Sunday, May 27, 2007

Labor's Bad Week

Last week the Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, had a bad week. a really baaaad week.

  1. It was reported that his wife's, Therese Rein's, business placement agency (YES) not only had individual contracts (not AWA's), but had also underpaid staff. It turns out the underpayments were "discovered" in Dec 06-Jan-07, and were "being fixed" for both current and former employees.

    She had acquired the business in late 2006 and had reportedly been told by the previous owner that the contracts were legal.

    It might well be that there are other employers who have relied on previous owners or industry associations that are in the same position. Employers ought not rely on them, but should employ their own lawyers. Small business owners, though, are in the same boat as employees - they can't afford it.

  2. Then, in an attempt to defuse the issue, Mr Rudd made the valid point about about women, including wives, having their own business/work life. However, he used the unfortunate expression that such women were not an "appendage of middle-aged men". Oh, dear! Rightly, many commented that neither are those who choose to stay at home, raise children, and have their on life that doesn't include work.

It wasn't a good week for the Labor leader, but Mr Rudd did the only thing one could do: admit embarrassment, say sorry and cop it on the chin.

The Analyst

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

WorkChoices Ads - No New Law

On 22 May, Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey, admitted that "We (the Fedral Government) got it wrong. We under-estimated what would have happened if we put in place a system that may lead to people trading away penalty rates without fair compensation."

Well - Yes. WorkChoices is deeply unpopular with working families, young people, mums and dads, because the legislation gave to employers what employers asked of John Howard: - reduce the wages (but don't touch our bonuses) John Howard was doing the bidding of employer groups.

However, the people of Australia have been promised, and it is coming, ad advertising campaign so they can "Know where you stand". The trouble is that there are currently no proposed amendments to the Workplace Relations (WorkChoices) Act that relate to the advertising. It's been nearly a week since they were announced, with much "humility" by John Howard, Joe Hockey, adn Treasurer Peter Costello. There is no indication of such an amendment from the government's website. (, nor in its list of proposed and current legislation at , which was updated on 22 May.

We'll get the ads, and we'll pay for them, but it seems we might not get the changes!! They might be a non-core promise for after the election. Funny about that!

The Analyst

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Politics of Smacking

Democrat Senator Andrew Bartlett has called for an independent inquiry into smacking and (parental) discipline, and any link it might have to child abuse.

His call comes after New Zealand passed legislation banning smacking of children, and reports that the number of reported cases of child abuse in 2005-2006 has doubled since 1999-2000, to 266,000 reports across Australia. There are several things we, as a society should know, in order to put this in context:

  1. ANY child abuse is abhorrent; and it is right that we should address the problem.
  2. The responsibility for reporting falls to each State. ie each state has its own laws that govern when a report of child abuse is made.
  3. Media outlets have simply reported raw statistics about the doubling of the number of reported cases from the (Federal Government-run) Australian Institute of Family Studies. Media have not bothered to even check the website. There they would have found the following statement:

    "Some of this increase reflects changes in child protection policies and practices in the jurisdictions." (

    They would also have found a site dealing with Comparability of Data, at:

    There appears to have been no investigative aspect to media reporting - just tabloid repetition.

  4. 2007 is an election year, and it was no surprise that politicians of the major political parties were keeping a low profile on the issue. There are at most 6 months before an election is held, possibly less, and political parties do not want to antagonise any section of the voting public.
  5. Senator Bartlett called for an independent inquiry. I can't remember the last truly independent public enquiry established by a Federal Government. The current government, under John Howard, has removed all the Senate Committees it does not control, and the most recent inquiries likely to be remembered are the inquiry into Nuclear Power and the AWB Royal Commission. The inquiry into Nuclear Power was run by John Howard's good friend and confidante, Ziggy Zwitowski; and the AWB Royal Commission was excluded from making findings about politicians and their public servants.
In short, this is such an important social issue we do need an independent enquiry, or a serious piece of proper investigative journalism. The chances of the Federal Government commissioning a truly independent public inquiry are NIL. Any inquiry, like other government enquiries, will occur because it suits the party; will have a controlled outcome that favours current government policy; and will be timed to run well past the Federal election.

It is a shame that our politicians duck for cover, when some form of leadership is needed.

The Analyst

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Politics & the Dalai Lama

Yesterday, both Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd were caught playing politics on the topic of whether to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits in June.

