Friday, November 28, 2008


Red News Readers,

What did those who have managed and financed the health system over the last 30 years expect? After years of rationalisation, constant reorganisation, deskilling, de-unionisation, the devaluing of knowledge, skill and experience, and the silencing of important valuable constructive criticism, all done in the name of cost efficiency, did they really expect that they were going to get a rising standard of patient care? Many of those who made the political and departmental decisions that have led to the system that we have now have departed the scene and those who are left are there to pick up the pieces. Hopefully some of the Federal money for health will make a difference if invested wisely and carefully.

Jenny Haines

Public hospitals on 'brink of collapse'

Natasha Wallace and Alexandra Smith, smh

November 28, 2008

Latest related coverage:

Rudd to offer states $6.5b in hospital deal
Revealed: how hospitals lied about records
Report mixes doctor, nurse roles

THE state's public hospitals are "in a period of crisis" requiring an urgent and radical overhaul to make patients "the paramount central concern" and relieve the pressure on overworked medical staff.

In his report released yesterday, Commissioner Peter Garling, SC, warned that the public health system was on the brink of collapse and that staff are so swamped by paperwork patients suffer.

The 1100-page report contains 139 recommendations including that only patients who need treatment within 30 minutes of arriving at hospital be seen in emergency departments, while others should be sent to specialist centres within hospitals staffed by general practitioners.

He said NSW Health should refund patients the cost of medication to treat any infections they picked up in hospital, which is often the result of staff not adequately washing their hands, and staff should wear colour-coded uniforms to be easily identifiable.

Mr Garling, who visited 61 hospitals, took more than 1200 written submissions and heard from 628 witnesses, also said that the health system was plagued by bullying, which he said was "endemic" in hospitals.

His report said that the shortage of doctors in the public system could take years to improve and warned that 22 per cent of nurses in NSW would qualify for retirement in three years.

"To start with, a new culture needs to take root which sees the patient's needs as the paramount central concern of the system and not the convenience of the clinicians and administrators," the report said. "Given the demographic changes and rising costs, it is the case that we have entered into a period of crisis for a public hospital system which has always been free and accessible to all. We are on the brink of seeing whether the public system can survive and flourish or whether it will become a relic of better times."

The NSW Health Minister, John Della Bosca, called it a "landmark report" that would significantly improve the way health care was delivered.

But he conceded that the system had been "stressed and stretched".

The inquiry was begun after criticism from the Deputy State Coroner, Carl Milovanovich, who warned that systemic problems had contributed to the death of teenager Vanessa Anderson at Royal North Shore Hospital.

Vanessa, who was hit by a golf ball in 2005, died from respiratory arrest due to the depressant effects of opiate medication after a doctor misread her chart.

The Premier, Nathan Rees, said the Government would formally respond to the Garling report by March.

Mr Rees said the report had practical and strategic suggestions that would "set the system up for the way forward".

Mr Rees said he would support Mr Garling's recommendation that an independent body report to Parliament on the implementation of the reforms.

However, Mr Rees said he would need advice before committing to a single health service, called NSW Kids, for newborns and children needing acute care.

Kim Oates, the professor of paediatrics and the former head of the Children's Hospital at Westmead, welcomed the concept of a single health service as long as it was not a cost-saving measure for the Government.

Kerry Goulston, a Royal North Shore Hospital gastroenterologist and spokesman for the Hospital Reform Group, said the successful implementation of the recommendations hinged on bipartisan support and an independent, transparent body overseeing the reform.

Professor Goulston said that senior clinicians were "very confident" that Mr Garling's report had the potential to turn the tide on the health system. "We support 100 per cent the whole report. We think it's an extraordinary thing," Professor Goulston said.

The Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, welcomed the report, which he said "exposed the decade-long Labor mismanagement of the state's health system".

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Red News Readers,

Comment submitted to Daily Telegraph blog re this story:

Thousands of people elected Labor to abolish Workchoices and they are doing it. There are disputes over the details, and over the retention of the ABCC, and they are important disputes. The union movement which helped to found and fund the ALP over the last 100 years has every right to make demands on a Labor government in the interests of protecting the working people of this country, particularly with the coming recession, which is undoubtedly going to hit working people hard. James Cuntt (if that is your name), if the Labor Party dies, so do the last vestiges of the protection of living standards in this country. That may not matter to you, but it does to millions of working families.

Jenny Haines

Just two days left until the end of WorkChoices, says Julia Gillard

Article from: AAP

By Kate Hannon and Karlis Salna

November 23, 2008 03:13pm

Government to unveil new workplace laws

Bill will be given to Parliament on Tuesday

'Two days until WorkChoices swept away'

UNIONS have attacked Labor's proposed new industrial relations regime on the eve of the introduction of a Bill designed to see the last vestiges of WorkChoices swept away.
Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard will introduce Labor's long-awaited industrial relations Bill on Tuesday after months of consultation and drafting.

"We promised to sweep WorkChoices away, and we will," Ms Gillard said today.

"It's a short 48 hours away."

The Bill sets out the industrial system which will replace WorkChoices from the start of 2010, including new national employment standards, unfair dismissal laws, good faith bargaining rules and an emphasis on collective bargaining.

It will also establish Fair Work Australia as the new industrial tribunal to replace the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

The system will see the end of organisations created by the Howard government under WorkChoices such as the Workplace Authority, the Workplace Ombudsman and the Fair Pay Commission.

But Labor is facing renewed pressure from unions, which have criticised aspects of the Government's industrial relations policy.

Unions argue that the building sector watchdog – the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) – has too much power and should be abolished immediately.

The ACTU launched a television advertising campaign criticising the Government for failing to move quickly enough on the ABCC.

The ads, which will air for three weeks, feature former federal court judge Rod Madgwick condemning the proposed laws as unfair.

"Unfortunately, not all Australian workers are equal before the law. Construction workers are subject to industrial laws such as we've never before seen in this country," Justice Madgwick says in the ad.

"They can be fined up to $22,000 for stopping work and jailed for up to six months for refusing to answer questions about a workplace meeting."

The Government is refusing to budge, saying the ABCC will remain in place until 2010.

"We said in our policy document Forward with Fairness that we would have a measured process for change, that we would abolish the ABCC on the 31st of January, 2010," Ms Gillard said.

"It (will be) replaced by a new inspectorate in our new industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia."

The Government has already conceded some ground to unions on the new industrial relations laws.

Under the new laws, unions will have greater access to arbitration where disputes are intractable or where economic and other damage is evident.

