The Guardian 11 May, 2005

Dingo bytes

You may have noticed the increasing numbers of charities with people on the street asking passers by for donations. Their rising numbers are almost in inverse proportion to those of the homeless living in bus shelters and begging on street corners. It is part of John Howard's charity and corporate philanthropy vision which form the cornerstones in his post-union, post-welfare vision of Australia in which it is intended that we will all be begging the rich for money and favours. So it was with some irony that Dingo observed in last week's Murdoch rag, The Sunday Telegraph, a report of a charity lunch to raise funds for a cancer foundation, involving the likes of James Packer and, ominously, a Dr La Salle, who is an advisor on diseases to George W Bush. So, the rich have lunches to raise some money and give themselves some flattering PR, while the government spends $55 million a day on the military.

Maybe the University of Newcastle should give James Packer a call. A steering committee report into the financial state of the university has proposed that it cut 20 undergraduate degrees. This includes a number of science courses and fine arts. Also, it calls for no more students to be admitted from next year into the combined bachelor of science and bachelor of law degree specialising in forensics. The vice-chancellor has announced that 450 staff jobs will be cut because of a $23-28 million deficit over the next five years. But the National Tertiary Education Union wasn't having any of it and pointed to the cuts in federal funding as the root cause of the problem.

In Queensland, cruelly under-funded TAFE colleges are now being scrutinised in a Big Brother- style campaign in which call centres are conducting surveys of individual TAFE students to measure the level of "client satisfaction". These surveys, organised by the state's Department of Education, ask such things as where the student was taught, the number of hours taught and the number of hours claimed. The Queensland Teachers' Union says it has long held concerns about such spying tactics carried out in the guise of audit requirements, presumably because they're an excuse to cut jobs. Dingo wondered, what with all the outsourcing going on with call centres, if perhaps the surveys are being conducted from India.

In the almost laughable Liberal Party leadership battle between John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello, one snipe last week is perhaps the most revealing. Costello claimed credit for the introduction of that regressive tax, the GST. Why didn't he just come out and say, "This country needs a bigger bastard than John Howard as prime minister".

CAPITALIST HOG OF THE WEEK: is Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. In response to the International Atomic Energy Agency calling for the major nuclear powers to reduce their nuclear arsenals, Downer stated it was "intellectual folly" to link the US nuclear stockpile to safeguards against such weapons.

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