Friday, February 19, 2010


Red News Readers,

So if a Tony Abbott led government is going to turn the boats around and send them back out to sea, there will be more desperate actions like this.

Jenny Haines

Asylum seekers knew of plan


February 19, 2010

MANY of the asylum seekers aboard a boat that exploded near Ashmore Reef killing five people were aware of a plan to set it alight, the Northern Territory coroner says.

Greg Cavanagh said he held the reasonable view that a crime was committed on the boat known as SIEV36 before the explosion and would refer allegations against three Afghan men to authorities for possible criminal charges.

But Mr Cavanagh said it may well be that no charges are laid because any one of 49 people on the boat could have ignited the fuel, causing the explosion.

Summing up evidence at a three-week inquest into the deaths, Stephen Walsh, QC, counsel assisting the coroner, said it was likely that Sabzali Salman, Arman Ali Brahimi and Mohammad Anwar Mohammadi acted in concert to implement a plan that involved a series of deliberate acts to ensure they could not be sent back to Indonesia.

"The petrol was spilled by an Afghan passenger and it was ignited by an Afghan passenger at a point somewhere near the hatch of the bow or possibly a little towards the larger hatch at the front of the cabin," Mr Walsh said.

"The purpose was to disable the boat and prevent what was perceived to be their return to Indonesian waters."

But Mr Walsh said it was likely those involved did not expect there to be an explosion.

Peter Hanks, QC, counsel for the Commonwealth, said the lighting of the fuel "was a deliberate and malicious act and those involved must have known it would put lives at risk".

"It is clear that many of the passengers have knowledge of the events but have not come forward with that information," he said.

Mr Walsh said the asylum seekers became agitated and started screaming after they had been read an "inappropriate" warning notice which they mistakenly thought meant they were going to be forced to return to Indonesia.

He said the explosion could have been prevented if Australian Defence Force personnel had followed procedures.

"Clearly the most direct reason why the explosion was not avoided was because the unleaded petrol was not secured," Mr Walsh said.

Mr Walsh said the explosion may have been avoided if Australian Defence personnel who boarded the boat had confiscated lighters and matches.

He said the asylum seekers should have been simply and clearly told they were not going to be forced to return to Indonesia and would be taken to Australia.

Mr Walsh said changes in the way the ADF handles unauthorised arrivals meant Mr Cavanagh need not consider making any recommendations to the ADF.

"The lessons of SIEV36 have been appropriately learnt and actioned," he said.

Mr Walsh said if asylum seekers had been wearing lifejackets "it is possible some of the persons who died may have survived."

Lifejackets are now more readily available.

Other changes since the explosion include that warning notices are no longer issued to unauthorised boats and language cards have been issued to naval boarding parties.

Mr Walsh said no adverse finding can be made about ADF personnel rescuing their colleagues before the asylum seekers because more people may have died "if the navy officers had not acted as they did."

He said the evidence shows that an ADF medic, Sharon Jager, may have died if navy seaman Adrian Medbury had not kicked, forcing an asylum seeker hanging on to her to let go. He said the man who fell back into the water from a rescue vessel was rescued.

The inquest has been adjourned.


Powerless: electricity sale stalls


February 19, 2010

THE state government has delayed the sale of its electricity retail assets, raising questions as to whether the sale will proceed at all before the election next year.

A day after the Herald revealed the government would defer construction of the metro system, in effect meaning the project is doomed, another key project has been postponed.

''The state is stalled,'' said the opposition treasury spokesman, Mike Baird.

''We have full-on paralysis.''

The Treasurer, Eric Roozendaal, announced the deferral of the $5 billion-$10 billion proposed sale of EnergyAustralia, Integral Energy and Country Energy, and electricity trading rights yesterday.

Mr Roozendaal said the sale, first proposed by the premier Morris Iemma in 2007, would be complete by the end of the year, but there was widespread scepticism about this in political and industry circles yesterday.

Sources said the complexity of the government's sale proposal had put off banks and electricity companies alike. Credit ratings agencies had warned that failure to privatise electricity could jeopardise the state's triple A credit rating.

The former finance minister Joe Tripodi, who spent $300,000 on an around-the-world trip to spruik the sale, came up with the complex Gen-Trader model, under which generation trading rights would be sold in a virtual stock exchange with the retailers.