The Government has also bowed to employer pressure, particularly from those in the mining industry, to allow Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) to continue as long as both parties agree.

However the AWAs will be subject to the 10 national employment standards that will come into force in 2010.

The new Bill is also expected to reveal the final details of the good faith bargaining rules and winding back of restrictions on unfair dismissal protection.

Ms Gillard said it was hoped the Bill would pass through the lower house in the next fortnight, after which it would be referred to a Senate committee.

"We will be asking the Senate to deal with that expeditiously and to deal with the legislation in February next year," she said.

Ms Gillard will face off against Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull in Parliament on Monday with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd not due back in the country until Tuesday.

Mr Rudd has been attending an APEC meeting in Peru.


Maternity leave plan could be shelved

Article from: AAP

November 23, 2008 12:17pm

Paid maternity leave plan not guaranteed

Government coffers shrinking due to credit crunch

ACTU warns leave is "not negotiable"

UNIVERSAL paid maternity leave looks set to be delayed as the Federal Government's coffers continue to shrink on the back of the global financial crisis.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pledged in September the government would "bite the bullet" and introduce a scheme, but the financial crisis has placed a question mark over a range of government plans.

The Productivity Commission's interim recommendation is for a universal $1.3 billion scheme of 18 weeks' paid maternity leave with a $70 million employer top-up.

Australia and the United States are the only developed nations without a universal paid parental leave scheme.

The Government is under pressure to introduce a scheme in next year's budget, but acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that that was unlikely in the face of the global financial crisis.

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook released earlier this month pointed to a $40 billion decline in forecast government revenue.

The Productivity Commission is set to deliver its final report in February.

"Paid maternity leave is something we believe is important but we will look at the final Productivity Commission report and we will weigh it in the budget process," Ms Gillard told ABC TV.

Ms Gillard said the financial crisis had forced the government to reassess its priorities.

"Obviously we want to be in the business of looking at paid maternity leave - that's why we have the Productivity Commission report on it - but we will deal with the final priority setting in the budget."

The ACTU warned last week that a paid maternity leave scheme in next year's budget was not negotiable, saying it was even more important in times of global financial uncertainty


Red News Readers,

This is an odd story. At a time when the Rudd Government is injecting billion dollars into the health system, why are so many staff being reduced in one go? Is none of the Rudd money to reach the North Coast?

Jenny Haines

Up to 400 jobs to be slashed across NSW hospitals

By Kate Sikora and Simon Benson, Daily Telegraph

November 22, 2008 12:00am

UP to 400 full-time jobs will be slashed across the state's North Coast hospitals as a result of the Government's budget cuts.

The Daily Telegraph understands staff have been informed the cuts will be widespread and may affect nurses, cleaners and management.

The Nurses Association has confirmed it has been told of the move by North Coast Area Health Service's chief executive officer Chris Crawford.

It is the first health service to announce cutbacks following the State Government's mini-Budget.
Health administrators have been ordered to shed $200 million in the next four years.

Susan Pearce, the association's acting assistant general secretary, said any job losses would affect patient safety.

"We were informed earlier this week that 400 FTE (full-time equivalent) positions are to go in the NCAHS and that was stated publicly by the CEO," she said.

"Subsequent to that time, we have been informed that nurses will be affected but at this stage, we don't know how many or where. The critical issue is patient safety."

NSW has a nursing shortage with up to 1100 vacancies. The Government plans to reduce the reliance of overtime and casual nursing staff.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner accused the Government of lying that its budget cuts would not affect frontline staffing.

"These 400 job losses will have a terrible impact in already stretched health services," she said.

"These job losses are a direct result of the $64 million worth of spending cuts this year announced in the mini-Budget."

"NCAHS, like other area health services, is reviewing all expenditure to analyse where economies may be made. There will be no forced redundancies," the health service said last night.

"It is too early to speculate about whether voluntary redundancies may be offered to staff, or the number of offers that might be made should this occur."

In good news for the state's south, the Government has reversed a decision to close a trout hatchery in Jindabyne.

The move came yesterday after fierce lobbying from the MP for Monaro Steve Whan.

"There was overwhelming community backlash on this," said a spokesperson for Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Red News Readers,

I am not sure that that the quantum of money is the issue with many teachers. It is the 8 pages of offsets to get the pay increase. Nurses who risk their lives looking after the sick only get 10 days sick leave a year and would love to increase that to the teachers 22 days per year. Nurses also only get 6 weeks annual leave with a possible 7th. It reflects the changes in skill mix in the nursing workforce in recent years that the average pay is that of a 4th year Endorsed Enrolled Nurse. You have to add penalty payments to the quoted rate of pay to get take home pay, but even so, many EENs are studying to become registered nurses at university, so they have to pays HECs fees on graduation, as well as meet mortgage, bills and family costs. Nurses are still undervalued by the employers, government and the community.

Jenny Haines

Teachers better paid than cops, nurses, paramedics

By Maria Tsialis, Daily Telegraph

November 21, 2008 12:00am

TEACHERS are on average far better paid than other frontline workers such as police, nurses and paramedics, a comparison of entitlements reveals.Unions around the state have been fighting the State Government's 2.5 per cent cap on pay increases for months, as frontline workers struggle to deal with the rising costs of living.

While police who risk their lives daily have been told to accept less than the rate of inflation, teachers this week rejected a relatively generous pay rise of 11.4 per cent over the next three years.

Teaching graduates with four years of university enter the workforce on an average wage of about $50,000. After five years they can earn $61,000.

A senior constable with five years service earns $57,000, while ambulance officers with the same amount of time on the job earn $55,000.

After months of bargaining with the Government, nurses traded off working conditions for a 7.8 per cent pay rise over two years, which will mean a fifth-year nurse earns about $58,000.

A qualified firefighter who has been in the brigade for approximately five years also earns about $58,000.

The statistics show frontline workers with equal experience on the job are lagging behind in terms of average pay compared with the state's teachers.

They are also well behind in terms of entitlements, with teachers receiving more than double the number of annual sick days as ambulance paramedics.

Teachers get 12 weeks off a year - twice the amount of police and three times the amount of nurses.

While appearing better off than other workers in the public sector, teachers voted unanimously this week to reject the Government's offer of an 11.4 per cent pay increase over three years.

The increase would have come at a cost of their sick leave, which would have been slashed to 10 days annually.

The Teachers Federation rejected the offer on the basis their members should receive their 22 sick days.

