Distance Owners' and Drivers' Association, a national alliance of truck drivers, and two transport tycoons - hope Australia's truckies will kill their engines for two weeks from July 28.

One of the transport company owners, Peter Schuback of Queensland's Hervey Bay, said low pay, poor highways, insufficient stopping bays and inflexible driving-time regulations had made the industry unsustainable.

He said the stoppage would show the public what would happen if the industry were to collapse.

"On day three of the stoppage shops will run out of food, on day four service stations will run out of petrol, on day five we will run out of [drinkable] water ... and on day 10 industry will shut down because there will be no power," Mr Schuback said.

"We expect 80 per cent of the transport industry to take a holiday. "A lot of transport companies have been threatening their staff that they will sack them if they do it, but the truckies know that there aren't a lot of them around, so who are they going to replace them with?"

Mr Schuback said there were not enough truck stopping bays and few had adequate toilet facilities.

If a bay was already full, and a truckie had to drive on to another after their maximum allowed travel time, in Queensland they could be fined $1500 plus $100 for each additional 15 minutes driving time, and receive six demerit points.

For many drivers, their costs outstripped their pay, he said.

"If you drive an average of about 220,000 kilometres a year, it costs $2.36 a kilometre," he said.

"That takes into account all costs of running that vehicle. However, we have drivers getting as little as $1.35 a kilometre and they are going broke rapidly. We are asking the Government for a minimum rate that will make the industry sustainable."

Stoppage organisers have circulated text messages among the country's 100,000 drivers to spread their message.

However, the protest does not have union backing.

Transport Workers Union Queensland branch secretary Hughie Williams said the union was already lobbying the Government to introduce a scheme to automatically compensate truckies for their costs.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Julia Gillard said the Government was willing to investigate pay rates in the transport industry and consider specific measures to assist truck drivers.

"The Government recognises that there are serious concerns about conditions in the road transport industry," she said in a statement.

Source: The Sun-Herald

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Red News Readers,

Julia Gillard may feel that she wrote the current Federal Government's policy on refugee and asylum seekers and certainly she had an input, but the policy of the Party was confirmed at two National Conferences after wide consultation within the party, including with Labor for Refugees.

I am surprised at Julia's statement, her being a person from the Left, that seems to have forgotten the collective effort of the ALP in the Howard years to reform and renew itself on refugee and asylum seeker policy. If she feels she owns the current policy then Labor for Refugees still has some work to do with the current Federal party and its policies,

Jenny Haines

The other side of the fence

July 19, 2008, smh

The question is not whether we detain asylum seekers, but on what terms, writes Connie Levett.

Morteza Poorvadi numbed his lip with an ice cube, then punched the needle through, cross stitching his mouth, back and forth, six times. The right side of his mouth was drawn tight; the left not so much, leaving space to slip in a cigarette. Stitching his lips together, at Villawood detention centre in 2002, was one choice the teenage Iranian asylum seeker felt he could make in a world where he felt his voice and all other choices had been removed.

"We wanted to draw attention, and stitching our lips together would draw attention in the outside world. It's not something you do if everything is good," he said this week. "It didn't do anything for us but it did change the system. If we did not do these things we would not be where we are now."

Now, when Poorvadi speaks about detention, people listen. He recently briefed the parliamentary committee on migration, giving a detainee's view of Australia's mandatory detention regime. The 24-year-old spent four years in detention at Port Hedland, Woomera and Villawood after he arrived on Christmas Island as a 16-year-old in 2000. His family was duped by a people smuggler into coming to Australia, having expected to go to England, where there were family connections already. First there was Malaysia, then Singapore and on to Indonesia, where the smuggler told them they could not go to England, but could go to Australia. "The only thing I knew about Australia was Iran beat them to get into the World Cup. And Skippy, we had that on TV in Iran."

"We were one of the first groups in Woomera. The fence rose around us. The guards told us it was to keep us safe from the wildlife. We believed them, we helped them [build it]," he said, shaking his head at his own gullibility.

Over the next four years, he took part in the Woomera breakout, sewed his lips together at Villawood, and sparked a riot by detainees in Port Hedland after guards in full riot gear tried to separate him from his father. The footage of the separation and subsequent conflict, smuggled out of Port Hedland, is on YouTube.

"There was a point of hopelessness, of thinking why am I alive," Poorvadi says. "They took away everything I was living for - friends, education, freedom. That time from 16 to 20, it's the time when your personality develops. That one year in Woomera did the most damage to me, there was nothing there, not even a book, a newspaper. The first book I got was a Bible. I slashed my wrists, drank shampoo, did a 12-day hunger strike, sewed my lips. It became a bit of a game for us, ticking the things you have done off a list."

Addressing the parliamentary committee in May, he said: "As an ex-detainee, one of the points I am very concerned about is detention - just detention. Detention is necessary for this country. We understand that. We cannot let anyone in without knowing who they are. I understand that.

But for how long? That is the point."

The "how long" question is at the heart of a new federal parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention in Australia, for which public submissions closed yesterday.

The Labor MP Michael Danby is chairing the inquiry, which will investigate how long a person should be detained, when a person should be released, the transparency and visibility of the centres, and preferred infrastructure options for contemporary detention centres. It is far from the first inquiry into immigration detention since the Keating Labor government made it mandatory in 1992. Critics question what another inquiry will achieve.

"If the Government has not worked out now why detention is wrong, another inquiry is not going to tell us," says Stephen Blanks, secretary of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. "Nor will an inquiry really change the mood of the people, in terms of its revulsion at what mandatory detention has done to the people."

Public attitude to mandatory detention is a moot point, however. With both major parties supporting the policy at the last federal election, it got scant attention from the pollsters. The Democrats' annual youth poll in mid-2007 showed two out of three young people surveyed opposed mandatory detention of asylum seekers; but earlier polling suggested strong community support for the hardline policy. The Labor Party took an each-way bet into the election, criticising the harsh extremes and economic costs of the Howard government's punitive immigration detention policies, but trumpeting its own tough package of border security measures.

Under the Howard government's Pacific Solution policy, taxpayers spent more than $1 billion processing fewer than 1700 asylum seekers in offshore locations - more than $500,000 per person, according to an Oxfam report last year. And more than 80 per cent of those asylum seekers were eventually accepted as refugees and allowed to settle here. A newer $396 million detention centre on Christmas Island can hold 1000 people, but stands empty. Danby, who inspected the Christmas Island centre last week, described it as a "giant Liberal steel prophylactic, a rusting stalag in the Christmas Island jungle and a monument to the folly of the previous government". The Labor Government, however, has no plans to decommission the centre.

Days before the November election, Julia Gillard, now Deputy Prime Minister, recommitted Labor to mandatory detention, telling ABC radio "that's actually the policy I wrote in 2002 … which remains Labor's policy now. We are tough on border security. You have to be. We've always said that if people arrived unauthorised, they will have to be detained for health, security and identity checks."

Again comes the question "detained for how long?". Kate Gauthier, national co-ordinator of A Just Australia, says detention is necessary for certain compliance and deportation cases, but "we have to discuss the appropriateness of the use of detention itself". She told the committee: "The one-stop shop approach to immigration is a failed policy". Time limits, she said, needed to be codified and applied to detention.