One industry source said: ''There have been issues with getting private sector confidence in the Gen-Trader model. I know we had a lot of trouble getting our head around it.''

After Mr Roozendaal's statement yesterday, potential buyers threatened to walk away. A spokesman for Origin Energy said it would ''consider other, competing, investment options''.

Mr Roozendaal is hiring the former head of the department of premier and cabinet Col Gellatly, another former senior public servant, John Dermody, and the former minister Kim Yeadon to help the sale through, the Herald has learnt.

Do you know more?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The mental patients no one cares about

By Richard Noone

From: The Daily Telegraph February 16, 2010 12:00AM

NSW HOSPITALS are being turned into dumping grounds for the mentally ill.

The situation has inflamed tense relations between frontline police, paramedics and hospital staff forced to deal with the constant influx.

Paramedics are reluctant to restrain and transport violent patients and hospitals refuse to admit them if they show signs of intoxication.

"I didn't sign up to arrest people," one paramedic said. "I didn't get into this job to be smacked in the mouth by a mental health patient."

Figures reveal that from January to November last year paramedics used medical restraints 128 times.

From January to December police responded to 22,926 mental health incidents, often having to baby-sit patients overnight in police custody cells which were not equipped to accommodate them.

Related CoverageEditorial: The cruel result of good intentions

Latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures show 77,699 mental health patients went or were taken to NSW emergency departments, 43.5 per cent of the 178,595 mental patients presenting in Australia and more than twice that of any other state or territory.

But the figures, collected in 2006-07 and only released late last year, could be much worse.

Given a diagnosis is only reported in 72 per cent of all patients going to emergency, it is estimated the figure could be closer to 100,000.

Mental Health Council of Australia boss David Crosbie said of those presenting only about 21,000 were later admitted.

"So . . . what happens to the other people?" he said.

Most, he said, were sent away until they deteriorated to the point where:

*THEY were forced to return to hospital emergency points;

* THEY hurt themselves; or

* THEY committed a crime and ended up in jail where, according to NSW prison data, 80 per cent of inmates have a mental illness.

Mental health experts argue the alarming rise in these numbers reflects a glaring failure of the NSW mental health system.

They blame the Government of trying to play catch-up by ploughing billions of dollars into hospital-run psychiatric beds instead of investing in community-based residential care.

Community-based residential care employs trained on-site staff to rehabilitate, treat and care for patients for up to 24 hours a day.

Mr Crosbie said adequate community-based care - 30 beds per 100,000 people - could cut emergency visits by 40 per cent.

NSW announced a record $1.171 billion spend on mental health in 2009-10, trebling the state's mental health budget over the past 15 years.

But NSW Mental Health Consumer Advisory Group executive officer Karen Oakley said it was not just a case of the Government spending more money.

"We have become such a crisis-driven system that people usually only get seen during a crisis and at that point it's too late," she said.

At the same time, NSW Police figures show a huge rise in the number of incidents they attended involving the mentally ill - from 2882 in 2000 to 39,352 in 2007.

Anecdotal evidence suggested this figure had since fallen after mental health intervention teams were set up with officers who are specifically trained in mental illness.


Fed: Survey reveals Australians don't trust Abbott on IR

15 February 2010 | Content provided to you by AAP.

CANBERRA, Feb 15 AAP - Most Australians believe federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would bring back Work Choices if elected, a poll has found.

The ACTU poll comes as both sides of politics gear up for an election with industrial relations again to be a key feature.

Mr Abbott has previously said the Work Choices industrial relations regime introduced by the Howard government was "dead" and that he had no intention of reviving it.

However, the poll of 2099 people found just 18 per cent believe it is unlikely the coalition will reintroduce Work Choices.

More than half of those surveyed (53 per cent) believe it is likely or very likely the coalition would seek to reintroduce Work Choices or a similar system under a different name.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow said the results showed Australians had deep suspicions about Mr Abbott's support for hardline industrial relations policies.