Teachers this week went out on strike over the Government's refusal to agree to terms.

The Federation has vehemently opposed the Government's decision to scrap the transfer system, which would allow schools to hire teachers based on merit.

Education Minister Verity Firth said the Government's offer was a fair one.

"Considering most teachers only take seven to eight days sick leave a year anyway, I would have thought they would like the extra cash," she said. "I believe teachers deserve a pay rise and I believe they deserve more than 2.5 per cent a year but I also believe the offer of 11.4 per cent over three years, with 4.8 per cent in the first year, is a good offer."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Electricity sale by end of 2009

Brian Robins, smh

November 19, 2008

The NSW Government hopes to finalise the sale of the state's electricity assets by the end of 2009, after it was forced to abort plans to sell the electricity generators earlier this year.

Under its revamped plan, the Government hopes to sell the electricity retailers - EnergyAustralia, Integral Energy and Country Energy - along with development sites for power stations, and also trading rights from the generators.

The outgoing Treasury Secretary, Mr John Pierce, said yesterday the sales strategy for the assets to be sold would be finalised within three to four weeks, and the full sales strategy finalised by February or March. The sales were to be completed by the end of next year.

Because of the recent turmoil in financial markets, financing approaches had changed, he said, and bidders would use more equity and less borrowings to fund any purchases. There would be a "greater focus on risk, and the due diligence process is longer".

Even though the electricity market trading rights of the power generators will be sold, the Government will still be exposed to the significant risks attached to volatile wholesale electricity prices.

"It does not remove from the state all of the risk," Mr Pierce told a parliamentary inquiry yesterday, while the private investors buying the risk would gain significant influence over the operations of the power stations, even though they would remain in government hands.

The Greens MP John Kaye claimed the sale of the trading rights would give the buyers significant sway over the activities of the state-owned generators.

"The state will be left owning a shell as all key decisions regarding the management of the state's publicly owned power stations are determined by the successful tenderer for the generator trading rights," Mr Kaye said yesterday.

He said this was the same as the Iemma-Costa government's earlier plans to "lease" the generators to private buyers.

Mr Pierce conceded the sale of the electricity trading rights, together with electricity retailers and development sites at power stations was "the next best option" for the government-owned power assets, after the earlier plans to sell the power generators collapsed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Visa worker deaths double in a year

Yuko Narushima, smh

November 18, 2008

MORE migrants working on 457 visas have died since Labor won the federal election than in more than three years under the previous government, Immigration Department records show.

Despite assurances that the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, was cleaning up the system, at least six temporary skilled workers have died since Labor came to power a year ago.

Three work-related deaths were recorded from 2004 until the Coalition lost office.

A migration analyst, Bob Kinnaird, said the increase was staggering. "This is a matter of life and death. It can't get any more serious."

The minister's spokesman could not explain the rise but pointed to the increase in the number of workers using the scheme. Those figures showed the number of workers, or primary applicants, on the 457 scheme had doubled in the period from 2004. However, the rise in deaths exceeded the rate of increase to the program.

Among the six deaths this year were those of Rey Garcia Jardinel and Antonio Julio Guerrero Pili, electricians, who died in a car crash in Queensland in February. A Chinese welder, Lian Ron Xia, died from head injuries suffered in an industrial accident at Wagga Wagga in September.

Details of the other three deaths have been withheld by the department.

The director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, Bob Birrell, said the number of deaths could be much higher. The department relies on workplace safety investigators and employers to report job-related deaths.

"All the deaths we know about [under the Coalition] were the ones reported in The Sydney Morning Herald," Mr Birrell said.

These occurred in the space of three months last year. In March stonemason Wilfredo Navales was crushed under a 300-kilogram rock. In June machinist Jian Dong Guo was pinned between two trees while felling, and later that month Pedro Jun Balading was thrown from the back of a ute in the Northern Territory.

The increase in recorded deaths since was linked to the source countries of the workers. They increasingly came from the Philippines, China and India, Mr Birrell said.

"The deaths would appear to be the consequence of the changing nature of the program where workers are drawn from developing nations. They often lack English and have debts to migration agents back home. It used to be about workers from western Europe, Japan and the US."

Mr Birrell said migrants were also working for sponsors who were not "mainstream corporate entities", in rural areas and higher risk industries, such as construction.

The department was refusing to release names, circumstances and exact dates of the most recent deaths to protect the privacy of individuals, a spokesman said.

Nor was it possible to break down the $19.6 million allocated to cleaning up the temporary skilled migration system in the 2008-09 budget to show just how much would go to speeding up visa processing, as opposed to monitoring employer compliance.

The Opposition spokeswoman on immigration, Sharman Stone, said sponsor obligations should be explained in detail before worker protection legislation was introduced to Parliament next week. These could outline additional costs to employers, such as topping up insurance payments made to 457 visa workers in the event of an injury.

The Government is under pressure to adopt changes recommended by the recent Deegan report into the 457 scheme. It said workers should be paid at market rates, not minimum salary levels, and allowed more flexibility in changing employers once in Australia.


Rudd continues harsh line on welfare

Stephanie Peatling, smh

November 18, 2008

AS MANY as 60 people a day are having welfare payments withdrawn for eight weeks despite the Federal Government's promise to take a more compassionate approach to job seekers and use the penalty only as a last resort.

The so-called three strikes penalty was introduced by the previous government and was used if people receiving welfare payments failed three times to meet the conditions of their benefits, such as attending a job interview or meeting a Centrelink officer.

Welfare groups are losing faith with the Government's approach to people on welfare payments and said its proposed new system was too complex and did not have enough safeguards.

"The risks with what the Government is proposing are too great, the safeguards too few, the penalties too few and the system far too complex," the president of the National Welfare Rights Network, Kate Beaumont, said.

The Government had promised to limit the occasions on which people's welfare payments were suspended for eight weeks.

Instead it wants to rely on a "no show, no pay" system where people would be docked the equivalent of one day's payment if they failed to meet requirements such as reporting to Centrelink or applying for jobs.

It believes this will be a better way of dealing with the long-term unemployed who are making up an increasing percentage of people without jobs.

The Government wants the new system to be in place from July 1 and is holding a hasty parliamentary inquiry into the proposed changes.

There is one day of public hearings and the Government hopes the legislation will be passed before the end of the year.

In its submission to the inquiry the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations says the eight-week suspension system has not been effective.

Instead of encouraging people to find jobs it had placed them at a greater risk of homelessness and social disconnection, the department said.

