Tuesday, September 30, 2008


This is the first boat which has arrived during the life of the Rudd Government.

Please God that these asylum seekers are treated more decently and fairly than those poor souls who came in the time of Howard and Ruddock.Hopefully they will not have to endure the tags- illegals, SUNCS, queue jumpers etc from bigoted politicians and rancid media.Is it possible for Australia to remember that we are signatories to the Refugee Convention and act accordingly?Perhaps with decent political leadership we just might get it right this time.

Navy intercepts boat carrying people off WA coast

Posted 1 hour 7 minutes ago Updated 54 minutes ago, 30.9.08.

The Royal Australian Navy has intercepted a boat carrying 14 people near Ashmore Islands, 320 kilometres off Western Australia's north-west coast.

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans says the boat had 12 passengers and two crew.

The nationalities of the passengers, 11 men and one woman, and their reason for travelling to Australia are yet to be confirmed.

The group will be taken to Christmas Island for processing.

They are expected to arrive later this week.--

Pamela Curr Campaign coordinator
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
12 Batman St
Melbourne 3003
Ph 03 93266006 / Fax 03 93265199



$US700b bailout deal voted down

Anne Davies, Washington, smh

September 30, 2008 - 7:11AM

Wall Street's benchmark Dow index has suffered its worst single-day points hit ever after a $860 billion ($US700 billion) financial bailout package failed to pass the US House of Representatives.

The Dow lost about 778 points, or 6.98%, posting its biggest daily percentage decline since the October 1987 stock market crash, while the benchmark S&P 500 also had its worst day in 21 years after the House sent the bailout plan to defeat by a vote of 228 to 205.The tech-heavy Nasdaq had its worst day since April 2000 when the Internet bubble collapsed.

Market fear was deep and widespread, as investors dumped stocks for the relative safety of US government bonds. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, Wall Street's main barometer of investor fear, jumped 39% to 48.40, a nearly six-year high, and was at 46.72 at the close.

''I am shocked. Credit markets were struggling even with the prospect this bill was going to get passed. Now the bill doesn't get passed and it just throws one more monkey wrench into the mix,'' said Bob Doll, global chief investment officer of equities at BlackRock Inc, one of the world's largest asset managers.

The failure of the bailout bill means the US Treasury now has very limited capacity to bailout firms in the future, and economists are predicting that credit markets will seize up, preventing businesses and people from getting loans for ordinary day-to-day business activities, for college fees, for cars, and for appliances as well as for housing. Consumer and business interest rates are likely to rise sharply.

House leaders from both parties warned members that without the bill, America was standing on a financial precipice, which could send the US economy into a deep recession.The defeat of the bill came despite impassioned pleas by the leadership of both Republican and Democrat parties to vote for it. But 132 Republicans and 94 Democrats voted against it. Most had expected that more Republicans would support it as it was an administration bill.

The House leaders were scrambling to find a procedural way to bring the bill back before Congress before the members go home later today to begin campaigning for re-election.The overriding question for congressional leaders was what to do next. Congress has been trying to adjourn so that its members can go out and campaign. And with the November 4 Election Day looming, there was no clear indication of whether the leadership would keep them in Washington. Leaders were huddling after the vote to figure out their next steps.

A White House spokesman said that US President George Bush was ''very disappointed" the bill had failed.''There's no question that the country is facing a difficult crisis that needs to be addressed,'' Tony Fratto told reporters. He said the president will be meeting with members of his team later in the day ''to determine next steps.''''Obviously we are very disappointed in this outcome,'' Fratto said. ''There's no question that the country is facing a difficult crisis that needs to be addressed. The president will be meeting with his team this afternoon to determine the next steps and will also be in touch with congressional leaders.''

The mind-numbing vote had been preceded by unusually aggressive White House lobbying, and spokesman Tony Fratto said Bush had used a call list of people he wanted to persuade to vote yes as late as just a short time before the vote.Lawmakers shouted news of the plummeting Dow Jones average as lawmakers crowded on the House floor during the drawn-out and tense call of the roll, which dragged on for roughly 40 minutes as leaders on both sides scrambled to corral enough of their rank-and-file members to support the deeply unpopular measure.They found only two.Bush and his economic advisers, as well as congressional leaders in both parties had argued the plan was vital to insulating ordinary Americans from the effects of Wall Street's bad bets. The version that was up for vote today was the product of marathon closed-door negotiations in Congress over the weekend.

''We're all worried about losing our jobs,'' Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican, declared in an impassioned speech in support of the bill before the vote.

''Most of us say, 'I want this thing to pass, but I want you to vote for it - not me.''

With their dire warnings of impending economic doom and their sweeping request for unprecedented sums of money and authority to bail out cash-starved financial firms, Bush and his economic chiefs have focused the attention of world markets on Congress, Ryan added.''We're in this moment, and if we fail to do the right thing, Heaven help us,'' he said.Asked whether majority Democrats would try to reverse the stunning defeat, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, ''We're certainly not going to abandon our responsibility. We'll continue to focus on this and see what actions we can take.''Several Republican aides said the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, had torpedoed any spirit of bipartisanship that surrounded the bill with her scathing speech near the close of the debate that blamed Bush's policies for the economic turmoil.Without mentioning her by name, Representative Adam Putnam, the No. 3 Republican, said: ''The partisan tone at the end of the debate today I think did impact the votes on our side.''Putnam said lawmakers were working ''to garner the necessary votes to avoid a financial collapse''.But the defeat was already causing a brutal round of finger-pointing.

''We could have gotten there today had it not been for the partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House,'' House minority leader John Boehner said. Pelosi's words, the Republican said, ''poisoned our conference, caused a number of members that we thought we could get, to go south.''

Representative Roy Blunt, the Republican No. 2, estimated that Pelosi's speech changed the minds of a dozen Republicans who might otherwise have supported the plan.Representative Barney Frank, a Democrat, scoffed at the explanation.''Well if that stopped people from voting, then shame on them,'' he said. ''If people's feelings were hurt because of a speech and that led them to vote differently than what they thought the national interest (requires), then they really don't belong here. They're not tough enough.''More than a repudiation of Democrats, Frank said, Republicans' refusal to vote for the bailout was a rejection of their own president.''The Republicans don't trust the administration,'' he said. ''It's a Republican revolt against George Bush and John McCain.''In her speech, Pelosi had assailed Bush and his administration for reckless economic policies.''They claim to be free market advocates when it's really an anything-goes mentality: No regulation, no supervision, no discipline. And if you fail, you will have a golden parachute and the taxpayer will bail you out. Those days are over. The party is over,'' Pelosi said.''Democrats believe in a free market,'' she said. ''But in this case, in its unbridled form, as encouraged, supported, by the Republicans - some in the Republican Party, not all - it has created not jobs, not capital. It has created chaos.''
with Agencies.


Elisabeth Sexton, smh

September 30, 2008

AN OVERFLOWING public gallery greeted yesterday's opening of a Supreme Court trial, which sufferers of asbestos diseases hope will bring James Hardie to account and which the corporate regulator expects to define how much openness the law expects of company directors.

Beginning a civil case against 10 former executives and directors of James Hardie, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission said it would prove there was no basis for unqualified statements in 2001 that a new trust had enough money to compensate for all asbestos diseases caused by the company's products.

