Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Ministers accused of untruths about Aboriginal woes


December 29, 2009

DARWIN: Government ministers and departments are suppressing the truth about the malaise in Aboriginal communities, according to the public servant in charge of the Northern Territory's key indigenous policy.

Bob Beadman said the natural tendency of ministers and departments - local and federal - to portray themselves in the best light promoted the positives rather than the negatives.

''Consequently parliaments and the public alike develop a skewed picture because the broader truth has been suppressed," he said.

Mr Beadman said the territory's Working Future policy to develop 20 indigenous growth towns, which he is overseeing, would require "patience, commitment and nerve", and positive outcomes would be elusive.

"We will need to remind ourselves regularly that the current condition has been at least 30 years in the making and the attitudes of many in those communities, and indeed many in government service, have become entrenched, or conditioned to an acceptance that all is right," he said.

Mr Beadman, who was appointed the territory's co-ordinator-general for remote services in June, after more than 40 years handling indigenous issues in the territory and federal public services, made the comments in a report posted on www.workingfuture.nt.gov.au.

But in a news release about the report, the territory's Indigenous Policy Minister, Malarndirri McCarthy, commented only on positive aspects and avoided Mr Beadman's criticism.

He warned that the building of houses, roads and sewerage was the easy part in ending indigenous disadvantage.

"The rebuilding of people, the restoration of their pride and self-worth is far more difficult and more important. If, again, indigenous people sit under a tree and watch this frenetic effect by government agencies of every kind with increasing astonishment, we will have squandered another opportunity for social reconstruction."

There were signs already that indigenous people were not taking up available work in shires and shops and job centres reported that many job offers were declined, he said.

"We must start to see some breaching of welfare recipients who decline work. Working Future represents a social reconstruction program of audacious scale. Yet I fear most see it as simply correcting infrastructure deficits."

Mr Beadman said it was widely accepted that closed communities and the availability of extensive welfare benefits without mutual obligation, obviating the need to work, had meant there was negligible private sector business investment in remote communities.

There were numerous examples of engagement with communities ''where teams of fly-in bureaucrats appear and develop plans, to the utter bemusement of the local people".

Referring to criticism that the NT had been "gilding the lily" on the amount of federal funds needed to counter disadvantage in centres such as Darwin and Alice Springs, Mr Beadman said budget explanations could be improved.

Mr Beadman is chairman of the NT Grants Commission, which allocates federal funding.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Yahoo 7 News 12.12.09

The prime minister is under pressure to rethink his border protection policy, with overcrowding at Christmas Island forcing asylum seekers into tents.

As officials began processing the latest group of asylum seekers to arrive in Australian waters, the Department of Immigration confirmed detention facilities on the island were being stretched to their limits.

The recent surge in arrivals has forced the government to expand the island's detention capacity from 1400 to about 2200 beds.
But much of the additional accommodation will not be ready until March next year, forcing the government to use tents in the meantime.

Of the 1177 people currently held in the Christmas Island detention centre, 61 are in tents which have a capacity to house 160 asylum seekers.
Another 271 are in detention in other facilities on the island.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's border protection regime had failed to stem the flow of asylum seekers to Australia.
"The answer is not to put up more tents and buy more bunk beds. The answer is to stop the boats," he told AAP.

"It highlights the manifest failure of his policy."
The prime minister had shown a complete lack of resolve in addressing the asylum seeker issue, Mr Morrison said.

"This should be the final warning for the government to redress the changes in policy that they made and ensure they put in place a border protection regime so the policies they pursue and the messages they send are as clear as they were under the coalition."
The Australian Greens said it was time for the Rudd government to consider processing asylum seekers on the mainland.

"Housing traumatised asylum seekers on a remote island in the middle of nowhere is not the correct approach, particularly when the government is reduced to pitching tents to put people in," Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said.
There were a variety of options available to the government, including processing asylum seekers in Darwin, Sydney or Melbourne and housing people in community detention on the mainland, she said.

"Any of these options would be better than what we have now, which is a short-term, blinkered, Howard-era approach to asylum seekers."
However, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard rejected suggestions the arrival of a string of asylum seeker boats in the past week was evidence the government's policies were not working.

"If the measure is to be the number of boats that arrived, there was no evidence that the policies of the Howard government were working," Ms Gillard said.
"After they introduced, for example, temporary protection visas, the number of arrivals went up."

The latest boat of asylum seekers carrying 60 passengers arrived at Christmas Island on Thursday afternoon after avoiding interception by border protection authorities.
It is the 54th boat to arrive this year and the fourth in the space of a week.

Ms Gillard said occasionally boats did elude border security patrols.
"We have more border security patrols, more border security presence in our waters to the north, than was there under the previous government," she said.

"Under the previous government from time to time there were boats that made it through. That will happen, but we have stepped up our border security presence."

Friday, December 11, 2009


Years Of Deceit:

US Openly Accepts Bin Laden Long Dead

By Gordon Duff

Senior Editor

Distributed by George Burchett, People's Republic, 11.12.2009

December 10, 2009 "Veterans Today" -- Conservative commentator, former Marine Colonel Bob Pappas has been saying for years that bin Laden died at Tora Bora and that Senator Kerry's claim that bin Laden escaped with Bush help was a lie. Now we know that Pappas was correct. The embarassment of having Secretary of State Clinton talk about bin Laden in Pakistan was horrific. He has been dead since December 13, 2001 and now, finally, everyone, Obama, McChrystal, Cheney, everyone who isn't nuts is finally saying what they have known for years.

However, since we lost a couple of hundred of our top special operations forces hunting for bin Laden after we knew he was dead, is someone going to answer for this with some jail time? Since we spent 200 million dollars on "special ops" looking for someone we knew was dead, who is going to jail for that? Since Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney continually talked about a man they knew was dead, now known to be for reasons of POLITICAL nature, who is going to jail for that? Why were tapes brought out, now known to be forged, as legitimate intelligence to sway the disputed 2004 election in the US? This is a criminal act if there ever was one.

In 66 pages, General Stanley McChrystal never mentions Osama bin Laden. Everything is "Mullah Omar"now. In his talk at West Point, President Obama never mentioned Osama bin Laden. Col. Pappas makes it clear, Vice President Cheney let it "out of the bag" long ago. Bin Laden was killed by American troops many many years ago.

America knew Osama bin Laden died December 13, 2001. After that, his use was hardly one to unite America but rather one to divide, scam and play games. With bin Laden gone, we could have started legitimate nation building in Afghanistan instead of the eternal insurgency that we invented ourselves.

Without our ill informed policies, we could have had a brought diplomatic solution in 2002 in Afghanistan, the one we are ignoring now, and spent money rebuilding the country, 5 cents on the dollar compared to what we are spending fighting a war against an enemy we ourselves recruited thru ignorance.

The bin Laden scam is one of the most shameful acts ever perpetrated against the American people. We don't even know if he really was an enemy, certainly he was never the person that Bush and Cheney said. In fact, the Bush and bin Laden families were always close friends and had been for many years.

What kind of man was Osama bin Laden? This one time American ally against Russia, son of a wealthy Saudi family, went to Afghanistan to help them fight for their freedom. America saw him as a great hero then. Transcripts of the real bin Laden show him to be much more moderate than we claim, angry at Israel and the US government but showing no anger toward Americans and never making the kind of theats claimed. All of this is public record for any with the will to learn.

osama_bush_capturedHow much of America's tragedy is tied with these two children of the rich, children of families long joined thru money and friendship, the Bush and bin Laden clans.

One son died in remote mountains, another lives in a Dallas suburb hoping nobody is sent after him. One is a combat veteran, one never took a strong stand unless done from safety and comfort. Islam once saw bin Laden as a great leader. Now he is mostly forgotten.

What has America decided about Bush?

We know this: Bin Laden always denied any ties to 9/11 and, in fact, has never been charged in relation to 9/11. He not only denied involvement, but had done so, while alive, 4 times and had vigorously condemned those who were involved in the attack.

This is on the public record, public in every free country except ours. We, instead, showed films made by paid actors, made up to look somewhat similar to bin Laden, actors who contradicted bin Ladens very public statements, actors pretending to be bin Laden long after bin Laden's death.

These were done to help justify spending, repressive laws, torture and simple thievery.

For years, we attacked the government of Pakistan for not hunting down someone everyone knew was dead. Bin Laden's death hit the newspapers in Pakistan on December 15, 2001. How do you think our ally felt when they were continually berated for failing to hunt down and turn over someone who didn't exist?

What do you think this did for American credibility in Pakistan and thru the Islamic world? Were we seen as criminals, liars or simply fools? Which one is best?

This is also treason.

How does the death of bin Laden and the defeat and dismemberment of Al Qaeda impact the intelligence assessments, partially based on, not only bin Laden but Al Qaeda activity in Iraq that,not only never happened but was now known to have been unable to happen?

How many "Pentagon Pundits," the retired officers who sold their honor to send us to war for what is now known to be domestic political dirty tricks and not national security are culpable in these crimes?

I don't always agree with Col. Pappas on things. I believe his politics overrule his judgement at times. However, we totally agree on bin Laden, simply disagree with what it means. To me lying and sending men to their deaths based on lies is treason.

