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John Pratt's pitch to citizens to vote Labor

Hello. In Like this political ad - or not, I wrote:

"I thought maybe some of you would like to try writing in, say, less than 200 words, a pitch to people who don't vote as you do and that you would like to persuade to vote your way. It's an interesting process, believe me. "

John Pratt, who will vote Labor at the federal election, is the first to take up the challenge. Any other takers?

*

John Pratt's statement

Australia is facing many challenges, and as a grandfather I want to leave my kids the best possible future.

Science is warning that Climate Change is  the biggest threat to our planet, and that we must act now to reduce CO2 emissions.

We are also threatened by terrorism. Even though these issues are global problems, Australia should be leading the way.

On climate  change, we have abundant resources. We could be developing alternate energy sources and regulations that decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. 

Since 11/09/2001 we have done many things in an attempt to defeat terrorism, including the invasion of Iraq. Six years later, the problem is getting worse. It is time to change our foreign policy; we should withdraw our troops. We should work closely with the UN. Instead of using military force, we should use the money saved to give economic aid to encourage democracy and better government.

On the home front we need a government to protect the weak in our society. The aged, the sick. and indigenous people are all struggling due to lack of funds. The government should be interested in better living conditions for all, not just bigger profits for business.  We should not reduce taxes or skite about our surpluses until we have enough hospitals, schools and roads.

Over the last eleven years Australia has stagnated. It is time to change. It is time to rebuild our international reputation. It is time to protect our multicultural heritage. It is time to defend our legal systems. It is time to care for each other.

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Fred Chaney shocked by Howard legislation

Fred Chaney, former Minister for Aboriginal affairs in the Fraser government, now director of Reconciliation Australia,  says: 

"I am shocked at the extent to which the legislation, rushed through the Parliament last week, is contemptuous of Aboriginal property rights and of the principle of non-discrimination; authorises an absurd and unattainable level of micro-management of Aboriginal lives far beyond the capacity of the federal bureaucracy that would permit the notorious protector, Mr Neville, to ride again; provides for desert dwellers to be forced into towns, as they were once emptied out of the cattle stations in the 1960s with devastating social effects; and could see successful communities and families returned to dependence, crushing the engagement that

is essential to making progress.

My hope is that away from the hysteria of the election campaign, in a calmer post-election atmosphere, whoever is in government will not use this legislation to create a new regime of injustice and inevitable failure. I am assuming no considered government would be so careless of basic human rights as to use the legislation in that way.

Just before the tabling last week of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill, Reconciliation Australia called on the Government to make public its evaluation of the intervention so far and clarify which aspects of the bill were needed to protect indigenous children. We asked that all non-urgent aspects of the legislation be extracted and delayed to allow for respectful consultation and communication with the affected communities.

The answers, while complex, are now known. We have learned from past successes and failures. Those learnings are being repeated by a range of reputable, knowledgeable people who cannot be dismissed as ideological, out of touch or driven by agendas. They place evidence over passion, hard-headedness over experimentation, consistent hard work over silver bullets.

You can read the multitude of reports that underpin the thinking — the most recent and, I think, very convincing and helpful being Little Children Are Sacred, the report of Pat Anderson and Rex Wild that set the scene for the Government's actions a few weeks ago.

Paediatrician Professor Fiona Stanley says: "Measures that exclude the views and involvement of Aborigines will serve only to further diminish their capacity, exacerbate marginalisation and add to the damage in these vulnerable communities." She emphasises the need to address the complex causes and not just "the appalling manifestations of disadvantage and dysfunction".

The Catholic Bishops say that effective solutions cannot be imposed from above and they've backed the need for long-term, adequate funding.

The Anderson/Wild report concludes: "There needs to be a radical change in the way government and non-government organisations consult, engage with and support Aboriginal people."

Noel Pearson made a similar point in relation to the new legislation when he said: "The difference between disaster and success will depend on whether Brough and Howard will engage with … the traditional leaders of the NT on a way forward."

The chorus of advice from diverse sources reflects the findings of research Reconciliation Australia and the Australian National University have been conducting around the ingredients of effective indigenous governance. The findings are similar to those documented by researchers in the United States and Canada and elsewhere when they've looked deeply for actual evidence of what works in overturning disadvantage in indigenous communities.

The reality is that we have all the tools we need to be striving for much more than simply making Aboriginal children safe, important a starting point as that must be.

At this stage in our history, we have the prosperity. Australians will tolerate extra spending when they're confident that it will yield results, when stories of despair are balanced with stories of hope and success, when policy is based on evidence of what works.

The Aboriginal communities in the frame, desperately needy communities, will work with government if they are provided with this vision of success. Civil order is a prerequisite for a community to be healthy, happy and successful. But so too is hope.

Let's be upfront and learn from our mistakes — centralised, imposed programs delivered from Canberra or state/territory capitals have not delivered the success we must now expect."

Howard and Brough have not been willing to learn from past mistakes. The Aboriginal people of Australia will be the ones to suffer. We will have a chance to force the federal government to listen. We must vote Labor.

Trade unions are an essential part of civil society.

Australian law is the most stringent in the world in its control over trade union finances and in its requirement that unions be democratically controlled by their members. The ALP supported the Government in further tightening those laws in 2002, and its industrial relations policy includes no proposal to change them.

The key thing that the ALP policy would do is to give workers the right to choose, by a democratic process, whether they want to bargain collectively with their employer. It would also create a mechanism to require an employer to respect their workers' choice by bargaining with them in good faith. One result would be that unions could better represent workers in collective bargaining than under the current law, which denies workers these rights.

Trade unions are an essential part of civil society in a modern, vibrant democracy. Talk of "union bosses" is apparently supposed to frighten small business owners and those who aspire to run their own business. But the Government and business campaign to demonise "union bosses" says more about the poverty of the terms in which we debate the quality and nature of our democracy than it does about unions, their members or their leaders.

Howard and his mates paint union bosses as bullies and thugs. The reality, of course, is that there is a democratic process that elects these people into office. More than can be said for the backroom process that a liberal or labor candidate has to go through to get preselection.

We need unions, if Howard is elected for another term, it may be the end of Australian unionism.

Howard too tricky for words, let's vote on the nuclear issue

While Howard's argument about people having a say is superficially attractive — "let the people of Queensland speak" — it is driven shamelessly by politics. Howard picked up strongly on the issue while campaigning in Queensland, and remembers how amalgamation gave the Kennett government grief. "You know, this is what ruined Kennett," he said in Townsville.

This is clearly and appropriately a state matter. It might go to the structure of government but much more important things aren't taken to plebiscites. If the state Labor government has made a bad mistake it will be held responsible (although by the next election it is expected to be under another leader).

The Federal Government is using taxpayers' money from all states to play politics on an internal issue in one state. Potentially, it is also putting extra burdens on the AEC as it prepares for the national election. Howard refused to say whether it would be sensible to hold the plebiscites simultaneously with the federal poll, but from his point of view that would be ideal, giving maximum opportunity for the discontent to feed into the federal campaign.

Kennett in the mid 1990s cut the number of Victorian councils by two-thirds, and the issue was huge. He told The Age yesterday that during the process of reform those with a vested interest — councillors and a lot of CEOs — were vocal, but now most administrators would praise the reform.

Kennett sacked the councils; he certainly did not have plebiscites. He says the change "made the third tier of government more efficient and effective".

As for the politics in these situations "you've got to make decisions and back them in. That is what governing is all about — understanding the need for changes and seeing them through. It's all about leadership."

