The Guardian 16 February, 2005

Dingo bytes

According to a group of Australian businessmen the federal government has accomplished a world first. It has refused to accept its own currency. The group made the claim after they had spent years building up a lucrative business venture selling coins they purchased from scrap metal yards back to the Royal Australian Mint. The Mint has changed its policy and now won't buy back coins when they are in bulk amounts, damaged or retrieved from scrap metal yards.

A Victorian principal who used a surveillance camera to spy on a teacher had acted appropriately according to Premier Steve Bracks. Box Hill Senior Secondary College principal Wayne Craig sparked controversy after he used footage from the camera to sack Year 10 teacher Gloria Ng. This is despite Victorian Education Department guidelines banning the use surveillance cameras to monitor teachers. Premier Bracks said Mr Craig was justified in doing what he did "because quality in our education system is what parents want".

It seems that Australia is governed by consultants. In the last financial year the federal government has spent close to $300 million on consultancies, bringing its total spending on outside advice to more than $2 billion. According to Senate Estimate Committee figures, the biggest spending department was the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs which clocked up nearly $48 million. Other big spenders included the forensic audit of ATSIC - and $440,000 to News Ltd for its part in the government's community and business partnership awards.

At the November 2002 Victorian elections the State Government pledged to reduce dental waiting lists. Well it seems that nothing has changed. One Victorian went on a waiting list to see a dentist on April 13, 1999, and that person is still waiting. Spare a thought if you're a Victorian who needs dentures. The waiting list is six and a half years. It makes a cruel joke of the Bracks government's promotion of oral health in the last election: "Our oral health is vital to social wellbeing, self esteem and sound nutrition. Expanding these services and improving access will continue to be a priority for our next term of government."

CAPITALIST HOG OF THE WEEK: is Stan Howard. You may remember Stan from the scandal surrounding the National Textiles bankruptcy. Stan, the brother of Prime Minister John Howard, was supposed to be so financially destitute that the PM had to bail him out via the government's entitlements package when his company went belly-up, leaving the workers owed tens of millions of dollars. It was consequently revealed that Stan and other directors helped themselves to big bonuses prior to the bankruptcy announcement. Well it seems his wife, Mrs Howard, isn't doing too badly. Mrs Howard and her son have recently purchased the Bowral estates, Walling and Wallingwood in NSW for a whopping $6,175,000.

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