Falsifying military intelligence and spending billions on unnecessary military operations for political reasons is an abomination. Consider this, giving billions in contracts to GOP friends who fill campaign coffers, and doing so based on falsified intelligence is insane. This was done for years.

We spent 8 years chasing a dead man, spending billions, sending FBI agents, the CIA, Navy Seals, Marine Force Recon, Special Forces, many to their deaths, as part of a political campaign to justify running American into debt, enriching a pack of political cronies and war profiteers and to puff up a pack of Pentagon peacocks and their Whitehouse draft dodging bosses.

How many laws were pushed thru because of a dead man?

How many hundreds were tortured to find a dead man?

How many hundreds died looking for a dead man?

How many billions were spent looking for a dead man?

Every time Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld stood before troops and talked about hunting down the dead bin Laden, it was a dishonor. Lying to men and women who put their lives on the line is not a joke.duffster

Who is going to answer to the families of those who died for the politics and profit tied to the Hunt for Bin Laden?

Veterans Today Senior Editor Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran and regular contributor on political and social issues.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Red News Readers,

Perhaps Debra Picone and Ken Barker could make a personal Christmas donation to those hospital wards where nurses can’t do their job properly because they don’t have the basic equipment like stethoscopes, sphymanometers, ECG paper, dressings, basic medications, blue sheets for incontinent patients to sit on, and I could go on!! It is symptomatic of NSW Health that the bureaucrats are taking home large pay packets and health services can’t pay their bills and staff can’t supply patients, the taxpaying people of NSW with their entitlement to basic health services.

Jenny Haines

Health woes fail to hurt bosses' pay


December 8, 2009, smh

NSW hospitals have gone over budget by almost $160 million in the past financial year - and still owe $70 million in unpaid accounts, the NSW Health annual report shows.

But its top five bureaucrats have been paid almost $1.8 million between them, including a salary of more than $411,000 for the department's director-general, Debora Picone.

Professor Picone's four deputies were each paid between $309,000 and $366,000 while the chief financial officer, Ken Barker, responsible for managing the department's budget, was paid $292,000.

The high salaries were paid even though most hospitals failed to meet several important targets: more patients are waiting longer to be transferred from ambulance stretchers into emergency departments and too many are having their surgery cancelled on the day it is scheduled.

The four area health services which ''contributed significantly to the unfavourable'' blow-out were Sydney West, Northern Sydney Central Coast, North Coast and Greater Western. The department said it would crack down on hospitals failing to meet budget and would closely monitor staffing costs, which constitute the largest part of the budget.

Six area health services also failed to meet the 45-day benchmark to pay creditors, owing more than $69 million. Another $81,000 was outstanding at the end of the financial year, but ''suppliers were paid in the next available creditor payment run'', the report said. Those struggling to pay bills have been ordered to detail how their creditor problem will be solved.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Red News Readers,

Yes Workchoices is gone and the employers still rule because the unions are so disempowered. Workplace organisation seems to be a thing of the past. The Head Offices of unions are filled with careerists waiting for their seat in parliament. Those who do resist the modern working arrangements can end up losing career prospects or even their job. Whether you like unions or not, it was unionists of the past who fought for and won the 40 hour, and then the 38, and the 35 hour week,

Jenny Haines

Slaves to the overtime habit fail to loosen the shackles


December 7, 2009

Australians clock up 2 billion hours of overtime a year.

So it turns out we can't blame the boss. A nation of overworked desk zombies, we chain ourselves to the office chair.

The Australia Institute's Go Home on Time Day was recently embraced by tens of thousands of white collar workers as a collective action against the 2 billion hours in unpaid overtime Australians clock up each year.

But on the day, nearly half of the would-be protesters - lawyers, teachers, engineers, advertising whizzes, bankers, scientists and more - failed miserably in breaking the overtime habit.

Overwhelmingly, they said they could not leave on time because there was too much to do (68 per cent). But they also confessed they had gotten into ''the zone'', that something interesting had come along, that the meeting ran late, that the computer wasn't printing, that an important email popped up - or they forgot.

The raw email feedback sent to the institute by some of the 20,000 people who had tried to take part showed that most of them were acutely aware of how damaging the creeping ubiquity of unpaid overtime in the workplace can be. Emails oozed suffering and a longing for the lost 38-hour week.

People complained they didn't eat properly or pay their bills on time. There were repeated tales of husbands, wives and empty homes as couples ''influenced each other'' to work extreme hours.

One emailer lamented: ''If only one of us was home waiting for the other then we'd probably leave earlier, have time to make dinner properly, and do some exercise. But when you know that the other one might be happy to work until 7pm or 8pm and you don't have to worry about it, we create mutual bad habits.''

Another declared that working in a call centre was better than his current 70-hour-a-week salaried job, where he calculated he was probably working twice the hours he was paid for. ''I have no time for exercise and no time to see my friends, let alone spend time with my girlfriend. On my one day off I'm so tired I lie down all day at home . . . life sucks when there is no time to live it. I am a slave.''

Some were bleak: ''Unpaid overtime is the key reason for my depression. I wish I had a boss who would not think that leaving at 5.30pm is an early mark.''

And another: ''I manage to get quality sleep two nights per week - Friday and Saturday. I just want to run away and cry.'' Public servants grumbled that they, too, had a right to a life.

The entire country was in need of a culture shift, they chorused. A North American, shocked by our obsessive, long working hours, complained: ''I am exhausted. I moved to the southern hemisphere to slow down and relax. Obviously Australia was the wrong choice.'' But, surprisingly, fewer people directly blamed the boss for their inability to work a reasonable day than other factors, including their own martyrdom.

They said they worked longer for their own sanity - otherwise the work wouldn't get done. They said after-hours was a more productive time in the office because it was quieter. Or they wanted to be helpful.

One person was so used to working a 10-hour day ''that when I leave on time I feel like I'm actually cheating the company. I get the guilts.''

Other failed protesters said they stayed on simply because it felt odd to go home before dark.

Unless we really want to go home, the boss will never see the light.

From the thousands who did leave promptly, there were delighted reports of having rediscovered some of life's less pressing pleasures - playing with the kids, walking the dog, even household chores. ''I mowed the lawn. It was nice,'' said an emailer.

The NSW Business Chamber suggests workers may have the same approach to going home on time as the many people who sign up for a gym class each year - we know what's good for us, but never quite get there. (Or perhaps a nation of fat, stressed-out overworkers don't get to the gym because they're still at work.)

Curbing spiralling overtime could come down to refocusing on another kind of collective guilt.

Overworked martyrs rarely think of themselves as selfish or greedy - there is hardly a financial imperative when you are giving it all for free.

But if we are prepared to put up with the stresses long hours inflict on our own health and lifestyle, perhaps we should give more thought to the impact our seemingly diligent hard work is having on others: colleagues who feel compelled to stay if everyone else is, partners eating takeaway for one again, or the howling dog in the courtyard.

Kirsty Needham is a Herald journalist.

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Saturday, December 05, 2009


Nurse struck off for having sex with depressed patient


December 3, 2009, smh

A NURSE who told a mentally ill patient at Blue Mountains Hospital that she loved her and later had a sexual relationship with her has been struck off the register for a year for professional misconduct.

Susan Tate, who has 20 years' nursing experience, put her needs above that of a vulnerable woman with borderline personality disorder and a long history of depression, a tribunal has found.

Ms Tate, an enrolled nurse, gave the woman her rose quartz ring to wear while she was staying in the acute ward of the mental health unit at the hospital in June 2007, her second admission for that year.

Ms Tate also gave the patient marijuana, knowing she was on antidepressants, after she was discharged and moved in with her for a few days. The patient and her two sons then moved in with Ms Tate in late July and stayed there for two months. The Nurses and Midwives Tribunal of NSW ordered on November 26 that Ms Tate be struck off for a year and said that she lacked insight into the effect her actions had on the patient, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

''Ms Tate said she knew of [the woman's] psychiatric condition and eating disorder, so she knew of Patient A's particular vulnerabilities,'' the tribunal said in its judgment.

''Nevertheless [Ms Tate] allowed this relationship to develop over time into a full-blown sexual relationship because of her needs for such a relationship.

''This was a serious breach of boundaries in which Ms Tate put her needs above that of a psychiatrically ill patient.''

The friendship began when the patient was in hospital from April 17 to May 3, 2007. It then developed during her second admission that year, from June 15 to July 3.

Ms Tate told the patient in April words to the effect, ''you don't belong in a mental health unit'' and that she was attractive and articulate. In June, she hugged the patient and told her that she loved her and they discussed the issue of sexuality.

''We talked about what gay sex was like and she kind-of joked about that … but I told her that I had not been in a gay relationship before so I really didn't know anything much about it, and she said, 'That doesn't matter,' the patient told the tribunal.

''She said that she loved me and at that stage I was feeling totally unlovable and, you know, unloved, really, and so I said, 'Yeah, I love you too'.''

Ms Tate left her employment in August 2007.


