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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Monday, 22 December 2008
PM Rudd to 'halve homelessness' by 2020, as climate refugees flood Australia by say 2015?
Topic: aust govt

Whether by design or coincidence the Sunday press coverage of PM Rudd's 'white paper' on homelessness means his government sounds like Bob Hawke in 1990 making his famous and wrong claim 'no child will live in poverty' by from memory 10 years timeline. Echoes of the same egotistical assertions and hubris?

One recalls wearily that any government funding package sounds big over 12 years - in this case $6.1 billion on this social welfare policy as per page 1 Sydney SunHerald (Fairfax).

What we believe is going on, right or wrong, is that the Rudd Govt are piling on any number of potential PR announcements to offset and drown out the widespread condemnation of the emission trading scheme (ETS) policy. This was the most sensitive election related posture and will cause the most serious backlash. Both broadsheets here in Sydney - The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian - on Saturday led with the Govt's own policy architect Professor Ross Garnaut rejecting two major planks being unjustified bailouts to dirty industry, and a weak target setting a poor example to other countries. One only needs to recall that 193 other countries have similar or even smaller total emissions as Australia, and will see 5% as both pathetic, and a useful excuse too.

The great irony is that with security experts across the developed world agreeing that climate refugees will become the biggest concern in the future - imagine Shanghai or Bangladesh being swamped with tens of millions on the move - Rudd promising anything on homelessness by 2015 let alone 2020 is a tragic joke. Just last week some 70,000 PNG nationals were made homeless on the northern side of the country by big seas and king tides. That's a foretaste of the homelessness to come under dangerous climate change.

But still the Rudd Govt piles on seemingly more desperate or gimmicky PR. We notice the Naked Eye (Fairfax) yesterday column again with a "daisycutter theme" coming through. That is PM Rudd 'stealing' the limelight off Minister Penny Wong on the ETS. Of even more staff from his office and other ministerial offices bailing out as worn out cannon fodder.

It does seem that the history of politics is speeding up in this internet age. Rudd is already at the phase of NSW Premier Carr in 2003 after 8 years in government where his green credentials had turned biege, only to retire under force of devastating polls by 2005. And Bob Hawke in 1990 with his infamous and arrogant 'no child in poverty' speech after 7 years in power. Rudd has been in harness as PM for 12 months. And things are only getting harder, not easier like the climate. Just ask the insurance industry.

This is the Green Party MP Milne with some chapter and verse:

Saturday, 20th December 2008

Rudd Carbon Plan Unravelling: Urgent Review Needed

The Australian Greens say the growing discontent over the Government's
carbon trading scheme - including the Government's own advisor Professor
Ross Garnaut - now means it's imperative that an immediate review be
held of the scheme's targets and design.

Australian Greens Climate Spokesperson and Deputy Leader, Senator
Christine Milne, said today's blunt assessment by Prof. Garnaut
condemning compensation for big polluters as 'over the top', echoed
other damning assessments from economists, scientists and
"The scheme is unravelling rapidly as the experts assess the detail and
find it to be environmentally irresponsible, economically inefficient
and actually disastrous for Australia."
"When the Prime Minister announced the scheme it was not only scientists
who were aghast but economists who couldn't understand why the
government would reward the biggest polluters with 'over the top'
compensation that will end up costing taxpayers unlimited amounts into
the future."

"Australians want to know why the government has decided that
multi-nationals like Rio Tinto and Blue Scope Steel deserve this level
of corporate welfare."

"They also want to know how Woodside's Don Veolte managed to persuade
the government to be so generous to the LNG industry when, as Prof.
Garnaut says, there appeared to be no clear principles or criteria
behind the decision."

"The whole point of an Emissions Trading Scheme is to reduce emissions
by putting a price on carbon to drive a change in consumer behaviour at
the lowest possible cost. But by giving away 97% of the funds in
compensation, the government has dampened the price signal."
"To drive a clean energy revolution we need not only to roll our
renewable energy but also to strengthen the existing grid, improve its
efficiency by making it an 'intelligent grid', and to extend it to areas
where geothermal, solar thermal, large solar arrays and wind, can be
located. Under the government's scheme there is no money to transform
the grid."
"Equally concerning is that the proposed cash compensation to households
will not be a sufficient driver to boost the manufacturing of renewable
energy and energy efficiency technologies, or to encourage the hundreds
of thousands of green-collar jobs needed for this transformation."

"This flawed scheme will instead lock-in the coal industry and lock-out
the renewable energy sector until well after 2020, when it is clear that
the government is pinning all its hopes on its pipe-dream of carbon
capture and storage."