Three years later it had emerged that the $293 million James Hardie had left in the trust was about $1.5 billion short. After a public furore, including a special commission of inquiry, the company set up a new scheme.

The commission wants Justice Ian Gzell to ban the 10 former executives and directors from company directorship and to impose fines of up to $200,000.

About 30 supporters of asbestos disease sufferers attended the hearing, including a tearful Karen Banton, the widow of the prominent asbestos campaigner Bernie Banton.

Ms Banton said she was "very thankful" the company had set up a new compensation scheme last year "but now it's time for these people to be accountable for trying to mislead many people, including the shareholders and asbestos sufferers".

The commission's barrister, Tony Bannon, SC, said "misleading and deficient" public statements by James Hardie were intended to ensure the company could proceed unimpeded with a corporate restructure between 2001 and 2003.

"A key objective of the restructuring was to protect the vast majority of its assets from asbestos liability claims," Mr Bannon said.

When the restructure began in February 2001, a company press release said the "fully funded" trust provided "certainty" for claimants and shareholders.

Senior executives knew these unequivocal statements could not be supported, Mr Bannon said.

The non-executive directors had a duty to ensure there was a "clear and supportable basis" for the statements.

The case "brings into sharp focus" the role of non-executive directors in evaluating "significant public assurances", he said.

Wayne Attrill, a former in-house lawyer at Hardie now working in Ireland, gave evidence that when he saw a final draft of the February 2001 press release he went "immediately with misgivings" to Hardie's then head of corporate affairs, Greg Baxter.

Cross-examined by Bret Walker, SC, for Hardie's former general counsel Peter Shafron, Mr Attrill said that a week before the press release was issued he gave Hardie's external actuarial adviser, Karl Marshall from Trowbridge Consulting, data on asbestos claims up to December 2000.

Six months later Mr Attrill was at a meeting where Mr Marshall said Trowbridge's estimate of the amount needed for compensation was now higher because the firm had not received accurate claims data in February.

"If in your understanding of that meeting on 6 August 2001 that was a reference to the kind of information you had supplied back on 8 February 2001, that was simply wrong of Mr Marshall to say that, wasn't it?" Mr Walker asked.

"Yes," Mr Attrill replied.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Red News Readers,

At last!! Not all we wanted but better than the previous government,

Jenny Haines

Govt to fund extra 1,000 nursing places

September 29, 2008 - 11:13AM, smh

The federal government says it will help fund more than 1,000 new nursing university places.

The announcement will take the number of commonwealth-supported places to 1,094, from next year.

Three-hundred places have been allocated to campuses in regional areas. There are 55 more midwifery places and 130 openings for specialist mental health nurses.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the announcement while visiting John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle ahead of a community cabinet meeting.

Mr Rudd said nursing was a "priority area" and the extra places would help to increase nursing staff in the hospital system.

"That will benefit patients in the health system significantly and, ultimately, the community," a statement from Mr Rudd and cabinet colleagues said.

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SIEV-X questions sink leadership credentials

Michael Mullins,

September 15, 2008

We have now had our first opportunity to read excerpts from the memoirs of former deputy Liberal leader Peter Costello, which were published in the Fairfax press at the weekend ahead of tomorrow's release of the book. For most of this year, the widely anticipated work has focused public attention on who would have better led the Coalition into the 2007 Federal Election.This discussion has assumed a narrow definition of leadership that does not go beyond the ability to win elections.

It makes sense, as far as it goes. John Howard won more elections than any other prime minister since Menzies, therefore he is Australia's best Prime Minister since Menzies. The supposition that Costello might have had more chance than Howard of defeating Labor in 2007, is enough to conclude that the Liberal leadership should have passed to Costello some time before the election.

The assumptions underlying these commonly accepted propositions have rarely been questioned. If the discussion of recent months had included scrutiny of the qualities required for leadership, we might have revised them to include moral fortitude.

If morality becomes a criterion for leadership, we then need to ask different questions. Such questions are asked by a study that was released last week, just ahead of Costello's memoirs.

It is The SIEV-X: Insidious Conspiracy or Fortuitous Tragedy?, a seven-page position paper published by the Melbourne-based Christian lobby Social Policy Connections.As is known, though not so widely, 146 children, 142 women and 65 men died when an old wooden fishing vessel being used by people smugglers, sank while en route from Indonesia to Australia on 19 October 2001.

The paper's author Emmy Silvius points out that a month before the SIEV-X sank, John Howard revealed that he had authorised 'saturation surveillance' of international waters between Australia and Indonesia.

Howard said: 'We don't, in this nation, sink boats . But we're certainly talking about acts which are designed to deter.'

But deterrence became disruption, which in turn could very well have become sabotage - the Australian Government's answer to the French Government's Rainbow Warrior deterrence bid.

Then Minister for Immigration Philip Ruddock claimed some time afterwards that physically disrupting the work of people smugglers was one of the main reasons for the decline in asylum seeker boats coming to Australia. Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty explained that the AFP provided equipment, training and travel costs to those Indonesian authorities involved in disruption activities.

So far none of the ministers involved in the people smuggling disruption program has categorically denied that the disruption program in Indonesia ever involved sabotage of a people smuggling vessel. The Howard Government ignored Senate Committee advice and Senate motions calling for a judicial inquiry into the sinking of the SievX.

As Silvius concludes: 'This has to be the lowest point of Australian politics. How is it possible that a government can get away with covering up the largest Australian-related civilian catastrophe in the history of this country?'

The voices of political leaders with moral backbone should have been heard above the silence that surrounded the handling of this issue. They were not, as leadership efforts were focussed on issues such as border protection and economic prosperity, in the interest of winning elections.

LINK:Social Policy Connections. SIEVX.com



By Ross Smith

Rimfire Review

Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all.John Maynard Keynes
Political Economist 1883 – 1946

AS THE American authorities made the biggest bank seizure in US history, the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, a right-wing, pro-American leader, declared that "laissez-faire is over" and continued with "The idea that the market is always right is a crazy idea." He is in good company. The German Chancellor, the conservative Angela Merkel, said: "It was said for a long time, 'Let the markets take care of themselves'." But now "even America and Britain are saying, 'Yes, we need more transparency, we need better standards"'.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, added a liturgical flavour by saying that an excess of faith in the market had become a kind of "idolatry". And all of them were really just repeating something that the American financier and philanthropist George Soros has been saying for years. "Unfortunately, we have an idea of market fundamentalism, which is now the dominant ideology, holding that markets are self-correcting, and this is false."

The comments of these world leaders indicate that the worldwide call for regulation and transparency is not entirely a Socialist knee jerk reflex. The comments do raise the question of ‘Are we watching the demise of Capitalism, which arose from the decline of Socialism, and a return of the pendulum to a central position whereby the excesses of both models can be avoided?’

The situation in USA where banks and other financial institutions have collapsed due to following ‘market forces’ philosophy based operational practices is an extremely clear indication that the worldwide Privatisation and Deregulation credos are basically flawed.

This flaw has also been demonstrated in Australia, as has the flow on effect. A prime example is the meteoric rise in prices in the housing ownership/tenure sector, and the attendant decrease in affordability for the public. Another example is the all time high personal debt level in Australia. The theme of the pop song, ‘I owe my soul to the company store’ is very apt in today’s economic climate..

