The Guardian 21 February, 2007

Dingo bytes

Defence analysts have called on the Howard Government to allow the Australian military to recruit personnel from Pacific Island nations because Australian youth arenít exactly queuing to join up. One of the aims behind the call can be found in the reasoning of one of the analysts, Hugh White, who said it would "create a closer and more confident relationship" with countries such as East Timor, Fiji and the Solomon Islands. As the US deputy sheriff in the Asia-Pacific, Australia has big plans to keep interfering in the internal affairs of the Pacific Island nations. Having local nationals in the ranks of the invading force is seen as a way to try and pacify resistance. Inevitably, though, resistance will emerge and has done so already in a number of Pacific countries.

A bipartisan parliamentary committee has attacked state and federal governments for failing people with disabilities. The committee said it was "nothing short of embarrassed at the lack of services and the fragmentation of those services". Among the detailed cases in the committeeís report: a man restricted to bed because he canít get an electric wheelchair; a 35-year-old intellectually disabled man who has been on a waiting list for supported accommodation for seven years. In fact only 48 of every 1,000 people under 65 with a severe or profound disability get accommodation support under the Commonwealth State/Territory Disability Funding Agreement.

Federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd has run into a spot of conflict of interest as the PM-in-waiting with the revelation that his wife Therese Reinís employment agency is the third biggest provider of services in the privatised Job Network. Her company Ingeus generated $175 million in revenue last year. It employs 1,200 people in Australia, Britain, France and Germany. Rudd quickly stated last week that as PM "I would ensure that all necessary measures were taken to avoid any conflict of interest Ö"

It has been revealed that the newly named Department of Immigration and Citizenship has allowed employers to recruit temporary migrants and force them to sign contracts banning them from engaging in union activities. In one case 252 temporary migrants from the Philippines had signed a contract which could be terminated if a worker was deemed to be "engaging in trade union activities".

Just how corrupt is the Australian Defence Force? Certainly the Australian Federal Police are a bit sick of chasing up the theft of weapons, blaming the Defence Departmentís "poor procedures" in tracking down stolen military weapons. Since 2001 the Defence Department has referred 139 cases to the Federal Police for investigation, 19 of those involving the theft of guns, ammunition, helmets, radios and other equipment. Alarms were sounded recently when it was revealed that rocket launchers had been obtained by criminal gangs.

CAPITALIST HOG OF THE WEEK: Netball Queensland has sacked members of the elite Queensland Firebirds netball squad for refusing to sign individual employment contracts.

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