The Guardian 30 March, 2005

Dingo bytes

When voters who answered the phone during the last federal election and received a recorded message in the nasal monotone of John Howard, a lot of people felt their privacy had been violated. Some just didn’t like the reactionary war monger inviting himself into their home where, for all they know, ASIO, ASIS and the Federal Police were already violating their privacy under Howard’s instructions. Others with an unlisted number assumed, perhaps naively, that it protected them from such telemarketing con artists. Last week an inquiry by the Australian Communications Authority found that the government had used CD-ROMs listing seven million names and addresses from a company called Desktop Marketing Services. So, where did the company get all that information? Well, Desktop Marketing Service doesn’t exist any more: it has been shut down by the Federal Court for breaching Telstra’s copyright on the White Pages: the government used a crook company in their crook campaign.

Michael Costa is the NSW Minister for Economic Reform. Costa is Premier Bob Carr’s leading hatchet man. As Industrial Relations Minister he took the axe to workers’ comp and led a vicious attack on the teachers’ union. As Transport Minister he applied a blow torch to the public transport system. And last week he announced that 20 per cent of NSW public servants are “surplus to requirement”. A more apt title would be Minister for Economic Slash and Burn.

Last year Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock started a push for the introduction of national defamation laws. Ruddock didn’t make clear at the time why he wanted the Commonwealth to have control over such laws. Now he’s shown his hand, partially, telling a meeting of state attorneys-general that they’d better fall in line behind his aim to have federal legislation to allow companies to sue for defamation that would override state laws. Alarm bells should be ringing in the media as this signals the Howard government’s intention to gag television, newspapers and radio from exposing corporate/government corruption. In that context the big guns will now be turned on the national broadcaster, the ABC.

CAPITALIST HOG OF THE WEEK: is multiple “Hog” winner Rupert Murdoch. Tongues are wagging after it was revealed that he moved control of his family company Kayarem to the Caribbean and listed the company on the Bermuda Stock Exchange a week before it was due to be reincorporated in the US last November. The move follows on other recent decisions to move control of their shareholding to Reno, Nevada and its corporate headquarters to the US state of Delaware. Cynics have questioned Rupert’s motives in moving control of his much-loved nest egg to Bermuda. They point out that the shift to the tax haven allowed him to sidestep a $53 million stamp duty bill and another $1.2 billion in capital gains tax. A lot of the stamp duty arose out of a recent property buying spree which included a 20-room Manhattan apartment and the Hollywood mansion he sold to News Corp after the split with wife No 2, Anne. Seems he bought it back for a fraction of its worth. Though Murdoch is a US citizen he’s still our “Dirty Digger”.

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