In an attempt to minimise the flow-on damage to the community the USA Government is now proposing buying back/propping up the financial infrastructure they ‘Privatised’ or ‘Deregulated’ for an income stream boost. In doing so they are reimbursing the speculators that made a personal commercial decision to buy-in, and providing a return on capital to those speculators. This is being done with money raised from the community through the taxation system. The community members who suffered from the decision to Privatise and endorse/apply Market Forces are not being bailed out. The inequity of the supply of assistance does raise questions of whose welfare is more important to the USA government – the speculator or the consumer? The spectre of Capitalism being supported at the expense of the community arises.

This concept, as proposed by the USA President, has caused a major political reaction from his own party – they do not see it being the role of the government to bail out the Finance Sector. They are calling it ‘Nationalisation’, which is directly opposed to their credo of Capitalism.

A similar finance sector support/bailout situation is emerging in Australia, with the recent announcement of the Australian government’s intention to purchase packets of mortgages from the Financial sector.

The proposed bailout for the Australian Financial Sector is based on the Government purchasing ‘AAA’ rated Mortgages from the financial institutions. The parcels of mortgages are known as ‘Collateralised Debt Obligations’, the sale of which was the underlying cause of the current world wide Credit Crunch. The CDOs were rated by the Credit Rating Agencies, for a commission based fee three times larger than the fee for rating a Corporate Bond issue. Unfortunately the ratings were not accurate when tested in the crucible of reality.

Are these self same Credit Rating Agencies, the authors of the current credit crunch, now to be allowed a second bite of the cherry? What proof is there that they have lifted their game? Why should they be paid more money to be part of the proposed solution to a problem they created? A medical practitioner is not allowed to have an interest in a funeral parlour, yet a dentist is allowed to make and sell dentures. The rationale for the restriction on the doctors’ commercial opportunities is that they should not be able to profit from the death of their patient [client]. Why should the Credit Rating Agency be treated as a dentist?

The concept of provision of government funds to the Financial Sector membership to enable them to have an income whilst they are not earning their daily bread [and also not paying taxes] is the same as the provision of a sustenance level income to the unemployed individual community member. The variance is the requirement of Mutual Obligation imposed on the individual. It is to be hoped that the government will impose the requirement to deliver benefit to the community on the proposed ‘CentreLink’ payments to the Financial Sector.

The Australian public recognise the long term expense to the community of generalised Infrastructure Privatisation. A current prime example of this recognition capacity was the community opposition to the Privatisation of Electricity in NSW. The NSW government’s failure to accept the public’s wisdom lead to its internal collapse with the ultimate price to yet be determined at the Ballot Box. A prime example of historic sale of government owned Financial Infrastructure was the sale of the Commonwealth Bank – now one of those being potentially offered the rescue line of being able to sell its mortgages to the government.

An inherent risk of the Australian government’s proposed rescue line is that it will preserve the high earnings level of the sector and thus perpetuate the high cost to the customer. It does not set out a mechanism to reduce the cost of money to the customer, nor does it set out a mechanism for the product purchase price to the customer to be lowered. The sector will attempt to pass on the compliance costs to the customer. The overall result will not increase the affordability of housing for example, nor will it increase the ability to access housing.

The issue of why should a predatory lender be guaranteed their profit arises. One option would be for the government to declare all predatory loans to be null and void with title for the property passing to the intended victim, the borrower. This option would cause the finance sector shareholders, not the current or future customer, nor the community, to carry the losses arising from predatory lending. After all, they were happy to accept the profits in the form of dividends. It would provide the shareholders with an incentive to be aware of the ethics of the business they own.

How the Australian government handles the financial situation arising from the world wide credit crunch will be a defining moment in Australia’s political history.

It will be interesting to see if they adopt a Doctor or Dentist approach to selection of the players for the bail-out, and the conditions applied to those receiving assistance on both sides of the finance agreements.

Ross Smith, Waterloo


The RIMFIRE Review is the weekly opinion publication of the National Tenant Support Network. It offers readers an opportunity to say what should be said, as distinct from what can be said, with anonymity, in the public arena. You are welcome to submit considered and robust opinion pieces for publication in the RIMFIRE Review, however, final editorial privilege will be vested in the Coordinator of the National TSN. 2007©RIMFIRE REVIEW.

Dougal Siam, Editor in Chief

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Sarah Price, smh

September 28, 2008

NSW is the most racist state in Australia, a 10-year study has found.

Challenging Racism: The Anti-Racism Research Project also found that while Australians were largely welcoming of diversity, the view of national identity was still narrow.

The first results of the study will be unveiled at the 4Rs international conference - Rights, Reconciliation, Respect and Responsibility - at the University of Technology, Sydney, which starts on Tuesday. The full results will be released early next year, with the data to be used by human rights and anti-discrimination agencies across Australia to implement strategies specific to the needs of each region.

The study, led by human geography and urban studies professor Kevin Dunn, from the University of Western Sydney, found high rates of migration meant NSW, on average, was the least tolerant of all the states and territories.

It scored highest when people were asked if Australia was weakened by ethnic groups sticking to their old ways and if there were any cultural or ethnic groups that did not fit into Australian society.

"If you were to do a very crude comparison to other states, NSW doesn't do quite so well, but there are lots of reasons why," Professor Dunn said.

A high rate of migration concentrated in Sydney meant a higher rate of encounters with different cultures and a greater cause for friction.

"It means that much of the work of accommodating diversity is done within Sydney," he said.

"It's done well. This [finding] isn't something necessarily that we should be overly anxious about.

It just means that there is more opportunity for poor cross-cultural contacts to have occurred."

With regard to Camden, the scene of a public fight against a planned Islamic school, Professor Dunn said: "A flare-up about an Islamic school in Camden is somewhat exacerbated in that area as it is a place that hasn't really dealt with cultural difference historically. But if you look at the data on Camden, [its residents] are no different than the norm in terms of their attitudes towards Muslims."

Ashfield, however, came out positively in nearly every aspect of the study, thanks to long-term encounters with diverse cultures.

"It could be one of the most tolerant areas in Sydney," he said.

Women were found to be more tolerant than men, with one exception - attitudes towards Muslims.

Dr Anne Pedersen, a social psychologist from Murdoch University, said the study findings were vital.

"You hear that Australia is an accepting country but we're just so diverse," she said. "Some are [tolerant], some are not, but sweeping this under the carpet does no good whatsoever."

Asma Yusra, a 21-year-old Muslim from Lakemba who will speak at the conference, said "I love the Australian culture, the music and food," but she has suffered racial prejudices.

In one incident, she recalls being at Town Hall station and having a man throw a newspaper at her face, opened at a story about a terrorist attack.

"I was deeply hurt by that experience. I feel just as Australian as everyone else. I was born and raised here," she said.

She is optimistic about the future, saying the children of migrant parents were working in their communities for tolerance.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Red News Readers,

The "joys" of privatised electricity services!! I think the Coroner here was too nice to Mr A, and his company Vircom. Even if the deceased patient's family did not tell Mr A that the ventilator required electricity, he could have asked, or used his common sense and looked more closely, given the importance of the equipment to maintaining her life!!

Jenny Haines

Cut off: electricity debt deadly for oxygen machine woman

September 23, 2008 - 1:19PM, smh

A patient such as Mrs Muliaga would probably not read past the first paragraph in the letter. It is not an effective piece of communication from the patient's point of view

A decision by a power company to cut electricity to the home of a New Zealand woman on an oxygen machine who owed them money contributed to her death, a coroner has found.

