The Guardian 9 February, 2005

Dingo bytes

You'd reckon that even if the Howard Government doesn't give a rat's about the destruction of the ozone layer they'd at least be concerned about its effect on profits. The Australian Greenhouse Office, the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO have warned that Australia faces a diminishing water supply, the extinction of plant and animal species and the loss of billions of dollars from agriculture due to global warming. The three organisations made the announcement in a joint presentation to an international global warming conference in Britain, just two weeks before the Kyoto Protocol on global warming comes into effect. Australia is not a signatory and will not be co-operating.

The National Competition Council, for ever pushing privatisation, claims the only way to recycle Sydney's effluent is to hand the city's sewers over to private companies - effluent to make the rich more affluent, as it were. It recommends that private firms be given access to Sydney Water's pipe network for 50 years, so it's not only about sewage, it's about privatising water, which international experience has shown not only makes it more expensive but results in a fall in water quality. Imagine the disaster if for-profit companies are handed our scarce water resources.

The Office of the Employment Advocate, which the Howard government set up to push non-union agreements in workplaces, specifically the government's Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs), has announced a new AWA model. It includes averaging out the 38-hour week over the course of a month; allows for "voluntary" overtime i.e. unpaid overtime; and no guaranteed minimum hours for casuals.

It was satisfying to see Foreign Minister Alexander Downer cop it big time from his French counterpart Michel Barnier. Downer was in Paris for talks with the French government while, at the same time, his fearless leader PM Howard was in Switzerland publicly bagging France and Germany as "old Europe", "anti-American" and "parochial". With both of them standing in front of the gathered media, Barnier gave Downer a French fry, saying that "anti-Americanism, when it exists, is no more productive than French-bashing". Downer's response, after he ceased doing an impression of a stunned Pooh Bear, was lame: "I mean, anti-Americanism hasn't got the world anywhere."

CAPITALIST HOG OF THE WEEK: is the Pope. The creaking Pontiff has been interfering in Australia's internal affairs for some time now, mainly pushing an anti-abortion line. Conferring his blessing last week on the St Thomas Moore Society in Australia, the Catholic lawyers' association, he called on the right-to-life legal fraternity to step up its anti-abortion program. Lawyer society president John McCarthy said the Pope's message reinforced their role in "shaping public policy" through not only a "social and legal; relationship" but also "personal virtue". You would think, in the light of the scandals of recent decades, the less said about "personal virtue" in the Church's hierarchy the better.

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