Howard suddenly, is such a great defender of democracy. How about we have a vote on where the 24 nuclear power stations will be situated? How many Australians are willing to have a nuclear power station in the neighbourhood?

Howard and Downer risk nuclear proliferation

Amazingly, the [nuclear non-proliferation treaty] has largely stood the test of time. It hasn't been perfect, of course. North Korea was under IAEA safeguards but cheated, as did Libya and Iraq, both of which made a great deal of progress in developing military nuclear capabilities undetected until Iraq was overrun in the early '90s and Libya voluntarily gave up its military nuclear development a few years ago.

India and Pakistan were not parties to the NPT, so by definition their nuclear tests did not breach it.

But the bargain by and large has stuck. Now we plan to sell uranium to India. There are all sorts of reasons given for this that, on the face of it, seem logical. India is a growing economic and political force, and it's in our interests to get on side with it. India will get uranium from somewhere if we don't supply it. Our uranium will be used only in India's civil nuclear fuel cycle, not in its military reactors, and will be under IAEA safeguards. And we will make money.

All this is true. But if we sell uranium to India we will be saying this simple thing to all members of the NPT: even if you test a nuclear weapon, there's no penalty because Australia and the US soon will be ready to supply you with nuclear materials such as uranium and nuclear know-how anyway.

This fatally undermines the whole logic and rationale for the NPT. Why be a member of the NPT if, like India, you are going to get the benefits of nuclear co-operation anyway? And, more immediately, how on earth do we excoriate, seek to isolate and apply sanctions to Iran, an NPT member, for seeking to develop nuclear weapons when Australia and the US are ready to supply nuclear materials to India, which has already tested nuclear weapons and is not an NPT member?

This exaggerated nonsense about Labor being a "me too" party certainly doesn't apply here. In September last year, before he became federal Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd opposed supplying uranium to India and continues to oppose it now. Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Robert McClelland has effectively spoken out against it, reiterating what for decades had been strong bipartisan support for the NPT.

Alexander Downer knows better than this. That's why he at first opposed uranium sales to India, until John Howard overruled him. It's time for Downer to ask his friend to think again, before Australia makes what may seem to be a clever tactical move but is in fact the profound strategic mistake of undermining the NPT.

This is similar to Pig Iron Bob, the PM who sold iron ore to Japan which came back to us in the form of bullets and bombs. The Liberal Party has always been willing to put money first. Australia gets to pay for it later. 

Attorney General Menzies said the ship would have to sail
"If the men refuse to load it we will throw them into jail"
But our unity was strong - we were solid to a man
And we wouldn't load pig-iron for the fascists of Japan

For the Judas politicians we would pay a heavy price
The jungles of New Guinea saw a costly sacrifice
There's a lesson to be learned that we've got to understand
Peace can only be secured when the people lend a hand

111 University degrees now cost at least $100,000

Despite Prime Minister John Howard's 1999 claim that his Government would not introduce an American-style system with fees costing more than $100,000, 111 degrees nationwide now cost six-figure sums. According to The Good Universities Guide, the number has more than doubled in three years.

Conversely, three medicine and surgery courses — at the University of NSW and private Bond University — will top $200,000 in 2008, down from five this year. Bond has the most expensive full-fee degree: $242,070.

In Victoria, vocationally focused RMIT will cross the $100,000 threshold for the first time in double degrees in engineering/management.

Labor education spokesman Stephen Smith, who has pledged to phase out domestic full-fee degrees at public universities from 2009 if elected, seized on the figures as evidence that university entry in some cases was now based on financial, not academic, means. He said the Government was out of touch.

Under Howard, kids are starting life with huge debt. At about the age of 25, they have their degree, and a HEX bill of more than $100,000 they will probably be looking to buy a home at about $500,000. How can anyone start life with a $600,000 debt? Now wonder we are running out of doctors and engineers.  

Liberal party in total disarray!

THE Liberal backbencher Wilson Tuckey sent John Howard a fax yesterday telling him it was time to step down. But Mr Tuckey's effort to depose the Prime Minister exploded when he accidentally sent the fax to a good number of Liberal backbenchers as well...........Mr Costello vowed to challenge Mr Howard in April 2006 "if Howard is still there" and he was prepared to go to the backbench if he failed.

"He said he would carp at Howard's leadership from the backbench and destroy it until he won the leadership."

Asked why, Mr Costello reportedly said "Howard would lose the election". The journalists left the dinner with the understanding they could report the comments without attribution but the next day Mr Costello's office asked them not to and they reluctantly agreed.

Howard's team is falling apart, the liberal party is in total disarray. Who knows who would be PM if the liberals won the election. We can't even say for sure, who will lead the liberals into the election. The only safe vote is to vote them out. 

Liberals still believe women should be barefoot and pregnant.

A federal Liberal candidate who described a state colleague as a bitch said she deserved his abuse and, anyway, women should not be politicians.

Hamish Jones was today dumped as the Liberals candidate for the federal seat of Maribyrnong for calling Victorian cabinet minister Lynne Kosky a “bitch” and a “f...wit” on his internet blog site.  

This bloke would get on well with his liberal colleagues, Howard is certainly scrapping the bottom of the barrel for liberal candidates. How any woman could vote for a team that even contemplates this sort of character as a potential federal candidate is beyond me.

Mr Chow Howard's best mate, secret commissions & false invoices

Between 1995 and 1999, Mr Chow figured prominently in NSW Supreme Court cases brought by the Elders Finance Group against two of its executives responsible for administering the huge Glenmore Park residential development in Sydney's west.

Engaged as Glenmore Park project manager and estate agent independent of Elders, Mr Chow was identified in court as paying hundreds of thousands of dollars, possibly millions, in secret commissions to Elders executives David Kennedy and Bob Phillips. Mr Chow submitted his accounts in relation to his services to the pair.

Elders argued Mr Kennedy and Mr Phillips were receiving money that belonged to the company and had breached their fiduciary duties. Court documents show Justice John Bryson found there was a "prima facie case for recovery of large sums in respect to secret commissions" paid by Mr Chow, with the case featuring a "long-continued course of dishonesty and disloyalty" by those involved.

Mr Phillips told the court that Mr Chow had requested false invoices. The court also heard how Mr Chow sold land at Glenmore Park at discounted prices to a company part-owned by Mr Phillips.

Mr Chow and Mr Kennedy paid money to Elders to settle the matter out of court. A NSW Police fraud squad investigation into the affair was halted once the settlement was reached.........Benjamin Chow, a member of the NSW Liberal Party's fund-raising committee, has a key role in multimillion-dollar residential developments in Sydney and Brisbane that became beset by legal disputes, secret payments, false documents and allegations of fraud...........

The revelations about Mr Chow's past conduct as a property developer, his friendship with Mr Howard and status as a Liberal fund-raiser are again likely to raise questions about the Government's process for making appointments to federal boards and committees — which its political opponents have alleged are stacked with Liberal mates.

Mr Ruddock, now Attorney-General, appointed Mr Chow as a member of the Council for a Multicultural Australia in 2000.

He served as chairman from 2002 until 2006. The council advises the Immigration Minister on multicultural policy and promotes racial harmony. In performing this role, Mr Chow represented Australia in overseas forums and was paid $2012 to attend four meetings each year.

Last year, Mr Chow, the founding president of the Liberals' Sydney Chinatown branch, was re-appointed for another three years on the council governing the National Museum of Australia, a body Labor claims has been politicised by the Coalition.