"Many submissions argued that the 'penalise first' approach taken in recent years may result in costs to the community in other ways, through imposts on the health, housing and justice systems and by placing additional pressure on non-government welfare organisations to provide support."

Despite this, the numbers of people having their payments stopped is continuing.

The department said although the number had been lower since the election of the Government a year ago the monthly rate was "now significantly higher than it was when the current system was introduced".

At the moment the yearly rate is about 22,000 people or 60 people a day.

While people have their payments suspended they are eligible to receive financial case management. This means Centrelink will pay necessary expenses on their behalf such as rent and medication.

But under the proposed "no show, no pay" system financial case management would not be offered.

"There is no legislated cap on the number of 'no show, no pay' penalties and jobseekers may face an immediate loss of payment," Ms Beaumont said. They also risked bank default fees.

Monday, November 17, 2008


With Howard away, the moderates have a say

Phillip Coorey, smh

November 17, 2008

The travails of being a moderate Liberal during the Howard years are being well demonstrated in a series of new revelations, especially on that most controversial of topics, border protection.

John Howard was used to moderates Petro Georgiou, Judy Moylan and Bruce Baird agitating for change from the time border protection became an issue in the months before the election in 2001.

In The Howard Years, the four-part ABC TV series that begins tonight, both Georgiou and Baird bristle when recounting Howard's now memorable line at the 2001 campaign launch about deciding who comes to this country and the circumstance in which they come.

Baird called it "smart politically" but "on a human basis, I was concerned".

Georgiou said: "When I first saw the slogan I just went 'gulp'."

Joe Hockey lauds the line's political effectiveness: "As he said it, I thought that's the line that's going to capture the mood of the population", while Mark Vaile calls it "incredibly powerful".

Howard maintains flatly that he would have won that election without his hard line on border protection, the MV Tampa, or even September 11, 2001.

Still, he did not like his border protection policy being challenged, be it in 2001 or much later, such as in 2005 when four backbenchers went to the Lodge to lobby for a softening of mandatory detention.

In her book Blind Conscience, the journalist Margot O'Neill recounts Howard's anger at the newcomer Russell Broadbent joining Georgiou, Baird and Moylan. Broadbent was not a moderate and he held a volatile marginal seat but he had become touched by the plight of a constituent trying to help two boys in a detention centre.

Howard shouted at him. "What are you doing with this chardonnay-sipping set? They don't represent the same kind of people as you. Their seats are not like yours. Why are you here? You don't belong in this group."

To illustrate his point, Howard made available for his guests only three chairs, forcing Broadbent to fetch his own.

Confirming the account to the Herald, Broadbent said the Lodge meeting was one of 13 the four had with Howard over mandatory detention. For the first 12 there was no chair for him. Only at the last was his chair there, directly facing Howard and in front of the others.

Howard chose only to deal with Broadbent as a final compromise was nutted out, using him as "a bridge" to the others.

The account of the meeting ends with a hostile standoff between Howard and Georgiou. Each was as stubborn and as resolute as the other, making them more alike than either would care to imagine.

Georgiou and his crew showed guts over the years. While other so-called moderates were quietened by promotion or simply re-educated, the backbenchers endured hostility from their colleagues and watched their careers stall.

They had small victories, the main one during the last term when they made Howard back down on plans to excise the Australian mainland from the immigration zone. In Howard's eyes, and his defence, unity was the hallmark of his government's success. Rabble-rousers, especially those with safe seats, were duty bound to respect the majority view of their colleagues.

Now in Opposition, the ever-determined Georgiou stands poised to achieve more than when he was in government. With Howard gone, Malcolm Turnbull in charge and compassion back in vogue politically, the moderates are quickly reasserting themselves.

The legislation enshrining equal legal and financial rights for same-sex couples is near passing in the Senate, but the most startling example was last week when the Liberal Party led an assault in the Senate to soften its own counter terrorism laws.

In government, Georgiou fought twice to have an independent review mechanism set up to monitor the need for, use of, and efficacy of the laws that gave extraordinary powers to security authorities. He was rebuffed by Howard so he tried again after the election with a private members bill, which the Labor Government then rebuffed.

So last week, after Georgiou's cause became official party policy, the Liberals, with the support of the Greens and independents and the drive of the moderate shadow attorney-general, George Brandis, passed a bill in the Senate to establish the watchdog. One astonished Green said: "Who would have thought we'd see the day when the Liberals were left of Labor on terrorism?"

Georgiou's bill needs to pass the lower house, and it is more likely Labor will introduce its own bill containing similar measures. It is waiting to receive the report this week of the inquiry into the Mohamed Haneef case which undoubtedly will contain recommendations.

Nonetheless, the Liberals - Georgiou in particular - can claim the credit.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


The Editor,

Dear Sir/Madam,

Your opinion leader Marc Hartwich (SMH 15.11.08) advances the case for capitalism over market regulation, or god forbid socialism, at the very time that government intervention has saved, at least temporarily, the gods of the finance industry from their own foolishness. But Mr Hartwich should take a read of the text of Ken Henry's speech to the National Press Club, as reported in Alan Ramsey's column on the 15.11.08, where he spoke about the compexity of financial instruments, now so complex, that no-one really understands them. Ken Henry said "People now not only don't know who they can trust, they don't know who they need to be able to trust."

What basis Mr Hartwich is that for a rational system on which governments and citizens can rely? If companies are to fail, and employees lose their jobs and homes, are they not entitled to know and to trust that there is a rational financial system? Forget Stalinism in Eastern Europe. Isn't market regulation about a sane and controllable system, that does not place the assets and savings of ordinary citizens in peril, when those in the finance market "go off on a frolic of their own"?

Ken Henry went on to say that in future, policy makers are going to be asking "why those with sufficient authority..didn't stand above the buzz of the financial markets and declare, in simple language, that all of this simply does not make sense." Indeed, well said, Ken Henry.

Jenny Haines

Capitalism: bruised but still champion

November 15, 2008, smh

When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, it marked more than the end of an era. It symbolised the triumph of the free West against the tyranny of communism. The open society had won against Soviet-style oppression, and there could no longer be any doubt about which of the two social and economic systems was more viable. Freedom's victory was so remarkable and complete that some political scientists started talking about "the end of history".

But history did not end. The excitement of the immediate post-communist years, after seven decades of ideological confrontation, excuses the optimism among proponents of the free society.