"Australians remember the damage caused by Work Choices under the former Liberal government in which Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey were senior ministers," Ms Burrow said.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Red News Readers,

Re-establishing hospital boards will not change anything in the health system. Abbott’s policy is just a gift to those doctors who support the Coalition. And in fact, hospital boards may become the scapegoat in the system, so those doctors advocating the return of hospital boards may want to think carefully about what they are proposing. Having a few elite members of an institution attend a board meeting, is not going to do anything for elective surgery waiting times, or emergency department access, or clinical standards performance by inexperienced staff lacking adequate supervision from more experienced staff. These are the immediate issues that need to be dealt with, not establishing a meeting where doctors get a warm feeling in their tummy that they have their power back.

Jenny Haines

Abbott plans boards to rescue ailing hospitals


February 15, 2010

NSW hospitals are so bad they need a Northern Territory-style intervention, says Tony Abbott, who wants local boards to assume control of the state's major public hospitals.

The opposition leader was flanked by his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, as he announced his first major health policy, which was immediately dismissed by the government as a Band-Aid solution, inadequate to the health system's problems.

Under a Coalition government, chief executive officers would manage hospitals in NSW and Queensland. These officers would be accountable to management boards made up of community and business leaders and doctor and nurse representatives, and who would control the hospital's funding.

Governments would set the overall funding for a hospital, but would not be able to cut spending on a hospital if it raised money from private patients or fund-raising. The idea mirrors a proposal Mr Abbott made while health minister in the Howard government.

''That is the change that our public hospital system needs … particularly in NSW and Queensland where chronic, systemic mismanagement really requires federal intervention along the lines of the intervention in the Northern Territory's remote communities back in 2007,'' Mr Abbott said yesterday, alongside his health spokesman, Peter Dutton, and Mr Turnbull.

The hospital where Mr Abbott chose to make his announcement, St Vincent's, is in Mr Turnbull's electorate.

The Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, said Mr Abbott's policy was a ''minor-league solution'' to a ''major-league problem''.

She said it would not make any difference for three reasons. It was not a national policy; it did not do anything to manage waste or duplication in the health system; and it provided no additional funding for doctors or beds.

The government is due to announce its own health policy in coming months, and yesterday stressed its policy would tackle the duplication of funding across state and federal governments.

But Ms Roxon did not rule out empowering local boards along the lines of Mr Abbott's idea.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has said that one of the key comments he heard while consulting hospitals was that clinicians wanted more control over finances. Yesterday he conceded he had taken longer than planned to put in place reform, but said the delay was needed to get it right.

''We believe the system requires urgent surgery, we need more hospital beds, we need the elimination of waste between the Commonwealth and the states, and that is why a bold reform plan for the future is necessary,'' Mr Rudd said.

Tim Woodruff, president of the Doctors Reform Society, said the health system needed more co-ordination, not to be divided up along the lines suggested by Mr Abbott. ''Our feeling is that this is a move back to the 1950s,'' he said. ''Hospital boards throughout the country would simply result in a lot more infighting.''

In its budget submission, released today, the Business Council of Australia calls for federal and state health funding to be combined to reduce the duplication of programs.

Monday, February 08, 2010


Red News Readers,

Having been in the health system a very long time, I take a jaundiced view of promises for more funding for community based services. There have been several attempts at this over the last 40 years with some initial success, but as soon as economic circumstances change, it is community based services that take the cuts to services and staffing levels first, and usually without much protest, as it is an area that unions find hard to organise into activity. Health bureaucrats mouth platitudes about their commitment to community based health and mental health services but they don't like the autonomy of the services and the practitioners in them and they certainly don't like community based services that overrun their budget, hence the latest move over the last couple of years, placing community health and mental health under the operational control of hospitals. It all seems to go around in one big cycle!

Jenny Haines

States push back against national hospital takeover


February 8, 2010

THE federal government appears increasingly unlikely to seek a mandate to take over public hospitals, as a revamp of community health and GP services instead moves to the centre of the national health reform agenda.

The Prime Minister's pledge before the last election to seek a federal takeover of public hospital funding if the state governments failed to fix them before the middle of last year is being undermined by state resistance.

Having injected an extra $20 billion over five years into public hospitals, the federal government faces a growing campaign to expand primary care in the community provided by doctors, nurses and other health professionals. This is being seen as a more practicable way of reducing the pressure on public hospitals, whose defenders say they have been hit by crises because of years of inadequate funding.

