The Guardian 25 May, 2005

Dingo bytes

The Howard government’s "little dictator" arrogance towards Pacific island nations was thrown back in its face last week when the more than 150 Australian police in New Guinea and Bougainville were stood down in preparation for their withdrawal. Last year when Australian civilian officials and police were deployed in PNG under a five-year Enhanced Cooperation Program — a euphemism for interfering in PNG’s internal affairs — it was accepted with reluctance and anger by the PNG government. Basically Australia had bullied its neighbour into the deal. When the week before last over 300 PNG police held a protest against the presence of the Australians, the writing was on the wall. It was followed by a decision of the PNG Supreme Court that the agreement between the two countries is against the PNG constitution.

Funding for the punitive welfare-to-work program that will be used to force people off welfare payments will be come in part from $457 million being cut from Job Network programs that are used to try to place people in jobs. Yet, last week Treasurer Peter Costello made the ludicrous claim that the labour market has so many jobs that employment agencies in the Network will find it easier to place people. The agencies could only scoff at that! Costello, in full corporate double-talk mode said, "It is important that the taxpayer gets best value for money …"

And, it turns out that the Howard government spends more on advertising than Coca-Cola, McDonald’s or Coles Myer. Alan Ramsey in the Sydney Morning Herald points out that the advertising is not being paid for by the Liberal Party, but by taxpayers. Since it was first elected in 1996 Government advertising spending comes to more than $1 billion. The exposure of the figure came out of a senate inquiry into the extent and nature of government advertising.

Last week the NSW coroner found against a parent who, picking up her child from school in a four-wheel-drive, knocked down and killed another child in the school yard three years ago. "We see these types of vehicles involved in pedestrian deaths far too often", stated the coroner. The case has sparked calls for restrictions on the ownership of such vehicles in built up areas, including the banning of bullbars. But the state’s Minister for Roads, Michael Costa, spat the dummy, defending the individual’s right to own the car of his or her choice. In fact, the extent of Costa’s histrionics was quite startling until one discovers he owns a two-tonne 4WD, something Greens MP Lee Rhiannon called a "breathtaking conflict of interest".

CAPITALIST HOG(S) OF THE WEEK: are the seven Macquarie Bank executives who it has been revealed were together paid a total of $90 million last financial year. Now, that’s obscene.

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