Howard's fundraiser has landed some plum jobs. Forget his shady past - if he gives money to the Liberals, doors are opened for him. Time for Howard and his buddies to be shown the door!

Howard government can't stop interest rate rises

THE Reserve Bank's latest monetary policy statement reaffirms the hawkish tone of its announcement of a rise in the cash rate last Wednesday.

The lift in its forecast of underlying inflation to the top of its 2 to 3 per cent target band clearly suggests another rate rise on the way, particularly as it was made after allowing for the impact of last week's rise.

The Reserve Bank is warning of yet another interest rate rise. Howard, who is still trying to spend his way back into power, has no solution to halt the alarming rise in interest rates. Howard, the treasurer who had interest rates at 22 per cent, has never understood the economy. As housing affordability skyrockets, Howard still thinks this is a good as it gets.

Howard's PM (Post Mortem)

As well as prime minister, PM stands for postmeridian and post-menopausal. In Howard's dazzling displays of desperation, he's made it mean post-mortem.

Following long seconds of consideration, the PM announces yet another bold initiative. Chances are it has neither been evaluated by cabinet nor costed by Treasury. We're dealing with the politics of the press release, with conjuring tricks tricked up as wise public policy. Whether concerning the Murray-Darling or the Tigris-Euphrates, climate change or pornography, the difficulties of a Devonport hospital or the perils faced by indigenous kids in remote communities, the PM's announcements masquerade as high moral purpose but are invariably seen as election ploys. Even in the unlikely event of the PM being sincere, really believing in a policy or proclamation, the voters wouldn't believe him.

Phillip Adams, in The Australian, points out Howard's desperation. In the last days of the Howard government, it is pathetic to see this small man so determined to hang on to power.

Low paid women hit hard by WorkChoices.

A new study has found that women in low-paid jobs are being hit particularly hard by the Federal Government's WorkChoices legislation.

The 'Women and WorkChoices' report has found that some women in lower paid industries are losing $100 a week because of the legislative changes and that there is an increased fear of being summarily dismissed.

Women are suffering under Howard's WorkChoices legislation. Often these women are doing work few men would ever do: caring for the elderly, looking after our children in child care centres. We pay these women peanuts and WorkChoices is laying the boot into them.

Not much compassion shown here.

HMAS Howard is sinking all hands to the (money) pump

The hull seems sound; the ship hasn't hit an iceberg or a reef. It hasn't deviated one degree from the course plotted by the captain's trusty navigator, CrosbyTextor. Yet it's too low in the water to make any serious headway.

Unnoticed by those on board, a mysterious change has taken place below decks. The freight of propaganda that had all seemed so light, and so safely stowed, is turning to lead. "The economy is robust." Yes, but the promised prosperity is eluding too many of us. "You've never had it so good." Then why do we feel so vulnerable? "Interest rates will be lower than under Labor." Then how come they're back to where they were 10 years ago?

"We must stay the course in Iraq - a withdrawal would be an admission of defeat." Yes, but who is our enemy in Iraq, and aren't you worried about the deaths of all those innocent civilians? "We didn't lie about the children overboard or WMDs or AWB." Then why didn't you apologise for having misled us - even inadvertently? (Saying you're sorry you were misled is not the same thing at all.) "Non-core promise was just a figure of speech." Yes, but what kind of person would contemplate the idea of a non-core promise?

"I never made a leadership deal with Peter Costello." Well, he thinks you did. "I asked the cabinet if I was the problem." Costello was there and he doesn't recall you asking that.

The cumulative and increasing weight of all this freight is proving too much even for this doggedly seaworthy vessel. But "Honest" John is a seasoned old salt, and his crew are counting on him to save them one more time. So he has devised a plan. In the ship's log, he writes in big bold letters: NTL.

"NTL. Nothing to lose," he explains. "From now on, we try anything we can think of to keep this thing afloat. Anything at all, no matter how outrageous. If we fail, we've lost nothing because she's already on the way down. There must be one magical initiative that will save us, but we won't know which it is until we try them all. Money's no object, thanks to what's-his-name, and we don't want to leave too much treasure in the chest for that pirate Rudd."

John calls all hands to action stations, assume NBCD State one condition Yankee!  Throw more money overboard, (watch out for kids).

Steer a Zig Zag pattern! Lookout keep your eyes peeled for rabbits!

Damage control teams close up!

Boarding Party, watch out for mutineers!

Gas Gas Gas, wear respirators, there is a rotten smell from below decks.

Hands to Emergency stations!

Australian lives at risk and nothing will be gained.

THE 1000 Australian troops risking their lives in Afghanistan will fail to make the country any more secure or reduce global terrorism, according to an eminent Australian defence expert.

In a withering assessment of the "well-meaning futility" of the Australian Defence Force's role in Afghanistan, Professor Hugh White says "little, if anything, will have been achieved" when our forces withdraw.

As we build up our forces in Afghanistan, Hugh White says little will be achieved. Why are we putting young Australians at risk? What are the future costs the will burden the Australian population for generations? Howard's adventures, are ruining the lives of many of our finest young men and women. The stress of war will mean many of the returning soldiers will require care for the rest of their lives: just look at the Vietnam veterans.

Howard likely to lose his seat. Who would be PM if libs win?

A Galaxy poll for The Sunday Telegraph and SBS has found that on a two-party preferred basis, Ms McKew has 53 per cent of the vote in Bennelong to Mr Howard's 47 per cent.

That is a 1 per cent increase for the Labor candidate since a similar poll was conducted in May.

Ms McKew has also drawn level at 46 per cent on the issue of which candidate would do the best job for Bennelong - she had previously been trailing by seven points.

Here's a thought, looks like Howard could lose his seat. If by some miracle, the libs managed to win and Howard lost who would be Prime Minister? It would be the biggest bun fight in Liberal Party history. Safer to vote Labor: at least you know who you will get as Prime Minister.

Another scenario

John Pratt, if the Coalition is returned minus Mr Howard, there is another interesting possibility. I can think of at least two senior Sydney-based Liberals either of whom could be "persuaded" to retire (family reasons?) so that Mr Howard could be parachuted into one of those eminently safe seats in a by-election ... .

Costello for caretaker PM, anyone?

Maliki must be worried now Howard has warned him.

The Prime Minister, in a blunt letter to his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki, urges the Iraqi Government to speed the sharing of oil wealth among all sections of the Iraqi community, including the minority Sunni population.

In the letter, sent last week, MrHoward warns that if the Iraqis fail to make progress, the public support for Australia's military deployment to Iraq may not be sustainable.

The clear implication in Mr Howard's letter is that US public support would also falter without signs of substantial political progress in Iraq.

The letter displays Mr Howard's deep and growing frustration with the Maliki Government, which has suspended sittings of the Iraqi parliament for the whole of this month. With the federal election looming, it shows Mr Howard is under real political pressure on Iraq for the first time.

Howard is frustrated with the Maliki Government. The Iraqi government is a fiction of Bush's imagination. Iraq is in total chaos; a good percentage of its population has fled to neighbouring countries. Iraq has been trashed by the coalition of the willing. Public support for Howard's support for the invasion of Iraq has long gone. Howard’s, and Bush's, days are numbered and Maliki knows it.

Iran and Iraq great mates - what did they expect?

Howard is lying as usual. He knew the majority of the Aussie public did not want war in the first place and that did not stop us being involved in an illegal war and his PM office/NSA manipulating the evidence just as the OSP did, according to Wilkie. All the media went along for the ride, all could see benefit to their backing groups. Now some want Iraq to remain as a united state under US control/empire and some want it to break up and grab the spoils.