Last week the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, repeated the threat of taking the issue of a federal health takeover to the election or a referendum if the states failed to join the government's health reforms.

But yesterday the Victorian Premier, John Brumby, dismissed any notion of a federal takeover. His view is also shared by the NSW Government. Both states say, however, they want to see a co-operative arrangement to dispense with blame-shifting and cost-shifting, which blights health administration.

A recent top-level meeting between NSW and federal government representatives is believed to have focused on a restructure of primary healthcare services, electronic health records and workforce issues, rather than a wholesale takeover of public hospitals.

Under the proposals, being driven by federal treasury and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet along with the Department of Health and Ageing, general practitioner services - now paid for by the federal government - would be integrated with state-funded community health services.

The resulting services could either be directly funded by the federal government or in a state-federal partnership, would give doctors incentives to work in a team, and would aim to reduce the number of people admitted to hospital because of inadequate treatment of a long-term condition.

Australians are 20 to 30 per cent more likely to be admitted to hospital overnight than people in Britain or US, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which says 9 per cent of all hospital stays are potentially preventable, involving complications from diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

Electronic health records, to support integrated GP and hospital treatment, also figured prominently in the discussions, along with planning for the expanded health workforce needed to handle increasing disease in an ageing population. State-run public hospitals argue they need more federal support to accommodate a massive influx of inexperienced new doctors, nurses and health workers.

The talks also canvassed increasing performance-based health funding to states.

The federal government has continued its predecessor's policy of tying large grants to reducing emergency department and elective surgery waiting times and hospital infections, in a strategy which increases the federal control over public hospital priorities while avoiding administrative responsibility.


Call to stop compulsory income quarantining


February 8, 2010

THE government's plan to roll out compulsory income management across Australia for long-term welfare recipients, including sole parents and young people, is based on flimsy and contradictory evidence from the Northern Territory intervention and should be stopped, the nation's peak welfare organisation says.

In a stinging attack, the Australian Council of Social Service says extension of the scheme across the country to quarantine 50 to 70 per cent of the income of welfare recipients would prove expensive, intrusive and unnecessary.

Clare Martin, the chief executive officer of ACOSS, said: ''The government is presuming whole categories of Australians are irresponsible with the small income they get, when there is no evidence for that. This will waste money on administration when it could go to target assistance to those who need it.''

The government has introduced three bills to address the racial discriminatory aspects of the Coalition's intervention in the Northern Territory, to bring in new income quarantine measures, exclude recipients such as age and disability pensioners who are presently affected, and to roll out the scheme beyond the territory.

It is considered one of the most significant shifts in the history of social security policy, and involves the government declaring certain communities ''disadvantaged'' and imposing income management on particular groups of welfare recipients who normally live there.

In a submission to the Senate inquiry into the legislation, ACOSS says it is concerned a national roll-out is proposed despite the ''weak and conflicting evidence'' from Northern Territory indigenous communities.

ACOSS says measures that, if well-targeted, might suit a few would be imposed on many, subjecting them to humiliation and discrimination. Compulsory income management would create ''a perception that long-term[welfare] recipients are unable or unwilling to manage their very limited finances''.

The groups affected include people who have been on a Newstart Allowance or Parenting Payment or Special Benefit for more than a year in the past two; ''disengaged'' youth in receipt of a payment for more than 13 of the past 26 weeks; people deemed ''vulnerable'' to financial crisis, domestic violence or economic abuse; and where there are child protection concerns.

ACOSS understand the scheme will first be rolled out across the Northern Territory by mid-2011, and then, after evaluation, across the country. Affected welfare recipients, including mature-age long-term unemployed, would have to use a card in order to spend half of their payments on allowed items, and would be limited to shopping in designated stores. ACOSS says this has major implications for consumer choice and retail competition.

The government argues the measure would reduce spending on alcohol, cigarettes, gambling and porn, and would ''encourage socially responsible behaviour''.

ACOSS says the aim of social security policy is to reduce poverty, and it should not to used to effect ''broader social or behaviour change''.

It says restricted-use payment schemes, such as income management, are much more expensive to administer than cash payments because of the need for electronic payment systems, store licensing schemes and significantly increased client contact with government agencies.