Still they should have known better. Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, key figures in the 20th-century revival of liberal ideas, had warned that history never stops and that intellectual battles are never won once and for all. In a 1944 speech, Hayek told his students at the London School of Economics that "in economics you can never establish a truth once and for all but have always to convince every generation anew". Hayek believed that "knowledge once gained and spread is often not disproved, but simply lost or forgotten".

With the world's financial markets in turmoil for more than a year, and after the collapse of many once respected institutions, we can now experience first-hand what Hayek meant. Where once there was a broad consensus that market solutions usually produce better results than heavy-handed state intervention, around the world the pendulum is now swinging the other way. In Britain, the Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is back from the political dead after he partly nationalised the country's banking industry. In Germany, the conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and her social-democratic coalition partner have given unprecedented guarantees for Germany's financial institutions. In the US, Barack Obama owes his presidential election victory to a widespread desire for more government and less market. Meanwhile, in Australia the Prime Minister has blamed the financial crisis on a "culture of greed" and markets out of control, paving the way for more regulation.

Big government is back on the political stage with a vengeance. Programs that once would have been ridiculed as left-wing lunacies today pass for sensible policy. Nowadays, one can argue for a cap on executive pay, for a ban on short-selling, and for nationalising banks and insurance companies, and still feel part of the political mainstream. Two or three years ago, such proposals would have only been heard on the fringes of the political spectrum.

So the defeat of free-market thinking - or free-market ideology, as it is now more often called - seems all but complete. Decades of consensus that deregulation, privatisation, and free trade are the right way to go have been consigned to the dustbin of history. Everything that once made good sense is now viewed with suspicion. It is not so much that the free-market lessons of the past are now "lost and forgotten", as Hayek put it. Rather, they are deliberately purged from the collective memory as a single big error.

This pendulum swing is too fast and in the wrong direction. The new left populists are making two big mistakes at once. First, they wrongly equate all market problems with market failure.

Second, they are throwing out the baby with the bath water by announcing that markets have failed in general.

The first mistake is understandable. It is too easy to blame market woes on the failures of investment bankers, hedge fund managers, and greedy executives. But one of the most important players in all markets, even seemingly deregulated ones, is government. The low interest rates that encouraged over-borrowing were not determined in the marketplace, but by central banks.

Regulatory failures made it too easy for Americans to run away from their mortgages while keeping up repayments on their credit card bills. And housing markets could only overheat because regulation prevented land supply from expanding to meet rising demand.

The two countries worst hit by the crisis, the US and Britain, are in sorry fiscal shape because their governments spent the past decade accumulating mountains of public debt. Far from practising free-market radicalism, both countries coupled big government with insufficient regulatory frameworks. Whoever wants to say that Anglo-American capitalism has failed should first show where we can find it. What is capitalistic about Britain, where nearly every second pound sterling produced in the economy goes through the hands of the state? What is free market about a US budget deficit in the hundreds of billions?

Australia is far less affected by the crisis precisely for the reason that it did not follow the US or Britain. Australian government finances are the envy of the world.

As the Reserve Bank deputy governor, Ric Battellino, recently reminded us, Australia's banks are in a much better shape than their international competitors. In terms of practising free-market policies, Australia came closer to the ideal than either the US or Britain, and now it is being rewarded. The second mistake of the new left-wing populism is to reject free-market policies as if they were all the same and all failed. Right now, the markets are in trouble, but there is no evidence to suggest this is a permanent condition or that it represents a generalised failure of markets or of free-market policies.

Wherever employed to solve economic problems, markets have been largely successful. This is most evident in cases where countries have chosen different paths. Communist East Germany collapsed, not the social market economy of the West. The Berlin Wall was torn down from the East, not the West. Capitalist South Korea prospers, while in North Korea people starve.

Markets have consistently proven to be better mechanisms for delivering better products and services at cheaper prices. It is easy to forget, but before the Australian economy opened to international competition, the quality of Australian-made products often left much to be desired.

Worse still, they were so expensive that applying tariffs to raise the prices of imported goods was the only way to make people buy Australian. The subsequent success of micro-economic and trade reforms gave Australian consumers better and more affordable choices. It would be foolish to forget these lessons only because of the current financial crisis. Economic liberalism beats all of the big government alternatives in providing the right conditions for economic growth and wealth creation.

It is also worth setting the long-term record straight on economic growth. The International Monetary Fund has just revised its forecast for next year's economic growth to minus 0.3 per cent for developed countries and 2.2 per cent for the world as a whole. Everything under 3 per cent global growth, in the IMF's own terminology, is a recession. But we should not forget that this sluggish growth, painful as it may be, is just a blip in the long-term success of global capitalism. Per capita GDP grew at a snail's pace for most of human history. But it skyrocketed from the time of the Industrial Revolution, which was also the beginning of capitalism as we know it.

The British economist Angus Maddison once calculated that the average inhabitant of the world in 1700 was producing just a third more than the average person in the year 1. But in the following three centuries, worldwide per capita GDP increased tenfold. That this could happen is due to a number of factors, among them the end of mercantilist trade restrictions, the development of corporations and financial institutions, and above all the growing worldwide division of labour.

In other words, the dramatic improvements in the global economy can directly be traced back to the institutions of the free-market economy. The world's stunning economic development in the past three centuries was not an accident but the result of global capitalism.

It is true that some countries have developed faster than others, but on closer inspection the reasons are obvious. There are now a number of empirical studies examining the effects of economic freedom on a country's economy and society. The results confirm the superiority of capitalism. That economic freedom and economic growth are highly correlated may not surprise the supporters of free markets. But the beneficial effects of capitalism go far beyond the economic sphere. Countries with a liberal economic order also tend to be more democratic, they usually have a better record on human rights, and their inhabitants are often healthier and better educated. Economic freedom, so the empirical evidence suggests, is as close to being a social cure-all as it gets.

And yet, even without all its beneficial results, something else about economic freedom is at least as important; it cannot be divided from political freedoms. You cannot be a little bit free, just as you cannot be a little bit pregnant. The issue of economic liberty is part of the wider, more general question of what relationship we should have with each other and with the state.

If we allow the government or its bureaucrats to tell us what we may buy and sell, and to whom and at what price, there is no logical reason why the government would not eventually attempt to decide other things for us as well. There is a slippery slope that descends from a society that is fundamentally free towards a world where the individual is a mere servant of the state. But if we believe in human dignity, and in the principal right to make one's own choices in life, we must be vigilant about all attempts to shift the power balance between the state and the individual.