Poorvadi agrees. "We need to impose a time limit. Not three months that becomes six months, not six months that becomes a year. You need a time you can focus on.

"The Iranian government could break our bones but not break our spirit; we were fighting for some reason. In Australia they break your spirit, they make you feel you are nothing, not in control of your life, they tell you when to sleep, eat, watch TV, what time to smoke. They say you are nothing and if you don't like it, just go back."

Since coming to power, Labor has made several changes to immigration detention policy. The offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island have been closed, the controversial temporary protection visas have been scrapped and there has been settlement of high-profile legacy cases such as that of the wrongly detained Cornelia Rau, an Australian resident who got caught up in a nightmare maze of authorities' inability to identify her.

Many long-term detainees have been moved into the community, or deported. Advocates say no one still in detention, seeking asylum, has been there for more than two years, compared with up to seven years under the Howard government.

"This Government has made some important improvements," says Blanks, "but there is still no sign of wholesale change in immigration to focus on human stories, and to put human rights at the forefront of the department's operation in the humanitarian area."

He condemns the decision to retain the former government's policy of excising from the migration zone an arc of islands and other outcrops, raising the question that they may deny arrivals there the right to claim asylum. "It's absolutely wrong for offshore islands to be excised; it's a breach of the refugee convention [1951 United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees]," says Blanks. It showed the Rudd Government wants to keep open its options and continues to think of Australia's situation in terms of a siege mentality, he says.

"Maybe what we need is a 'stolen generations' report, to tell the stories of the people who faced victimisation under the system," says Blanks. "The stolen generations report is still pivotal 10 years after it was published. These are the same sort of issues. The fact is this Government doesn't want to take the opportunity to do it, and that's a missed opportunity to create consensus for change, or it demonstrates this Government's agenda is not that different to the last one."

Poorvadi has seen the damage done. "I know a lot of detainees who got out of detention, they have been out in society for seven years and they still claim their pensions. They are not 60 years old, they are 24, 25, 26 years old. That is only because of the depression and psychological damage that they have endured inside the detention centre."

Remarkably, the system did not break his spirit. He has dealt with his anger at the loss of his childhood and the way government treated him. He is married to a Burmese woman he met in Villawood, and they have a son, Alex, 3. Last month, they passed the citizenship test. He is self-employed in the renovation business, is studying civil engineering at the University of Technology, Sydney, and is a co-founder of the Guildford Evangelical Anglican Church. "We learn a good lesson in Iran: the government and the people are two different things. You can't judge a country by its government."

Made to feel like criminals

P There are 390 people in immigration detention, including 44 in community detention, the majority of them held at Sydney's Villawood detention centre. In January 2005 there were more than 1000 detainees around the country.

P Today, 298 are being held on compliance issues; that is, for overstaying visas or breaching other visa conditions. Twenty-six were detained as illegal foreign fishers, six as unauthorised boat arrivals, and 38 as unauthorised air arrivals. The total of 390 detainees is made up of 338 men, 38 women and 14 children, who live in community detention.

P There are 130 Chinese, 52 Indonesians, 26 Vietnamese, 19 Indians and 18 New Zealanders. A third have been in custody for more than 12 months and 13 per cent for more than two years.

P Psychologist Paula Farrugia, who has been visiting Villawood since 2003, says uncertainty about duration of detention wears people down. "They are treated like criminals," she said.

Connie Levett

Friday, July 18, 2008


Zimbabwe's accelerating inflation rate reaches the millions

Chris McGreal in Harare, smh

July 18, 2008

ZIMBABWE'S official inflation rate has reached 2.2 million per cent, driving the cost of a loaf of bread to about a third of a teacher's monthly salary.

Independent economists dismissed the Government's figure, saying the true rate was several times higher and rising faster than ever.

On Wednesday the governor of the central bank, Gideon Gono, announced a near 13-fold increase since the last time he released an inflation rate, in February, when it was put at 165,000 per cent.

Officials admit it is only an estimate because it is impossible to track the cost of individual goods.

One of the most respected economists in Zimbabwe, John Robertson, said that while inflation was probably about 2 million per cent in May it soared again last month. "I think the June figure is more likely to be 10 million per cent, and it could turn out 15 million per cent," he said.

Mr Robertson said inflation was largely being driven by the collapse in the black market value of the Zimbabwe dollar against the US dollar. "I think we're heading for 40 or 50 million per cent inflation by the end of July."

Last year the Government tried to curb inflation by forcing shops to lower prices by up to 80 per cent, leading to a rush on food, electrical goods and furniture.

Since then the shelves of many shops and supermarkets have been largely bare, except when owners are prepared to risk being caught charging prices that reflect the cost of importing goods from South Africa.

Huge queues form outside any bakery selling bread at a controlled price, and demand far outstrips supply.

Guardian News & Media

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Red New Readers,

The Federal Labor Government needs to take a hard look at NSW and what happens to governments and leaders who breach party policy and ignore their electoral mandate. The Federal Government is fortunate that there is a poor understanding of the role, purpose and modus operandi of the ABCC in the general community. The jailing of Noel Washington for the crime of defending his mates, would rebound not on the previous government, who put these terrbile laws in place, but on the current government for maintaining them.

Jenny Haines

ACTU wants ABCC wound up before 2010

July 15, 2008 - 4:49PM, SMH

The ACTU wants to see the building industry watchdog wound up before the 2010 deadline promised by the federal government.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the widespread powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), including the right to interrogate workers without them having legal representation, denied them basic rights.

She was speaking as Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) official Noel Washington faced a possible six-month jail sentence for refusing to give evidence to the ABCC about what he saw and heard at a meeting of workers last year.

"A union official will be brought before the courts for what crime?" Ms Burrow asked.

"For refusing to dob in his mates when they met on union business outside of work and after hours.

"If Noel Washington is jailed, Australians will be shocked."

Ms Burrow said the ABCC operated under powers handed to it by the former Howard government and the ACTU was determined to see the commission wound up before 2010.

"The government's timeline of 2010 is a problem from our perspective but we're doing what we are best at doing, representing the rights of Australian workers and helping to change (the government's) mind," she told reporters.

Ms Burrow also said the latest Galaxy Research poll showed that workers were losing patience with a push by business lobby groups to retain key aspects of the Howard government's Work Choices legislation.

She said Harvey Norman had taken "shameful advantage" in the transition period of the new industrial relations laws to sign up staff under the old Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA).

"They were offering their staff AWAs as late as a few weeks ago that would rip them off as much as $146 per week - that's not acceptable," Ms Burrow said.

"And there was the terrible decision by Telstra between the government being elected and the implementation of the transition bill that eliminated AWAs, to sign up 21,000 additional people on AWAs on a take-it-or-leave-it basis."

© 2008 AAP


Iemma's mentor joins the mutiny

Andrew Clennell State Political Editor, smh

July 16, 2008

MORRIS IEMMA'S former political boss and mentor, the former senator Graham Richardson, has turned against the Premier and is advising the Labor Party's head office in the campaign to dump him, ALP sources have confirmed.

The move by Mr Richardson illustrates the depths of the split within the NSW Right.

Now the head office machine, the unions, the former general secretary Mark Arbib and Mr Richardson on one side are stacked against Mr Iemma, the Treasurer, Michael Costa, the powerbrokers Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi and the former premier Barrie Unsworth on the other.