Coroner Gordon Matenga today handed down his findings into the death of Folole Muliaga whose death made international headlines last year and prompted debate about corporate responsibility.

Ms Muliaga, 45, died on May 29 last year owing the government-owned Mercury Energy $138.

Her death occurred just hours after power to her Mangere, Auckland, home was cut off for non-payment.

"The cessation of oxygen therapy and the stress arising from the fact of the disconnection (as opposed to the way in which the power was disconnected) have contributed to her death," the coroner found.

He said Ms Muliaga was morbidly obese at the time of her death, and she died of arrhythmia following the disconnection.

Soon after her death, her family accused a contractor who carried out the disconnection of knowing she was reliant on an oxygen machine to breathe.

But the coroner found that while the contractor, only known to the court as Mr A, would have had to walk over a tube running from the oxygen machine, he did not notice it.

"Neither Folole Muliaga nor (her son) Ietitaia has said anything to Mr A which would a alert him to Mrs Muliaga's state of health, her use of the oxygen machine, or her need for the power to remain connected to that the machine remained operational," the coroner said.

"I am satisfied that had either Ietitaia Muliaga or Mrs Muliaga told Mr A that electricity was needed to run a machine which provided oxygen to Mrs Muliaga that Mr A would have exercised his discretion in favour of no disconnection," Matenga said.

The coroner said that government-owned business Mercury Energy, or its parent company Mighty River Power, were bound by laws that included the need to show social responsibility.

He said guidelines for New Zealand's electricity industry were in place at the time of Muliaga's death, and Mercury Energy had not fully complied with them.

While the guidelines said customers who thought they faced excessive hardship from a disconnection should let the retailer know, the guidelines also said information should be supplied on how to do this.

"Mercury Energy did not provide information about self-identification for such vulnerable customers," the coroner found.

"It is perhaps no surprise then that the Muliaga family did not advise Mercury Energy of Mrs Muliaga's medication condition," he said.

The coroner was also critical of the processes of the Counties Manukau Health Board, which ran the Middlemore hospital where Muliaga was treated just weeks prior to her death.

He said a letter that may have been given to Muliaga when she left hospital was written clearly for a medical audience.

"A patient such as Mrs Muliaga would probably not read past the first paragraph in the letter. It is not an effective piece of communication from the patient's point of view," he said.

He was critical of the hospital's Do Not Attempt Resuscitation policy, detailing how patients and their significant others should be told about the benefits and risks of resuscitation.

"There is no record that any informed discussion took place with Mrs Muliaga and there was no discussion with members of Mrs Muliaga's family.

"This is not good enough," he said.

Vircom EMS, the company contracted by Mercury Energy which cut the power to Muliaga's home, welcomed the coroner's findings.

"Vircom has reviewed the findings carefully and accepts the statements made by the coroner in relation to the company, its contractors and staff and their actions," the company said in a statement today.

"The sympathies of the company remain with the family," it said.



Red News Readers,

Never forget Phillip Ruddock!!

Jenny Haines

September 27, 2008, smh

Connie Levett finds a family detained under the watch of Philip Ruddock has left the scars at the bars.

SHAYAN BADRAIE loves his soccer, has taken up karate, and most importantly, can look you in the face and shyly answer questions. Seven years ago, many feared Shayan would not survive Australia's mandatory detention system. He was mute, wasting away and traumatised as the immigration minister, Philip Ruddock, and his department resisted calls to free him from the source of his trauma: detention.

What was the chance Shayan, now 13, would overcome post-traumatic stress disorder - sparked by the horrors he witnessed inside Woomera and Villawood detention centres - to enjoy this new life in Australia? Buckley's, or "Bucklies", as a controversial ministerial minute signed by Mr Ruddock noted.

The Immigration Department relented in August 2001, letting Shayan out after damning media coverage of the traumatised six-year-old's plight. Shayan was then separated from his family, who remained in detention, and was placed in foster care, where he continued to struggle.

Mr Ruddock received advice, in a ministerial minute signed by him on October 4, 2001, that "the ideal situation would be for the family to be together outside the detention environment".

Next to the paragraph, someone had written "Bucklies".

The ministerial minute was cited in the Badraies' successful 2005 compensation case against the Commonwealth for its treatment of Shayan. "The word 'Buckley's' misspelt as 'Bucklies' appears to be in [Ruddock's] handwriting on the minute," Andrew Morrison, SC, for the Badraies told the court in his opening address. The Crown's legal team made no objection or denial to the claim.

Mr Ruddock yesterday refused to comment on whether he had written the "Bucklies" remark, saying it was not appropriate to do so in case further litigation was forthcoming.

Jacquie Everitt, a refugee advocate and author, said: "At the time, the people trying to get Shayan and his family released into the community did not know the level of intransigence by the department. They thought it was a glitch in the system that was preventing the release of the child into a safer environment."

In recent weeks Mr Ruddock has sought to soften public perception of his controversial ministry.

But The Bitter Shore, a new book by Everitt, will do nothing to help his cause. It retraces the hard-hearted treatment of Shayan, a six-year-old Iranian refugee (who came to Australia by boat with his father, Saeed Badraie, and stepmother, Zahra Saberi, in March 2000), as he slipped into psychological paralysis, and the government's efforts to turn public opinion against the family.

"The greatest shock for me, in researching the Badraie story, was that a minister of the Crown was kept appraised at all times by his own staff of what a six-year-old child was going through, yet could not be moved to compassion," said Everitt, who first brought attention to Shayan's plight after meeting the family in Villawood detention centre in mid-2001. "Whatever you might think of his parents' claims, the child was very ill. After reading hundreds of thousands of pages of documents I saw so little hint that they saw this as anything but a case to be managed."

The documents show Mr Ruddock and his department were well aware of the Badraie case. Immigration Department correspondence suggested Shayan, at the behest of his parents, may be exaggerating his trauma and refusing to eat while in detention. Between May and August 2001 the child was hospitalised seven times for rehydration. Doctors at the Children's Hospital at Westmead wrote to the minister in late May highlighting the need for Shayan's removal from detention, with his family.

Nothing was done until Everitt smuggled a video camera into Villawood so the public could hear and see, first hand, Shayan's plight.

Through all this controversy, Everitt said, the Immigration Department believed it had successfully managed the case.

"In January 2002, Bill Farmer, the department secretary, sent emails to officers involved in the case thanking them and saying, 'The result is one which bears witness to the strength of performance by the department.' "

Asked if, with hindsight, Mr Ruddock believed the government had failed Shayan Badraie, the former immigration minister refused to answer, citing possible future litigation.

"I was certainly of the view alternative detention arrangements were appropriate for children but that did not mean others, particularly the principal [on the asylum claim] should be released," he said.

Despite their bitter start to life in Australia, the Badraie family are determined to make it work. Saeed, 39, Zahra, 37, Shayan and eight-year-old Shabnam, who was born in Woomera, live in western Sydney and became Australian citizens last month. Saeed has a small painting business,

Zahra works in child care. Shayan says his favourite thing to do is play soccer, then strikes a karate pose as he tells of his new hobby.

"We learnt we have to be more patient and not expect the things we thought about Australia," Zahra said. "Shayan is happy. Together as a family we help each other. It was a very hard time, but like this, you can survive."