Neither leader had allocated time to personally meet His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. The excuse was that such a meeting could cause international concern. ie China would be unhappy, because that Dalai Lama lives in exile from Tibet, and campaigns against human rights abuses by China.

Now, both men have done an about face ... of is that the two-faced-two-step? China does not determine our foreign policy, and a person of some integrity would have met with His Holiness.

However, it got worse: domestic politics was also a consideration. Mr Howard's office said that he "may" meet with the Dalai Lama. He wanted Mr Rudd to make the first move - Mr Howard would then have had the option to say "See, Mr Rudd doesn't respect China". In the end, that was not politically possible and both men will now meet His Holiness. Both were embarassed into doing so.

What a farce! What two-facedness! (well .. it IS an election year)

The Analyst

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Australian Media & Freedom of Speech

Last week's reports of rival Australian media organizations cooperating in a "fight a steadily declining level of free speech they say has seriously eroded Australia's democracy". (

In Australia State and Federal governments, both Labor and Coalition (conservative)employ ever-more armies of media spin-doctors to manipulate, manage and control the media. But even worse, the very Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, designed to make governments more open and accountable, are now being used to restrict the information given by governments.

However, the problem is deeper than that:
  • Certainly, we must have robust FOI laws, and these laws should make it difficult to restrict information, except for that which is classified under the Official Secrets Act.
  • Parliamentary accountability and responsibility is almost a distant memory, at both State and Federal levels, under both Labor and Liberal-National Governments.
  • The Prime Minister, State Premiers, Ministers, members of lower and upper houses of Parliaments use the media for 5s & 10s "media grabs" and issue Press Releases.
  • There are media organizations that simply seek the "sensational", to the point of entrapment. We need to be protected from such tabloid behaviours, especially from some commercial "current affairs" stories. For example, Victorian Police have been asked to investigate the role of Channel 9's "A Current Affair" car in a tragic accident involving a truck in the Domain Tunnel in Melbourne, in April 2007.
I'd like to suggest that the media include in all stories that involve governments: "The following is an announcement/assertion by ... (insert Government / Political Party/Name & Party)" or "The Following story was provided by Government Media spin-doctors"

Governments and individuals feed the media only what they think will be of self-benefit: rarely is such information given for the public benefit. Indeed, any information that informs the public what is really happening seems to be stifled by the abuse of FOI laws, by governments, for the benefit of politicians and political parties. Voters should not only be excused for being cynical, they have good reason to be.

The Analyst

Sunday, May 06, 2007

"Clean Coal" ?

As governments, mining companies and political parties scramble to gain their green credentials with the (voting) public, it is worthwhile us looking at what they offer.

"Clean coal" has been bandied around as a saviour: a means where we can continue to mine, export and use coal at existing or higher rates, but not pollute the atmosphere with more carbon dioxide. The trouble with carbon dioxide is that it reduces the earth's ability to cool itself by radiating heat into space, mostly at night. So, the earth collects heat from the sun, becomes hotter, but can't cool itself as well. This leads to increasing average temperatures across the earth = "global warming" and all the associated weather, ecological and environmental effects.

Coal is substantially carbon. Depending on its colour and sheen, it has varying amounts of sulphur, water, hydrogen and substantially-decomposed plant material, from which it is derived.

"Clean coal" technologies promoted by the Australian Coal Association ( include technologies to:
  • reduce fly ash escaping from chimney stacks
  • using pulverised coal dust in furnaces (like having fuel injection for cars)
  • converting coal to gas (a process that uses more energy than the energy in the the gas it makes)
  • other methods to improve the efficiency of combustion
All of these are admirable (except for converting coal to gas, which is energy-inefficient). Add to the mix the "new technology" of carbon sequestration. Say what?? Essentially burying carbon dioxide pollution underground, so that it doesn't contribute to global warming.

There is one inevitable truth about this that its proponents do not tell you:
  • for every 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide buried, they also bury almost 73 million tonnes of oxygen - oxygen that we, and every other living thing needs to survive!
Clean coal?? By all means develop more efficient methods of combustion (so we burn less), and reduce the sooty and other particle emissions from smokestacks.

But please don't bury the very oxygen we need to survive! "Clean coal" is NOT the environmental cure that many politicians are saying.

The Analyst