Mr Richardson tried to downplay his role last night, saying people were ringing him, not the other way around, and he denied taking sides.

But he said: "I think if Morris sort of woke up tomorrow … and changed a few things everyone would breathe a huge sigh of relief and it would all be over. My strong view is there shouldn't be any imminent challenge.

"The problem is the poll results are too low and that makes everyone uneasy … You can't have good poll results unless you have unity. And you can't have unity where [the division over] electricity [privatisation] continues."

The war of words between both sides intensified yesterday, with a proposal by Mr Unsworth to form a new faction and split the NSW Right dubbed the establishment of the "People's Republic of Costa" by Labor head office organisers.

One Labor source said of Mr Unsworth's backing of Mr Iemma and a new faction: "Everyone knows Unsworth is Costa's best friend. The only reason Barrie Unsworth wants Morris Iemma to hang around is because he wants someone to get a worse result than he did in [the election in] 1988."

The NSW Right has divided in an unprecedented way over the party head office's attempts to force Mr Iemma out of office.

The Herald revealed yesterday that head office has managed to convince a candidate to stand for the premier's job should Mr Iemma be forced to stand down - the Water Minister Nathan Rees.

But at least one theory within the party is that Mr Rees could be being used as a stalking horse or dummy candidate to create a leadership spill to allow the union-backed Deputy Premier John Watkins a run at the top job.

Mr Unsworth launched into Labor's general secretary, Karl Bitar, and his followers on 2BL, saying the people plotting against Mr Iemma had "been in the party less than 10 years and … if they'd look back over history, they'd realise that disunity is death".

"The elder statesmen of the party should come together, have a look at what's happened to the party in its last 30 years, look at where it is at the moment - controlled by a group of younger and in my view inexperienced members - and have a look at the real issue," Mr Unsworth said.

"The real issue is keeping Labor in government."

Party sources are talking about possibly forcing Mr Iemma out in six or 12 months. They say the polling numbers are too bad to sustain his leadership.

Mr Iemma has said publicly he is "not going anywhere" and will not be forced out by a "psychological war" that he says is being conducted by head office after he pressed ahead with power privatisation despite a 702-107 vote against it by the state Labor conference in May.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Malcolm Brown, smh

July 15, 2008 - 3:51PM

Two Sydney activists have won a Federal Court challenge to special World Youth Day laws that carry $5500 fines for annoying pilgrims.

The NoToPope Coalition scored the victory when the Federal Court ruled that legislation that would have prevented its members from handing out leaflets and other items was invalid in law.

The court, comprising Justices French, Branson and Stone, said that part of the World Youth Day Act, passed by the NSW Parliament to keep order during the World Youth Day events, "should not be interpreted as conferring powers that are repugnant to fundamental rights and freedoms at common law in the absence of clear authority from Parliament".

The judges noted that Rachel Evans, a university student who had challenged the legislation, proposed to hand out condoms and flyers containing information in relation to certain "political matters" on the Pilgrim Walking Route at Moore Park on Saturday.

On the same day, Amber Pike, who had joined Ms Evans in the action, proposed to hand out condoms, candles, stickers contianing political slogans and polititical leaflets at Central Station and Moore Park.

The judges said that, in their view, none of the items the activists proposed to distribute were proscribed articles within the meaning of the act. Nor were "symbolic coat-hangers" they planned to hand out to draw attention to the backyard abortion problem.

Annoyance clause invalid

The judges said that the interpretation of clause 7.1 of the act, which allowed regulation of conduct deemed to be a cause of "annoyance", was invalid because it "affects freedom of speech in a way that, in our opinion, is not supported by the statutory powers".

There was "no intelligible boundary" on what "causes annoyance".

The regulation relating to annoyance "could be expected to have a chilling effect upon the exercise of their freedom of speech because of the very uncertainty about the degree of its infringement upon that freedom", they said.

Another part of the same clause, which dealt with causing "inconvenience", had a more "objective content" and could draw on individual judgment.

It gave protection against disruptive behaviour, which caused inconvenience to participants, and behaviour that might give rise to a risk of public safety.

They added: "Over and above these provisions the general criminal laws of the state relating to disorderly and offensive conduct and the like are able to be invoked should that be necessary."

Outside the court, Ms Evans said the result was "a major victory for the protest movement".

Condomnation campaign

She said: "We now have a lot more confidence to go to the streets to campaign against the condemnation of condoms, homosexuality and abortion.

"We can hand out what we want to hand out," she said. "We can wear our [No to the Pope] T-shirts now and they cannot be deemed to be annoying.

"We don't want to inconvenience anyone. We want to talk to them about the Pope's position on these matters."

Stephen Blanks, secretary of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, who accompanied Ms Evans from the court, said the judgment illustrated that the Government did not intend to give the minister power to make regulations about that type of conduct. But what was really needed was a Bill of Rights, which would enshrine principles such as freedom of speech.

Ms Evans then walked away and handed a packet of condoms to a passing pilgrim, who took one look and dropped it on the footpath.

The Catholic Church declined to comment on the Federal Court ruling but World Youth Day co-ordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher earlier downplayed the likelihood of protest.

The church had backed the anti-annoyance regulations, but denied it had pushed or requested any special powers.

Bishop Fisher said at a media briefing before the judgment: ''I think myself this week ... even people who have been a bit cranky with World Youth Day or have their own other issues, whatever they are, will be swept along by the beauty and joy of these young people and they'll just want to be part of that.

''I suspect we won't have much in the way of protest but such protests as there are I'm very hopeful will be peaceful and respectful and there will not be the need for police interventions or big laws."

The Greens MP, Sylvia Hale, welcomed the court's decision.

Power obsessed

"The striking down of the regulation demonstrates that the Governmentis both incompetent and obsessed with expanding police powers at theexpense of the rights of its citizens," she said.

"It is fortunate that the Federal Court has acted to uphold the basicrights of the citizens of NSW against the incompetence and excess ofthis State Government," she said.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the decision would have no impact on policing of World Youth Day events.

He said police had sufficient powers to ensure the safety of pilgrims during the celebrations, which officially began today.

"We respect the court's ruling,'' Mr Scipione said. "Effectively the court has upheld all the regulations apart from the phrase 'causes annoyance'.

"The ruling will not impact on the way police play their part in this festive event.''

Time of celebration

Mr Scipione said WYD was a time of celebration, and would not be policed in the same way as last year's APEC summit of world leaders in Sydney.

"We have said many times that this is not APEC,'' he said. "Police understand there will be protests, people have a democratic right to do that.

"But with that right comes a responsibility to act within the law. I hope those who do protest are mindful that this state is playing host to thousands of guests who have come here in a very positive and festive frame of mind.''- with Linda Morris, Jano Gibson, and AAP


Red News Readers,

What a curious notion that somehow wisdom in the ALP resides in its elders. At least one of those elders Barry Unsworth supports the privatisation of electricity assets in NSW, a move which would cost many workers in the electricity industry their jobs, lead to poorer service delivery and lead to even higher prices. Where's the political wisdom in that, when up to 90% of the NSW population oppose this privatisation?