"With the Climate Institute and the Australian Conservation Foundation
joining the Greens in condemnation of the scheme, and with the growing
concern among economists, it is essential that the government admits
that it has got the scheme completely wrong and immediately review its
weak targets, and its shocking bias and generosity to the big

Posted by editor at 6:09 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 22 December 2008 6:57 AM EADT
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Rudd Govt pull on Education Report bait and switch after caning on emissions
Topic: aust govt

Picture: This image lifted from local ABC video feed played on most commercial and public television coverage yesterday in Sydney. It echoes the profound symbolism of shoes launched at President Bush by an Iraqi journalist 2 days ago (we say journalist because though a massive departure from protocol, control of Q&A in presidential press conferences are notoriously choreographed making his action fairly arguable or provoked). Profound echo here too because ex defence minister Brendan Nelson in Australia in 2007 noted it was 'a war for oil': Fossil fuel causing global warming. Now PM Rudd won't favour being positioned as the same as oil man George Bush Jnr (junior in so many ways). Sure it's only satire but the best satire can be very dangerous to a politician's reputation.

We noticed a disjunction this morning in the ABC local radio in their always interesting political and journalism interviews. We were motivated to offer this on the topic of the now fairly stale chestnut of traditional media tension with sunrise web based media:

Fowler [abce 4 Corners] and Ryle [Sydney Morning Herald] handwringing is justified no doubt.

Cameron's adjusted agnostic tone on the value of the change is also noted.

Disaggregation is the process of democracy which the internet in large part is about. It grows because democracy is so intoxicating.

A practical example from your cross to Kieran Gilbert at Sky: No one commented that the Education Paper is a Rudd Govt controlled timing. Gillard said on [ABC AM show earlier today] she wouldn't respond till Feb or March [2009]. Clearly it was released to guillotine (!) the deep reach of the protest against the weak emission targets: My media monitoring indicates the priority and wit given to the protest of the Greens for instance especially on commercial tv and front pages would have scared the federal govt. There was some real damage to 'green' ALP [brand] yesterday.

True The Oz front page today suggests traffic both ways as [so called balanced] 'Capt Reasonable' PM Rudd claims but [big media coverage has been] mostly adverse and pro Green Party. The Govt needed a bait and switch. Cue Education paper of no real policy bite as such. Unis want more money - derr.

The fact neither Cameron or Gilbert noted this obvious Govt media manipulation - and the fact both of you are sharp observers shows the systemic bias - dependent on govt funding (abc), or access (Gilbert) for your meal ticket. This cramps your ability and skill and why the 'consumers are increasingly doing it for themselves'.

No doubt there are bigger implications for society in all this from disaggregation but it's spilt milk really.

Here is the man throwing his shoe at the President. Not recommended for media practitioners - likely to end up dead.

The fact he got his second shoe off was an even bigger breach of security and a serious failure of the president's protection services. On the other hand it all ended innocently and Bush was right to treat it like free speech as per his visit to the Australian Parliament and taking Green Party MP protests. In fact the presidential shoe thrower as he will remain for all history now has probably done the security service a big favour exposing another loose end to sort out.

Posted by editor at 10:02 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 17 December 2008 10:43 AM EADT
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Coca Cola aims for 'water neutrality' as Greens similarly aim for 'carbon neutrality' in Australia
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: globalWarming

As federal Climate Change Minister Wong here quietly sledges the notion of the Australian Greens seeking carbon neutrality by say 2050, it seems a big corporation with its local headquarters a stone's throw from the Sydney Opera House is also aiming for "neutrality". Only in Coca Cola's case it is the consumption of water for its drinks products.

So who is right to claim the concept of neutrality? The corporation but not the Greens. Or are both wrong? Or both right? It's very confusing Minister!

Here is a critic of Coca Cola in correspondence to SAM recently:

Sent: Monday, December 08, 2008 5:09 PM
Subject: Coca-Cola's Latest Scam - Water Neutrality

Coca-Cola's Latest Scam - Water Neutrality
by Amit Srivastava
India Resource Center
November 25, 2008

The Coca-Cola company is up to its old tricks again.

The company, which is under fire for its mismanagement of water resources in India, has gone all out to manufacture an image of itself as a global leader in water conservation. Sections of Coca-Cola's website, for example, read like a proposal that a non-governmental organization (NGO) working on water issues may write.

Now, in an attempt to position itself as "aggressively" tackling the world's water problems, the Coca-Cola company has come up with a new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative - water neutrality.

The company has already announced that it will become water neutral in India by the end of 2009 and that it has plans to do so in its global operations as well.

Sure, it all sounds good and who could object to water conservation measures in an increasingly water scarce world?

But just what does becoming water neutral mean?

In a concept paper on water neutrality developed by the Coca-Cola company, the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, World Wildlife Fund and others in November 2007, it reads:

"In a strict sense, the term 'water neutral' is troublesome and even may be misleading. It is often possible to reduce a water footprint, but it is generally impossible to bring it down to zero."

I see. Troublesome and misleading.

The concept paper also notes:

"After having done everything that was technically possible and economically feasible, individuals, communities and businesses will always have a residual water footprint. In that sense, they can never become water neutral"

In other words, becoming water neutral is impossible.