ACOSS says the annual administrative cost of expanding the scheme across the Northern Territory is $4400 per person, and funds would be better spent on services.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010



The Republicans' shock victory in the election for the US Senate seat in Massachusetts meant the Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate. This makes it even harder for the Obama administration to get healthcare reform passed in the US.

Political scientist Dr David Runciman looks at why there is often such deep opposition to reforms that appear to be of obvious benefit to voters.

Last year, in a series of "town-hall meetings" across the country, Americans got the chance to debate President Obama's proposed healthcare reforms.

What happened was an explosion of rage and barely suppressed violence.

Polling evidence suggests that the numbers who think the reforms go too far are nearly matched by those who think they do not go far enough.

But it is striking that the people who most dislike the whole idea of healthcare reform - the ones who think it is socialist, godless, a step on the road to a police state - are often the ones it seems designed to help.

In Texas, where barely two-thirds of the population have full health insurance and over a fifth of all children have no cover at all, opposition to the legislation is currently running at 87%.


Instead, to many of those who lose out under the existing system, reform still seems like the ultimate betrayal.

Why are so many American voters enraged by attempts to change a horribly inefficient system that leaves them with premiums they often cannot afford?

Why are they manning the barricades to defend insurance companies that routinely deny claims and cancel policies?

It might be tempting to put the whole thing down to what the historian Richard Hofstadter back in the 1960s called "the paranoid style" of American politics, in which God, guns and race get mixed into a toxic stew of resentment at anything coming out of Washington.

But that would be a mistake.

Drew Westen argues that stories rather than facts convince voters
If people vote against their own interests, it is not because they do not understand what is in their interest or have not yet had it properly explained to them.

They do it because they resent having their interests decided for them by politicians who think they know best.

There is nothing voters hate more than having things explained to them as though they were idiots.

As the saying goes, in politics, when you are explaining, you are losing. And that makes anything as complex or as messy as healthcare reform a very hard sell.

Stories not facts

In his book The Political Brain, psychologist Drew Westen, an exasperated Democrat, tried to show why the Right often wins the argument even when the Left is confident that it has the facts on its side.

He uses the following exchange from the first presidential debate between Al Gore and George Bush in 2000 to illustrate the perils of trying to explain to voters what will make them better off:

Gore: "Under the governor's plan, if you kept the same fee for service that you have now under Medicare, your premiums would go up by between 18% and 47%, and that is the study of the Congressional plan that he's modelled his proposal on by the Medicare actuaries."

Bush: "Look, this is a man who has great numbers. He talks about numbers.

"I'm beginning to think not only did he invent the internet, but he invented the calculator. It's fuzzy math. It's trying to scare people in the voting booth."

Mr Gore was talking sense and Mr Bush nonsense - but Mr Bush won the debate. With statistics, the voters just hear a patronising policy wonk, and switch off.

For Mr Westen, stories always trump statistics, which means the politician with the best stories is going to win: "One of the fallacies that politicians often have on the Left is that things are obvious, when they are not obvious.

"Obama's administration made a tremendous mistake by not immediately branding the economic collapse that we had just had as the Republicans' Depression, caused by the Bush administration's ideology of unregulated greed. The result is that now people blame him."

Reverse revolution

Thomas Frank, the author of the best-selling book What's The Matter with Kansas, is an even more exasperated Democrat and he goes further than Mr Westen.

He believes that the voters' preference for emotional engagement over reasonable argument has allowed the Republican Party to blind them to their own real interests.

The Republicans have learnt how to stoke up resentment against the patronising liberal elite, all those do-gooders who assume they know what poor people ought to be thinking.

Right-wing politics has become a vehicle for channelling this popular anger against intellectual snobs. The result is that many of America's poorest citizens have a deep emotional attachment to a party that serves the interests of its richest.

Thomas Frank thinks that voters have become blinded to their real interests
Thomas Frank says that whatever disadvantaged Americans think they are voting for, they get something quite different:

"You vote to strike a blow against elitism and you receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our life times, workers have been stripped of power, and CEOs are rewarded in a manner that is beyond imagining.

"It's like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy."