The current financial crisis may serve supporters of more government control as a trojan horse from which to mount an attack that pushes back the boundaries of the free society. The result may be a loss of autonomy that is felt far beyond the marketplace.

These are difficult times for liberals. The mood around the world is turning against them.

Politicians find it easier to blame crazy economists and greedy managers for financial turmoil than to understand and fix their own mistakes. Free-marketers still have the evidence of economic history on their side, but they will have to make their case more forcefully from now on. They face a constant battle of ideas that can never be decisively won. But they can take consolation in the fact that today's swing to the left will not spell the end of history, let alone of capitalism.

Dr Oliver Hartwich is a research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, Sydney


Workplace law to boost power to end long disputes

Mark Davis Political Correspondent, SMH

November 15, 2008

EMPLOYEES locked out of their jobs by their employers during enterprise bargaining will be able to secure arbitrated settlements of the disputes if they are suffering financial hardship, under the Federal Government's planned industrial relations legislation.

The Minister for Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, said yesterday that the legislation would expand the existing powers of the federal industrial tribunal to resolve protracted collective bargaining disputes.

She said arbitration of industrial disputes would still be "very unusual" under Labor's new system because the emphasis would be on pay and working conditions being negotiated by employers and employees.

"But there are of course circumstances when bargaining goes off the rails and when the industrial umpire will need to step in," Ms Gillard said. "Fair Work Australia, as the industrial umpire, will be able to blow the whistle and refer a bargaining dispute for the making of a workplace determination where industrial action taken during bargaining has a particularly negative or dangerous impact."

The existing Workplace Relations Act allows the tribunal to arbitrate where an enterprise bargaining dispute is causing significant harm to the economy or threatening the health or safety of the public.

Ms Gillard revealed that this would be expanded to allow arbitration where:

- An employer has locked out employees and they are suffering significant economic harm;
- Employees are on strike and the employer and employees alike are suffering significant economic harm;
- An employer or a union has flouted legal requirements to bargain in good faith;
- Low-paid workers are seeking their first enterprise agreement and negotiations have failed to reach agreement.

The changes to Labor's original plans represent a win for the union movement, which has been concerned that employers can engage in long lock-outs or refuse to negotiate with unions in bargaining disputes.

The secretary of the ACTU, Jeff Lawrence, said including "last resort arbitration" would protect low-paid workers such as cleaners, child-care workers and hospitality workers seeking enterprise agreements.

"The empowerment of Fair Work Australia to issue binding determinations when parties persistently refuse to bargain in good faith will also ensure that there is a circuit-breaker for intractable disputes," he said. "This will prevent unscrupulous employers from snubbing their noses at the rights of their employees to collectively bargain."

The chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, welcomed the confirmation that there would be no general power for Fair Work Australia to settle disputes through arbitration except where all parties agreed to it.

"The global economic crisis has intensified the risks for the economy and that this legislation will be implemented in an environment of increasing not reducing unemployment."


Navy chief torpedo over children overboard

Phillip Coorey Chief Political Correspondent, smh

November 15, 2008

THE nation's former top military officer, Admiral Chris Barrie, has cast fresh doubt on the Howard government's integrity by revealing he had a "testy conversation" with Peter Reith over photos the then defence minister used to back claims that refugees had thrown their children overboard.

And the former chief of the navy, Vice-Admiral David Shackleton, has accused the Howard government of deliberately frustrating efforts to tell the truth - that children were not thrown overboard - because the untrue version suited its election campaign theme of border security.

Admiral Barrie also criticised the former government's decision to join the Iraq war, which began eight months after he retired as chief of the defence force. "I have to say even up to the day I retired, I never saw any evidence that said suddenly we had to go off and do a job in Iraq."

The men were interviewed for the four-part ABC1 series The Howard Years, which begins Monday night.

Speaking candidly seven years after the children overboard affair, Admiral Barrie says the former government was so keen to go public with what were still unfounded claims that he first heard about them in the media.

"Ministers were already in the public place talking about it before I'd even heard about it," he says.

The affair unfolded early in the 2001 election campaign, which was already being dominated by border protection and national security.

After the government released pictures taken from HMAS Adelaide purporting to prove children had been thrown into the sea, an outraged Vice-Admiral Shackleton rang Admiral Barrie.

"I phoned Chris Barrie to say these are the wrong pictures. These are pictures of people being rescued. These are not pictures of people being thrown in the water," he told the ABC. Vice-Admiral Shackleton suggested Admiral Barrie tell Mr Reith, which he says he did.

"Peter Reith and I had a testy conversation about it," Admiral Barrie said.

But Mr Reith denied this, telling the ABC he and Admiral Barrie never had a testy conversation about anything.

"I don't remember ever having a conversation with Chris Barrie about the validity of the photos."

Admiral Barrie appeared to have been cowed by the encounter and said he subsequently maintained his original advice to Mr Reith that children had been thrown overboard.
Vice-Admiral Shackleton, still clearly angry at what occurred, told the ABC that HMAS Adelaide's captain, Norman Banks, concluded three days after the boat was intercepted that no children were thrown overboard and it was inconceivable that "Chris Barrie and others" would not be aware of this.

Vice-Admiral Shackleton concluded that the government suppressed the truth for political purposes. "It wouldn't be hard for me to say that in a political context. The story was playing into the stance that the government of the time was taking,' he says.

"To get more mileage out of it you build in stops to let information be clarified, because it's in your own interest to keep the story running."

Mr Howard rejects this.

Only days before the election, Admiral Barrie was overseas and the acting CDF Angus Houston decided to reopen the matter. He rang Mr Reith to try to impress on him the truth but Mr Reith was not interested and told him to check his facts with Admiral Barrie when he returned - after the election.

Admiral Barrie told the ABC that Mr Howard and Mr Reith "chose to accept whichever advice they liked".

Mr Howard maintains that he would have won the 2001 election without border protection, MV Tampa or the September 11 attacks. "I believe we would have won without any of those things," he said.

He also says his most memorable line for that campaign - "We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come" - was spontaneous. "I came up with that line on the spot. It was not research-driven," he said.

Mr Howard is still defensive over the weapons of mass destruction claims in Iraq, saying "programs and the capacity to generate stockpiles [of WMDs] was certainly found".

"We didn't take the country to war based on a lie. We didn't invent the intelligence," he said.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Letters Editor,
Daily Telegraph.

David Penberthy was always too young and too immature for the postion of Editor of the Daily Telegraph. His tenure has been marked by startling campaigns eg the Daily Telegraph's coverage of the Cronulla Riots, which probably helped stimulate and encourage the rioters, and the stories about immigrants being given preference for public housing, which was a not so veiled attack on middle eastern migrants just after the Cronulla riots.