And finally, the concept paper on water neutrality offers this:

"Alternative names to 'water neutral' that have been suggested include water offset, water stewardship, and water use reduction and reuse. However none of these other terms seem to have the same gravity or resonance (inspiration) with the media, officials or NGO's as the term neutrality. For pragmatic reasons it may therefore be attractive to use the term 'water neutral', but there is a definite need to be clear about precisely what it entails if reduction of water use to zero is not possible."

Just to be clear, we want to summarize what the concept paper on water neutrality has to say on the use of the term water neutrality.

It is pragmatic to use a troublesome and misleading (but attractive) term like water neutrality i?? which is impossible to achieve i?? because it resonates well with the media, officials and NGO's.

Welcome to Coca-Cola's world.

It doesn't really matter what the facts and reality may be. As long as it sounds good, no matter how misleading or troublesome the concept, they will market it to forge public opinion with the use of their mighty public relations apparatus.

The Coca-Cola company will be announcing its "water neutrality" goals later this week in London and in San Francisco on December 2, 2008.

Little Drops of Misery

The International Campaign to Hold Coca-Cola Accountable for its abuses in India has been frustrated with Coca-Cola's increased public relations, under the guise of Corporate Social Responsibility, to respond to the crisis that Coca-Cola has created in India.

Communities living around some of Coca-Cola's bottling plants in India are experiencing severe water shortages - due to Coca-Cola's extraction of water from the groundwater resource as well as pollution by the company's plants. Located primarily in rural areas, the hardest hit have been farmers who have seen significant declines in crop production as well as women who now have to walk longer to access potable water.

A study funded by Coca-Cola - which the campaign forced it to agree to - confirmed that Coca-Cola is a significant contributor to the water crises and one of its key recommendations is that Coca-Cola shut down its bottling plant - in Kala Dera in the state of Rajasthan - where the community has been campaigning against Coca-Cola.

The study - a damning indictment of Coca-Cola's water management practices in India - concluded that the Coca-Cola company had sited its bottling plants in India from strictly a "business continuity" perspective that has not taken the wider context into perspective. It also warned Coca-Cola of worsening water conditions around its bottling plants, found an alarming increase in pollution as one got closer to Coca-Cola bottling plants and faulted the company on pollution prevention measures, among others.

In typical fashion, the Coca-Cola company has chosen to ignore the findings of the study - which it paid for and even participated in - and is now insisting that shutting down the Kala Dera plant and leaving is not an option because the responsible thing to do is to stay and solve the problem because they are "problem solvers"!

Lies and Half-Truths- Coca-Cola's CSR

Last month, the Coca-Cola company released its 2007/2008 Sustainability Review, and surprisingly, critical issues facing the company's operations in India do not find mention in the review. Needless to say, the company gives itself high marks in its sustainability report.

We can understand that mentioning the company's atrocious record in India would not look good for a company that is on a fast track towards manufacturing a green image of itself. But surely a company cannot just choose to ignore the fiercest battleground it faces when it comes to measuring Coca-Cola's sustainability?

Evidently, if you are Coca-Cola, you can conveniently choose to omit the most critical issues facing the company's use - or abuse - of water. The sustainability report must look good, and facts do not matter.

One of Coca-Cola's champion projects in India to deflect attention away from the water crises it causes is rainwater harvesting, a traditional Indian practice. Although the company started operations in India in 1993, it only had four rainwater harvesting structures in 2001 - definitely not a priority for the company.

As the community-led campaign against Coca-Cola's water abuses spread around India, so did Coca-Cola's championing of rainwater harvesting. Today, the company claims to have over 200 rainwater harvesting structures.

Along with the massive publicity of their rainwater harvesting structures (which, incidentally, the Coca-Cola funded study found to be in "dilapidated" conditions), Coca-Cola also started making fantastical claims.

In Kala Dera, for example, the Coca-Cola company claims to recharge (through rainwater harvesting) five times the water they use from the groundwater resource. In other words, they claim that they put back fives times as much water they use back into the groundwater resource. Forget water neutral, this would be water positive!

Yet, while they make this claim in a letter to the University of Michigan, they also note that they do not have any metering mechanisms in place to measure how much water is being recharged.

If you don't have measuring devices in place to measure the recharge, how can one claim that they recharge five times the amount of water they use?

If you are Coca-Cola, you just make it up. And the University of Michigan officials never even bothered to clarify this point. It sure resonates well with the media, officials and NGOs. And evidently, it seems to work.

Last month, the Coca-Cola Company extended its partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to conserve freshwater river basins around the world, except India. Announced originally with much fanfare in Beijing in July 2007 as part of their Olympics presence, the partnership with the WWF is yet another attempt to deflect attention away from the real crises that the company creates in India. The Coca-Cola company regularly highlights the partnership when responding to the issues in India. While we welcome any initiatives on water conservation, it makes no difference to the communities in India who are reeling from water shortages - courtesy Coca-Cola.