Phillip Coorey and Peter Hartcher

3 December 2009, SMH

TONY ABBOTT has defiantly flagged the reintroduction of individual workplace agreements and given notice the Coalition will oppose the Rudd Government's next big reform - the federal takeover of public hospitals.

Mr Abbott also said Federal Parliament should have the same power to override state parliaments as it has to override the territories, and the states should be able to raise taxes to cover spending requirements.

In an exclusive interview with the Herald, Mr Abbott indicated he would not be cowed by Government attempts to link him with a return to Work Choices.

‘‘Our policy will be to have freer, more flexible and fair labour markets without going near that dreaded policy that must not speak its name.’’ ... Tony Abbott yesterday. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

The Rudd Government banned individual Australian Workplace Agreements when it abolished Work Choices but made interim arrangements that allowed existing agreements to continue for up to five years. Mr Abbott said these agreements should be made permanent.

''If it's good enough for the Labor Government on an interim basis, I don't see why they can't continue,'' he said.

''Whatever they are called, if it's good enough for the Labor Government to have an individual, non-union statutory contract, I don't see why it can't continue.''

Labor was wrong to ''re-regulate the labor market'' but he rejected he would re-embrace Work Choices.

''Our policy will be to have freer, more flexible and fair labour markets without going anywhere near that dreaded policy that must not speak its name.''

As Mr Abbott spoke to the Herald, the Senate defeated the emissions trading scheme, handing the Government a double dissolution election trigger.

Next week, Kevin Rudd will put to the premiers his draft proposals for greater federal control of the public hospital system, including a financial takeover. If the states do not accept his plan by March, he will seek an election mandate.

But Mr Abbott, who supported a federal takeover of hospitals when he was health minister, said the policy would be ''another fudge'' and it was highly unlikely the Opposition would support it.

''The Rudd Government will never do it,'' he said.

''There are too many state Labor governments, there are too many public sector unions that rely on the current arrangement, too many local politicians are dependent on those unions.

''I think it is hugely improbable he is going to come up with a policy we are going to support.''

Mr Abbott defended his combative style. ''Our job is not to make the Government's life easy, our job is to make the Government's life hard,'' he said.

He said the policy about-face that killed the emissions trading scheme was necessary to rally the party's base. ''What we were previously asked to do was to go against every instinct of politics and that was agree with your opponents on a really contentious piece of legislation where your heartland supporters were extremely anxious or angry. That's always a problem.''

He was disappointed the Liberal senators Sue Boyce and Judith Troeth defied his leadership and crossed the floor but was prepared to forgive.

''I'm a little disappointed that we didn't stick to the last man and the last woman, but nevertheless I understand how they felt and I respect their position.''

Mr Abbott promised that now he was leader, he would respect the party's processes and not unilaterally set policy.

He said the many policy ideas proposed in his book Battlelines, published this year, were OK to advance as a frontbencher but not as leader.

However, Mr Abbott maintained the system of federation was dysfunctional and he was keen to explore two ideas in his book. One was to give Federal Parliament the power to override the states like it can the territories and another was ''giving the states taxing powers commensurate with their spending responsibilities''.


Job security draws school leavers to nursing, teaching


December 5, 2009 SMH

THE number of university applicants wanting to study nursing or education has risen rapidly with the promise of greater job security.

The Universities Admissions Centre said 80,211 people had applied this year to study at universities in NSW and the ACT - 2600 more than last year.

The applicants - mainly year 12 school leavers, although there have been reports of more mature-age entrants - will find out on January 20 if they have succeeded in securing a place in their chosen course.

The University of Sydney attracted the most first preferences, with 15,579 applicants. Law, pharmacy, dentistry, education, social work and science attracted the most interest.

Nursing and other health-related fields, as well as education, registered strong interest.

In the 2009-10 budget, the Federal Government announced financial incentives for students studying teaching or nursing who went on to work in those professions - graduates were entitled to an incentive of up to $1558.50 for the 2009-10 financial year. They receive the indexed payment for five years of eligible employment.

The University of Western Sydney (UWS) received more than 1100 first preferences for its bachelor of nursing degree.

At Charles Sturt University, the nursing-paramedics double degree and clinical practice paramedic program attracted 220 first preferences.

Professor Beryl Hesketh, the executive dean of the UWS College of Health and Science, said a growing number of school leavers and people wanting to upgrade qualifications were gravitating towards professional fields like nursing.

''It's also a profession that people can come to later in life as they look for a career change. Nurses also take the opportunity to upgrade their qualifications, particularly if they are returning to the profession after a career break,'' she said. ''For a number of years now there have been concerted workforce campaigns to attract more people into the nursing profession and boost the numbers of nurses for our hospitals and health services.

''Professions like nursing offer stability and job security - particularly during times of economic uncertainty.''

Lucie Parkin, the UAC communications officer, said slightly more than half of all applicants received an offer to study their first preference. She said that only 65 per cent of offers made in 2009 resulted in actual enrolments.

''Year 12 applicants tend to include more preferences than other applicants, with many listing the maximum nine preferences,'' she said.

''In many cases the courses they include as their first and second preferences are 'wishes' - courses they would really like to receive an offer for, but which, in previous years, had an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank cut-off higher than they expect to achieve.''

UAC expects about 20,000 students to change their preferences after they receive their ATAR on December 17.

''Knowing their ATAR and looking at ATAR cut-offs from previous years, they review and change their preferences based on what they would really like to do, balanced by a realistic appraisal of courses to which they may qualify for admission,'' Ms Parkin said.

University of Western Sydney: Business, commerce and nursing

Charles Sturt: Policing, nursing, paramedic studies and education

Sydney: Law, pharmacy, dentistry and education

Australian Catholic University: Nursing and education

UNSW: Optometry and science

UNE: Sports science and pharmacy

SCU: Primary education and nursing

UTS: Science and nursing

Wollongong: Creative arts, engineering and law

Macquarie: Commerce and law

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


The Indian Ocean Solution

Christmas Island [preview]David Marr, The Monthly, September 2009

In a tin shed on Phosphate Hill, a brisk woman from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship sits facing a slight kid of 17. Though Ali Jaffari knows something of what is coming, he is battling nerves. His face is grey. One leg is trembling.

His father, Sharif, sits quietly beside him, his head bowed. An air-conditioner thunders in the background. Both men keep an eye on the envelopes the DIAC officer has on the table: brown envelopes that hold the answer to the rest of their lives.The Jaffaris are Hazaras from Afghanistan, a people long persecuted as Shia Muslims in a country overwhelmingly Sunni.

Sharif was still a boy when he fled the country to grow up in the large Hazara community in Iran. At some point, he moved to Pakistan and raised a family in Quetta. But as inter-faith violence intensified in Pakistan over the last year, the city became dangerous.

Sharif talks of more than 60 Hazaras murdered in the city. The Jaffaris narrowly escaped death.

"Two persons came by motorcycle. They stopped. They fired on us and they escaped." It was time to leave. "There were rumours Australia accepted refugees and it's a safe and secure country. So therefore we decided to come to Australia. That was our plan.

"Their arrival on Christmas Island in early May, along with another 185 refugees collected by HMAS Tobruk, provoked fresh denunciations by the Opposition of Labor's 'soft' response to boat people.

"There cannot be any serious argument about it now," said Malcolm Turnbull. "It has failed to stop the dreadful business of people smuggling." Hate was back in the air. The press noted the biggest spike in "unauthorised boat arrivals" since the heyday of the Pacific Solution in 2001. The island was said to be reaching bursting point.

As always, Christmas Islanders gathered to watch the refugees brought ashore. It's a spectacle that predates the Tampa affair by a decade. But things have changed: the islanders were no longer held back by police barricades, and there were no guards in riot gear on the barges.

Flying Fish Cove lies under cliffs covered by dark forests. Jurassic birds wheel overhead. The dusty hulk of the phosphate loader waits for ships. Along the shore are barracks, warehouses and a little mosque. This was not where the Jaffaris expected to find themselves. That all boat people heading for Australia are now held on Christmas Island came as a complete surprise.

"No one told us." They hadn't heard of attempts by Labor and Coalition governments over nearly two decades to deter people like them from coming here by boat. The messages had fallen on deaf ears. The Jaffaris paid a smuggler to bring them to this country because, where they come from, Australia has a vague reputation for decency.

As Ali was only 17, father and son were not taken to the high-security immigration detention centre at North West Point but to the old Construction Camp on Phosphate Hill above the town.

The immigration minister, Chris Evans, says Labor converted the facilities here to give children and families a "community environment". It's a grim fib. A high fence was torn down, but what's left is a cluster of tin boxes and concrete walkways surrounded by gravel.

Workers building roads in the bush sleep in dongas like these and are well paid for their discomfort. But on Phosphate Hill families sit behind closed doors day after day with air-conditioners working away. There is little privacy. Heavy rain turns the camp into a mosquito-ridden swamp. Although the guards have gone from the gates, no one is free to leave without an escort.

"It's not a community," said an islander who knows the place intimately. "It's a shithole.

"Under John Howard, boat people were held in detention for years as a harsh warning to those who might follow in their wake. Labor has dramatically sped things up.