He (and I suspect Mr Rudd) will do whatever the masters tell them to, despite local political tension here. Murdoch will back whatever is needed, just as for the war and our media will kowtow ... that is what media do during war ...

Bush "warned" Maliki too last week as the latter visited Tehran. Saudi has been warned and had veiled threats about their al Qaeda connections. Howard wants Shiite Maliki to empower more Sunnis, on paper, after the invading regime has removed all the educated and people of status locally as they had Ba’athist attachment, naturally. Now, are we calling for Ba’athists to come back in, or are we calling for émigrés to take power, or are we allowing Salafy fanatics to be promoted as Saudi proxies and al Qaeda backers? A bit tricky.

The Brookings Institute just published a piece crying success in its title, a bit like the article poopooing Russian and China as a growing threat. Laughable. The US public is perhaps being prepared for a further war as, unless the Iraq war is a success (or, actually, perceived to be by the public), no further invasions or regime change would be easy to sell.

Currently the Maliki government and the Iranian are planning military manoeuvres – hardly a successful outcome from a Neocon point of view.

What on earth did they expect?

Cheers

Doubt about Howard's Honesty

The worry for Howard now is that doubts are being cast on his honesty not just on the issues that voters have previously thought second-order, but also on the core area where he has unequivocally had their trust. Moreover, the apparently generalised nature of the voters' complaint about the Liberals' "honesty" recorded in the finding in Textor's report suggests voters might be making their judgements about who to "trust" on a wider basis than last time.

Before the rate rise, Howard was still doing well enough when people were asked which leader was more capable of handling the economy: in Newspoll last month he led Rudd 53-28 per cent. The same poll, however, found 53 per cent rated Howard as "trustworthy", compared with 69 per cent who found Rudd trustworthy.

If Labor can use this interest rate rise to make a dent in the trust voters put in what Howard says on economics, at the same time as they are applying tougher scrutiny to him on other aspects of trust, his credibility could take a serious knock.

Howard has lost his halo. At last people are begining to see the real John Howard, a man who will do anything to stay in power. He has no economic credentials and no vision for Australia. Who knows what Australia would get if Howard won the next election? Howard would retire and Abbott and Costello would be left at the helm.

British CO asks American Special Forces to leave his area.

A senior British commander in southern Afghanistan said in recent weeks that he had asked that American Special Forces leave his area of operations because the high level of civilian casualties they had caused was making it difficult to win over local people.

The Reach of War


The New York Times

 

Other British officers here in Helmand Province, speaking on condition of anonymity, criticised American Special Forces for causing most of the civilian deaths and injuries in their area. They also expressed concerns that the Americans’ extensive use of air power was turning the people against the foreign presence as British forces were trying to solidify recent gains against the Taliban.

An American military spokesman denied that the request for American forces to leave was ever made, either formally or otherwise, or that they had caused most of the casualties. But the episode underlines differences of opinion among NATO and American military forces in Afghanistan on tactics for fighting Taliban insurgents, and concerns among soldiers about the consequences of the high level of civilians being killed in fighting.

A precise tally of civilian deaths is difficult to pin down, but one reliable count puts the number killed in Helmand this year at close to 300 civilians, the vast majority of them caused by foreign and Afghan forces, rather than the Taliban.

The Americans are accused of killing nearly 300 civilians more than those killed by the Taliban. This is no way to win the war in Afghanistan. British patience with American brutality is wearing thin – and we think we will be able to hold the coalition together for 30 years or more. Howard got us into this mess; Rudd will have to get us out of it.

Commonwealth Prosecutors withdraw rocket launcher charges

Captain Shane Della-Vedova, who has spent almost 30 years in the Australian Defence Force, has been accused of stealing 10 rocket launchers from the army between 2002 and 2003.

He then allegedly arranged to sell them to people with known criminal connections, including a man allegedly involved in a Sydney terror cell.

Capt Della-Vedova, 46, appeared in Sydney's Central Local Court today via audio-visual link on 21 charges over the alleged $60,000 weapons racket.

However, commonwealth prosecutors withdrew 10 counts of selling a prohibited weapon, telling Magistrate Allan Moore the statute of limitations had expired.

Because the charge had not been laid within two years of the alleged offence it could not be prosecuted.

Mr Moore adjourned the case until September 20.

Prosecutors were quick to nab Hameef for giving a SIMcard to a relative. But if you steal and sell rocket launchers, it seems you can get away with it. Howard's war on terror seems to be coming apart. 

Howard about to repeal legislation banning uranium enrichment.

Halliburton, Dick Cheney's former company, constructed the railway line between Adelaide and Darwin, now owned by Serco Asia Pacific, a leader in the management and transport of Britain's nuclear waste. It runs adjacent to both the SA Olympic Dam uranium mine and to Muckaty Station at Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory – the preferred site chosen by the Federal Government to store radioactive waste from Lucas Heights.

This geologically unstable area recently experienced a 2.5 Richter earthquake and is laced with underground aquifers supplying water to indigenous populations, to Outback towns and numerous stations.

Ominously on June 2, the Liberal Party's federal council also quietly endorsed a foreign nuclear waste dump for Australia. Uranium mining, the railway line and the nuclear waste dump are part of a bigger global picture. The US Department of Energy is planning a Global Nuclear Energy Partnership to promote a robust future for their nuclear industry. GNEP consists of uranium mining, enrichment, export of fuel rods, return of irradiated rods, reprocessing and construction of generation 1V reactors by selected and trusted countries...............................

Only China, France, Japan and Russia are included in the US GNEP plan, but clearly Australia is involved as John Howard is about to repeal federal legislation banning uranium enrichment, nuclear power and the reprocessing of spent fuel in Australia.

Howard is about to repeal federal legislation banning uranium enrichment. Dr Helen Caldicott points out the dangers of this action. Most Australians don't want to have a bar of this, but Howard and his mates are pressing ahead on the quiet. The only way to prevent this is to remove him at the upcoming election.

Repeal

John Pratt"Howard is about to repeal federal legislation banning uranium enrichment".

Could you let us know where to look this gem up?

Howard's deadly plan to join Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

Alan Curran, Dr Caldicott said Howard was about to revive Australia's nuclear enrichment program.  ABC's 7.30 Report also reported on Australia's enrichment program.

Also here on Insiders:

“It doesn’t seem to me to make a lot of sense to favour the export of uranium without looking at enrichment”, Howard told ABC TV’s June 3 Insiders program. “There is significant potential for Australia to increase and add value to our uranium extraction and exports”, he repeated on June 6. He also noted that recent developments in global energy markets have renewed international interest in nuclear power as a technology that “can help meet growing demand for electricity without the fuel and environmental costs associated with oil and gas”.

More about the GNEP that Bush has asked Howard to join:

That idea is part of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

Under this partnership, uranium is mined, processed and exported to other countries, with the waste material returned to its source for storage.

Proponents say this guarantees every aspect of the nuclear fuel cycle is secured and controlled.

Australia isn't part of that group yet, but Australia apparently will be asked to attend the next meeting of the group in Vienna in September, something the Prime Minister was asked about today.

Listen carefully: Howard is about to lift the ban. So now do you see the need to vote Labor?

We can't trust him -- remember the No GST promise.

Howard's false idol the Nuclear option is high risk, high cost.

Our argument is that without a clear Clean Energy Target – backed with a carbon trading regime – we will never have the incentive to invest in these new technologies.