Conserving freshwater river basins in China and Guatemala do absolutely nothing to impact the depleted groundwater in Kala Dera and other Coca-Cola bottling plants in India. Water issues are local issues.

The list of Coca-Cola's initiatives to mislead the public is long and is well documented by the India Resource Center. The company has repeatedly publicized the Golden Peacock Awards that it has received for "environmental excellence" in India, for example. What the company does not tell you is that Coca-Cola is the primary sponsor of the organization that gives out the awards.

Water Neutrality - A Scam

The Coca-Cola company is now embarking on their latest initiative to mislead the public - announcing its water neutrality goals.

Becoming water neutral is impossible, and Coca-Cola is very well aware of this. But matters like that have never stopped the company from making preposterous claims, however misleading and troublesome they may be.

What is surprising, however, is the complete lack of scrutiny that Coca-Cola is subject to by the corporate social responsibility community and the media. Allowing Coca-Cola to get away with such a disingenuous plan significantly weakens the core aims of corporate social responsibility as well as objective reporting and makes CSR nothing more than an extension of public relations for companies.

If the Coca-Cola company were serious about being a good corporate citizen, it is well advised to begin by meeting the key recommendations of the study it paid for, and shutting down its plant in Kala Dera would be a positive first step.

Coming up with misleading and absurd terms like water neutrality is not going to make the difficulties of the communities in India go away. We need genuine changes in the manner in which Coca-Cola does business in India, not public relations initiatives like water neutrality.

On December 2, 2008, the Coca-Cola company and other water intensive companies will be meeting in San Francisco to ostensibly outline strategies for sustainable use of water.

Coca-Cola will be leading the session on water neutrality.

The India Resource Center has joined with The Blue Planet Project, Council of Canadians, Food and Water Watch, Indigenous Environmental Network and a host of local groups to organize a counter-conference to highlight the greenwashing efforts by Coca-Cola and other companies such as Pepsico and Nestle Waters.

Amit Srivastava is the Coordinator of India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization based in San Francisco, USA.

Posted by editor at 12:21 PM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 December 2008 12:57 PM EADT
Bob Walshe OAM, environmentalist, speech on 154th anniversary of Eureka Rebellion to Victorian ALP Cabinet Dec 7th
Topic: culture

Colleague and role model Bob Walshe, author and environmentalist, now 85 years old sends on this speech read for him at the above function, attended by the Victorian Community Cabinet and local worthies in Ballarat 7th December 2008. Notice the typo in the first line of the local newspaper, 154th not 54th anniversary. Bob was present at the 100th anniversary as well as indicated below held at the Sydney Domain. This event probably should have been covered by the ABC in its Fora ABC2 and web based service, and maybe it was (?).

Posted by editor at 6:35 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 December 2008 7:08 AM EADT
Monday, 15 December 2008
Australian emission target: 193 countries ranking below us, 30pc global total, note our very high per capita rate?
Topic: globalWarming

Picture: Plenary of senior panel first morning of 3 day Solar Energy Conference 25 tp 28 November 2008 in Sydney. This blurry slide is data 4 years old and shows Australia at number 4 in per capita greenhouse gas emissions behind United States, Canada, Norway and just ahead of Falkland Islands with alot of belching sheep.

The Rudd Govt in Australia has just announced some kind of '5-15% target by 2020'. Like most people we don't really understand what that means: Is it 5% reduction on emissions level as at 2000 by 2020, regardless of population increase?

Why does Australian Industry Group rep Heather Ridout argue just now on ABC radio here that it means' reduction of emission by 1 in 5 per capita' and that '15% reduction means reduction of emissions by 1 in 3'. Yes we are confused about it all. But we will digest the diverse analysis over the next few days and get back to the reader on that.

Picture: PV is photo voltaic solar energy for running household gadgets compared with solar thermal which is for water heating. An example of each is pictured below, solar thermal being the cylindrical one.

What we do find very probitive is this risposte to the old chestnut about Australia being relatively insignificant at only 1.22% (or is it 1.4%) of global emissions:

Dr Monica Oliphant (shown immediately above at 3rd from left, seated on the main senior panel day 1 Sydney Solar Conference Nov 2008) daughter in law of famous scientist Sir Mark Oliphant (both on Wikipedia) is President of the International Solar Energy Society - and an Australian by the sounds of her accent (?).

She told a big Solar conference 2 weeks ago here in Sydney that: Australia is ahead of 193 other countries with the same or less emissions [when measured as a country as compared to per capita above where we are fourth in 2004]. We trail another 15 countries which are bigger than us in emissions. So our 1.22% is a very big symbol to those 193 other mostly undeveloped countries on what we do. All up the 194 including Australia make up 30% of total emissions in the global budget.