My nomination for a meeting of the current elders of the ALP, not to organise a split but to set the party and the parliament a united course in acordance with the policy and platform as decided at the NSW State Conference in 2008, would be John Roberston, Bernie Riordan, Andrew Ferguson, Paul Bastian, Steve Turner and Luke Foley all meeting with the leaders of the parliamentary party, with Michael Costa having no say in the negotiations. Now that may mean Michael Costa may have resigned. That would be a split worth having!

Jenny Haines

Unsworth moves to split Right

Andrew Clennell, State Political Editor,

July 15, 2008

THE former NSW premier Barrie Unsworth will seek the backing of Labor's elder statesmen for a historic splitting of the party's dominant right-wing faction - arguing the radical move may be necessary to punish Labor's head office over its campaign to unseat the Premier, Morris Iemma.

Mr Unsworth said yesterday he would be calling together such key figures as the former premier Bob Carr, the former prime minister Paul Keating and the former Labor Council heads Michael Easson and John MacBean to talk about the future of the NSW Right, which Mr Keating helped set up 30 years ago as "Centre Unity".

Senior government sources told the Herald there was a prospect of a group splitting from the NSW Right in a bid to target the general secretary, Karl Bitar, over his campaign against Mr Iemma. Mr Unsworth said yesterday a "campaign of destabilisation" by the party's head office was threatening to throw Labor out of power.

"What we want to do is examine what we set up Centre Unity for and where it's going to, and if necessary make a general appeal to the party membership," he said.

Meanwhile, the man Mr Iemma refers to as his friend, the Minister for Water, Nathan Rees, has agreed with senior Labor party officials that he would be prepared to run for premier, but only if Mr Iemma were convinced to stand down.

The revelations show there is someone senior in Government prepared to do the job and puts a possible Rees candidacy firmly in the spotlight.

The Herald revealed last week that Mr Bitar was individually meeting MPs to put forward four possible successors to Mr Iemma after poor poll results in what the Premier has dubbed a "psychological war" against him. The candidates include the Deputy Premier, John Watkins, Mr Rees, the former frontbencher Carmel Tebbutt and the Planning Minister, Frank Sartor.

Mr Rees is understood to have held several discussions with Labor's head office in the past fortnight concerning him becoming premier if Mr Iemma were convinced to go. Mr Rees's name is also understood to have been mentioned in conversations between Mr Bitar and Mr Iemma in which Mr Bitar has urged the Premier to stand aside.

Mr Rees told the Herald in a statement: "There is no vacancy so the question you raise simply does not arise. As I have stated publicly many times, Premier Iemma has my unequivocal and rock solid support and he knows it."

Mr Bitar refused to comment.

Mr Rees's failure to deny leadership aspirations yesterday puts into the shade his suggestion last month that any talk he could be leader deserved the Miles Franklin award for fiction.

One senior pro-Iemma source said of Mr Rees's agreement to go for the job: "[The backbencher] Kerry Hickey would probably do it if you asked him. They're setting him up for a huge fall as … media scrutiny of this bloke [will increase now] when he goes into a more senior portfolio."

In an interview in Saturday's Herald, Mr Iemma said he could not imagine Mr Rees challenging him because he was a "friend". A spokesman for Mr Iemma said the Premier saw Mr Rees as a "leader of the future" but that the Premier was not going anywhere.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Labor told donations will fall if brawling continues

Brian Robins, smh

July 14, 2008

LABOR Party officials at its Sussex Street headquarters have invited the Premier, Morris Iemma, to meet them in a bid to end the stand-off that has developed since the push for electricity privatisation.

Ten days ago Mr Iemma snubbed the powerful administrative committee by refusing to attend its regular meeting on the first Friday of the month, citing scheduling difficulties.

Now, Sussex Street says it is willing to meet him at any time of his choosing. "We're totally flexible," one senior source said.

The bid to meet follows opinion polling that showed Labor's primary vote had fallen below 30 per cent since the brawl over power privatisation, which runs counter to Labor policy.

It also follows concerns that political donations could suffer unless the brawling stops.

"There is total despair in NSW at the moment over electricity," said the head of the Tourism and Transport Forum, Chris Brown. "Every major project in this state is dependent on proceeds from the electricity sale. No power sale, no M4 east, no new convention centre, no metro rail, no mojo.

"That sense of despair rarely ends up seeing rivers of donations flowing into political parties. That's a timely reminder to those Labor Party forces opposing this. The business community is usually swift with its reactions."

Mr Brown said brawling between the Coalition leadership and party machine led to a fall in donations before the last election.

The state director of the Property Council of Australia, Ken Morrison, said the failure to privatise electricity would result in a loss of confidence. "The Government is using up precious political capital doing something unpopular, but which is clearly the right thing to do," he said.

Sussex Street's sustained attack on Mr Iemma is thought to reflect in part the influence of the NSW party president, Bernie Riordan, and the head of Unions NSW, John Robertson, who strongly oppose the electricity privatisation.

Mr Riordan also heads the Electrical Trades Union, whose members will be transferred to the private sector if the power industry is sold.

But party insiders say the drive to unseat Mr Iemma is a result of disastrous opinion polls, and until electricity is resolved it is difficult to see that any alternative leader would come forward.

"Morris has probably bought himself some time at the moment, with the Pope visiting Sydney this week, which will be followed by the Olympics, and with Parliament not resuming until September," said one.

By then, the issue will have been resolved, as the Auditor-General is expected to report to the Government early next month whether he supports the sale process.

with AAP

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Police not told of nursing home deaths

Alexandra Smith and Les Kennedy, smh

July 12, 2008

THE deaths of 10 elderly people in three weeks at a Blue Mountains nursing home last month were not reported to police or the State Coroner's special investigations unit, NSW police said last night.

It was incumbent on any medical practitioner treating patients at a nursing home to report a death, police said, if there were any other deaths that might be related.

"We have checked with the crime manager for the Blue Mountains Command and he has checked their records for the past month and there are no reported deaths to police from any nursing home … at Springwood," a police spokesman said last night.

Police are expected to begin an investigation today into a report by the Health Department, which broke the news of 10 deaths at Endeavour Nursing Home, Springwood.

The department played down suggestions the deaths were caused by gastroenteritis but said it would investigate again.

In a statement the department said 83 residents of the home were struck down with diarrhoea and other painful symptoms late last month.

Food poisoning was investigated as a cause but the NSW Food Authority ruled that out after inspecting the home.

The acting deputy chief health officer for NSW Health, Jeremy McAnulty, said the results from tests on a number of ill residents had found Clostridium perfringens, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning.

"Infection with this germ is characterised by sudden onset of diarrhoea of brief duration, often with stomach cramps, 10 to 12 hours after ingestion of contaminated food," he said in a statement. "During the outbreak period 10 residents died from a variety of apparently unrelated conditions. Some of these had had mild diarrhoea."

Dr McAnulty said many of the death certificates gave the cause of death as pneumonia and other unrelated conditions. The risk of further infection was thought to be low. "However, all precautions are being taken, including an epidemiological investigation and reinspection of all food-handling procedures, to protect other residents."

Extra control measures during food preparation and handling would be implemented, he said.

The NSW Food Authority inspected the home and found no obvious breach of protocols, the statement said. NSW Health said a panel had been convened to help the investigation. The nursing home had appointed an officer to monitor staff and food handling.