And we need to resist the false idol of nuclear – as the high-cost, high-risk option that it is. As research commissioned by our union earlier this year shows, nuclear is the one response that the Australian public is not interested in pursuing.

But the bottom line is that after nearly 12 years of Howard Government inaction, the time for leadership has arrived. As our TV ads show, the economic costs of non-action – in agriculture, in tourism and in mining – are far greater than taking responsible action today.

So, our union is stepping into this debate in the lead-up to the federal election seeking the security that only the certainty of targets can bring. No one will forget how in the last federal election Howard tried to run a jobs scare campaign.

Our union will not allow our members or our communities to be used in this way as political pawns. Our jobs, our families and our communities are too important for that.

Tony Maher is the mining and energy national president of the CFMEU.

CFMEU calls for a clean energy target. Tony Mahar says the time for leadership has arrived. Howard has shown that he is not ready to take a lead on climate change. It is time: Australia will need real political leadership in the next three years. We cannot afford another three years of a Howard government.

World facing disaster as Howard sleeps.

Climate change threatens to bring further flooding, droughts, fires and landslides and the world must invest now to mitigate damage from natural disasters, the UN's top aid official said on Wednesday.

With tens of millions of people displaced in India and Bangladesh after severe flooding, nations should examine ways to protect vulnerable populations, John Holmes, UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs said in an interview.

"It's the worst we've seen for 50, 60, 70 years and we're beginning to see a pattern of flooding around the world," Holmes told Reuters during a visit to war-torn Sri Lanka. "There is an enormous problem because climate change is a reality already... We need to anticipate it and not just respond to it."

"Floods, droughts, fires, landslides, these are already happening in larger numbers than ever before, and I think the link with climate change is well proven."

As the number of natural disasters around the world increases, dramatically, we must listen to Prof. Flannery, Australian of the Year.

Prof Flannery makes no apologies for predicting the worst if greenhouse gas emissions are not heavily reduced quickly.

"We've underestimated the rate and speed of climate change and I'm as dismayed as anyone about that because I know how little time we have left to take action.

"There is enough, sufficient evidence in the fossil record to justify the idea that climate change can happen rapidly and will be utterly devastating to living things on our planet."

Howard has been slow to recognise the dangers of climate change; he is even slower to react. We must elect a government that will make the difficult decisions. Howard has a record of time wasting; we must not let him waste any more. The planet is sick – time to give Howard the flick!

Iraq, Afghanistan never ending wars. Forget Iran and Pakistan

Consider three policies now being pursued in Kabul. The first concerns drugs. There are 15 separate organisations devoting their time and £200 million ($A475 million) of British money to eradicating Afghanistan's one indigenous source of income, opium. In that time, the opium harvest has broken every record, while trying to suppress it has alienated farmers and fuelled insurgency. Everyone in Kabul knows the policy is both stupid and counterproductive, but since grants and jobs are tied to it, the policy will not change.

Then there is the bombing of Pashtun villages for sheltering the Taliban. Thousands of civilians have died as a result, inducing hostility to occupying forces and a desire for revenge that recruits thousands to the cause of killing Western troops. But soldiers sent to fight the Taliban have been ill-equipped and outgunned and needed air support, while air forces have craved a "battlefield role". Again, the policy is known to be counterproductive yet continues because it delivers a cheaper "kill rate" and satisfies military interests.

A third policy is the most overhyped in British military history, that of "winning hearts and minds". Not only is it meaningless without adequate security, which would require 50,000 rather than 5000 troops in Helmand alone, it also

involves tipping large sums of cash into nervous tribal villages, tearing apart power structures and creating feuds and dissension, the money usually ending up with war lords or the Taliban. All this is known in Kabul, but the money has been allotted and must be spent.

In each of these cases, the mismatch between what makes sense and what is implemented is total.

Iraq and Afghanistan are in a mess. Many generals are suggesting we will have troops there for at least fifty years. We must disengage our foreign policy from that of the US. How would we manage a war if Pakistan and Iran were to become involved? We need to bring all our troops home and concentrate on our backyard. Howard and his mates got us into this nightmare. Time to put vote Labor in, to get us out of it.

Howard policy likely to kill a lot of Tasmanians.

Jeff Richardson, professor of health economics at Monash University, wasn't using hyperbole when he said Prime Minister John Howard may succeed in keeping Tasmania's Mersey Hospital open with $45 million a year of federal money, but if he does, "he will also succeed in killing a lot of Tasmanians".

Richardson knows what he is talking about. In 2004, he undertook a detailed study of the Tasmanian health system in which he recommended a scaling back of complex procedures in smaller country hospitals because they couldn't get the specialists with the necessary skills and experience to perform such procedures safely.

What's more, even if they could, the population of north-west Tasmania is too small to generate the clinical workload to keep their skills honed to world standards...................

Throughout his term in office, Howard has shown his mastery in appealing to our darker side. But this promise is grubby even by the debased standards of electioneering that have developed in Australia in the past decade...........

The state plans were to add aged services, renal dialysis, rehabilitation, a 24-hour emergency centre and high-speed ambulance services to nearby Burnie. Many small population areas in Australia have a far inferior service."

If this decision is reversed, he says, "Howard's intervention will cement in place a system in which adverse events will flourish and in which Tasmanians will die unnecessarily.

"First-class specialists seek to practise in centres of excellence and it is hard for Tasmania to achieve these even in Hobart and Launceston."

We are used to politicians with their hands in our pockets for no good purpose.

This is the first occasion where a politician has his hands around our throats.

Howard is willing to put lives at risk to stay in power. This should be seen for what it is: a desperate bid by an old man who should have retired two or three years ago.

Howard election strategy earns top marks for bad policy.

Peter Costello revealed to The Australian six weeks ago, was John Howard's reaction to the inevitable differences between a treasurer who is guardian of the public purse and a prime minister with a penchant for spending his way out of trouble. If Costello accepted the favourable comparison with Howard as treasurer under Fraser, he must be having his doubts now as the Prime Minister warms to his latest election strategy: buying off voters, marginal seat by marginal seat, with announcements that earn top marks for bad policy..............

The new Howard federalism, as expounded by the Prime Minister a week ago, is for the commonwealth to adopt "an overwatch role", with the public looking to the national government "to plug the gaps and to respond where state and territory governments aren't doing a good enough job". That is one way of putting it. A shorter description is pure populism, with the commonwealth stepping in to reverse or oppose any state government action that voters don't like, whether necessary or not, provided it can reap dividends in marginal seats.

Howard's latest gimmick is to offer plebiscites to Queenslanders upset by amalgamations of local councils, half of which cover populations of fewer than 5000 and many of which are in financial trouble. The Prime Minister's devotion to democracy is touching. If he had hit on the idea earlier and applied it to some of his own unpopular decisions by, say, having a plebiscite on Work Choices, he would be in better political shape.

But it is no way to run the country.

Mike Steketee in the Australian is right: Howard has really lost it this time. Even the most diehard liberal must be worried by John Howard's the recent tactics.

US legislators call for a boycott of Beijing Olympics

US legislators have introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for a boycott of the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing unless it "stops engaging in serious human rights abuses," a Congressional aide said Tuesday.

Backed initially by eight lawmakers from President George W. Bush's Republican party, the resolution also calls on Beijing to "stop supporting serious human rights abuses by the governments" of Sudan, Myanmar and North Korea, the aides said.