The Bitter Shore (Pan Macmillan) by Jacquie Everitt will be published in October.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Red News Readers,

Who needs the terrorists to bring America down when we have Wall Street?

Jenny Haines

We can no longer bank on the free market

Richard Ackland,smh

September 26, 2008

There were boys of my acquaintance who, having scraped four Bs in the leaving certificate, were presented by their fathers with a red MG and a seat on the Sydney Stock Exchange, as it then was.

That's going back a while now, but some of them are still there. Some even graduated from broking to a higher calling, "merchant banking".

I've been worried about markets ever since.

Yet we've had reassurance from Messrs Rudd and Swan that this country's system of regulation is second to none, certainly superior to that in the US. The message from the top is that Australia is immune from the uncertainties gripping our powerful friend.

Immediately, I'm concerned.

Consider what is subject to no regulation or regulation-lite: hedge funds, a large proportion of short selling, investment banks, great slabs of the finance business, along with numerous zany financial instruments.

The stock exchange as a regulator of the market is inherently conflicted. The competition regulator has had much of its reach progressively crimped by the High Court, and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission is hardly the best-resourced policeman on the block. It's quite good at shooting down the small-fry transgressors, but the big and the ugly are rarely roped in.

There's also the prudential regulator that keeps an eye on commercial trading banks and insurance companies. It must have dropped off while HIH was heading for the rocks.

Where we do differ from America is that Australia has a more centralised and better-organised regulatory regime. Apart from that, our regulatory aims and strengths are rather similar.

What can't be regulated in any market are things such as sentiment, confidence, fear, herd instincts and greed. They are outside the scope of the most artful draftsperson. So far, no one has come up with a law that forbids people forming a queue outside a bank.

Quite apart from which the regulators on occasions are uncertain about how to regulate. The move this week to restrict short selling is a case in point.

Originally all short sales were to be off, then ASIC relented and said that covered short sales of dual listed stocks would be OK. Since then the Australian Stock Exchange and ASIC have fallen out of step on the whole topic.

In the US the details of the Treasury's "plan" to avert a disaster in capital and credit markets is extraordinarily vague. The details of how the $US700 billion ($837 billion) is to be financed are far from clear. It looks like a case of new debt for old debt. How the trash assets that are to be traded for cash or government paper will be valued is also unknown, let along which institutions qualify for the handout.

Also, assuming all this ultimately comes to a happy end, will capital markets be permitted to return unhindered to the business of manufacturing dubious assets and fee-driven greed?

The biggest unknown of all is, will it work?

Certainly, the downside of all this, the prospect of a trillion-dollar US deficit and the printing of money, and how the interest bill is going to be paid is not in the discussion mix - let along whether taxpayers need to get something more out of this than a hypothetical unclogging of the financial arteries.

It's all a matter of just trusting the US Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, (ex Goldman Sachs) to get things going and restore confidence.

The appearance of George Bush on prime time television looking like a stunned mullet and pronouncing "our economy is in serious danger" would have sent a chill around the world. Of course, he was trying to bludgeon Democrats into supporting Paulson's blank cheque, without debate.

We have all been suckled on the dictum that markets will arrive at the correct outcomes.

Markets do the regulating. What we see is that raw-boned marketeering is really nothing more than an excuse to avoid social responsibility. Everything that can't be resolved by a free market outcome is by definition insoluble, and best forgotten.

To save the market, the taxpayer is now being asked to fund the nationalisation of the "commanding heights of the economy" - banks, mortgage lenders and insurance companies.

Old-fashioned socialists must be dusting off their manifestos.

If we had such a well-regulated system, we'd know the answers to a lot of the unknowns. Yet we don't know, for instance, whether the Reserve Bank and the Treasury here would step in and buy up junk debt from irresponsible financial institutions. And what would happen if they didn't?

Where sentiment turns now is the big unknown. Not even the US Treasury can regulate that. All that we can bank on is "hope".


Thursday, September 25, 2008


Thursday, 25 September 2008

Sophie Black writes in Crikey:

"Australia is the only country in the world which charges innocent people the cost of locking them up," Julian Burnside QC has told Crikey.

As reported in Crikey yesterday, the Australian Government is currently chasing debts from 386 former detainees that add up to a total of almost 8 million dollars. The debts accrued include charges for accommodation in detention centres, food and the cost of transporting detainees to different locations.

Along with these standard costs, solitary confinement for former detainees is separately billed, Burnside told Crikey, with GST added to the final balance.

"A few years ago a detainee took a test case to the Federal Court challenging the constitutional validity of charging innocent detainees the cost of their own detention," says Burnside. "The challenge lost. He was represented by pro bono lawyers. The Government is now chasing him not only for the detention costs ($29k) but also for the government's legal costs ($31k)."

"Several detainees have received bills for up to $250k. A man recently deported received a bill for $512k. One bloke now living in Ballarat is paying off his detention debt at $100 per month. It will take him 170 years to clear it," says Burnside.

According to DIAC spokesperson Sandi Logan, the table below shows immigration related debt waivers and write-offs for the year ended 30 June 2007:

*detention debts might not have accrued in the same year.

The table below shows immigration related debt waivers and write-offs for the year ended 30 June 2008:

*Detention debts might not have accrued in the same year.

In April of this year Commonwealth Ombudsman Professor John McMillan released a report on DIAC's Administration of Detention Debt Waiver and Write-off. The report stated:

Complaints to the Ombudsman’s office indicate that the size of some debts cause stress, anxiety and financial hardship to many individuals who are now living lawfully in the Australian community, as well as for those who have left Australia.

The report made several recommendations, including Recommendation 3:

Where a person is in detention awaiting removal from Australia, DIAC should review the circumstances of the person’s detention to assess whether factors beyond their control led to a delay in resolving their detention, which should result in a reduction in their detention debt.
And Recommendation 4:

The "Notice of Detention Costs Incurred to this Date" should be provided to people in detention at regular intervals during their detention.

Crikey asked Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner's office this morning that given that the power to waive debts to the Commonwealth rests with the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and his delegate, would the Minister consider waiving or suspending Kasian Wililo’s debt?
Nardia Dazkiw, spokesperson for Minister Tanner responded:

Any individual, company, or other organisation can submit a request for waiver of debt under section 34 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act). To date, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and his department have not received a request for waiver of debt from Mr Kasian Wililo.

Tanner's spokesperson told Crikey that there is no intention to review section 47 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act. "It should be noted that under section 47 agencies have significant discretion to determine whether a debt is not economical to pursue."

"Responsibility for the detention debt recovery scheme rests with the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans," Tanner's office told Crikey.

Crikey also asked that given (according to DIAC) an application for waiver of a debt will only be successful “where it is found that there is a moral obligation on the Commonwealth to waive the debt”, did the Minister believe that there is a moral obligation in Mr Wililo’s case?