The NSW Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association last night called for an investigation by the State Coroner.

The association's policy co-ordinator, Paul Versteege, said NSW Health and the federal Minister for Ageing needed to explain how it could be presumed that the 10 deaths had nothing to do with bacterial infection after bacteria was detected in residents after two gastroenteritis outbreaks.

Last year 22 residents and 11 staff were struck down with gastroenteritis at a Canberra nursing home.

with AAP

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Friday, July 11, 2008


Euthanasia ruling draws Vatican rebuke

Article from: Agence France-Presse

From correspondents in Rome

July 10, 2008 06:46am

AN Italian court ruled today that a road accident victim could be removed from life support after 16 years in a coma, drawing a swift rebuke from the Vatican, which said the ruling gave "de facto" justification for euthanasia.

The Milan appeal court that reached the decision said it was "inevitable" given "the extraordinary duration of (Eluano Englaro's) permanent vegetative state ... and her view of life".

The Milan court ruled that her coma was proven to be irreversible and that the young woman "would have preferred to die than being kept alive on artificial support".

Monsignor Rino Fisichella, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, reacted by telling the ANSA news agency that the ruling justified "an act of euthanasia de facto" and should be challenged in a higher court.

Englaro, born in 1972, has been in a vegetative state for 16 years following a road accident.

She has been receiving food and water artificially since January 1992 in a hospital in northern Lecco, and her father Beppino Englaro had been seeking an end to the life support since 1999.

Debate on the emotive issue of euthanasia has been complicated in Italy by the influence of the Catholic Church, which notably refused to allow a religious funeral for poet and writer Piergiorgio Welby in 2006.

Welby, who suffered from muscular dystrophy, died in December 2006 after being taken off an artificial respirator.

His highly publicised cause - which had been taken up by Italy's small but vocal libertarian Radical Party - highlighted ambiguities in Italian law, which currently forbids euthanasia but upholds a patient's right to refuse care.

A similar case to Englaro's was that of Terry Schiavo in the United States, who died in March 2005 at age 41 after her feeding tube was removed by court order.

At the time, the Vatican accused the court of "arbitrarily" bringing forward the moment of her death. Schiavo had been in a coma for 15 years.

Two years later, on a request for guidance by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on cases such as Schiavo's, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ruled that patients in irreversible comas should be given food and water.

"A patient in a 'permanent vegetative state' is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means," the Vatican's doctrinal enforcer said.
Vatican Radio called today's ruling "serious", recalling that for years courts had refused to consider Beppino Englaro's bid.

Catholic bioethics experts had said magistrates could not "disregard the inviolability of life and the duty of every civil society to help its weakest citizens," Vatican Radio recalled.


Quick runaround in legal circles to stay on the spot

Richard Ackland, smh

July 11, 2008

What must life be like for poor Morris Iemma? Does he want to stay put in bed in the morning for fear of some fresh horror unfolding?

Have all those special political skills learnt at the bosom of Graham Richardson deserted him? Wasn't being Premier meant to be loads of fun? Bob Askin got away with so much; why can't Iemma? It seems we should be feeling more sorry than gleeful when vaulting ambition is overreached. Certainly, it appears the hapless lot running the state can't take a trick. Here's a vignette about a minor matter that nonetheless reflects the general vibe of dysfunctionality.

The NSW Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, recently announced the appointment of Wayne Haylen, a judge of the Industrial Court of NSW, to a position of part-time deputy president of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, and head of the tribunal's legal services division.

Haylen comes from a distinctive Labor pedigree. His father was the newspaperman, playwright and federal politician Les Haylen. Wayne is, by all accounts, a capable lawyer and judge and, importantly, being from the industrial jurisdiction he doesn't have an awful lot on his judicial plate.

The tribunal has a vast and sprawling workload, hearing appeals against administrative decisions affecting just about anything, from oyster leases to sexual discrimination.

The acting District Court judge Angela Karpin had been head of the division that looked after complaints against lawyers, and she had served as a deputy president of the tribunal for one three-year terms.

It seemed a good match - Haylen could now hear complaints about lawyers and still preside over cases down at the Industrial Court and the Industrial Relations Commission. He didn't particularly even want to sit up at the tribunal's premises and so he heard his first legal discipline case at the Industrial Commission.

The trouble with the law is that there's invariably a smarty-pants, if not lurking in the wings, on centre stage. Someone looked up the law and discovered that under schedule two, part three, division three, etc, etc, of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal Act, NSW, 1997, to preside over cases involving applications to discipline lawyers you had to have a status even more exalted than that of an industrial judge. You had at least to be an acting District or Supreme Court judge.
Horror. Did that mean that the disciplinary case, already heard by Haylen, had to start again?

Happily, a Band-Aid was produced from somewhere in the Attorney-General's bottom draw, and Haylen was appointed an acting Supreme Court judge - for an unusually short period, July 3 to November 30.

One cannot imagine the Chief Justice, James Spigelman, being overjoyed that people are appointed to his court as part of a political rescue operation.

Now that Haylen magically had been legitimised, the parties to the case he heard were asked to accept that he could still deliver judgment based on material he had heard while unqualified to hear it. The parties, apparently, have said that he can deliver judgment, not on what he heard or saw in evidence before him, but on the transcripts of the proceedings.

However, just as it appeared everything might be saved, it was discovered that Angela Karpin had some unfinished judgments, but having not been reappointed as an acting District Court judge it appeared problematic that she, too, would be out of jurisdiction in the completion of her written decisions.

The Crown Solicitor was called in and advised that she could complete the judgments without the necessary judicial jurisdiction. A second opinion said she would need to be reappointed to the court. On Wednesday morning the Governor of NSW approved Karpin's appointment as an acting judge of the District Court, about a month after the Government had decided not to reappoint her.

From a retrospectively patched-up botched appointment, the Government lurched to save a mistimed judicial "sacking". Perhaps it is uncharitable to rekindle the Attorney-General's brave assurances about judicial appointments that he gave to the Herald in March:

"Greater transparency and diversity in appointments to the judiciary and senior offices in the justice system is a hallmark of good governance. That is why I have instituted a process of reform where vacancies for positions such as District Court judges, magistrates, tribunal members, public defenders and crown prosecutors are advertised. The process is open and fair. Anyone with the relevant experience can apply."

Trouble was that in the dazzle of transparency and openness only Haylen was invited to apply for the tribunal job.

Haylen, it should be recalled, was fined $20 in July 1966 for failing to produce a certificate of registration under the National Service Act. Bravely he told the court the certificate was not in existence because he had burnt it. Even more famously, in June that year he and another citizen, Barry Robinson, tackled the poet Peter Kocan to the ground outside Mosman town hall after Arthur Calwell had been shot in the chin.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Nepotism watch: how dad's union supports daughter's footy team

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Alex Mitchell writes in Crikey:

The NSW Nurses’ Association, the body representing the 51,000 over-worked and under-paid nurses in the public and private hospital systems, has donated $5,000 to the Hills District (Female) Football Club in north-west Sydney.

One of the players in the club’s Beaumont Hills Lady Hawks is the daughter of Brett Holmes, general secretary of the nurses’ union. She played for the soccer team last season and this season.