The US legislators have to be joking: after the illegal invasion of  Iraq, and all the human rights abuses that the US has been involved with since the invasion this is the pot calling the kettle black.

The authoritarian government in China gleefully responded to the U.S. censure of its policies with return fire on the Bush administration's abysmal record on civil liberties. Things are getting bad when an autocracy chastises a republic for its human rights abuses and the criticism has merit. The Chinese condemned U.S. practises of kidnapping, torture, and indefinite detention without the opportunity for legal challenge. They also pinged the U.S. government for increased spying on American citizens. Of course, these are the same abuses that the U.S. government has criticised the Chinese government of perpetrating. China also cited Martin Sheinin, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as saying that parts of the U.S. Military Commissions Act violate the Geneva Conventions.

The US can no longer claim the moral high ground. This call for a boycott must send shivers down all the Australian athletes training for the Olympics. You can bet your bottom dollar that if the US does boycott the Beijing Olympics and if Downer is still our foreign minister, Australia will also boycott the Olympics.

Australian boycott unlikely

John Pratt: You can bet your bottom dollar that if the US does boycott the Beijing Olympics and if Downer is still our foreign minister, Australia will also boycott the Olympics.

The US famously boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics along with about 64 (or 65 - depending on who you count) other countries.

Australia was not among them - though we did march in the Opening Ceremony under the Olympic flag instead of the Australian flag.

If history is a guide then I doubt we will see Australian athletes sitting on the sidelines in 2008 no matter what the US decides.

Australia Might Boycott the Beijing Olympics

Dylan Kissane, if the polls are wrong and Howard wins, Downer may even be Prime Minister by the time of the Olympics. (Now that's a horrible thought.) I think Australia would follow the US, and boycott the Olympics. The Howard government has a track record of copying US policy for years. The Howard government cannot be compared with the 1980 government. Both parties have moved to the right.

Australia’s Prime Minister: The Deputy Sheriff of US Imperialism

The Australian authorities are minor, but steadfast allies of US Imperialism.

The Australian Prime Minister John Howard considers himself to be the Deputy Sheriff of US Imperialism in this part of the world. The Australian Government is playing out this role in Oceania and wider afield.

Australia is being pulled deeper and deeper into the military, strategic and economic sphere of US imperialism.

There are a number of US military bases and centers in Australia, which the Government calls “joint facilities.” These facilities provide:

·        Command and control facilities for US military assets and space assets. Vital to the Star Wars project, and important to the satellite targeting used during the Iraq war.

·        Other facilities are important to the US/UK spy network.

·        Many facilities have permanent and semi-permanent US military personnel.

·        Like the Philippines, Australia has its own non-declared status of forces (SOFA) arrangement, which in practice ensures that US military personnel and private contractors working on US military businesses can enter Australia without visas or passport controls. They are basically exempt from at least some Australian laws.

·        Through these bases all communications in Australia can be monitored.

·        Many US companies operate out of Australia, e.g. Haliburton’s operations in Iraq are administered out of Adelaide, South Australia.

Australia is one of the most US capital dominated country in the world.

The Australian authorities are close allies of the US in its wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, (despite majority opposition of the Australian people to the Iraq war), they have been silent about US torture and mistreatment of prisoners, and they have supported the US authorities who have detained, (mostly in solitary confinement), an Australian citizen in Guantanamo Bay prison for five years without charge or trial.

Australia has followed the USA in imposing sedition and other oppressive laws on the Australian people which threaten democratic and human rights, all under the smokescreen of the so-called war on terror. The laws breach the civil rights of the people by extending the powers of search, detention without representation and in secrecy, and to be named by the authorities as a threat, without proper evidence. Australia has also implemented the most oppressive anti-labour laws in the nation’s history.

Boycott

John Pratt, more rambling and speculation.

If our athletes have any sense they will not set foot in Beijing: by midday they will not be able to breathe. Unless Rudd promises all athletes will have their own breathing equipment.

Australia Won't - and don't count on the US doing so, either

John Pratt, whatever similarities exist in Australian and US foreign and security policies I still doubt that we would boycott an Olympic Games.

Australia is one of only a few states that have appeared at every Olympic Summer Games. We didn't boycott when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan (as mentioned previously), we didn't boycott when New Zealand decided to keep on playing rugby against South Africa (though about two dozen countries did). Our athletes never nominated for the 'People's Olympiad' organised to oppose the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin under the Nazis - though athletes from the US did.

To my mind it doesn't seem a likely event at all.

As for the US actually going through with a boycott - as opposed to a couple of politicians talking about it - I think that too is pretty unlikely. The modern commercialisation of sports would mean a political boycott would have significant commercial and financial impacts on athletes, sponsors, the Olympic movement itself and the media which has paid out big bucks to cover the event. Again, I doubt anything will come of it at all.

Interest rates are up, Howard mismanagement will bite.

The increase, widely tipped by economists, is expected to be a major blow for the Howard Government which had trumpeted economic management as one of its strengths.

The increase, the first since November, raised the cash rate to 6.5 per cent from 6.25 per cent - the highest level in 10 years.

This will add around $50 per month to the average $250,000 home loan with standard variable mortgage rates set to rise to 8.3 per cent from 8.05 per cent.

Howard was the treasurer who presided over some of the highest interest rates in Australia's history. The Liberal Party had interest rates at 22 per cent when Howard was treasurer.   

Mr Rudd predicted the Prime Minister would engage in such selective debate about economic history in the upcoming election campaign.

"Every time Mr Howard says 17 per cent interest rates under Labor in 1989, we'll be talking about 22 per cent interest rates under the Liberals and under Mr Howard personally as treasurer in 1982," Mr Rudd said.

Howard the old man who plants no trees

Once people sign up to private health insurance they are reluctant to pull out because: "What if I get hit by a car tomorrow?" And for the people who convince themselves that having private health insurance is taking pressure off public hospitals, it's not. It's making the situation worse.

It's clever how the Government is taking away with one hand and giving back with the other. "Oh look at what a mess the public health system is in! Whoever did that should be smacked. And look at the Medicare levy surcharge. Outrageous! Here's a rebate on your private health insurance and a lovely safety net. What did you say? A safety net will only encourage the increase of fees and not benefit the public in any way shape or form? Don't be so cynical. We're your Government and we love you." It's all smoke and mirrors, ladies and gentlemen.

I pay the Medicare levy surcharge and I want it to go to Medicare. At present, it doesn't. It probably goes to pay for John Howard's nose-hair clippers, or some more taxpayer-funded government advertising.

Tomorrow Michael Moore's documentary on the US health system, Sicko, opens in cinemas around Australia. When you watch this movie think of it as "here's one we prepared earlier".

There is a proverb: "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in." With free high-quality universal health care there will be shade for our children. With the increase of private health there will be no shade because there will be no trees.

Our health system is in meltdown, Howard wastes $3 billion every year propping up a failed private health system. Its time we went back to a universal health scheme. The Howard experiment has failed.

Howard turns his back on Menzies vision.

Menzies, In his famous radio broadcasts to the nation in 1942, based on Roosevelt's four freedoms, he lamented politicians who "cater for the shallow and prejudiced judgements of the moment" with "their eyes turned always to the next election … leading to a parliament of the spineless, (where) democracy would disappear". He warned that "our political judgement, being based on no continuing principle, will be spasmodic, uncertain and inconsistent". And of those who ignore principle in favour of popularity and the political fix, "a more stupid and humiliating conception of the function of a member of parliament can hardly be imaged … The best epitaph for a true democrat will not be 'I tickled their ears, I got their votes, I spent their money'."