The Jaffaris have waited only two months and twelve days for this encounter in the rec room with the woman from DIAC.Her news is all good and delivered swiftly: "The paperwork has gone very quickly and I'm pleased to let you know that the minister has granted you a protection visa." Ali sags a little and thanks her quietly. The father nods.

In real life, victories aren't marked by shouts and high fives, but relief that mimics exhaustion. She slips documents from the envelopes for them to sign. Ali asks that word be sent to a friend he made on the boat who is being held at North West Point. Ali wants to say goodbye. "I only know his name as Said." Promises are made. (And kept.)

There follows a last, bizarre interrogation. It's so pointless it's almost insulting, yet it's proof the Jaffaris have now achieved the privileged status of ordinary travellers.

"Are you," asks the woman from DIAC, "carrying goods that may be prohibited or subject to restriction such as medicines, steroids, firearms, weapons of any kind?" Ali and his father confer. "No, we don't have any." Nor do they have $10,000 or its equivalent in foreign currency. Nor any dried, fresh, preserved, cooked or uncooked food.

The translator labours away and the woman from DIAC crosses each box in their entry cards. Tomorrow they will be driven to one of the most fickle airports in the world, where a plane will be waiting to take them 2600 kilometres to Perth. The scene is not quite finished. The air-conditioner is turned off and in the silence that fills the shed, Ali thanks those who have looked after them on the island.

"We can't consider them as human beings," he says, "but better than human beings, like angels. We are very pleased being treated well and feeling safe and secure here. It can't be described by words."

Monday, August 31, 2009


“We are all diminished by every workplace death and injury” Ron McCallum, Professor of Industrial Law, Sydney University, Former Dean of the Faculty of Law, 2002-2007 at Unions NSW Meeting, 31 August 2009.

Union Delegates and Officials are bristling with anger. The National Harmonisation of Occupational Health and Safety laws is becoming the new Workchoices. The Rudd Government’s friendship with big business has alienated their historical mates in the unions. The Government would do well to remember the effectiveness of the union campaign against the Howard Government over Workchoices.

Unions and government are happy that under the national arrangements as currently drafted, all “business undertakings” will now have a duty to provide a safe place of work for their employees. The primary point of departure between unions and government, especially in NSW is over the abolition of the current right of unions to prosecute employers over safety matters. For over 60 years in NSW, unions have been able to prosecute employers where the regulator refuses to act, and unions have done so very successfully. Dawn Chamberlain, a Finance Sector Union member survived 5 bank robberies, where guns were pointed at her face. Interestingly, she related to a meeting at Unions NSW on Monday 31st August 2009, another FSU member who faced a bank robber with a gun in her face, was asked by the robber to open the safe. Her reply was that she couldn’t, as it was on a time lock. So the money was safe, but the employees at the time, faced the dangers. The union prosecuted successfully and banks installed screens to protect their employees.

Unions have a lot of power in this argument. Every time a tale is related of a worker’s life is lost, or a worker is injured at work, a hush descends on a listening audience. Andrea Vegus spoke at the Unions NSW Meeting, and at the ACTU Rally at the National Conference of the ALP. She now represents the Workplace Tragedy Support Group. Big boofy construction workers cried as she spoke. She received the phone call no wife ever wants to receive, back in 2002. Her husband had been electrocuted on a building site, because someone didn’t turn off the power. It took her an hour and a half to cross town to reach her husband. When she got to the hospital, he was dead, lying cold, under a sheet on a hospital trolley. She lost her husband that day, and her children lost their father. Hardened political operatives spoke about her on the floor of the ALP National Conference, and a hush descended on the Delegates.

The Resolution passed unanimously by the Union Officials and Delegates at the Unions NSW Meeting starts by saying “ All Australians have the right to go to work and come home safely. Yet around 8,000 Australians die and almost 700,000 suffer serious injury, illness or disease each year as a consequence of their employment,” and that includes the innocent wives and children of men who work with asbestos.

The Resolution seeks to have the harmonisation deliver the highest standards of protection for all workers, with no worker being left worse off than they are now. In particular, the new laws must ensure:

1. An unqualified obligation and onus of proof on employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace;
2. The ability of workers and their representatives to independently pursue legal action under health and safety laws;
3. A requirement that employers must consult their employees over all work related matters that affect health and safety;
4. The rights and roles of elected workplace health and safety representatives to be fully protected; and
5. The regulatory framework to be genuinely tri-partite and independent.

Dave Gerke, an Australian Metal Workers Delegate at Transfield, Caltex Kurnell, warned the Unions NSW Meeting that the current draft of the national harmonisation laws will disempower his right to represent his members in the workplace. Unions in that workplace have long demanded asbestos remediation. This is a workplace where every time there is a strong wind, there is a danger of asbestos fibres blowing across the site. Caltex, who make multi -billion profits from high prices charged to the consumer at the bowser, have deemed the cost of a full asbestos remediation of the site “not cost feasible.”

Dave Gerke warned that the current draft national harmonisation laws provide for the employer to decide who and when a delegate goes for training. An untrained delegate may be acting illegally. He spoke strongly in favour of workers only deciding who represents them on safety issues.

Politicians, Federal and State, have been warned. The natives are restless. The temperature is rising. Even the mild mannered Unions NSW Officials are demanding that the NSW Government not co-operate in the National Harmonisation of Occupational Health and Safety Laws if they do not meet the five points above. Behind them, there are a lot of angry unionists.

Jenny Haines

Thursday, August 20, 2009


4 . Supreme Court slams Hardie, bans directors

Adam Schwab writes in Crikey 20.9.09:

The Supreme Court of New South Wales has delivered significant findings of penalty in the civil action brought by ASIC against various former executives and directors of asbestos manufacturer, James Hardie.

The civil action related to a press release approved by the James Hardie board in February 2001 which wrongfully claimed that an asbestos trust setup to compensate victims was "fully funded" and "provided certainty for both claimants and shareholders". It was later determined that the Trust established by Hardie was underfunded by $1.8 billion.

The harshest penalty was handed to former chief executive, Peter Macdonald, who was banned from serving as a director for 15 years and fined $350,000. The disqualification was close to ASIC's request of a 16-year ban (MacDonald's counsel had earlier argued that a five to seven year prohibition was appropriate). When he departed from James Hardie in 2004, Macdonald received an $8.24 million termination payment, which in light of the recent decision of the NSW Supreme Court, represents a low watermark for corporate governance in this country.

Ultimately, Macdonald's fine amounted to less than five percent of his final payment from Hardie.

Other James Hardie executives to receive civil penalties included former general counsel, Peter Shafran ($75,000 fine and seven-year ban) and former chief financial officer, Philip Morley ($35,000 fine and five year ban).

Justice Ian Gzell also imposed significant fines for the non-executive directors of James Hardie who were found to have breached section 180(1) of the Corporations Act (the duty to act with due care and diligence) when they approved the infamous press release in February 2001.

The former directors, including former chairwoman Meredith Hellicar, along with Michael Brown, Michael Gillfillan, Martin Koffel, Dan O’Brien, Greg Terry and Peter Willcox, received fines of $30,000 each and have been disqualified from acting as company directors for five years. ASIC had been seeking a five year disqualification and fines of between $120,000 and $130,000. Despite glowing character references, Justice Gzell imposed a significant penalty on the non-executive directors after being especially critical of Hellicar in his early finding, stating that she was "a most unsatisfactory witness" and that "there was a dogmatism in [Hellicar's] testimony that I do not accept. She was proved to be inaccurate on a number (of) occasions."
ASIC had earlier argued that the breached committed by Hardie directors were "a culmination of planning over a long period" and "one of the most significant decisions in the company's history."

The disqualifications and judgment effectively end the corporate careers of the Hardie directors. Hellicar had already resigned from the blue-chip boards of AMP and Amalgamated Holdings, while Willcox departed the Telstra board earlier this year.

The disqualifications and fines will do little to appease asbestos victims, with James Hardie stating in May that due to the global financial downturn and tax debts associated with its relocation to the Netherlands, it would be unable to make a contribution to the asbestos compensation fund during 2009/10 and would have difficulties in making promised compensation payments over the coming three years.

Such pessimism appears to have been short-lived however, or perhaps convenient. On Tuesday, James Hardie shares rose 22% (its biggest spike in forty years) after the company released positive profit figures and CEO, Louis Gries, stated that the US residential construction slump was "nearing the bottom".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Heavy immigration detention centre security stays

By Karlis Salna , Daily Telegraph

From: AAP

August 18, 2009 6:06PM

THE Rudd Government has no plans to reduce security at the Christmas Island detention centre despite an inquiry finding measures employed at the facility are draconian and over the top.

In its third and final report into immigration detention in Australia, the Joint Standing Committee on Migration has raised serious concerns about the standard of accommodation in detention facilities.

The report also raises concerns about the level of security at some centres, particularly at the North West Point facility on Christmas Island.

"The standard of the accommodation and facilities provided at immigration detention centres was of a serious concern, particularly Stage 1 at Villawood and the Perth immigration centre," the report said.

Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar.
Calls for overhaul of immigration detention NEWS.com.au, 1 day ago
Christmas Island can cope: Government NEWS.com.au, 28 Jun 2009
100 more boatpeople on way Perth Now, 26 Jun 2009
Villawood detention centre revamp The Australian, 11 May 2009
Migrant centre stretched to limit Daily Telegraph, 28 Apr 2009
End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.

"Many detention facilities also have disproportionate and antiquated security measures such as razor/barbed wire, in particular at the North West Point immigration detention centre on Christmas Island."

Included in a raft of recommendations is for all caged walkways, perspex barriers and electrified fencing be removed from the North West Point detention centre, and that barbed wire fencing be removed from all immigration detention centres.

However, Immigration Minister Chris Evans dismissed the possibility of making any significant changes to the Christmas Island centre, saying it would be too costly.

"The detention centre on Christmas Island is an integral part of Australia's border protection regime and is the only large, secure immigration detention facility available other than the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney," Senator Evans said.

"The Christmas Island detention centre was built as a high security facility by the previous government at a cost of $400 million and to make significant alterations now would be financially unfeasible."

The Rudd government was committed to maintaining its policy that all illegal boat arrivals were detained and processed at Christmas Island while health, identity and security checks are undertaken, Senator Evans said.

"The Labor party went to the last election with a commitment to maintain a system of mandatory detention and offshore processing on Christmas Island for all irregular maritime arrivals and these commitments are being met."

Joint Standing Committee on Migration chairman Michael Danby said the poor standard of accommodation at detention centres supported the case that detainees instead be placed in residential housing.

"The standard of the accommodation and facilities provided at many immigration detention centres were of a serious concern," Mr Danby said.

"The committee has therefore recommended that detention in immigration residential housing should be used in lieu of detention in immigration detention centres, provided that is feasible."

The committee also recommended that the reconstruction of Stage 1 at Villawood be a priority and that the Perth detention centre be replaced with a purpose-built, long-term facility.


Red News Readers,

Lest we forget the position of the Liberal National Coalition when in government and in opposition on refugee and asylum seekers,

Jenny Haines

Detention bill reopens split over asylum seekers

Yuko Narushima Immigration Correspondent, smh.

August 19, 2009

THE Opposition will vote in the Senate against Labor's planned detention reforms as Liberal fissures opened again over the treatment of asylum seekers.

The Opposition spokeswoman on immigration, Sharman Stone, said the party would seek amendments to the bill, which is designed to give people more time to claim asylum and grant more independence to detainees while their cases were assessed.

The Opposition has consistently linked changes announced by the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, last year with a surge in boat arrivals.

But a parliamentary committee, which includes the Liberal MP, Danna Vale, and the Labor senator, Anne McEwen, said the Government's detention practices were too harsh. Prison-like detention centres, such as the $400 million compound at Christmas Island, should be used only when no other option was available, the committee said.

It also called for more transparency, including publication on the department's website of the number of men, women and children detained at any time.

''We have an obligation to both the Australian and international community to ensure that all people in immigration detention are treated humanely and fairly,'' said the committee chairman, Labor MP Michael Danby.

In a dissenting report the Liberal moderate, Petro Georgiou, attacked the Government's continued detention of children, saying all minors and their families should be freed from ''facilities euphemistically described as alternative and family style''.

''It must be made very clear that both immigration residential housing and transit accommodation are closed, secure environments where detainees are closely monitored by guards and are not allowed to freely come and go,'' he said.

The Greens senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, was also disappointed by the report. She demanded the Government resume control over detention centre management to create a direct line of accountability for what happened inside.

The Government recently broke an election promise by awarding a five-year management contract to Serco, a private contractor.

Dr Stone, a committee member since last November, refused to endorse any of the findings, calling them ''a stab in the dark'' due to the lack of evidence provided.

Repeated attempts to visit Christmas Island after the surge in boat arrivals began were rejected and the department failed to provide a detailed breakdown on how much detention cost, she said.

''This makes a meaningful discussion … impossible,'' she wrote in a separate report.

Yesterday Senator Evans said he was committed to mandatory detention and offshore processing.

"The detention centre on Christmas Island is … the only large, secure immigration detention facility available other than the Villawood immigration detention centre in Sydney,'' he said.

The detention reform bill is expected to reach the Senate next month.

A bill to stop charging refugees for their detention is expected to be passed this week.


Red News Readers,

Abortion law reform is long overdue in NSW. Good on the Labor Pollies for speaking out for this and hopefully there can be across party co-operation on this to get what is needed.

Jenny Haines

Labor MPs support new calls to legalise abortion

Alexandra Smith, smh.

August 19, 2009

AT LEAST three Labor MPs are supporting a new push to change the state's 40-year-old abortion laws.

Angela D'Amore, Helen Westwood and Penny Sharpe have supported calls by a new lobby group to remove abortion from the criminal code.

The group, Pro Choice NSW, was set up after criminal charges were laid against a couple in Queensland who had used RU486, also known as the abortion pill.

Despite the push by the Labor MPs, who are working with Pro Choice NSW, the Premier, Nathan Rees, said he had no plans to follow Victoria in decriminalising abortion.

A Liberal MP, Pru Goward, has also had discussions with Pro Choice NSW, a fact that was expected to enrage members of the party's religious right, David Clarke and Greg Smith.

In Victoria and the ACT, a woman may have an abortion within the first 24 weeks of gestation for any reason. But in NSW abortion is illegal unless it would prevent serious danger to a woman's health.

The campaign by Pro Choice NSW follows efforts by a similar group in Victoria that resulted in the removal of abortion from the Victorian criminal code.

A spokeswoman for Pro Choice NSW, Jane Caro, said the group was formed after a Cairns couple was charged with criminal offences for using RU486.

Tegan Simone Leach, 19, faces seven years in jail if she is convicted.

This week it emerged that legislation to overhaul abortion laws in Queensland was drafted in 2003 but the bill was blocked by the former premier Peter Beattie and his deputy, Anna Bligh, who is now Premier.

''Our focus is simple and that is to have abortion removed from the criminal code in NSW,'' Ms Caro said.

Ms Sharpe, an upper house MP, said she supported the actions of the Victorian and ACT governments. ''I'd like to see abortion removed from the Crimes Act but I do understand it is something that would require some support from all parties.''

A spokesman for the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, said: "In NSW, the common law provides for legal abortion under certain circumstances and adequately protects women and health professionals.

''The current legal position on abortion has been in place for almost 40 years."

The Greens MP Lee Rhiannon is also working with Pro Choice NSW and said the state was fast becoming the most conservative state in the country.

''Following the news from Queensland, Premier Rees should give the NSW Law Reform Commission a reference to modernise our outdated laws, taking the lead from Victoria and the ACT, which now regulate abortion through public health laws.''

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Red News Readers,

My experience with centralised rostering in the past is that it is inflexible. That was why the rank and file nurses' demands over the years devolved to Request Rostering at ward or unit level. It does create work for the Nursing Unit Managers, but a good NUM teaches her senior staff to roster and spreads the work around. There are some ward based computerised rostering systems that are time savers and remain flexible. Greater inflexibility in nurses rosters will only lead to greater dissatisfaction.

It doesn’t seem as though NSW Health is learning the right lessons from the Garling Report, and there is a contradiction in what they are doing, with what the Feds are doing. Roxon is putting money behind RN positions in universities and Bringing Nurses Back to the Workforce which is mainly designed to attract RNs and ENs. Meanwhile, NSW Health is filling RN position with AINs. Next thing we are going to have is RN unemployment at a time of RN shortages! Their crazy!!

Jenny Haines

$4m for 10 bureaucrats to do rosters as nurses go

Eamonn Duff and Louise Hall, Sun Herald

August 16, 2009

THE NSW Government will pay 10 bureaucrats an average of $100,000 a year to micro-manage the rosters of all nurses, junior doctors and allied health staff while hundreds of front-line hospital workers are made redundant to save money.

Documents leaked to The Sun-Herald reveal the rostering of almost all NSW Health staff will be taken away from local managers and centralised in a new electronic system.

On top of the $4 million set aside over four years to create 10 management roles at the Gladesville-based ''Rostering Centre of Excellence'', a panel of ''change management consultants'' will be paid to help roll out the system across the state.

Health unions say the situation is the latest example of a health department devising short-term policies that contradict each other and lead to poor morale and put patients at risk.

NSW Minister for Health John Della Bosca said voluntary redundancies and widespread replacement of registered nurses with unqualified assistants in nursing were necessary as the health budget increased by a record 10 per cent this year.

''The reality is that every area of hospital activity is under scrutiny so we can pay our bills,'' he told the NSW Nurses' Association annual conference last month. ''The status quo is not sustainable in the face of rising demand, an ageing population and a limited budget.''

Mr Della Bosca has championed the introduction of 500 clinical support officers, who will provide administrative help, including rostering, to nurses so they can focus on patients.

But the Health Services Union organiser Adam Hall said Area Health Services are currently making experienced administrative and allied health workers redundant.

He said of the 1100 applications received for 73 clinical support officer positions at Sydney West, only 10 were from current employees. ''Why would you spend taxpayers' money to pay out all these redundancies when you've got to hire more people to do the same job - it's crazy.''