As Mr Frank sees it, authenticity has replaced economics as the driving force of modern politics. The authentic politicians are the ones who sound like they are speaking from the gut, not the cerebral cortex. Of course, they might be faking it, but it is no joke to say that in contemporary politics, if you can fake sincerity, you have got it made.

And the ultimate sin in modern politics is appearing to take the voters for granted.

This is a culture war but it is not simply being driven by differences over abortion, or religion, or patriotism. And it is not simply Red states vs. Blue states any more. It is a war on the entire political culture, on the arrogance of politicians, on their slipperiness and lack of principle, on their endless deal making and compromises.

And when the politicians say to the people protesting: 'But we're doing this for you', that just makes it worse. In fact, that seems to be what makes them angriest of all.

This edition of Turkeys Voting for Christmas was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 24 January and repeated on Wednesday 27 January at 2045 GMT. Listen via the BBC iPlayer.

Monday, February 01, 2010


Red News Readers,

Good on Vahn Rudd and his friend for their action at the tennis. Those who oppose racism in this country need to demonstrate to India that racism should not be tolerated in Australia, and that there are citizens here who are appalled at what has happened in some of these attacks. I was working a nursing shift in Westmead ED recently, and a young 20 year old Indian male presented after being bashed. Two white skinned men he did not know got out of a car, and charged at his friend but could not catch him, so they bashed the patient instead. Fortunately he sustained only minor injuries.

Jenny Haines

Anatomy of hate as magazine unleashes anti-Australian rage


February 1, 2010

Venom … the influential magazine devotes 10 pages to its inflammatory cover story.
IT IS a magazine cover that will make the hearts of Australian university bosses and diplomats sink.

"Why the Aussies hate us" screams the cover of this week's influential Indian news magazine Outlook.

The 10-page coverage includes stories of young Indian victims of violence and racial abuse and describes how Indian students in Melbourne feel afraid on the streets.

Van Thanh Rudd, an anti-racism activist and Kevin Rudd's nephew - recently criticised for wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit to protest against attacks on Indians - told Outlook the "dominant culture in Australia'' was racist, and that he had no doubt the attacks had been racially motivated.

The magazine quotes far-right politicians and says it has found ''evidence that 'curry-bashing' is becoming a fun game for white Australians". Outlook, a centre-left weekly, is one of India's top-selling English-language magazines with a circulation of 1.5 million and a big online following.

The story was introduced on the Outlook website with the headline "Anatomy of hate". The report is the latest in a stream of negative publicity about violence against Indians in Australia.

There are signs the Indian government is increasingly impatient with Australia's response. The External Affairs Minister, S.M.Krishna, met the Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, in London twice last week. An Indian government statement said Mr Krishna told Mr Smith it was increasingly difficult to accept the attacks were devoid of any racial motives and that he complained there had ''been no visible progress so far into most of the investigations''.

The editor-in-chief of Outlook, Vinod Mehta, defended the coverage and denied allegations that the Indian media were overreacting. He told the Herald: "We sent two correspondents to Australia and they found that an overwhelming number of these incidents were racial and they found that Indians in Australia live in fear. There is tremendous outrage in this country. I don't think the Australians realise that."

Mr Mehta said one reason for the anger was the "smug and superior attitude of the Australian government for denying there was racism and then telling the Indians not to hype this up".

Mr Mehta said he published the story with great regret.

"I like Australia a great deal but you have to see there is a problem, and by denying it you won't get anywhere."

The story includes comments by right-wing groups in Australia. Outlook quotes Jim Saleam, the head of the anti-immigration party Australia First, that Indians are ''becoming a serious threat to white Australians in the job market". Bob Vinnicombe of One Nation is quoted as saying Australia ''should actively encourage bringing in Christians and white people from Zimbabwe and South Africa".

But the magazine does not report that three people charged with the murder of Ranjodh Singh were Indian nationals.

Reports about attacks on Indians have damaged Australia's $15 billion a year international education industry.


Red News Readers,

This makes the privatisation of the Lotteries completely loopy!! Why would the State Government give this revenue to the private sector?

Jenny Haines

NSW gambling's record lotteries profits

By Linda Silmalis

From: The Sunday Telegraph January 31, 2010

NSW residents tried to gamble their way out of the global financial crisis, producing record profits for the soon-to-be-privatised NSW Lotteries.