"The Finance Minister or his delegate will make a decision under section 34 of the FMA Act based on the merits of the case as established by the claimant. Policy guidelines for the operation of waiver of debt are provided by Finance Circular No.2006/05 -- Discretionary Compensation Mechanisms," said Tanner's office.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


16 months in Baxter detention centre: that'll cost you $160,000

Sophie Black writes in Crikey 24/9/08:

Kasian Wililo is a NSW resident with a wife, two young children and a full time job. He's also a former detainee of Baxter Detention Centre. In May this year Mr Wililo's wife Emily opened a letter from the Immigration Department. It was a bill for $161,684.60.
The letter stated that the sum was the total expense incurred by Mr Wililo's stay in Baxter -- with an order for the sum to be paid in 30 days (read here and here):

Mr Wililo is not alone. As of the 30 June 2008, there were 386 persons with active detention debts amounting to $7,705,576, according to Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) spokesperson Sandi Logan.

Any former detainee not granted a Permanent Protection Visa or Humanitarian Visa is billed for their time in detention, and any costs associated with their subsequent deportation.

According to Logan, "... the department has a standardised cost charged per day for detention across all mainland facilities. $125.40 a day is now the standardised rate charged across all mainland centres. The daily maintenance amount is never more than the actual cost of detention incurred by the Commonwealth."

The overall detention costs include the cost of moving the detainee between different detention locations and the daily maintenance cost of detention, made up of expenses such as food and accommodation.

After fleeing Tanzania, Kasian Wililo arrived in Australia as an asylum seeker in 2002. He was held at the Maribyrnong detention centre in Melbourne from Jan 2003 and then Baxter (Port Augusta) detention centre from March 2004 to June 2005.

Mr Wililo was refused a permanent protection visa, but at the Immigration Minister's intervention was granted an onshore temporary spouse visa last September, after marrying Emily Ackland. Kasian met Emily while she was volunteering at Maryibynong detention centre, and they were eventually married inside Baxter Detention Centre. Mr Wililo is still waiting on approval for a permanent spousal visa. His May invoice stated that his outstanding debt would mean the criteria to be met in order to obtain a permanent visa would be "affected adversely."

Crikey understands that there are a handful of couples in Kasian and Emily's situation -- former detainees who have married Australian citizens and been granted temporary spousal visas only to be subsequently billed for their detention stay, with permanent visa approval subject to payment.

In April the Commonwealth Ombudsman Professor John McMillan questioned the value of making asylum seekers pay for their time in detention.

"This outstanding debt impacts on Kasian’s future opportunity to become an Australian citizen, as well as re-entry into this country should we leave for any reason, like to go to Africa to visit his father suffering from AIDS," Emily Wililo told Crikey. "We also have two young children to care for and cannot afford to begin to repay the debt."

"This is outrageous on many levels, but most of all because of the traumatic nature of his detention; to be billed for this has been devastating, confusing, and infuriating," says Mrs Wililo.
DIAC spokesperson Sandi Logan told Crikey: "The power to waive debts to the Commonwealth rests with the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and his delegate (in the Department of Finance and Deregulation). Each case is unique and decided on its individual merits ..."

"The department is mindful of the amount of the debt and has offered the option of a repayment plan, so the individual can service his debt," says Logan.

Mrs Wililo confirmed to Crikey that the couple had been offered a payment plan -- "$4000 up front and enter into a payment plan of the debt plus interest."

Logan also told Crikey that approximately 95% of detention debts are eventually written off.

"The power to waive a debt to the Commonwealth is ... vested in the Minister for Finance and Deregulation (Finance) and his delegates," says Logan.

"The department is able to assist Mr Wililo to prepare a submission for consideration by a delegate within Finance. However it should be noted that an application for waiver of a debt will only be successful where it is found that there is a moral obligation on the Commonwealth to waive the debt," says Logan.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans told Crikey this morning:

I am aware of the difficult circumstances and inequities that the detention debt policy sometimes produces. I have acknowledged publicly that the detention debt system is in need of overhaul and have sought comprehensive advice on this complex issue from the Department.

It has been long-standing departmental policy that persons released from immigration detention after the grant of a Protection or Humanitarian visa are not pursued for their immigration debt on public interest grounds. But we recognise that an inequity may sometimes occur when a person receives a visa other than a Protection or Humanitarian visa, despite having made protection or humanitarian claims, and therefore are still pursued for their detention debt. This is an area that the Department has been asked to explore.

Any changes to the detention debt framework will be part of the Government’s broad strategic overhaul of immigration detention policy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


… as experts condemn his $1b black hole 'beat-up'

Heath Gilmore and Lisa Carty, sun herald

September 21, 2008

MICHAEL COSTA'S $1 billion black hole is a beat-up, two leading academics said yesterday.
Sydney University accounting professor Bob Walker described the outgoing NSW treasurer's infamous press conference - where he revealed the black hole - as a self-indulgent attack on the state's finances.

At the conference Mr Costa gave rise to concerns that NSW must slash spending to retain its triple-A credit rating and tackle a projected $1 billion revenue shortfall.

The new Premier, Nathan Rees, and Treasurer Eric Roozendaal have since promised a November mini-budget to address the revenue shortfall, with major rail projects and other capital expenditure facing the axe.

Professor Walker and his wife, Betty Con Walker, a former NSW Treasury official, said some capital works projects might need to be reprioritised with some economic stimulus but the state's triple-A credit rating was not at risk.

"Costa beat this up because he was sacked and didn't get the [electricity] privatisation through," the Walkers said. "His successors are not necessarily on top of the numbers, and there may be politics involved as well.

"There is no way the public can ascertain whether there is a black hole or not. The Government has withheld the past three financial statements by Treasury despite being required under the Public Finance and Audit Act to publish information on general government receipts and expenditure every month.

"Figures for the 11 months ended May 2008 show a budget surplus of $2.188 million - well ahead of the budgeted figure for the full year of $376 million. No sign of a budget blowout there.

"Alarmist remarks about revenue shortfalls were based supposedly on data for July and August 2008. It would be hazardous to generalise for only one or two months of data, since seasonal factors may be at work."

Professor Walker, former chairman of the council on the cost of government, appointed by the Carr-Egan government, and Ms Con Walker said the fears expressed about the state's triple-A rating were debatable, saying a downgrade from triple-A to double A-plus would increase the interest cost to the state to a modest $14 million, not $500 million, as has been reported.

A spokesman for Mr Roozendaal refused to respond to the claims the budget black hole was fiction and said delaying the release of financial reports was not unusual.


Saturday, September 20, 2008


Doctors do not have monopoly on care: Roxon

Mark Metherell, smh

September 20, 2008

DOCTORS face pay cuts if they insist on doing work that nurses could perform just as easily.

The message, to be delivered tonight in a speech by the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, is likely to anger the medical profession.

Her remarks indicate the Government is thinking of using financial disincentives to drive doctors to relinquish their monopoly on procedures which can be done safely by other professionals, such as delivering babies, issuing repeat prescriptions and wound management.

The speech, to be made in Bathurst tonight at the "Light on the Hill" oration, will call for an end to the "historical anomaly" of doctor-dominated health care. The annual event commemorates Prime Minister Ben Chifley, who fought an intense campaign by doctors against the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, established in 1948.

Ms Roxon, who said Labor also had to overcome entrenched resistance from doctors to introduce Medibank, then Medicare, already has a combative relationship with the president of the Australian Medical Association, Rosanna Capolingua.

"Doctors must and will remain central to our health system. But to date, professional resistance and government funding have prevented the development of a health sector in which services are delivered not only by doctors, but by other health professionals who are safe, potentially cheaper and, most importantly, available," Ms Roxon says in notes for the speech.