Whether it is the Tampa incident, the reasons for beginning or remaining in a war, rushed policies on broadband, reversals on climate change, a sudden, pre-election awakening to the plight of indigenous Australians, imprisoning an Australian resident before trial, or undermining federalism, sadly, the present Liberal Government's acknowledged reputation is for doing the very thing Menzies warns against — inventing policy or adopting often last-minute, popular, attention-grabbing, short-term issues that can and do secure election results.

Howard is tearing the heart out of the Liberal Party, Menzies was a man with a vision. Menzies warned of the quick fix policies, we are now seeing from Howard in his last moments of desperation to cling to power. Many lifelong liberals will be voting against Howard.

Da Musical

Howard could sing "The Coward Of the County"
Downer, "A boy named Sue"
Costello, "I shot the sherrif"
(wishing it were true)
Andrews would love "Please release me"
Coonan "Put your sweet lips" could moan
And Ruddock could sing with gusto
"I fought the law, and the law won"

A musical comedy, to say the least
best named, methinks, "The Exorcist."
Subtitles, of course, by Kevin Rudd,
"The New Kid In Town," his hands free of blood.

The Right Musicals to see....

My Brother Stan

The Minister His Son And Their Teddycard

The Hillsounds of Music - staring Abbott and Costello

The Grande Souffle - staring Dolly Downer & The Fishnets

Last Tango in Maccas - staring Veranda Sandstoned

Gotta Keep A Good Thing Goin - staring the AWB & Friends

Killing Me Softly - a rendition with Ruddock

The Cocky Horror Picture Show - staring Billy Heifer-man and the Obsessions

The Lizard of Oz - staring Jacky Dragon and the Kelly Gang

Don't Cry For Me Arhnem Land

WorkChoices cannot improve no matter what.

G'day John, I enjoy your posts immensely and I think others must do as well because very few of the Howardistas are even attempting to engage.

I find it annoying that so many people even listen to Hockey's tripe or write about the Howard draconian WorkChoices. It's a fait acompli.

Simple straightforward Australian industrial history describes the same capitalistic policies in 19th Century Queensland, where the shearers were forced to sign individual contracts with wealthy land owners and, if they objected, as some did, they went to gaol in conditions that only Dickens could have imagined.

"Not such a gentleman" Joe Hockey and the promoted public servant both defend the indefensible when they talk about anything FOR the employee being protected by law.  It is just not true.

Check with the few events exposed and you will find that Howard's Work Place Relations and the Ombudsman are merely rubber stamps for the employer because they have been set up under the guise of "a place to complain" when in fact, they are the government judging the government's statutory contracts.

In simplistic terms, they have developed a system almost exactly like that of 19th Century Queensland, i.e. the employer hires and fires employees under conditions that only the employer has the right to impose.

"A Fascist Australia" has several articles covering this typical Howard abuse of human rights - I choose:

Article 10.  Labour Power is Suppressed.  Suppression of labour: Unions are eliminated or disempowered in the name of reform and fairness.  Because the organizing power of labour is the only real threat to a fascist government, labour Unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

Going into detail only helps Hockey and the illegal Public Servant to spin the lies and confuse the issues.

I suggest and hope the Howardists engage:

  • AWA's are statutory contracts with total government backing.
  • There is no obligation upon the employer to consider fairness in any way since they can withdraw the offer of employment (not a Job) at any time.
  • Hockey and his illegal public servant have recently been forced to recognise that under 18's have to have a parent sign.  I suppose that McDonald's will get Howard to legislate against that should he be re-elected.
  • There is no such thing as full-time employment since the employer under these government contracts can sack an employee at any time, day or night.  If that is full-time employment I am Mickey duck!

So John, that's my support for your hard work.

Keep it up cobber.

Cheers Ern G. 

Work

Ernest William, why didn't you tell us that a timber works is closing down in Eden-Monaro, because your Labor mates in NSW have cancelled a contract? Why didn't you tell us that the Liberal Member Gary Nairn is stepping in to help the workers with some Federal money?

And why isn't Sharon Burrows down helping?

WHY DIDN'T YA TELL US, AKKA


Akka
, you old Tory ratbag (no offence), why didn't you tell us that the alleged breach was by the company, now slurping into millions of your money. Read the contract, Akka.  And why didn't you tell us that this was another example of Kenny Koala vomiting money in the direction of any vote or preference up for sale on eBay.

And in the deep North, the swastika flags are fluttering on a thousand Howard flagpoles.

Should Labor win the coming federal election, the vast amalgamated metropolis of Brisbane may well be headed by the most senior Liberal leader in Australia, the tiny but feisty Campbell Newman, friend of ex-MP Michael Caltabiano.

But the PM, despite his doddery bid to torpedo the Queensland Government's proposed amalgamation of some evocative, but unviable local councils, is not suggesting for a moment that he would disaggregate Brisbane.

Kirribilli House may only spend millions on plebiscites in failed and wobbly Queensland local shires.

There the PM may scratch together a pathetic handful of preference votes from One Nation, Family Fist, the National Party and those of similar ilk. Preferences, Akka! Manna from Heaven!

Perhaps even former Nazis may push forward as stalwart Gauleiters in some parish unable to attract a health engineer or surveyor, but able to piece together a rabid pro-Howard rabble, or a pack of tree poisoners.

And try this for size - sometime soon at a Kirribilli House near you, the Y-fronts of Steel will abruptly announce his retirement on grounds of ill-health. Shockingly undeserved ill-health.

Sources will let it be known (just prior to a pathos-filled New Idea special) that J Winston Howard is suffering from a most pitiable form of Alzeimher's.

This would explain everything - roaming the countryside in that Blinky Bill haircut, the bizarre tracksuit with Minnie Mouse DayGlo runners, the Murray Darling umpteen billion dollar Prayer for Rain, the military a$$ault on on the Northern Territory and letting Janette appear in those frocks like The Region's very own Queen Mother, on bad speed + G&T.

A grateful Peter Costello finally steps into the worn old carpet slippers, a sympathetic (and mourning) nation votes for him in a landslide, punishing whippersnapper Rudd, who deserves it doesn't he? Smartarse. He made Mr Howard senile and odd, messing with his mind.

And a grateful nation purchases Raheen with proceeds from the fire sale of Kirribilli House, that pile donated to the Howard Family Trust Inc., c/- a grateful Bennelong Group and other cronies. The Queen, wily old prankster, makes Howard the Earl of Wollstonecraft and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, a post held for colonials with dementia and a penchant for oddball clobber.

Peter and Tanya move in to Raheen, and finally have tea with the Howards, a kind of Last Supper, serving Him gruel through nasal tubes, and seeing him sedated and off in a CommCar prior to sundown, before any trouble kicks off.

Tell me it wouldn't work, Akka. But it could put Pete's bum on the back seat of C-1.

And a crazy ex-PM in the House of Lords without having to give Tony Blair a red cent.

As crazy Bill Heffernan would say, “Wheeooooo-Hooooo!!”

Frère Jihad Jacques OAM née Woodforde, the Royal Nonesuch and Cemeleopard, Resident Gentleman Usher, British House of Lourdes, Keeper of the Infant of Prague

Work

Ernest William, what is wrong with an employer being able to sack an employee who is not doing their job properly?

What is wrong with an employer being able to sack an employee who he no longer needs?

If an employee gives notice that he is going to quit, despite the fact that the  employer may have invested money and time training him, I suppose that is alright.