State Government figures show a record $1327.62 million worth of Lotto, Powerball, Scratchie, Oz Lotto and Lottery tickets were sold last financial year - $100 million more than in previous years.

Despite the volume of sales, however, fewer punters became millionaires than in previous years - 63 punters last year, down from 69 in 2008.

The total prize money given out also declined, from $754.42 million in 2007-08 to $738.06 million in 08-09.

NSW Lotteries chief executive officer Nick Nichles said sales during the economic downturn exceeded all expectations. NSW Lotteries, which the State Government plans to sell this year, had cautioned that sales records set in 2008 were not expected to be repeated for many years, but the corporation made $19 million more than it had anticipated last year.

"Happily, we did it all over again in 2009, only on an even bigger scale," Mr Nichles said.

He said the sales target had been $1160 million. Mr Nichles had received a $30,500 performance bonus as part of his $216,208 remuneration package for the result.

The biggest winner was the State Government, which reaped record revenue from the sales frenzy.

The figures show NSW Treasury collected $402.4 million in taxes and duty, up $41 million from last year.

Punters also bet on the races in record amounts last year, with NSW TAB turnover to exceed all records.

Racing industry sources indicated if current levels of betting activity were sustained until the end of the 2008-09 financial year, NSW TAB turnover on thoroughbred racing was expected to exceed $5 billion for the first time.

Turnover was $4.7 billion last year.

For the first time in a decade, NSW turnover has outstripped rises in Victorian TAB betting.

The revenue windfall has triggered calls from the NSW Greens for Premier Kristina Keneally to direct the windfall to transport and health.

NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said the funds should be returned to the community.

"Premier Keneally should ensure this money, which has fallen in the Government's lap like manna from heaven, is earmarked for essential services like public transport and health," she said. "The Government has picked up this multi-million-dollar revenue boost from luck, not good management.

"Now, the challenge is with the Premier to use it wisely."

A spokeswoman for NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal said the State Government would announce the successful tender to take over NSW Lotteries in the next few months.

"Short-listed proponents are currently performing their due-diligence process," she said.

The financial result was helped by NSW Lotteries putting some of its products online to make it easier for punters in remote and regional areas to gamble.

The corporation is planning to expand the type of bets people can make online this year.


A call to privatise rail services

Rhys Haynes Transport Reporter Daily Telegraph

From: The Daily Telegraph January 01, 2010

CITYRAIL should be run by a private operator who would face millions of dollars in fines if its services ran late, Australia's largest infrastructure company said.

As the network hits full capacity today with commuters returning to school and work, the nation's peak infrastructure body Infrastructure Partnerships Australia has decided enough is enough.

With the backing of Tony Shepherd - the chairman of Transfield Services, one of the Australia's largest infrastructure companies - IPA has called for Premier Kristina Keneally to follow the Victorian Government lead and allow a private operator to run CityRail.

Known as franchising, the ownership of the state's rail assets would remain in public hands but a private company would be responsible for the running of the service.

"The rail service is the backbone of the transport network, if it's not functioning well it affects millions of people, drives up congestion and costs billions to the state economy," IPA executive director Brendan Lyon said. "It's already been done in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide and on the Manly route for Sydney Ferries, with excellent results.

Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar.
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.End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.
"Franchising Sydney's transport networks will simply bring NSW into the 21st century."

A private consortium running the CityRail network would be forced to meet on-time targets and pay significant financial penalties when trains were late, cancelled or dirty, according to Mr Shepherd, one of the pioneers of public-private partnerships in Australia.

"Franchising is a very good way to go in terms of public transport reform because it is not privatisation - it leaves the assets in the hands of the state and the public."

Sydney commuters welcomed the idea of taxpayers being rewarded if trains weren't arriving on time. Many said they were delayed last Monday, for example, when defective track signal cable at Penrith had to be replaced between 7am and 9:30am.

Cityrail said 28 services out of Penrith were delayed, causing chaos during the morning peak.

Dulwich Hill resident Sarah Brown, 20, said she would welcome a private operator to improve reliability. "It's never good having a late train, but it would make me feel better knowing that [taxpayers] would get the money if the private company had to pay for being late," she said.