The Guardian 8 June, 2005

Dingo bytes

The aim of the Howard government's anti-union laws is to create a huge pool of cheap labour for companies to exploit and to encourage transnational corporations to invest here. Now Howard has had to defend a 4.1 percent pay rise for federal politicians. The $85-a-week increase will kick in on July 1. The average will now be paid $111,150 a year. The government is currently in the Industrial Relations Commission arguing against a $26.60 per week rise in the minimum wage for low income earners.

And while on incomes, the St Vincent de Paul Society has blown away Howard's claim that low income families have thrived under his regime. A study by the charity, The Reality of Income Inequality in Australia, has found that the incomes of the bottom 10 percent of households have increased on average only by $26 a week during the last eight years while those in the top income bracket increased $762 per week. Almost a quarter of the population, 4.5 million people, live on less than $400 per week. The study states, "There is no doubt that income inequality will grow even further once the tax cuts and welfare reforms are implemented."

Think the Cold War is over? Well, ASIO doesn't. The secret police agency has set up a new unit to increase its surveillance of foreign spies, especially those from Russia and China. ASIO got the funds to set up the new counter-espionage unit last year. It is now fully operational, but its size and cost remain a secret. Expect some Chinese diplomats to be accused of spying and expelled in the not-to-distant future.

Sydney is heading toward becoming one big traffic snarl. If there's a breakdown in any of its numerous freeways or tunnels the traffic grinds to a halt and backs up for kilometres. The Carr government, hand in glove with developers and construction companies, has come up with a novelty to open the latest contribution to grid-locking the city: encouraging people at its opening on June 12 to walk through its new Cross City Tunnel in the name of charity. As Greens MP Lee Rhiannon put it, "While Bob Carr shows symptoms of motorway madness by championing the Cross City Tunnel, public transport users across the state will be wondering where the government's priorities are because the Premier has been closing rail lines left, right and centre and has done little to encourage bicycle use in the city."

CAPITALIST HOG OF THE WEEK: is the federal ALP. To get an idea of how bad their position on locking up asylum seekers is, this headline in the Sydney Morning Herald last week referring to the Liberal Party backbencher leading the push for a policy change on mandatory sentencing, made it clear: "Labor moves closer to backing the Georgiou plan".

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