The Guardian 13 July, 2005

Dingo bytes

More than half of Australia's millionaires say they are only "reasonably comfortable" and seven percent claim they're poor and only just getting by. These are the findings of a survey by the Australian Institute, its executive director Clive Hamilton saying that "the relentless emphasis on higher incomes will in fact generate more dissatisfaction". Try telling that to the tens of thousands of working poor and those struggling to get by on welfare payments.

The Australian Research Council is the peak research funding agency for universities. Its independent peer review process sees applications from researchers assessed by thousands of experts around the globe who are on the Council's database. The Council's 75 members then rank them and refer them to the Council board which then makes its recommendations to the Minister for Education, in this case Brendan Nelson, who simply signs them. Well, that's how it has worked thus far. Nelson last year took the unprecedented step in his plan to take control of the grants process by rejecting three grants the Council had recommended. This followed his hiring of businessman John Uhrig to do a review of the "corporate governance" of 170 statutory authorities. Nelson's office won't say what is planned, but there's no prize for guessing what Uhrig recommended.

The opening of Sydney's Cross City Tunnel was postponed last month amid safety concerns. Little did the public know that the joint venture building the tunnel, construction companies Baulderstone Hornibrook and Bilfinger Berger, had been putting the screws on the Carr government to open the tunnel last December, an objective put on hold following industrial action by construction workers after one of their number was killed on the project. Under the construction contract, big bonuses will go to the joint venture and the owner of the tunnel, CrossCity Motorway, if it's finished ahead of time. In other words, to hell with safety, let's go for the money.

CAPITALIST HOG OF THE WEEK: is childcare parasite Eddy Groves. The for-profit corporate childcare monopoly, ABC Learning, has come up with a hire-purchase plan for parents using its centres, showing just how much the profit motive corrupts even something as fundamentally important as the care of children. ABC Learning will offer parents up to $4000 per child as a loan equal to the federal government's 30 percent childcare rebate. Parents who fail to pay the money back within 12 months will be charged interest on the outstanding amount. Affordable, quality childcare: out the window. Anna Clark from the Childcare Associations of Australia, warned, "Parents need to understand they may sustain a debt they will not be able to pay". ABC Learning's chief executive, Eddy Groves, is also using a pay increase for childcare workers to increase fees to parents. How low can he go?

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