NSW Nurses' Association general secretary Brett Holmes said the plan to offer voluntary redundancies to experienced nurses and replace registered nurses with assistants in nursing flies in the face of Garling inquiry recommendations.

''Garling was adamant that experienced nurses are crucial … It is difficult to see how voluntary redundancies, which will increase workloads, reduce [ward skill levels] and put more pressure on the nurses who remain, is consistent with Garling recommendations.''

Christine Duffield from the Centre for Health Services Management at Sydney's University of Technology headed a $1.2 million study in 2007 that showed increasing the proportion of less-qualified staff in hospitals caused preventable deaths.

She said a faceless public servant churning out pro forma rosters was no match for a nursing unit manager.

Opposition spokeswoman for Health Jillian Skinner said the archaic, paper-based payroll and rostering systems in NSW Health were overdue for modernisation. But she said any centralised electronic rostering system must be flexible enough to accommodate the ''human factors'' such as family responsibilities.

A NSW Health spokesman said the Rostering Centre of Excellence was part of an upgrade of the department's IT systems and aimed at freeing up nurse unit managers and heads of department from administrative roles. ''It is not intended that the centre will devise rosters in a single location nor replace the local development of rosters,'' he said. ''Staff will continue to have an input.''


Red News Readers,

Make no mistake. The privatisation of food services in public hospitals is not going to contribute to improving the quality of a patient’s care or cuisine while in hospital. It will only add to the chaos.

Hospital food has to be available on a round the clock basis 365 days a year. Patients do not present for their meal neatly at meal times, particularly in the current system. Food that meets all sorts of dietary needs, tastes, and requirements has to be available on this round the clock basis eg for new admissions, patients eating late or early due to diagnostic and surgical procedures being done during the day, patients recovering from abdominal disorders, diabetic patients.

Food in hospital is not always a plate of meat and three vegs. It can be liquid food that is fed through a tube. Patients of Asian origin need Asian food. How many contractors are going to be willing to provide these services at a cost that is less than what it costs now? Especially without cutting corners on quality and safety?

Privatisation of food services in public hospitals is a bad idea and Rees and Della Bosca should drop it once and for all.

Jenny Haines

New food on the table for public hospitals

Julie Robotham Medical Editor

August 12, 2009

NSW Health is looking to privatise food service across the state, with a single external company responsible for providing all food to public hospitals one option under consideration.

NSW Health chief executive Debora Picone acknowledged full privatisation was an option, as the department scrutunises food service for possible efficiencies.

''There is no question at all that I am looking at the whole food service issue,'' Professor Picone said.

Professor Picone pointed out that contractors were used to supply meals in many areas already, but acknowledged any more general state-wide contract would be an escalation of the move towards outsourcing hospital food, which has already alarmed nutritionists.

It would go far beyond plans announced earlier this year to bulk-purchase pre-packaged or frozen meals direct from factories.

Professor Picone would not comment on when any plan might be finalised and said one complexity was negotiating with relevant unions. ''I haven't made any decision and it will be made on a whole range of economic and quality [measures],'' she said.

Other sources said the plan was already well advanced and had been briefed to senior area health service managers, though meals for people with special dietary requirements might still be produced directly by NSW Health staff under the proposal.

Already the department has begun centralising responsibility for meals away from hospital and regional management and into a new statewide Health Support Services unit increasingly charged with corporate functions across NSW. In its last annual report, the department stated as a priority for this year, the ''transitioning of food services to Health Support Services to be managed as a statewide business unit''. That move would ease the way for any privatisation.

The Health Services Union organiser, Adam Hall, said, ''3000 jobs will be lost if the health department is to give this the go-ahead''. Mr Hall said centralising food inevitably would limit patients' food choices and was particularly inappropriate for hospitalised children, whose condition and appetite could change swiftly.

He also expressed concern the move would lead to increased transportation costs and result in wastage of food and packaging.

A spokeswoman for NSW Health said the department produced about 22 million meals a year, at a cost of up to $250 million.

After adverse comments about food standards received by Peter Garling in his review earlier this year of NSW public hospitals, the department had set up a nutrition and food governance committee under the NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, ''to ensure that a nutritionally appropriate, safe, equitable and cost-effective food service is delivered to NSW Health public hospitals''.

''Any consideration to a change in service delivery will be informed by a thorough consultation process with the union and staff, and reflect a commitment to improved quality and service for patients,'' the spokeswoman said.

Mr Garling heard half of patients were malnourished and most elderly patients could not open meal packages - compromising their recovery and lengthening their hospital stay.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Robin Rothfield, 1.8.09.

Robin is the Secretary of Labor for Refugees in Victoria.

Delegates, the Rudd Government is to be commended for making significant progress with refugee policy in many areas, the latest of which are plans to ensure that asylum seekers living in the community have work rights and that the system of charging asylum seekers for the costs of their detention is abolished.

The platform before you, together with the amendments proposed, indicate the promise of additional positive outcomes with regard to:

*Australia’s non-refoulement obligations
*the operation of the refugee review tribunal
*the management of detention centres
*financial assistance to people coming to Australiaunder the Special Humanitarian Program,
*assistance for Pacific Islanders affected by climate change.

Labor for Refugees expresses its appreciation to Minister Chris Evans and his Advisers for their cooperation on these policies.

We are however disappointed that the Rudd Government fails to recognize the nonsense of its policy on the excision of outlying islands from Australia’s migration zone. Let us recall that excision was the brainchild of the Howard Government with the object of preventing asylum seekers landing on the excised islands from being able to apply for refugee status. But as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission pointed out in 2001 when the excision legislation was drafted, Australia continues to be bound by its human rights obligations towards aslylum seekers landing on the excised territories. The idea that Australia can escape from its international obligations by legislating for the so-called excision of these territories is an illusion.

The Rudd Government has allowed such aslyum seekers to apply for refugee status so that in a sense it has repudiated the intention of the Howard Government in introducing such legislation. But in retaining the concept of excision the Rudd Government is in effect contradicting itself and engaging in an act of deception.

In the early 1990s France legislated to create an 'international zone'in its airports and ports which was deemed to be outside French territory. However, in Amuur v. France, the European Court of Human Rights held that despite its name, such an 'international zone' did nothave extraterritorial status and France's international obligations (inthat case under the European Convention on Human Rights) continued to apply. Thus, creating the legal fiction that certain Australian territory is outside the migration zone does not in any way reduce or avoid Australia's international obligations, most relevantly under theRefugee Convention.

Delegates, Labor policy on refugees has in many ways moved forward but in this matter of excision it has actually moved backwards because in the platform adopted at the 2007 National Conference three territories only were specified for the continuation of excision i.e Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Ashmore Reef with the implication that the remainder of Australia’s 3000 odd outlying islands would resume membership of its migration zone.

But the draft platform before you suggests that all offshore places will remain excised. The current draft platform implies that there is something legal called a migration zone, when such an entity is entirely notional and has been declared to be legal fiction by the European Court of Human Rights.

Delegates, the second part of the paragraph on excision deals with the location of the processing of asylum seekers. The processing of asylum seekers who land on the excised territories is to be carried out on Christmas Island. This effectively creates two categories of asylum seekers with access to different rights: those landing in the excised territories and those landing on the mainland. Asylum seekers processed on Christmas Island are not permitted to appeal to the Federal Courts in the event that their application is rejected by the Department. I submit that this distinction is nonsensical and unconscionable.

Delegates, let us reject the policy of encouraging racial fear and distrust, resulting in the persecution of people in distress and the disregard of our international obligations. Instead, let us stand by our principles, and show compassion and justice to those who come to Australia seeking our help. We must abandon the very expensive and futile policy of processing asylum seekers on an excised Christmas Island. On the grounds of conscience, consistency and plain commonsense Labor for Refugees urges the Rudd Government to remove this major obscenity of the Howard era.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Nepean nurses fear chop for 155

Kate Benson, smh

July 26, 2009

NURSES at one of Sydney's busiest hospitals fear losing their jobs after being told more than 150 positions would be axed, while health workers in the state's north have been offered redundancy deals for the third time in six months, in a bid to clear debt of more than $130 million.

Nurses at Nepean Hospital were told 12 days ago that 155 positions would be lost, despite assurances that front-line staff would not be targeted.

"The nurses here are beside themselves. There is no fat on the bone," NSW Nurses Association branch secretary Peter Mason said yesterday.

"They are outraged and angered that management has refused to tell us where and when this will happen. I can't see where we could lose anyone without services being affected."

NSW Nurses Association general secretary Brett Holmes said it was not time to "get panicky" until it was clear which services would be affected. "But we have told them in no uncertain terms that if they don't consult with us there will be a war," Mr Holmes said.

In May, support staff at Nepean expressed no confidence in the area chief executive, Steven Boyages, over unfilled vacancies and management structures within the beleaguered Sydney West Area Health Service. They will stop work for two hours on Tuesday to protest at the privatisation of food services and a lack of staff.