Now he has just been running the most vehement campaign against the Rees Government following the Mini Budget. Who needs the Liberal Party when you have the Daily Telegraph under the editorship of David Penberthy? I don't agree with the Rees Governments proposals to privatise ferries, prisons, electricity retail, PILLAR, and waste services, but I do think that the role of the print media is to present the news, not make the news as some sort of quasi political party! It is ironic that his last campaign was to get the government sacked, and he is the one who has moved on from his job!

Maybe David Penberthy has finally become too much even for the proprietors of the Daily Telegraph. I look forward to a more mature newspaper now he has gone!

Jenny Haines


Moves to overhaul 457 visa scheme

Yuko Narushima, smh

November 14, 2008

AUSTRALIA should pay temporary skilled migrants market rates and name companies employing 20 or more such workers on a website, an independent review of the 457 visa scheme has said.

Yesterday the Federal Government released a report recommending 66 changes to the scheme, including calling it the Temporary Employment Visa to reinforce its purpose.

In reviewing the potential for underpayment and exploitation of overseas workers employed on the scheme, an industrial relations expert, Barbara Deegan, heard migrants were misinterpreting the scheme as a ticket to permanent residency.

"Where a visa holder has permanent residency as a goal, that person may endure, without complaint, substandard living conditions, illegal or unfair deductions from wages, and other similar forms of exploitation," the report said.

In one of 150 submissions, the Australian Human Rights Commission said workers had complained of being sexually harassed, working unpaid overtime and being sacked for becoming pregnant and being sick.

The report proposes a levy for employers that would fund health services for employees.

But the Australian Industry Group's chief executive, Heather Ridout, said the Government had rejected the concept of a levy.

"While the Government has sensibly rejected the concept of a levy, serious cost burdens remain in the recommendations," she said. "We will be examining the report and … urging that a more balanced approach be adopted."

The recommendations which would improve the integrity of the scheme were "overwhelmed by others which would impose onerous cost burdens on employers", she said.

Another recommendation said workers should be assisted in transferring to new employers.

Temporary migrants should be able to stay in the country for 90 days while finding a new sponsor and workers should receive wages for 28 of those days.

Such a change would give workers more power to speak out on poor conditions, a migration analyst, Bob Kinnaird, said. "The package would improve the conditions for workers and untie them from staying with a single employer," he said.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Evans, said any recommendations the Government adopted would feature in next year's budget. "We have made significant improvements to the processing times of subclass 457 visa applications this year and have no intention of complicating the process or adding red tape to the program," he said in a statement.

Paying market rates to overseas workers would ensure the wages and conditions of Australians were not undermined, he said. The recommendation to pay market rates applied only to workers on wages under $100,000.

The national secretary for the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, John Sutton, said that stipulation created an unnecessary ceiling. "There are workers in dangerous jobs earning more than that. I don't think scrutiny should drop off at that point," Mr Sutton said.

He was disappointed by a recommendation that only employers with 20 or more workers needed to register their details on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship website. This would leave workers in companies with fewer than 20 open to abuse, he said. Taken together, however, he said the recommended changes would provide the overhaul the system needed.

Recent statistics show 58,000 people are employed in Australia on 457 visas.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Migrant worker died on job, union says

Yuko Narushima, smh

November 11, 2008

ANOTHER temporary migrant working on a 457 visa has died from injuries sustained on the job after attempts by the union to visit his worksite were repeatedly thwarted, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union says.

At least nine migrants on the visa scheme have died in work-related accidents in the past two years, at almost double the workplace mortality rate of the general working population.

Lian Ron Xia, a welder from China, died in September from a head injury sustained in an industrial accident at Byrne Trailers in Wagga Wagga. This follows three 457-worker deaths in remote areas revealed by the Herald last year.

The union said officials tried twice before the accident to meet Mr Lian, and other 457 workers employed by the company, but were denied access.

"The employer, Mr Michael Byrne, without any reasonable explanation, denied their right of entry," said the union's state secretary, Paul Bastian. A third attempt to enter the site, after the accident and with WorkCover inspectors, was also blocked, he said.

Mr Byrne did not return the Herald's calls.

The union wants an overhaul of the 457 visa system, which can link a person's ability to stay in the country to acceptance of low wages and unsafe conditions.

"These workers are treated like second-class citizens," Mr Bastian said.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship said nine migrants on 457 visas had died in workplace-related accidents between January 1, 2006 and October 31 this year. It told the Herald that in September it had no contact details for 1 per cent, or up to 5800 workers, of the 457 visa workforce.

Temporary visa holders were not required to notify the department of their residential address, a departmental spokesman said.

Bob Kinnaird, a migration analyst, said many workers on 457 visas spoke little English, were hired in high-risk industries and felt compelled to accept harsh conditions. "These people are desperate for Australian wages. Even where wages are undercutting local wages, they're much higher than they can get back home," Mr Kinnaird said. "They're over a barrel in the Australian workplace because if they complain, they could be on the plane home within 28 days."

His research found that last year the fatality rate among 457 visa workers was 5.8 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with three deaths per 100,000 workers nationally.

A WorkCover NSW investigation of Mr Lian's case is continuing. It is also the subject of a NSW coronial inquiry.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Evans, was presented yesterday with the "human face" of 457 visa exploitation.

Miriam Nhliziyo was one of the five workers brought to Parliament House by union officials. A registered nurse from Zimbabwe, she had 24 years' experience and post-graduate training. She began working in Australia in August 2006.

Her employer reneged on her application for permanent residency when she tried to claim $17,000 in underpaid wages. "It makes me feel used, especially when you've worked two years, loyally, with one employer. It's the idea of being used and dumped that makes you feel bad," she said.

The department said 192 sponsors were formally sanctioned and a further 1353 employers warned last year and this year.

The Federal Government is considering 66 recommended changes to the 457 visa program contained in a review by the Industrial Relations Commissioner, Barbara Deegan.

Friday, November 07, 2008


WorkChoices research cost $1.6m

Mark Davis Political Correspondent, SMH

November 7, 2008

THE Howard government spent $1.6 million in taxpayer funds to survey voters on the hot-button political issue of industrial relations from April last year right up until the election campaign started in October.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has revealed in its annual report that it contracted the Melbourne market research and polling firm Open Mind Research to carry out the regular surveys.