How come Sharon Burrows does not appear on TV and tell us about the workers who are ripping off and rorting the employers. If you like I can give you list of rorts and rippoffs, that have happened in my business. I sacked the offenders without batting an eyelid, and I will keep on doing so.

Howard thinks $3 an hour is a fair wage

Howard Government workplace watchdog approves $3 an hour wage for young worker: fundamental flaw in IR laws exposed

The Howard Government's workplace watchdog has approved it was legal for a young woman to be paid less than $3 an hour for working eleven hour days for a Cairns-based diving and tour company.

The case of 21 year old dive worker Brooke O'Mara that is reported in a national newspaper today has exposed another fundamental flaw in the Howard Government's WorkChoices IR laws say unions.

Unions estimate that the young worker who was paid just $30 a day, often for ten or eleven hours work, is still owed backpay of up to $5,600.

However the Workplace Ombudsman - formerly the Office of Workplace Services -- has rejected Brooke's bid for backpay from when she started on 1 October last year, ruling that unqualified junior dive workers are not entitled to receive the minimum wage:

... your entitlement to the FMW [Federal Minimum Wage] was only assessed from your 21st birthday in December 2006 to termination [10 January 2007].  Prior to that date, no arrears of wages could be claimed because of the non-application of the FMW to juniors.  We couldn't claim wages for you under the Recreational Dive Industry Award as advice from my Brisbane office is that Award will only apply to Dive Masters and Dive Instructors who hold appropriate certification.  (July 2007, Office of Workplace Services)

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

"This is another major blow to the credibility of the Howard Government and its new workplace watchdog.

"It shows that the IR laws cannot be fixed by advertising or by a new bureaucracy.

"The laws are fundamentally flawed and leave young and vulnerable workers exposed to exploitation.

"It shows that the Government's new advertisements are a sham. The ads say that employers can't rip off young people, when Brooke's case clearly shows that they can.

"The fact is that Brooke's situation is not unique and the Howard Government has so far failed to prevent other young workers being abused in this way. 

"Despite an adverse finding of underpayment against the company, Down Under Dive is still advertising its unregistered so-called "Traineeships" for $30 a day on the company website," said Ms Burrow.

'Voters fear WorkChoices is changing their way of life' - because it is, says the ACTU

Revelations that Govt research showing the Australian public blames the IR laws for a fundamental shift in the Australian way of life was the prompt for the Government's current $37 million pro-WorkChoices advertising campaign is conclusive proof the Govt's ads are a political stunt says the ACTU.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

"This shows that the Government's current taxpayer-funded IR advertising has nothing to do with providing the public with information and everything to do with saving the Howard Government's political bacon.

"The ads do not tell workers anything about the workplace rights that have been taken away under the WorkChoices IR laws.

"The fact is that no amount of advertising or name-changes can fix these fundamentally unfair laws.

"The laws leave young and vulnerable workers exposed to exploitation - like the case of Brooke O'Mara who was paid less than $3 an hour that is reported today."

Keating The Musical, a future that could have been.

The play, Keating: The Musical, takes a comic look at the former prime minister's colourful time in office.

The musical was up against other big productions such as Miss Saigon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and The Boy from Oz.

Director Neil Armfield says the musical's strength is its Australian content.

"The great thrill is that ... of the four wonderful shows that were the final nominations, this was the only one that is all Australian music and that says something for our future," he said.

Armfield says Australians enjoy the show because they still romanticise Mr Keating.

"People come and leave the show in tears at the vision of Australia," he said.

"I think that Australia has become a much more cynical place since Keating lost office."

Australia has become more cynical since Keating lost office. People are leaving the show in tears; the vision Keating had for Australia has been lost.  Let's hope Rudd can rekindle the flame.

More Musicals

John Pratt, here are some suggestions for future musicals:

Latham and the Taxidriver

Kevin 07's dinner with Burke

Harkin the boy from Tas

Beazley and the Black Hole

Labor and the Phantom of the Unions

Fiona: L.Ferguson, what a brilliant idea. I hope that Webdiarists of all persuasions make their contributions to this list. Who knows, maybe we could claim royalties?

And more grist to the musical mill

Let me continue the list with:

Live and Let Die, starring Peter Reith, Philip Ruddock and the survivors of the SIEV-X.

Tears

John Pratt:

"People are leaving the show in tears; the vision Keating had for Australia has been lost.  Let's hope Rudd can rekindle the flame".

I saw the show and it was garbage. How the hell it won over Miss Saigon is a mystery. It was a third-rate show by any reckoning.

Don't worry, if Rudd wins we will return to the Keating years and, John, your grandchildren will have no jobs. Can you imagine how your friend Ernest will manage on $29,000 under Labor, with high inflation?

Howard government driven by desperation.

Let's assume we have an interest rate rise tomorrow. Why, if only the Coalition could be trusted (recently unsuccessfully) to contain rates, and previous cuts in rates are the result of the Government's magnificent fiscal management, is this latest increase suddenly all the fault of the states?

What you have here is a Government perceived as dishonest and bereft of ideas, with its advisers recommending it buy its way out of trouble and then blame the economic repercussions on someone else.

Throw in fear campaigns on unions and national security and you have all the ingredients for a Government driven by desperation rather than sound policy.

The Howard government is tired and has run out of ideas. Howard has no plan for the future. Increasingly desperate, the Howard government lashes out at the states, unwilling to take responsibility for its own mismanagement. Australia can't afford another three years of Howard incompetence.

Howard takeover will compromise patient safety.

THE Prime Minister's federal takeover of Mersey Hospital has unleashed a backlash from doctors and four mayors, undermining the Government's hopes of holding the seat of Braddon.

The Minister for Health, Tony Abbott, flies into Tasmania today for talks with health officials amid doctors' warnings yesterday that the plan to restore the intensive care unit at the hospital near Devonport "would compromise patient safety".

Two critical care specialists, Marcus Skinner and Scott Parkes, said the plan to reopen the intensive care unit at Mersey would mean the state's north-west would be left with two weak intensive-care units instead of one strong one. These units would be left operating below the critical mass required to maintain quality and safety.

Howard's pork barrelling in Tasmania is likely to put patients at risk. The reaction from health officials and doctors shows how little thought went into the  Federal takeover of the Mersey hospital. This policy, made on the run by the Howard government, is disgraceful. 

Howard Government worst decision in 50 years.

Truths often begin by being dismissed as heresies. The Howard Government has tended to treat even informed critics of its policy as heretics, rather than as patriotic sources of alternative advice. That the group of 43 was correct is now clear. The Government and the country would be much better off today if their voices had been heeded. The Government's decision to invade Iraq, compounded by rhetoric about staying the course on a path on which we should never have embarked, will, I believe, come to be seen as the worst decision in the half century I have been associated with Australian foreign policy.

Richard Woolcott calls the Howard government's decision to invade Iraq the worst decision in half a century.

The other main outcomes of the war, apart from substantial loss of American and British lives, have been the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure and massive civilian casualties, including an unknown number of women and children. Eight million people in Iraq now need emergency aid, while between 2 and 3 million Iraqi refugees have fled. Other disastrous outcomes include the great increase in terrorist activities in Iraq itself, where al-Qaeda had no significant presence before 2002, a substantial increase in Iranian influence in the Middle East and the further destabilisation of the situation throughout the Middle East.

The decision has caused the death of untold numbers and completely trashed a country. The UN tried to prevent the invasion. Howard should be put on trial. How can anyone  think of reelecting the Howard government?

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