On Friday, it was revealed that the North Coast Area Health Service was running more than $130 million in the red on last year's budget, including $19 million over budget at Lismore Hospital, $16 million at Coffs Harbour and more than $13 million at Port Macquarie.

All staff were sent emails asking them to consider taking redundancy to cut costs, but a statement by the area health service indicated the offers were aimed at administrative, corporate, support and management positions.


Red News Readers,

I wish Obama well in trying to achieve health care reform. Maybe he could organise mass showings of Michael Moore's Sicko to Republican Senators, Congressmen and supporters.

Jenny Haines

Obama renews push for health reform, blasts delay

July 26, 2009, Sun Herald.

US President Barack Obama has renewed his push for health reform, arguing he felt "a sense of urgency" in moving his proposal forward and blasting those advocating delay.

"Today, after a lot of hard work in Congress, we are closer than ever before to finally passing reform that will reduce costs, expand coverage, and provide more choices for our families and businesses," Obama said in his weekly radio address on Saturday.

"That is why I feel such a sense of urgency about moving this process forward."

Obama wants Congress to approve his health care reform proposals by the end of the year in order to fulfill one of his key campaign promises - providing health care to the 46 million Americans, some 15 per cent of the population, who currently do not have any medical coverage.

Obama's health care plan includes a government insurance option, which has been fiercely criticised by Republicans.

The US president also hopes to cut in half runaway healthcare expenditures which, if unchecked, are forecast to gobble up one-fifth of US gross domestic product by 2013.

But he has met increasing resistance from both Republicans and even some among his own Democratic Party worried about the costs of such a reform.

In a setback for the president, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Thursday that lawmakers had given up on a vote before September.

In his address, Obama said that calls for a delay in passing the measure were being used by reform opponents as a tactic designed to stop the proposed changes.

"Some have even suggested that, regardless of its merits, health care reform should be stopped as a way to inflict political damage on my administration," the president said.

"I'll leave it to them to explain that to the American people," he continued. "What I'm concerned about is the damage that's being done right now to the health of our families, the success of our businesses, and the long-term fiscal stability of our government."


Monday, July 20, 2009


We have 38% fewer hospital beds than in 1981: it’s a scandal

by Professor Peter Collignon, Crikey 20.7.09

Governments of all persuasions have tried to limit health expenditure by cutting hospital bed numbers, in the mistaken belief that less beds mean more efficiency. The result — not enough hospital beds available for the needs of many very sick patients.

Around Australia, this lack of beds in the wards of public hospitals results in frequent Emergency Department “bed block”, ambulance “bypass” and postponed elective surgery.

In Australia we have 38% less beds than in 1981 when there were 6.4 acute care hospital beds for every 1000 people. There are now only four beds per 1000 people available. Only 2.7 of these beds are available in the public sector — where the sickest patients are looked after.

In the ACT the situation is worse. There were only 2.3 public hospital beds available per 1000 residents in 2006-07 and we need to take into account that around 25% of these public hospital beds are filled by NSW residents. This effectively means there are only about 1.7 public hospital beds are available per 1000 ACT residents. By far the lowest ratio in Australia.

It is likely that the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission report, whose release is expected shortly, will rightly put much emphasis on improving and strengthening primary care, but it is important that the need to improve hospitals’ capacity is not overlooked.

When there is a lack of beds, patients suffer. More complications and even deaths occur. Many are left in Emergency waiting rooms because too often there are no beds available to care for them. In those left at home, necessary surgery and medical therapy is delayed because there are no beds available to which they can be admitted. Some patients already admitted in smaller hospitals might require transfer to tertiary referral hospitals for more appropriate care but spend many days waiting for a bed to become available. This also means that their appropriate higher level care and therapy is delayed.

When you run a hospital at close to 100% occupancy, this makes hospitals less efficient — not more efficient. When full, there is no flexibility to move patients to the wards or areas that is most suitable for their care. They have to take a bed anywhere and then be moved (often multiple times) around the hospital until they arrive in the area of most appropriate care.

We need more acute care hospital beds. The number of beds we have available now too often fails to cope with the needs of those who are seriously ill and need to be in hospital.

We need adequate numbers of appropriately trained staff to look after the patients in additional beds. While we can’t produce large numbers of appropriately trained staff overnight, Governments should be able to look at what our needs are likely to be in the future and ensure we train and retain many more nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers. This can’t be done overnight but with appropriate planning and implementation it can start having an effect within a few years.

What number of beds should we have? No one can really be sure. But the number of available beds now is clearly not enough.

A 20% increase (to five beds per 1000 population) would seem to the minimum improvement necessary and the level we had in the 1980s (six beds) a preferable key performance indicator to strive for. When we no longer have “bed block”, ambulance “bypasses” and when those people triaged as “urgent” or higher can get rapid access to beds, then we know we have go the bed numbers correct.

It is time for all our political parties to give such a commitment. What is happening now in Canberra and around the country is intolerable and has to change. We need local and national targets for the number of adequately staffed acute care beds that should be available and then a concerted campaign over the next few years to make sure we get there.

Professor Peter Collignon is President, ACT Branch of the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation.

Euan J Thomas

Posted Monday, 20 July 2009 at 1:15 pm Permalink

That will explain why i’m waiting and waiting and waiting for a hip operation. Mean while getting stoned off my little brain on all the so-called pain killers the doctors keep prescriping for me. Oh well at least I’m getting legally stoned!

Tony Stratford

Posted Monday, 20 July 2009 at 1:34 pm Permalink

There have been significant changes in medical practice over the last twenty years. For example, if you had your appendix out in 1980, you probably stayed in hospital for 4-5 days. Now, you will be out in 2. A cataract operation which was done in 1980 required at least an overnight stay - now it is usually a day procedure. This means that if we were to do the same work that was done in 1980, we would need fewer beds.The issues of “bed block” may also be related to staff shortages (rather than lack of physical beds), or to lack of particular kinds of beds (intensive care, coronary care).


Posted Monday, 20 July 2009 at 1:36 pm Permalink

Euan J Thomas -Is your operation classified as “elective”?I can’t understand how they’re allowed to get away with this.My brother-in-law required surgery for cancer several yrs ago, and it was classified as “elective”. It’s horrific that people have to wait so long, when being in chronic/acute pain is recognized as ruining people’s general health, including their immune system.

Of course, if there are more available beds around the country, are there the necessary doctor/nursing staff to care for them anyway? Cutting back on the number of people allowed to study medicine started before the Howard govt I believe, and Howard just made the problem worse. I heard last week that patient toilets were closed in a large hospital in NSW due to cleaning staff being off sick. Pity the poor patients who had to trudge up or down a floor to visit the loo or have a shower etc?I asked a stupid question, ‘why not employ more cleaners’?Silly me! There are people out of work aren’t there?

Would the hospital system be any better if the Rudd govt took over?I often wonder how much money is wasted in having duplicate administrative positions around the country. It would be interesting to know these costs! I’d probably be shocked, and I think I’m pretty well aware of the current position. It’s a miracle that there aren’t more deaths - maybe they just keep them quiet!
I also heard that a new hospital in NSW that has just opened has 2 less beds than the old one it replaced?I just wonder what idiots are in charge of making these decisions?

Shirley Leader

Posted Monday, 20 July 2009 at 1:43 pm Permalink

The reduction in ‘beds’ over the years has also led to the widespread implementation of mixed gender wards - a situation which represents an erosion by stealth of the dignity of patients, both male and female. No one wants to hear about it though - I think we’ve passed the point of no return on this one.

Jenny Haines

Posted Monday, 20 July 2009 at 2:42 pm Permalink

Having been involved in many campaigns opposing the closure of hospitals and hospital beds over the last 30 years, I have to say that Peter is right and he has health system administrator support for his views. I remember sitting at a table as a union representative a couple of years ago when a senior NSW Health administrator admitted that too many beds had been closed. I made him repeat what he had said a couple of times, while I luxuriated in being vindicated. It is true that there is far more day stay, outpatient, and hospital in the home work now, and that there are bed closures due to staffing shortages and the lack of availability of the appropriate skill mix, particularly in nursing. These staffing shortages are being addressed, with the current Federal Government far more committed to registered nurse education than the Howard Government who were rapidly moving towards the de-skilling of nursing no matter what the cost to the quality of care. But more needs to be done. Much more. And Peter’s objective of 5 beds per 1000 of populations seems to be a reasonable objective. I am presuming he means public hospital beds otherwise the ugly difficulty of accessibility based on health insurance status arises.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Cost cuts put staff in danger

Kirsty Needham Workplace Reporter

smh, July 17, 2009

EMPLOYERS who cut corners to cut costs are compromising workplace safety, WorkCover NSW has warned.

A bulletin issued to NSW businesses urges them to "keep the workload realistic" for staff, and says company restructures and cost cutting are causing anxiety and leading to more mistakes.

The warning coincides with the release of WorkCover data showing an increase in workplace injuries and occupational disease in NSW in 2007-08, reversing the trend of improved safety.

"People say safety is the first thing to go … it is a very real issue that needs to be considered upfront as businesses take action to save money by doing things a bit quickly," said John Watson, WorkCover NSW's general manager of occupational health and safety.