Posted by editor at 5:45 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 15 December 2008 7:24 PM EADT
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Sunday political talkies: $50B alleged 'corruption' by Madoff echoes Syriana soliliquy?
Topic: aust govt

Author's general introductory note

This is not a well packaged story. It?s a contemporaneous traverse of the Sunday television free to air political talkies indicating the agenda of Establishment interests: Better to know ones rivals and allies in Big Politics and Big Media.

For actual transcripts and/or video feeds go to the programme web sites quoted including Riley Diary on 7. And note transcripts don?t really give you the image content value.

Media backgrounders

* Sad story of Oz mountaineer who died on Mt Cook, Dr from Perth. This is the real Mt Cook tragedy compared with the ridiculous trekker/Mt Sealy Range story a few months back, about 5 to 10 km from Mt Cook, mis-described.

* Leading story about Mr Madoff fraud of $50 BILLION alleged in USA founder/chair NASDAQ. Based on pyramid selling called Ponzi scheme. Real head shaking stuff as per Syriana soliloquy .... "corruption"

* SAM's editor has discovered blogging tool software which is a free download for our server. This means no more clunky frustrated willful blindness at typos and poor sentence construction. Also faster upload of edits and pics and spellchecking (like 'spell checking'). It also means ominiously much easier understanding of html advertising inserts from Google Adsense and other companies that do that kind of thing. Sorry folks. We are likely to be blighted by adverts. But as minimal as financially viable.

10 Meet the Press: 8- 8-30 am

No show, summer break

Meet The Press - Watch Political Video Online - Channel TEN.

Riley Diary 7, from 8.30am

In recess for summer holidays. Sunday Sunrise last show of the year.


9 Sunday newshour Laurie Oakes interview 8.40 am

Leading story about Mr Madoff fraud of $50 BILLION alleged in USA founder/chair NASDAQ. Based on pyramid selling called Ponzi scheme. Real head shaking stuff as per Syriana soliloquy ... "corruption"

Ross Greenwood does round up of the GFC in impacting way re corporates and currency here etc. Good story, should go back to it.

Kevin Wilde does interview with newish Premier Rees. First 100 days. Ministerial embarrassments. Not Joan Kirner he reckons. Pushes greenest state in Australia and smartest. Presents well [compared with disgrace of guns everywhere front page Sunday Telegraph ? all about courting the old `One Nation? vote.

Laurie Oakes with Opposition Tony Abbott. Intro adverse for re "very bad" newspoll. Abbott has to wrangle LO who is getting cranky (and with Ramsey bailing the notable crusty) with the Opposition and quite chummy with the Rudd Govt.

Joyce as maverick. Says he?s a decent bloke and learnt his lesson to work as a team.

Costello waits as potential leader ..."sick of this stuff as I am" as per column in Daily Telegraph yesterday. Joke? Says in the main game or not, his talent shouldn't be on back bench. Peter's time never came and happens in politics. Offers high praise for 11 years service.

Re Joyce ? mix ups last sitting night ? was "one crazy night". Learning experience.

Confused about unfair dismissal in demise of Work Choices compared to leader Turnbull. "No no no" exhorts TA all a matter of careful consideration ? maybe.

LO tone gets testy on 3 occasions plus. Real dentist drilling session here.


Great story follow up train ride in South America re The Devil's Nose in Ecuador 9000 feet, [air thins at about 6000?]. Tourists on roof, wave to children and children wave too. Lovely. Rotting wooden slats. Rails are 100 years old. A lot of tracks. Not dangerous. Only goes at 20 to 30 km. Train derails. Well practised routine. Great story.

3 train derailments. Buses in Egypt just as bad, philosophical attitude. Train staff are frustrated with lack of investment too.


Insiders 2: 9 to 10am

Run Talkie show ? Q&A

"Debating all the big issues are former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer; author David Marr (Fairfax); columnist Angela Shanahan (News Corp); Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner; and Young Labor's Rose Jackson." Rose is typically wordy and a bit shallow, daughter of Liz Jackson, but very telegenic.

Lindsay Tanner "I'm not really religious, I'm Anglican" and "I'm not really spiritual ....[I'm in the Labor Party ... obsessed with power and spoils of same over principle!?]".

Home page is http://www.abc.net.au/insiders/

Inside Business, 2 at 10am

In summer recess ? check this for a chunky wrap from Alan Kohler from last week

Alan Kohler on Inside Business

2008 an extraodinary year in finance

Alan Kohler gives a final summary of what happened in finance in 2008.

Refer http://www.abc.net.au/insidebusiness/

Posted by editor at 8:55 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 14 December 2008 9:35 AM EADT
Crafty reboot of old runners with water based house paint
Topic: economy

We thought to share this idea in frugal times. Ever had damn comfortable once expensive highly cushioned runners that are also getting so tatty it's embarrassing? A new pair of really good shock absorbers would be Australian $150 probably. We do especially with pedal stirrups on our bike which greatly increase efficiency but tend to abraid your footwear.