The decision to make the cash sponsorship was taken at the ruling council’s meeting on 29 November last year. The successful motion read:

That the NSWNA contributes $5,000 in sponsorship to the Hills District (Female) Football Club for the 2008 year from the NursePower Fund.

Other sponsors include White Design & Construction, D & L Bricklaying and Landscape Solutions, Sportsfit, Business Technology Solutions and Australia’s Workhorse, a drilling and excavation firm.

In exchange for the sponsorship, the nurses’ association logo is on all 60 playing shorts of the club and on the shirts of one senior 12-member team. The club’s website carries a link to the nurses’ website.

The meeting that decided on the sponsorship is the talk of nurses’ branches. Crikey understands that there was one dissenting voice – ex-vice president Charles Linsell -- who is alleged to have asked Holmes to leave the meeting at the time of the vote.

But Holmes denies this. In answer to questions from Crikey, Holmes vigorously defended the sponsorship given to his daughter's team and explained what happened:

I was not present for a large part of the council discussion and the vote on the sponsorship. I declared my interest at the start of the discussion in council executive and in council and it is recorded in the minutes of both meetings.

Mr Linsell did not require me to leave the meeting. However, I did so on my own volition with the leave of the president.

There was extensive consideration of the proposal by all councillors. No councillor requested that they be recorded as against the resolution.

The council voted in favour of the proposal. I am recorded as abstaining.

Holmes also explained how the sponsorship proposal arrived on the association’s agenda:

A formal written proposal was sent to the NSWNA by the President of the Hills District Football Club Mr Ed Terry. I presented that to council for consideration, in the same way that any sponsorship or donation is considered by the executive and the council.

Asked why the $5,000 donation to his daughter’s football club had not been reported to the membership, Holmes said: "A feature on the sponsorship will be included in the LAMP (association’s monthly magazine) after the teams' photographs are taken on July 20. It will also be reported to the annual conference in August."

Asked why it had taken eight months to report to the members, he replied: "No prior opportunity to photograph the teams together in their uniforms."

Asked under which of the association’s rules the donation was made, the general secretary replied: "Rule 3 (a) Objects: to promote the interests of all members in matters relating to employment and health and safety in the nursing profession and to afford the opportunity to discuss such matters. Rule 3 (x) to make financial provision for the carrying out of any of the foregoing objects and to do all such other things as incidental or conducive to the attainment of the above objects if considered necessary."

However, critics of the sponsorship arrangement point to Rule 15 which provides that funds shall be expended in carrying out the objects of the association as set out in Rule 3. And they say Rule 3 is all about members' welfare and not the sporting teams of an officer's children.

Holmes said the association used a range of advertising opportunities to promote its message and sponsored the Inter Hospital Mini Olympics ($5,000) and gave $30,000 to the Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad (APHEDA), the overseas aid agency of the ACTU.

He said that Crikey’s questions appeared so one-sided that "I can only conclude that malicious intent on the part of your informant is at the core of your inquiry."

Oh dear me no. Just a bit of transparency and accountability will do nicely.

The union of Florence Nightingales, flush with funds, has set an important precedent. Other union leaders should now feel free to spread members' money among sporting teams in which their children are playing because it helps take the union message into the hearts and minds of the community.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Burgmann rules out tainted donors

Sunanda Creagh Urban Affairs Reporter, smh

July 8, 2008

IN AN effort to distance herself from the Iemma Government, Labor's candidate for the Sydney lord mayoral election has vowed not to accept political donations from the party's Sussex Street headquarters.

Meredith Burgmann, who will run against Clover Moore in the local government elections in September, said Labor candidates face a tough battle in the council elections.

"I am sure if voters are cranky with either state or federal Labor, they will take it out on whoever is standing for election at the time, which will unfortunately be me," Dr Burgmann said yesterday.

"We certainly have the problem of perception, which is why we have taken the decision not to take any money from developers, the alcohol or pokies industry, or from head office."

The election analyst Antony Green said the Greens would pick up many former Labor voters in Marrickville, Randwick, Waverley and Leichhardt, as well as Newcastle, where electricity privatisation could sway voters.

"All the inner-city councils are serviced by public transport, where buses and trains are getting more crowded, and all of those seats will see strong campaigns against Labor over delivery of services," he said.

"Political donations will also be a huge issue, and that's where the Greens are strong because they are campaigning on that issue."

In the last council elections, Clover Moore's group got 35 per cent of the City of Sydney vote, Labor 25 per cent and the Greens 14 per cent. In Leichhardt, the Greens got 34.5 per cent and Labor 24.3 per cent.

"In Marrickville, the Greens got 29.2 per cent last time but it will continue to grow because they are seen as the real opposition to Labor," Mr Green said.

The Blacktown Mayor, Leo Kelly, a senior ALP figure in local government circles, said Labor candidates would suffer "guilt by association with one of the worst state governments in history".

He said Dr Burgmann would not have received much money from Sussex Street anyway.

The ALP general secretary, Karl Bitar, said party headquarters would fund candidates but would spend less on local government elections this year than last time.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Note to Iemma: A Plan to get out of this mess -

1. Ditch Costa!

2. Cancel plans to privatise electriticity. Even if you think it is a good idea, now is not the time in the world markets.

3. Talk personally to the public sector unions. After all they are the support base that got the Labor Government returned at the last election. The pay deal with the nurses shows the goverment may pay more than 2.5%, but those offsets!! Why cuts days off and award based sick leave at a time of shortages of public sector employees, including nurses? Why review with a view to further cuts in numbers, managerial positions? Why more workplace reform? There has been so much workplace reform in the public sector that efficiency is now seriously affected.

4. Talk seriously and honestly with the citizens of NSW about what your government can achieve and can afford in terms of building infrastructure. The NSW public are not stupid and I believe would appreciate you being straight with them. Besides the public care more about the operating efficiency of the trains, transport system, hospitals, schools, child protection system and welfare than they do about momunents to some politician's term of office and thats what they want, evidence that operating efficiency has improved.

5. Stop jumping on every right wing band wagon trumpeted by the conservative media and show some spine in supporting party policy on human rights and civil liberties.

6. Ditch spin! It only makes the public cynical and bitter.

Jenny Haines

ALP fires off warning shot at Iemma

Monday, 7 July 2008

Alex Mitchell writes in Crikey:

Related Articles:

Mungo: Will Iemma crash through, or crash?
NSW's worst premier could still do something worthwhile...
Camden: a tale of cowardice and mortgage belt bigots
Iemma to face ritual slaughter over NSW power privatisation
Iemma's dilemma: privatise or count the Costa

Angela D’Amore, the Labor MP for Drummoyne in Sydney’s inner-west, has fired a warning shot over the bows of Premier Morris Iemma. Coming from a backbencher who is only five years into her political career, it may seem like passing grapeshot that carries no menace.

That would be a mistake.

D’Amore is a fully-fledged product of the NSW Labor Party. Head office gifted her the Drummoyne seat in 2003 without a pre-selection and gave it to her again in 2007. Little wonder she’s a fierce party HQ loyalist.

Her working career before parliament was in the trade unions. She was as an officer of the Municipal Employees Union and later became an industrial officer with the NSW Nurses' Association.

