The Guardian 31 August, 2005

Dingo bytes

Last week state governments were faxed a letter by the federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson to inform them federal funding to TAFE colleges might be cut later. In fact two days before the fax was sent the funding — $300 million — was slashed because the states had refused to try and force TAFE teachers onto the Howard government’s non-union Australian Workplace Agreements. In return for a $5 billion funding package for the tertiary sector the Howard government also demanded that states allow private contractors to tender for services in tertiary education. The $300 million is the whole of the federal government’s contribution to TAFE. At the same time the government has launched global campaign to recruit skilled migrants to come and work in Australia, stating it is after 20,000 workers. The idiocy of it all.

The growing economic crisis is hurting a growing number of people, many of whom are hidden victims of the system — we are not told of their plight, unless it’s being sensationalised in the gutter reportage that passes for current affairs on the commercial television networks. In the NSW South Coast city of Wollongong, Port Kembla’s Darcy House opened a year ago as a drop-in centre offering health care and help with social questions for the needy of the area. Once the word got out, the centre was swamped with people looking for help, including the homeless, the mentally ill and street prostitutes as well as those simply needing a safe space to shower and eat. The church supporting it pulled out in July and Wollongong City Council had to step in with the funding.

And while on the marginalised, a survey by La Trobe University has found that poverty and discrimination are the daily reality for women living with HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS as a health and social issue has been buried by the Howard government. One in three female sufferers lives below the poverty line. Nearly 90 percent surveyed reported they have difficulty on a day-to-day basis meeting the cost of living and more than half said they had received "less than favourable" treatment by medical services because of their HIV status. "Stigma and discrimination in the wider society is a real issue", said the support group Positive Women. "But certainly in the treatment phase it’s just compounded by the fact that very few people know enough about it."

Good money after bad dept. The fundamentalist multi-million dollar Hillsong Church in Sydney, a favourite of the fundamentalist Howard government, will receive a chunk of $1.7 million the government is handing out to lower crime in the city’s west.

CAPITALIST HOG OF THE WEEK: is the anti-worker BHP Billiton. The world’s biggest mining company last week announced an all-time record profit of $8.6 billion for the year to June.

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