Truth is ours were already in pretty rough shape recycled via the washing machine and disinfectant powers of the sun out of a builder's dumpster.

But they are ugly even while doing our old football left hip alot of good on those morning walks etc. So we thought about painting them. Just like those days as a kid before mass produced cheap runners with the white sponge thing on the old fashioned sandshoes for cricket or tennis. White, flat as a pancake jarring little numbers on young joints.

Well we couldn't find any water based white paint in the shed, nor the yellow paint used on a friend's kitchen. It was either green or blue. Remove laces beforehand. No paint on the insides at all either. This really should be a before and after kind of picture story but too late. Actually we found some white water based paint so this is an After 1 and After 2 story:

The paint does seem to bond quite okay with the leather (?), vinyl upper and spongy rubber upper. It took 3 coats, quick drying between each coat, to really get a regular finish. No cracking of the surface so far. We do love water based paint compared to the other.

Anyway it postpones a $150 expenditure. We might try orange next time.

Posted by editor at 5:42 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 December 2008 7:21 AM EADT
Does billionaire Dick Pratt's illness echo Alan Bond's Enough Rope story and 4 year gaol stint?
Topic: corporates

Alan Bond

We posted last week on various speculations of PR management of the big Dick Pratt criminal case over price fixing.

We left out Dick Pratt's reported ill health. Serious ill health in fact. We have added a postscript today as follows:

Postscript #1 13 December 2008

i??There is an extra aspect to the big media coverage that we didn't appreciate at the time of writing this above. We feel obliged both for fairness and balance to add: Either geniunely or again as a PR gambit or both, billionaire Mr Pratt has been presented as suffering prostrate cancer and having a spine operation as well related to the treatment. This appeared on crikey ezine about 2 weeks back we recall, and again in the press early this week - that we read late this week:

9 December 2008 Ill health throws doubt on Dick Pratt case | The Australian

All of this is in the balance along with Alan Bond getting an easier run because of his health when he crashed and went to gaol for 4 years. We will post separately on this transcript from Denton's Enough Rope interview with Bond.

Here's a tough appraisal of Dick Pratt:

8 Oct 2008 Crikey - Pratt 2: proof that the rich are indeed different - Pratt ...

12 Dec 2008 Richard Pratt denied cartel scam to John Howard | The Australian

Now we add some very juicy exchanges with Andrew Denton by another (once) billionaire Alan Bond who suffered ill health in a court case. We know enough as a lawyer that has never been sued for defamation to ever suggest that Pratt can be considered in anyway the same as Alan Bond. As far as we know Dick Pratt is really a very sick man and should be treated compassionately for that reason. Over to Alan Bond and Andrew Denton here (when it might be said Enough Rope really kicked butt):

Andrew Denton: Whenever I mention to people, "I'm interviewing Alan Bond," they say, "Oh, has he got his memory back?" Because they remember you from those court cases in 1994 where you were apparently very, very sick. How sick were you?

Alan Bond: I was very, very ill. I was in a very deep state of depression and I just couldn't remember anything. I mean, I couldn't even remember two hours before. It wouldi??just wenti??it just went blank. And I had an infection of the kidneys and I was in no position to actually attend anything.

Andrew Denton: The court had you examined by some neurological experts and they found differently, didn't they? They found that they could see noi??that they could see some physical problems but they could see no indication of memory loss.

Alan Bond: Do you know, that's, umi??not right either. Um, but that doesn't surprise me. That's not in the book, buti??thei??

Andrew Denton: Is it possible that things happened that weren't in the book, Alan?

Alan Bond: Well, I could fill five books. I could fill five books.

Andrew Denton: I'm sure you could.

Alan Bond: So is it practicali??how far you go into everything? But what you're talking about now was in a different time in the sense that I'd had open-heart surgery and I had some embolisms and the embolisms showed on them that there was somei?? I had some minori??strokes during the period of that open-heart surgery. And you could go to 10 heart specialists and they'd tell you in 10% of cases little air bubbles get ini??

Andrew Denton: But what I'm talking about wasn't a different time, this was when your doctors told the court you were too sick to testify. They had you examined and they found you weren't.

Alan Bond: That's not true either. They didn't. The court never did an examination.

Andrew Denton: Two neurological experts?

Alan Bond: They did not do an examination. They examinedi??they examined the X-rays. I was never given an examination other than by our own independent doci??independent doctor. I was very ill. I mean, the reality is if anybody's been in deep depression, you can attest to iti??i?? you either were or you weren't. And I really was in a very, very difficult position. Um, you know, it was life-threatening, really. So I can only leave it at that.

Andrew Denton: I don't reckon most people believe you. Why do you think that is?

Alan Bond: Well, I think a lot of people do believe it, quite frankly.

Andrew Denton: It's just that I'm going on the reactioni?? It's always the same. "Has he got his memory back?"