Giving her inaugural speech in the Legislative Assembly on May 16, 2003, she said:

I thank the Nurses Association, the Municipal Employees Union, the Australian Workers Union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Public Service Association, the National Union of Workers and in particular the Labor Council for always standing by my side during the campaign.

Little wonder she’s a Unions NSW loyalist too.

At a personal level, she is married to Richard Tripodi, who happens to be the brother of Ports and Waterways Minister Joe Tripodi, one of the right-wing faction’s heavyweights.

The daughter of first generation Italian migrants, she shares the same cultural heritage as Premier Morris Iemma, Tripodi and Planning Minister Frank Sartor, the sons of first generation Italian migrants. In private conversation they slip easily into Italian and exchange "buon giornos" and "ciaos" in the corridors.

So when D’Amore decided to unload on the Premier and his ministers in an "exclusive" in yesterday’s Sun Herald, then significant shifts are occurring in the NSW ALP.

She accused ministers of being out of touch and when asked if she was directing her comments at Iemma, D'Amore said: "It's directed at the whole Government but people know who's at the head of the Government."

ALP general secretary Karl Bitar called on D’Amore to give her damning assessment to the media after Iemma’s extraordinarily rash decision not to accept the invitation to attend last Friday’s meeting of the party’s governing body, the administrative committee. His non-attendance has deepened the split between the Iemma-Costa Cabinet and the party.

This is an unprecedented situation: having lost the support of the ALP rank and file and the unions for the privatisation of the state’s power industry, Iemma and Treasurer Costa are now relying on the Opposition parties, the Liberals and Nationals, to secure the sell-off.

The question must be asked: without the backing of the ALP and making itself a hostage to the Coalition, can the Iemma Government continue to call itself "Labor" in the full meaning of the term?

In this explosive political environment, the ALP’s message delivered via D’Amore is this --

"We’re coming for you, mate."


Andrew Clennell
July 7, 2008 - 11:28AM, smh

The Treasurer Michael Costa today described as "cowards" MPs and Labor sources who tell
the media about plans to axe Premier Morris Iemma as Labor leader.

Mr Costa took a potshot at Angela D'Amore, MP for Drummoyne, who criticised the
government and Mr Iemma on the weekend, saying "that MP would do to spend a bit more
time in her own electorate. As I understand it she's been overseas at least twice in
the last couple of months and is proposing another trip".

He has also taken a shot at senior party officials, telling 2UE: "You've got to
understand there is a small group of disgruntled MPs, many of them have been passed
over for promotion or many of them don't have the ability to be promoted and they're
being agitated by Sussex Street because they're concerned about the [Labor party's
state] conference decision on electricity and their declining influence and
unfortunately people are picking it up.

" I would prefer they all name themselves and you could see who they are and I don't
think there's anyone there who is leadership material.

"Morris Iemma is the best leader. I mean, we've got some problems, there's no doubt
about that, but there is no challenge to Morris Iemma - it's an absolute nonsense.

"So I just tell all those cowards that are running to the press, they ought to stand up
and put their hand up and say look, vote for me for leader, I'm sure most of them would
be laughed at."

Mr Costa's comments come as speculation mounts of a plot within months to install
either Carmel Tebbutt, Nathan Rees or John Watkins as premier in the wake of disastrous
poll results for Mr Iemma.

Andrew Clennell is the Herald's State Political Editor

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Stunning attack on Iemma's ministers

Lisa Carty, NSW Political Editor, Sun Herald

July 6, 2008


Latest related coverage

Meanwhile, look who's heading off on holidays

THE struggling State Government has hit a new low, with one of its own declaring the Premier and his ministers out of touch.

In a no-holds-barred attack on her senior colleagues, fiery Drummoyne MP Angela D'Amore declared: "They need to get out a lot more with backbenchers and talk to people.

"I am not surprised the polls have been so bad. No marginal MP is surprised because we are feeling the tremors on the ground."

MPs in marginal seats were more exposed to community anger and frustration, she said, and they knew things were going very badly for the Government.

"We are talking to people on a daily basis and we know people are under massive financial pressure and they feel the Government doesn't understand that.

"Marginal seat MPs feel like their backs have been broken. They're good local MPs and they know what the community is feeling.

"It's time senior ministers started talking to people and talking to backbenchers because we are the voice of the community.

"It's our job to channel the community's feeling into government.

"I raise issues continuously with ministers directly but my feeling is the message is not getting through."

Asked if she was directing her comments at Premier Morris Iemma, Ms D'Amore said: "It's directed at the whole Government but people know who's at the head of the Government."

Last week's Sun-Herald/Taverner poll found the Opposition is in a comfortable election-winning position. Two-party preferred, the split is 56-44. Labor's primary vote has collapsed from 39 to 28 per cent while the Coalition is up from 37 to 46 per cent.

Ms D'Amore, who chairs the parliamentary committee that oversees the office of the ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission, said people did not want to wait 10 years for better transport and health.

"Any government at any stage needs short-term, medium-term and long-term projects, but when you're looking at things like public transport surely there are ways to give relief now," she said.

"My residents don't quite believe policy documents any more. They want to see projects delivered."

The popular MP, who holds her seat with an 8 per cent margin, is the first in the Government to criticise it so publicly and so unapologetically.

Her stance is even more remarkable because she's related by marriage to right-wing powerbroker and Iemma henchman Joe Tripodi, the Ports Minister.

She knew her outburst would anger some ministers but said: "Politics isn't about saying what's appropriate, or being comfortable, it's about telling the truth. That's what the people who elected me expect me to do. That's how a democracy works."

Any Labor MP who raised concerns in caucus was "looked at like they've got three heads", she said.

"Caucus needs to be a robust forum where MPs can discuss issues truthfully," she said. "If you do that you shouldn't be seen as controversial - you should be seen as being in touch."

Caucus was now just a rubber stamp for the Premier's report, his verbal summary of Government plans and progress, she said.

Camden MP Geoff Corrigan felt the ire of some ministers after his caucus room criticism of the Government was leaked to the media a fortnight ago.

Mr Corrigan told Mr Iemma he was "living in a parallel universe" if he thought the Government was travelling well.

Since then, he has been the subject of a whispering campaign designed to make him less credible.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Ben Cubby, Environment Reporter, smh

July 5, 2008

AFTER going to work at a Hunter Valley coalmine for 20 years, Graham Brown went on holiday to Patagonia, where he saw a melting glacier.

"I was talking to a bloke there, a salmon farmer," Mr Brown said. "He found out what I did for a living and he said to me, 'Where is your heart? Your coal is killing us.'

"I was standing there with a person from the other side of the world and he was talking about the coal we're digging up over here," he said. "There's some pretty big ethical questions that I, as a miner, had to face up to."

Mr Brown returned a changed man, albeit one who still worked at the coalface of climate change.

After some thought, he retired from the mines last year and is now a deeply committed environmental activist.

Aged 56, he was arrested for the first time on Thursday when Greenpeace protesters temporarily shut down the coal-fired Eraring Power Station on the Central Coast.

At his side was Peter Kennedy, a fourth-generation Newcastle miner who has also come to believe his industry is part of the climate change problem.

"It's very hard to break the bond between Newcastle and coalmines but, as climate change is slowly taking it's grip, that is what's going to happen," said Mr Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy had some ideas to add to the draft Garnaut climate change review released yesterday. "I'd like to see a $1 levy on each tonne of coal that goes out through the port," he said.