But change would be likely to require "pricing signals", she says. "Doctors will need to be prepared to let go of some work that others can safely do.

"To ensure this transition, there needs to be an incentive for doctors to eschew less complex work, and focus on the work that does require their high-level skills and expertise.

"Or if doctors do not want to let go of it, to accept being paid less for devoting their highly skilled and heavily trained selves to less complex tasks then they might."

Ms Roxon points to the need for big changes to Medicare and the way doctors are paid, pointing out that general practitioners are paid for the number of patients they see, not for any health impact they might deliver.

"The current Medicare structure means a GP will receive more money for seeing 10 patients in an hour then they will for seeing three patients, each for longer periods."

This meant there was a financial disincentive for GPs to provide longer, intensive visits that preventive approaches demanded, including showing patients how to lose weight, keep fit and avoid diabetes.

For GPs to be required to undertake prescribing a repeat for the birth control pill was "an extremely economically inefficient proposition".

"There is a longstanding historical anomaly here. Our health system, including funding for health services is organised almost entirely around doctors."

By implementing these reforms, Australia would not only be "redressing the historical bias towards medical intervention and acute care, we will be redressing the historical bias against the traditionally female nursing workforce".

"A few good Labor principles all tied up in one set of reforms."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Narrow view of history

Greg Melleuish, The Australian

September 16, 2008

THE discovery that Stuart Macintyre has been engaged to write the national Australian history curriculum for the Rudd Government has attracted an amount of comment. Some of this has focused on Macintyre's involvement in the notorious letter from members of the University of Melbourne history department condemning Geoffrey Blainey in 1984. Macintyre's one-time communist affiliation has also attracted unfavourable comment.

What has not been discussed is the type of history that Macintyre is likely to recommend for Australian students. His mate, the so-called conservative historian John Hirst, has said, trust me, Macintyre is OK by me. This might prompt many to ask: how reliable is Hirst?

There are three areas one should examine very closely when Macintyre's proposal eventually comes out. These are the role of religion in Australian history, liberalism and business, and understanding Australia's place in the world.

The most devastating critique of Macintyre's historical work was written a number of years ago by left-winger Bob Gould. Gould pointed out that Macintyre had no place for religion in his account of Australian history. In particular Macintyre attempted to write the Catholic contribution out of Australian history altogether. It is worth noting that Hirst is also not all that keen on religion and is a noted opponent of private schools.

The role of religion in Australian history was debated forcefully at the 2006 history summit with former NSW premier Bob Carr, among others, not wishing to include religion in the study of Australian history.

The second issue is an important one. Australia's present prosperity has resulted from both the implementation of liberal principles and the role of private enterprise, including farmers, in developing the country. Unlike Blainey, Macintyre has demonstrated no great enthusiasm for coming to terms with the role that Australian companies have played in Australia's rise to prosperity.

When it comes to the liberalism, Macintyre has demonstrated in his writings that he is only really interested in that variety of liberalism that came out of Melbourne in the 19th century and favours state intervention. Like Judith Brett, he has no time for the other tradition of Australian liberalism based on free trade and individual initiative. Again, while Hirst calls himself a conservative, his conservatism has everything to do with nationalism and almost nothing to do with liberalism and individualism.

There is nothing in Macintyre's corpus to suggest he has much of an appreciation of the wider international environment in which Australia has existed during its history since 1788. He has written almost exclusively on Australia, with an early book on the British Communist party. Blainey, in comparison, has written a world history. Hirst is also fixated only on Australia.

But it is even worse than that. Gould pointed out that not only has Macintyre a British Australian view of the world, as one would expect from the product of a Melbourne public school, his view of Australia is centred on Melbourne and Adelaide. Hirst comes from Adelaide and his career has been spent in Melbourne.

It was interesting that when I wrote a paper for the history summit one of the criticisms that was made of me was that I was a NSW historian.

Given Macintyre's track record, there are good reasons to be worried about the type of curriculum in Australian history that he is likely to produce. We should be wary of the assurances of his mate Hirst.

If Macintyre is true to form it will be a history that excludes religion and that has very little to say about the important role of both business and economic liberalism in the making of Australia. Moreover it will be a history that largely ignores the rest of the world and which has Melbourne as the key to understanding how Australia developed.

If my predictions are correct then we must ask if such a history is really appropriate for students living in the 21st century at a time when we cannot understand the national without the international, when religion has not only refused to die but has made a comeback, and when liberalism and business are more important than ever.

We do not want young Australians getting a history that is outdated.

Greg Melleuish is associate professor of history at the University of Wollongong.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Nursing union fund largesse grows by $100,000

Eamonn Duff, SMH

September 14, 2008

LAST month nurses were outraged to discover that their union boss had signed away $5000 of their membership contributions to sponsor his daughter's football team.

They have since discovered that a further $100,000 will be donated, over two years, to other sporting clubs and community groups.

The six-figure sum was approved by delegates at the NSW Nurses' Association conference this month. As news of the arrangement circulated among 51,000 nurses statewide, the association's general secretary Brett Holmes was again forced to defend the union's use of Nurse Power Fund money, a resource established to "improve the working lives of our members".

"What we have to do is make sure there is a future for the profession," Mr Holmes said. "The council of the association takes these responsibilities very seriously and will not be spending members' money willy-nilly. It's very early days in terms of how that money will be spent.

There will be a very considered approach to any expenditure.

"There are certainly many members who are naturally focused on … particular issues, and we haven't forgotten those issues."

A city nurse, who asked not to be named, accused Mr Holmes of a gross misuse of memberships funds.

"It is important that nurses of this state realise that NSW Nurses' Association funds are being squandered on community service activities, rather than being redirected into scholarships or assistance packages for nurses willing to undertake further education and training," she said.

"Another salient point is [that] with the last pay increase, which in reality was less than the current rate of inflation, the NSW Nurses' Association made a considerable increase to the annual cost of members' subscription, a paradox when clearly there are additional funds that can be given away to community groups and not-for-profit organisations."

Nursing staff at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital demanded Mr Holmes's resignation after the union donated $5000 to the Hills District Women's Football Club. Mr Holmes's daughter Corinne, 15, is one of its star strikers.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Arjun Ramachandran, smh

September 10, 2008 - 2:53PM

A magistrate this afternoon refused an application by former NSW doctor Graeme Reeves - charged with 17 offences against patients - to be released on bail.

Reeves, 58, has been charged with nine counts of aggravated sexual assault, six counts of indecent assault, one count of female genital mutilation and one count of maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm.

The charges involve 10 women, Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec told reporters today.

"I encourage anyone who has further information about this investigation to contact police immediately," Detective Superintendent Kerlatec said in a statement.

Reeves was arrested at his home in the north-western Sydney suburb of Baulkham Hills at 6am today.

This followed a police raid on a storage unit at Gladesville on Wednesday last week, when documents were seized for examination.

A police prosecutor told the court the offences carried a jail term of up to 20 years and the case was strong.

Reeves's lawyer Greg Murray applied for bail at Parramatta Local Court saying his client was not a flight risk and had co-operated with the police - even providing them with material as recently as Monday.

He said there was no risk of reoffending as his client no longer ran a medical practice. He would also live with his wife at her sister's house.

But the magistrate James Garbett refused bail saying that, while Reeves, who has no criminal record, did not pose a flight risk during the investigation, the situation was now different.