Alan Bond: That's a standard joke around town. "Got your memory back?" But the reality is that I was, and I'd had enormous pressure and the system wasi??er, had stopped. I was on heavy medication. Um, I wasi??I had been in a, umi??in with a psychologist and I'd been hospitalised for a week prior to this and I was in a pretty difficult position, quite frankly.

Andrew Denton: Let's talk about something else that's not in the book. I'm sorry about this, but the receiver that was taking you to court at this time, when you were too ill to remember, subpoenaed the phone records from the hotel you were staying at during the court case. And according to the phone records, you would be in the stand, not being able to remember much, if anything, then you'd go home and you'd make calls to Switzerland, USA, UK, India, Pakistan, Singapore, also 24 calls to a businessman in Australia with whom you were setting up a gold deal, that you went on to send faxes, 65 international calls, including one to a phone box at Zurich railway station, six to the Zurich Hilton and one to a number Swiss authorities identified as the Zuger Kantonalbank. How could that have happened?

Alan Bond: You know, when you're at the point of a nervous breakdown, um, you do silly things. You ring everybody and you don't even know what you're doing.

Andrew Denton: You were just ringing the Swiss bank toi??"I'm whooooo!"

Alan Bond: I never made a call to a Swiss bank. I mean, that's ridiculous to say that, 'cause it's not true. But the bottom line of it is, though, that I made lots of calls, but it's like a person's having a nervous breakdowni??i?? you're hyperactive, you're beingi??I was on huge medication. And you come out of the court, you can hardly stand, you get back to the hotel, and then your mind is just racing, and you just ring everybody that you can think of and you're doing calls and you're making silly conversations. And that's what occurred.

Andrew Denton: So it was a cry for help?

Alan Bond: Um, it was on the verge of a nervous breakdown to such an extent that, um, there was no logic to what I was doing. There was just no logic at all.

Andrew Denton: Later that year you took the stand again. You actually collapsed on the first day in court. Do you remember that?

Alan Bond: Um, I was very ill.

Andrew Denton: Mm.

Alan Bond: Umi??

Andrew Denton: You actually had to physically excuse yourself.

Alan Bond: Well, that wasi??that happened a couple of times, actually, but, eri??

Andrew Denton: Because that same day you collapsed in court, three businessmen on St Bees Island in the Whitsundays saw you, and they came over to Perth and gave secret testimony, and the testimony was that that very weekend, 48 hours beforehand, you'd been with them, snorkelling and walking and conducting business deals, and were in rude good health. Now, how do we explain that?

Alan Bond: Well, that's not true. I wasn't in good health at all. I'd gone to the Whii?? I'd gone to St Bees Island to try and have a rest. And the mind was still very active. It was like, umi?? It was like a hyperactive situation. You can't sleep, you're constantly awake, and you're physically exhausted and you talk about things. Um, and we were talking about all sorts of things that when you look back on it now, they just didn't make any sense at all.

Andrew Denton: Should you have been up for a Logie, really, Alan?

Alan Bond: Umi?? Er, no, I should have had a lot more compassion. And people who've had depression that will watch this program will understand, and those who haven't had it, er, hope they never do get it.

Andrew Denton: It's a hideous disease and I couldn't agree with that more. In the booki??i?? in this book, which I've read, you, umi??

Alan Bond: Partially read it. Perhaps you didn't understand it.

Andrew Denton: You're right. There were a whole lot of things I didn't understand. And that's why it's great we have a chance to chat. In the book, you suggest that there was a conspiracy to get you to court, to bring you down, that people in power wanted to see you brought down.

Alan Bond: Yes.

Posted by editor at 5:34 AM EADT
Saturday, 13 December 2008
Is the ALP green? Bob Walshe OAM really is green and a great role model
Topic: ecology


This post is not a comprehensive survey of federal or NSW Govt policy and performance. Rather an activist wannabe politician's intuition and insight into some evolutions in the last several days.

* We called Bob Walshe OAM yesterday as friend, colleague, role model.

Now 85 years old, joint founder of Total Environment Centre in 1972 when he gathered 12 people together and asked Milo Dunphy to be the director. Also founder of Sutherland Shire Environment Centre. He's been known to wear bad brown suits and is a wiry bright eyed intrepid thinker. However he is not so well at the moment but still loved and respected in that part of the world for being so real. Last year he had us loading boxes of leaflets and distributing my share of 10,000 or so.

Our excuse was to congratulate him on being recognised as one of 100 top "most influential people" in Sydney in 2008 in the Sydney Morning Herald colour magazine. This guy is green. The Herald story didn't have a picture of the man in action because he has been resting at home. We've been searching for a picture at a recent rally outside Macquarie St where Bob was present and we might find it yet. Here he is in a related newspaper:


* The same day we heard Nathan Rees as new Premier on abc radio refer to NSW as smart, energetic (or something like that) "and green". Well we wonder.You can say it Mr Rees. But it's going to take alot more than a few solar panels to change the real record. It's a good thing you are young - it's a long long journey ahead champ. The trouble with ALP politicians is that when the heat is on they tend to melt like chocolate figures. We reached a different conclusion about the real ALP years ago as the loggers won 20 year resource guarantees from the then Carr Govt in 1999 - in effect just as intense level of logging in the public's estate for private profit.