WorkCover has told employers that unsafe workplaces cost more in the long run if they lead to higher compensation payouts or falling morale.

Workplace fatalities in NSW fell in 2007-08, but the number of injuries, weeks lost due to injury and level of compensation payouts rose. Total injuries rose by 2339 (2 per cent) to 142,542.

Major workplace injuries, involving a week or more off work, rose by 3 per cent to 30,077.

An error-reduction specialist said more mistakes are made as companies shed staff.

"People taking on more work increases the cognitive load. People being stressed by financial pressures decreases cognitive capacity. So we have a double whammy effect," said Filomena Sousa, chief executive of Talsico International.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Red News Readers,

I note that several Sydney Hospitals have had to cancel elective surgery to cope with the swine flu. This pandemic will be a real test of the health system’s ability to cope with a crisis, like widespread flu, or a terrorist event, or whatever. I heard through the grapevine about 2 weeks ago that RPA and other hospitals were struggling because of the number of staff off sick with the flu, so I am not surprised that they have had to cut elective surgery. Their HR practices of getting rid of experienced staff because they were too expensive will be coming back to bite them at a time like this. I wonder how well the critical care units are coping with that many patients on Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation when they have so many young and inexperienced staff? And I wonder if that is why there has been a service reduction as well to allow for the inexperienced staff ?

Jenny Haines

Swine flu warning as deaths increase

Kate Benson and Andrew Clennell

smh, July 14, 2009

HEALTH experts fear the state's swine flu death toll could soar with six young, healthy people in Sydney fighting for their lives on last-resort cardiac bypass machines because their lungs are too damaged or diseased for regular mechanical ventilation.

The surge in the number of people with swine flu needing life-saving treatment has forced NSW Health to consider closing elective surgery at some big hospitals to allow staff to redirect resources.

What is your experience? How is your company being affected? Text 0424 SMS SMH (+61 424 767 764), email us with information and pictures or direct message us on Twitter @smh_news

Four people have now died in NSW since the pandemic hit on May 9, a woman, 61, being the latest victim. Her death on Saturday at Lismore Base Hospital was followed by two more suspected swine flu deaths, of men aged between 30 and 50, at Royal North Shore Hospital. Their deaths have been referred to the coroner.

Almost 350 people have been admitted to hospital with swine flu since the pandemic began. Fifty have been treated in intensive care, but doctors say the surge in patients needing cardiac bypass treatment is putting a huge strain on intensive care units and on staff and resources across the state.

All six of the victims on cardiac bypass are at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, where staff have been forced to borrow three machines to treat 10 patients in the past two weeks. The hospital usually treated about five patients a year using the machines, the head of intensive care services, Robert Herkes, said yesterday.

"This is not an ordinary winter. Swine flu is hitting young, otherwise healthy people … they start with a sore throat, develop shortness of breath and within 12 to 24 hours have rapidly developed respiratory failure and are being ventilated."

Dr Herkes said extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, was considered a last-resort treatment, but staff were "throwing everything" at the patients because they were young and relatively healthy.

Patients in respiratory distress are given anticoagulants by machine, and their blood is drained through tubing in their femoral or jugular veins. It is oxygenated outside the body, allowing the lungs to recover.

Three patients with swine flu had been taken off the treatment at Royal Prince Alfred in the past few days. One was "sitting up talking, on a ward", but two were still critical and were being mechanically ventilated, Dr Herkes said.

Brad Frankum, a general physician and immunologist at Campbelltown Hospital, said he had heard anecdotal reports that "more people than ever before" were being treated with ECMO this winter. "This is of great concern because it would suggest that the number of serious cases [of acute respiratory distress] are threatening the capacity of the system," he said.

The deputy director-general of NSW Health, Tim Smyth, said yesterday five big hospitals in Sydney had now been designated to treat swine flu victims with ECMO, up from two a fortnight ago. He said about a third of swine flu patients in intensive care were needing this treatment, but there was still capacity to deal with the pandemic.

He said the department had stockpiled 130 new standard ventilators two years ago as part of the state's disaster plan and would open more intensive care beds on high dependency units if the number of patients continued to surge.

But Peter Collignon, a professor in infectious diseases at the Australian National University, played down the use of the machines, saying "this happens every winter - it just doesn't get publicity".

A spokesman for the State Government said elective surgery could be cancelled at Royal North Shore, Royal Prince Alfred and St Vincent's hospitals, and patients due for surgery would be moved to less affected hospitals.

"There's no move at this stage to move to a different [status] in our pandemic plan," a spokesman for the Health Minister, John Della Bosca, said.

There are many hundreds of flu deaths every year, but a senior health source said swine flu was likely to hit harder as there was no vaccine and no immunity.


- 2029 people have tested positive in NSW.

- 346 have been admitted to hospital (255 in Sydney's west and south-west).

- Four have died, with two more deaths awaiting coroner's confirmation.

- Five major Sydney hospitals now treating victims with cardiac bypass machines.

- One-third of the population expected to get swine flu.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Red News Readers,

Ian Rintoul wins the prize for humanity. Meanwhile the BNP recommends sinking asylum seeker boats at sea (see below)

Jenny Haines

Mystery surrounds asylum seekers' boat

July 10, 2009

The fate of 74 Afghans is uncertain, write Tom Allard in Jakarta and Yuko Narushima.

IT WAS the curious incident of a boat in the night time, triggered by an asylum seeker's dying mobile phone and a concerned Australian supporter.

But confused messages between Australia and Indonesia leave mystery surrounding the fate of an estimated 74 people.

On Wednesday night, the Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, said on television that a boat of asylum seekers missing off Indonesia had been found after an alert from the federal police.

"Indonesian maritime agencies have located the boat. All on board - which I understand to be some 70 people - are, on our advice, safe," he said.

But in Indonesia yesterday authorities could not confirm the boat's existence, let alone evidence of a rescue of the Afghan passengers.

Authorities had mistakenly briefed officials that the passengers were safe, Mr Smith said in a clarifying statement last night. In the meantime, police dodged questions on why Australia was monitoring waters so far away. A federal police spokesman said the minister's comments had been speculative.

"As the incident has occurred in Indonesian waters, it is a matter for Indonesian authorities," he said.

According to Customs and Border Protection, Australian police were contacted by Indonesian authorities on learning the boat was in trouble. "Our role was only to offer assistance," a spokesman said.

As Australian agencies flicked responsibility for information on the boat from one area to another, a refugee advocate, Ian Rintoul, tried to end the confusion.

He said he tipped off Australian border protection agencies after receiving text messages from Pakistan on Wednesday morning. He contacted a passenger's mobile and learnt the boat was taking on water, he said. The last text from the boat read: "My mobile has no power now. I can't contact you any more. May God help us."

There was little doubt from the messages the boat was headed for Australia. Mr Rintoul said the second last message was explicit. "I need help from Aus. Police not indonesian police. W will die but w won't go with indo. Police. I humbly request aus. Govt to help us. Plz plz plz," it said.

Yesterday, Indonesian authorities said they had not yet found the boat or anyone who had seen it. Family members of those on board contacted Mr Rintoul yesterday, telling him they had made their way to an unnamed island in Indonesia.

"My contacts in Pakistan definitely got the information they were on an island but there was no information that they had been rescued," he said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Toni Sjaiful, spokesman for the Indonesian Navy's eastern fleet, said navy and police boats had been searching since Wednesday morning around the Komodo Islands and south off the coast of West Timor.

"We have found nothing. No dead bodies floating, for instance, or anything that may indicate their whereabouts," Colonel Sjaiful said.

Mr Rintoul said it was highly unlikely the missing boat was a hoax. "If it was a hoax, it was an amazingly elaborate one. When I rang the people on the boat, you could hear the water lapping in the background," he said.

He had not been in contact with those on board since they reportedly found landfall.


EU 'should sink immigrant boats'

Article from: Agence France-Presse

From correspondents in London

July 09, 2009 08:00am

THE leader of the far-right British National Party (BNP), recently elected to the European Parliament, says the European Union should sink boats carrying African immigrants trying to reach the continent.

Nick Griffin, one of two BNP members elected to the Brussels parliament in May, told the BBC that those on board would be thrown a life raft, but insisted only drastic action could stop Europe being "swamped by the Third World".

"The only measure, sooner or later, which is going to stop immigration and stop large numbers of sub-Saharan Africans dying on the way to get over here is to get very tough with those coming over," he said today. "Frankly, they need to sink several of those boats.

"Anyone coming up with measures like that (in the EU) we'll support, but anything which is there as a 'Oh, we need to do something about it' but in the end doing something about it means bringing them into Europe, we will oppose."

He denied advocating that anyone should be "murdered at sea", saying: "They can throw them a life raft and they can go back to Libya.

"But Europe has sooner or later to close its borders or it's simply going to be swamped by the Third World."

More than 67,000 people crossed the Mediterranean Sea to seek asylum in Europe in 2008, half of them arriving in Italy and Malta, according to figures released in January by the United Nations' refugee agency.

The BNP calls for an immediate halt to immigration to Britain, and the "voluntary resettlement" of those who are already here to their countries of ethnic origin.