"The money can be put into renewable energy. The black coal industry generates revenue of about $23 billion a year, so I think we can afford it."

Newcastle's coal port ships more than 80 million tonnes of coal overseas a year, with plans to expand that to 140 million tonnes. The carbon emissions from Hunter Valley coal burned overseas almost equal the emissions from all sources in Australia.

The NSW Minerals Council said it was unfair to single out the mining industry. "Miners, like the rest of the community, are becoming increasingly aware of the serious issue of climate change and the need to take action," the council's director of external affairs, Lancia Jordana, said.

Mr Brown and Mr Kennedy are joining several hundred activists from all walks of life at a "camp for climate action" in Newcastle on Thursday. The group plans to block the Carrington rail line to the port, delaying a coal shipment in a symbolic act they say will highlight the state's contribution to global warming.


Red News Readers,

Is replacing Iemma the issue? Or is it making him and Michael Costa adhere to the party platform and policy on electricity privatisation? Whoever may replace Iemma it should not be John Robertson, he is too valuable where he is. If he moves over to the parliament, he will be seen in the same cynical light as his predecessors who just used the Secretaryship of the Labor Council (now Unions NSW) as a seat warmer for the rest of their career.

What a sad state NSW Labor is in!! Re -elected with such promise on the back of the anti Workchoices campaign, and they have blown their mandate. If anyone should be replaced, isn't it Michael Costa who should go? Off to the big end of town where he is so popular.

Jenny Haines

Strategists move to replace Iemma

July 5, 2008 - 9:05AM, smh

Labor strategists say they are moving to replace Morris Iemma, fearing the party will be wiped out at the next state election if he stays on as NSW Premier.

Senior Labor sources told News Ltd newspapers that Mr Iemma cannot last in his job after disastrous Newspoll results last month and no sign of change from the Premier's "do nothing" approach.

They confirmed the NSW ALP has commissioned internal polling to gauge public support for candidates including Deputy Premier John Watkins, Emergency Services Minister Nathan Rees and former education minister Carmel Tebbutt.

Mr Iemma is standing firm in the belief his party has no alternative to him.

But senior ALP figures were adamant, saying: "We will find one."

The leadership threat came as Mr Iemma inflamed tensions with his party machine by avoiding a meeting of its chief decision-making body in Sydney.

The ALP's NSW administrative committee passed a resolution declaring extreme disappointment that the Premier had snubbed an invitation to discuss why he wanted to privatise the state's electricity industry, despite losing a 702-107 party conference vote in May.

"This is a sad sign of the deteriorating relationship between the party and the parliamentary leadership since the state conference," said the resolution.

In a final effort to find compromise, the committee invited Mr Iemma to next month's meeting, even offering to move the date if it was inconvenient.

A spokesman for Mr Iemma said the Premier would consider the resolution. He also dismissed any suggestion Mr Iemma might step aside, saying there was "no chance, none whatsoever" that the Premier would quit before the March 2011 election.

The paper says disenchantment with Mr Iemma has reached the most senior levels of the party, to the point where even strong supporters who backed him to replace Bob Carr as premier in 2005 accept a change is necessary.

A Newspoll commissioned for The Australian last month deeply disturbed Labor officials after it showed the NSW party's primary vote had sunk to 28 per cent and Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell was preferred premier for the first time on 39-32 per cent.

A senior party source said: "We are facing a bigger swing than in 1988. There is no way the NSW branch is going to sit by and get wiped out. The next election is going to be hard to win but we are going to give it a shot."


Friday, July 04, 2008


Red News Readers,

Too late for nurses!!

Jenny Haines

Public sector to take day of action

July 3, 2008 - 1:46PM, smh

Police, firefighters, teachers and other public sector workers will stage a statewide day of action later this month in protest at the NSW government's cap on wage increases.

Unions NSW secretary John Robertson said public sector workers had set aside July 30 as the day they "withdraw their goodwill" and take action that will "impact on the government's bottom line".

Ruling out any strike action on that day, Mr Robertson said July 30 would mark the start of an ongoing campaign for better pay for public sector workers.

"This is a campaign that isn't going to see all the shots fired on day one," Mr Robertson told reporters.

"We are going to escalate this campaign to ensure (NSW Premier) Morris Iemma gets the message."

Public sector unions are angered by the state government's decision to keep a 2.5 per cent cap on wage increases.

The government has said it is willing to offer higher increases if money can be saved in other areas.

While Mr Robertson would not specify what action would be taken on July 30, he said the broader campaign could involve stoppages, people refusing to collect fines and bans on overtime.

"None of it can be ruled out," Mr Robertson said.

Rail workers have already voted to carry out industrial action in the next 30 days after their pay negotiations with the government broke down.

However, the state's nurses accepted an eight per cent pay rise from the government over the next two years just a week ago.

Mr Robertson said the 2.5 per cent increase was well below inflation, meaning public sector workers were effectively taking a pay cut.

"We want, at the very least, to see public sector workers maintain their standard of living," he said.

"If the government wants to have a discussion about productivity, those improvements ought to be paid over and above people maintaining their standard of living."

© 2008 AAPBrought to you by


Andrew Clennell State Political Editor, smh

July 4, 2008

THE Premier, Morris Iemma, has delivered a giant snub to the Labor Party and the unions by refusing to attend a meeting today of the ALP's chief decision-making body, the administrative committee, to discuss his electricity privatisation policy.

Mr Iemma will do "community visits" in outer western Sydney, his office confirmed.
A senior party source said yesterday: "This is an unfortunate sign of the deteriorating relationship between the Premier and his own party."

The Left assistant secretary, Luke Foley, said: "Morris is following in the footsteps of William Holman [the premier expelled in 1916 for supporting conscription] in declaring his government is independent of the Labor party."

The administrative committee had invited Mr Iemma to attend to explain why he was proceeding with the sale of the state's electricity assets in defiance of a 702-107 vote against the sale by the party's state conference last month.

In the committee's resolution it had said the split between head office and the unions on one side and Mr Iemma and the Treasurer, Michael Costa, on the other "constitute the most serious threat to the balance of relationships within NSW Labor since the 1939 Unity Conference reunited the party in this state".

In a further sign of the split between the head office machine and Mr Iemma yesterday, the Unions NSW Secretary, John Robertson, when asked if he supported Mr Iemma remaining as leader would say only: "That's a matter for his parliamentary colleagues."

Told by reporters this was not support, Mr Robertson said: "Take it any way you like; it's a matter for his colleagues."

Labor insiders are predicting a move against Mr Iemma within 12 months, in the wake of a recent poll that had the ALP behind the Coalition by 56 per cent to 44. Mr Iemma is understood to feel he is safe because there is no alternative, but Labor figures are determined to find one, the Herald understands.

Of his non-appearance at the committee meeting, Mr Iemma said: "The invitation came and Friday's a regional visit for me so I'm making alternative arrangements." When asked of Mr Robertson's comments, he said: "Well, he's right, he doesn't get a vote, my colleagues do. Just like he didn't get a vote when [the former premier] Bob Carr retired."

Mr Robertson yesterday announced a statewide industrial day of action on July 30, in protest at the Government's cap on public sector wage rises of 2.5 per cent a year.