Difficulty for investigators

Reeves covered his eye and looked down as the decision was announced.

Reeves had been "very co-operative" as he was being charged this morning, Detective Superintendent Kerlatec said.

He said the difficulty for investigators had been in distinguishing between medical malpractice and "what is alleged to be criminal incidents".

The investigation had also involved speaking to more than 100 patients, witnesses and health professionals, Detective Superintendent Kerlatec said.

He said the documents seized at the storage facility had been medical records, but he would not speculate why they had been stored there.

Detective Superintendent Kerlatec said that Reeves's alleged victims had been very brave in coming forward.

"Our primary concern is to the victims who still suffer emotionally," he told Fairfax Radio Network.

"We must tip our hats today - they've been very strong, coming forward and providing us with information."

There were potentially hundreds of victims who might still come forward, Detective Superintendent Kerlatec said.

"This investigation is certainly not over. It's been a long seven months. We've had 15 police working full time on this."

- with AAP

Saturday, September 06, 2008


Rees should dump power sell-off: Greens

September 6, 2008 - 11:01AM, smh

Newly appointed NSW premier Nathan Rees should learn by Morris Iemma's mistakes and abandon the proposed electricity sell-off, says Greens MP John Kaye.

Last month the coalition blocked then treasurer, Michael Costa's controversial plan to privatise electricity generators, but a "Plan B" to sell the electricity retailers is still to go ahead.

At his inaugural news conference as premier Friday, Mr Rees confirmed a "divisive" Mr Costa would not be returning to cabinet.

Dr Kaye said dumping Mr Costa now gave Mr Rees a chance to distance his government from the controversial and "unpopular" power proposal.

"Michael Costa's power sell-off divided the Labor Party and devastated the Iemma government's already dismal standing with voters," Dr Kaye said in a statement.

"Premier-elect Rees now has a chance not only to dump Mr Costa but also to free his government from the unpopular and damaging legacy of the former treasurer.

"The new government should not squander this opportunity for a fresh start to the debate about how to manage the state's energy supplies."

At his final news conference as premier Friday, Mr Iemma said pushing ahead with the sell-off of retailers meant the state's generators would inevitably follow.

Dr Kaye said Mr Rees should ditch the plans altogether and work with the Greens towards transforming the state's electricity supplies.

"The incoming premier needs to restore faith with the community, environmentalists and the union movement," he said.

© 2008 AAPBrought to you by

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Red News Readers,

John Watkins is a political chameleon. After the speech he made at the State Conference supporting privatisation he now takes on Costa in Cabinet. Well done John!! But he then resigns!? Who will keep Costa in line now? Or is Costa going to do us all a favour and resign too to take up his much treasured sinecure in some corner of the business world?

Jenny Haines

The deputy bows out leaving his boss in the lurch

Andrew West, smh

September 4, 2008

JOHN WATKINS, the man Morris Iemma yesterday ordained as "one of the greatest marginal seat campaigners in Labor history", may have been able to charm his way into office four times in the quintessentially middle Australian seat of Ryde.

But yesterday, as he stood before his boss to announce his resignation as deputy premier and MP, the sweet talk was transparent.

The Premier gushed cliches about his departing deputy: "My friend and colleague", "an outstanding figure of modern Labor politics [who] never lost his sense of decency", "a man of defining achievements", "a political natural", "always a man of reason and commonsense", "a trusted and worthy ally".

Watkins, in turn, spoke of being "really flattered" that Iemma was attending this valedictory press conference.

But the friendship ended a long time ago. Every time Watkins disavowed an interest in Iemma's job - as he has done so frequently this past year - it was not so much a demonstration of undying loyalty but a blunt message that, sooner rather than later, "I'm outta here".

Watkins admitted as much yesterday when he said his resignation from politics had come a year earlier than expected: "I had decided this would be my last term and expected to perhaps serve for about another year."

Note the timing. He was not planning a mid-term retirement to the back bench, serving until the next election. Watkins was admitting that he planned to leave Parliament about 18 months before the 2011 poll, at an even more vulnerable moment for Iemma or, as is looking increasingly likely, his successor. He even cited the mid-term resignations of Bob Carr, Andrew Refshauge and Craig Knowles as precedents.

This is not the sign of a harmonious government, seamlessly regenerating itself with fresh talent. It is a government hemorrhaging talent.

It is also a sign that the Treasurer, Michael Costa, still has Iemma in his thrall. Watkins and Costa loathed each other but Iemma chose Costa.

Watkins believed that in two key portfolios, police and transport, he had been brought in to clean up Costa's political debris. The two clashed constantly and publicly contradicted each other recently over the issue of redundancies in CityRail. While Watkins declared in the Herald that CityRail jobs were safe, Costa told The Weekend Australian cuts were going ahead.

On Monday, the normally placid Watkins unloaded at Costa in cabinet. He attacked the Treasurer for leading the party into a political dead end over electricity privatisation. Costa reportedly fled the room; Iemma was speechless.

Labor holds Ryde with a margin of 10 per cent, having suffered a 5 per cent swing against it in 2007. Last night, Labor officials were speaking pessimistically about the party's chance in the by-election, likening it to the 17.5 per cent swing the Unsworth government suffered in Bass Hill after the retirement of Neville Wran in 1986.

As one party figure put it, this early retirement "is Watkins's revenge".

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Delayed electricity retailer sale pushes proceeds back a year

Brian Robins and Alexandra Smith, smh

September 2, 2008

THE sale of the first of the state's electricity retailers to be privatised has been delayed. It is not expected to be put up for sale until next year, so any money from the sale is not likely to be received this financial year.

At the same time, fears NSW will lose its AAA credit rating has resulted in investors fleeing the market for investments issued by the State Government, driving up the cost of borrowings.

The financial fallout emerged as the Premier, Morris Iemma, yesterday warned the Treasurer, Michael Costa, to "zip the mouth, put the head down and get on with the job".

The warning came after Mr Costa indicated he would quit politics if he did not get his way on a raft of reforms and public sector cuts. "That's the message for him, loud and clear," Mr Iemma said, adding that all MPs should heed the message.

NSW Treasury has estimates that a cut in the state's credit rating by one notch from AAA would cost $500 million in higher interest payments alone, he said. Investors holding NSW government-issued bonds also face losses, as bond prices have fallen amid concerns about the state's creditworthiness.

The Opposition energy spokesman, Mike Baird, said investors pushed up interest rates on some NSW government bonds by as much as 10 basis points in a quick reaction to the aborted electricity privatisation plans. "Thirteen years of mismanagement of the state's finances have come home to roost. Putting rates on creditwatch is at least a $20 million impact on borrowing costs, and many more millions to come," he said. NSW has $20 billion of state borrowings.

#Under the original privatisation plan for the state-owned electricity industry, EnergyAustralia was to have been put on the market by the end of the year. That has been delayed until next year, a Treasury official said, signalling sale proceeds will not be received until the 2009-10 financial year.

The delay comes as NSW is facing a steep loss of tax revenue due to the downturn in the property market, while the abandoned electricity sale has forced the Government to compile a mini budget by early November.

In a report, finance giant Citigroup said the failure to proceed with electricity privatisation "is not good news".

By the end of this financial year the NSW Treasury has to borrow another $3.5 billion, and the rise in rates will be felt as soon as it approaches investors to raise the additional funds, officials have warned.