The research was to help shape the government's second major wave of advertising during the 2007 election year, promoting its changes to its WorkChoices legislation.

The survey results would have also given senior ministers insights into voter sentiment, including the attitudes of electorally important demographic groups, to its industrial relations policies and messages.

The research by Open Mind in 2007 followed $1.8 million in similar taxpayer-funded polling commissioned by the Howard government in late 2005 and early 2006 from market research firm Colmar Brunton. That polling surveyed thousands of voters to track how they were responding to the Government's first $46 million advertising campaign on WorkChoices.

The department's latest disclosures of its consultancy contracts show Open Mind was engaged to carry out the research from April 10, three weeks before the then Prime Minister, John Howard, announced the government was changing WorkChoices to include a "fairness test".

The research contract ran until October 15, the day after Mr Howard called the election.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Shock deal - power sale to raise $10 billion

By Simon Benson, DT

November 01, 2008 12:00am

THE NSW electricity industry will be sold following a shock deal between Premier Nathan Rees and Labor Party bosses to support a redrafted $10 billion power privatisation plan.

In an 11th-hour salvage job of the state's woeful Budget, Mr Rees will sell the $3 billion electricity retail sector, keep power generation in public hands and create a new "virtual stockmarket" business for trading electricity known as gentailing, which will be sold to the private sector.

The combined value of the sale is estimated to be $10 billion - the majority of which will be paid to the Government in annual leases paid by the new private operators.

However, much of this will replace lost Government dividends.

The sale, which will fall $5 billion short of the original model which ultimately cost former premier Morris Iemma his job, is expected to be under way within 12 months to two years.

It will require no legislation and will keep previous five-year protections for workers and price security for consumers until 2013.

It will also mean the private sector will be expected to build new power plants by 2015, removing a potential $15 billion liability from the Government's books.

Insiders claimed it was the first significant victory for the embattled new Premier.

Others said they would believe it when they saw it. However, the same model has also been criticised in the Owen report, commissioned by the Government to investigate options for the state's power needs.

In a special briefing last night Mr Rees confirmed he had obtained unanimous support for the sale from party officials and would now take the plan to his caucus on the day of the November 11 mini-budget. In a bitter pill for Mr Iemma and former treasurer Michael Costa, the new model was put together by Economic Reform Minister Joe Tripodi, accused of being an architect of Mr Iemma's demise.

In an even greater irony, Mr Rees admitted that former union boss and anti-privatisation campaigner John Robertson, who has succeeded Mr Costa in the Upper House was instrumental in getting the Labor Party committee to endorse the new model.

Mr Iemma and Mr Costa failed to get their plan through because of widespread opposition to leasing of state-owned power generators.

The new plan keeps the generators in public hands but creates a "gentailing" business in which private companies pay a lease fee to the Government for the supply of electricity, which they can sell to the retail market.

Mr Rees confirmed the sale would be included in the mini-budget's forward estimates when they are released on November 11.

Should Mr Rees pursue the power sell-off?


Coalition backdown on laws for workplace

Mark Davis Political Correspondent, smh

November 1, 2008

LABOR'S chances of winning Senate support for its new workplace legislation have improved after the Opposition indicated yesterday that it would accept the Rudd Government had a mandate to overhaul the industrial relations system.

The Opposition's new workplace relations spokesman, Michael Keenan, used his first speech since taking up the position in September to declare himself a pragmatist rather than an ideologue on industrial relations.

Mr Keenan said workplace relations policy played a significant role in last year's federal election and the Coalition needed to heed the lessons of its electoral defeat.

"When the electorate delivers you a verdict on a particular policy, you don't turn around and argue the toss with them," he said. "We therefore accept that the Government has a right to make changes to our workplace relations system in keeping with the policy announced prior to the last election."

He reserved the right for the Coalition to finalise its position after the detailed legislation was available and said Labor's policies would need to be evaluated to ensure they did not contribute to higher unemployment.

"The global financial crisis completely alters the debate around workplace relations and employment in ways that will become apparent over time."

Mr Keenan told the Herald he had some concerns about the Labor's plans on unfair dismissal and collective bargaining.

The Government is expected to introduce the legislation this month. If the Opposition decides not to vote against the legislation in the Senate, the Greens would have no scope to pressure the Government to make the legislation more union-friendly.


Cynthia Banham Diplomatic Editor, smh

November 1, 2008

AN AFGHAN asylum seeker rejected by Australia under the Howard government was tortured and beheaded by kidnappers less than four weeks ago in a province south of Kabul.

The man, Mohammed Hussain, was thrown down a well by gunmen, believed to be the Taliban.

Then in front of onlookers including members of his family, the killers threw a hand grenade down the well and he was decapitated.

Accounts of the killing were given to Phil Glendenning, director of the Edmund Rice Centre, this week. He told the Herald he has verified the events with four different sources in Afghanistan.

Mr Hussain was a self-described poet who was detained on Nauru by Australian authorities under the Howard government's so called "Pacific solution". But his claims for asylum were rejected by immigration officials and he was sent back to Afghanistan.

Mr Glendenning met Mr Hussain in January in Kabul, where the Australian was filming a documentary, A Well-Founded Fear, about asylum seekers rejected during the Howard years.

Mr Hussain told Mr Glendenning he could not live in Afghanistan because of the Taliban and other factional enemies, and now lived in a place where there was a coal mine, "a mountain and no one else".

Shortly after Mr Glendenning saw Mr Hussain, he learnt the Afghan had been kidnapped by gunmen in a 4WD vehicle with blackened windows.

According to accounts given to Mr Glendenning, Mr Hussain was held for weeks by his captors before he escaped to Iran. After authorities began deporting Afghans home, he fled to Pakistan, but the Taliban forced him out and he returned to Kabul.

It was from here he sent a message to Mr Glendenning, asking him "could I contact anybody that might be able to help him to get out of the country because he was going to be killed by his enemies from the Mujahadeen war".

From here Mr Hussain fled south to the Afghan province of Ghazni, where again six weeks ago he was kidnapped by enemies believed to be the Taliban.

Then 26 days ago Mr Glendenning says Mr Hussain's captors threw him down a well "in front of many witnesses including villagers and some family members".

Says Mr Glendenning: "It further underscores the fact that the Pacific solution hasn't ended, and that those who were the victims of it remain the victims of it."

Mr Glendenning wants the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, to reopen the cases of the rejected Afghans "as a matter of urgency". He also wants the Government to "put in place processes and policies to make sure this never ever happens again".