* Just recently the Rudd Govt, which is indeed close to the Rees NSW Govt, was on front of The Australian newspaper being pressured by other world leaders like Nobel Prize winner Al Gore, former US Vice President, and Prime Minister of the UK Gordon Brown. Their concern was Australia backsliding on commitments to the next round of treaty negotiations on climate change emissions. Recently Monica Oliphant an Australian from the International Solar Energy Society noted 193 countries of smaller emissions than us are watching our efforts in Australia as a symbolic indicator of the real intentions of the developed world. These 194 countries in total comprise 30% of global emissions.

Not surprisingly The Greens, with their official party status in Federal Parliament now see an opportunity to further shift the whole political spectrum despite sledges by PM Rudd on 7.30 recently about aggrieved "radicals" and preferring the middle path. Al Gore? Gordon Brown? 193 countries that expect better? Mmm. Here are The Greens in a Media Release recently:

Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 10:06 AM
Wong's Howard game at climate talks will send voters to the Greens

Hobart, Wednesday 10 December 2008

The electorate will not forgive the Rudd Government for holding back
global progress towards responsible emissions reductions, the Australian
Greens today.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong is taking the Howard Government's
negotiating tactics to the Poznan meeting, adopting the same positions
and even flying the same negotiators, led by Jan Adams and Robert Owen
Jones, to the conference. The Greens now provide the only real
alternative for voters who want to see action to protect the climate.

"Australians who voted last year to end the Howard decade of climate
denial will be deeply troubled by what the Rudd Government is doing,"
Australian Greens Deputy Leader and Climate Change Spokesperson, Senator
Christine Milne, said.

"As Minister Wong prepares to deliver plans for Australia which will
refuse to grapple seriously with the problem, she is laying the
groundwork in Poznan by help to hold back global progress.

"The clear reports from Poznan are that Australia is still blocking the
25-40% negotiating range in order to justify what it plans to do next

"There is no way that Penny Wong will allow the rest of the world to
show up Australia's backwardness by adopting a 25-40% negotiating range.

"Nobody should be in any doubt that the Rudd Government is intent on
trying to save its own image at the expense of people and ecosystems
from the poverty-stricken in Bangladesh to Queensland's coastal
communities to farmers in the Murray-Darling."

Australia won runner up "Fossil of the Day" award from the Climate
Action Network yesterday for supporting Japan's move to shift the agreed
emissions baseline from 1990 to 2000.

The Rudd Government is also playing a dangerous game over forestry

"The hypocrisy of continuing to log our own tremendous carbon stores in
Tasmania and Victoria while lecturing Indonesia and PNG on protecting
their own forests is beginning to provoke angry responses.

"It is utterly reprehensible that the Rudd Government will not take on
the State Governments and require them to stop logging these magnificent
stores of carbon and biodiversity that are our beautiful forests.

"Australians voted 12 months ago to move on from Howard-era climate
politics, and they will be deeply troubled to see that very little has
changed under Kevin Rudd."

Come join the conversation at GreensBlog <http://greensmps.org.au/blog>

* Forests of course are greatly related to climate regulation because of the "green carbon" not only above ground but in massive quantities in the soil of a living healthy forest according to ground breaking research by CRES at Australian National University. Which makes the ALP's evil attitude to destruction of forests so disgusting. We have written often of this over the last 2 years. Here are some reminders and some other issues that show the theme of "beige" ALP:

Picture above and more below: Community rally at Botany Bay Beach off Foreshore Rd, Botany Saturday 3rd March 2007, against expansion of Port Botany guaranteed to increase toxic transport congestioni??in most of southern metropolitan Sydney. Shade was a premium under the burning late summer day.

Posted by editor at 4:39 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 4 January 2009 10:57 AM EADT
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Over educated political blogger in stoush with job agency over churning
Mood:  energetic
Topic: economy

Well that was the economy.

China is way down to some 5% growth from a 12% sprint (Crikey ezine reports yesterday) while Chinese exports are negative apparently. RBA chief Glenn Stevens also notes on ABC World Today show 'the China story is where it's really at for Australia':

ABC World Today China's economic growth understated: Stevens 10 Dec 2008

The Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, says China's economy is growing at a slower pace than the official figures of 8 per cent. Economists have backed his comments, with one leading analysts saying it's likely China is growing at around 5 per cent.

Sydney's economy has contracted ... oh let's say about 10%. Building workers are being laid off in their "thousands" in the December quarter says unionist Andrew Ferguson on ABC TV news last night.

NSW Treasurer Roozendaal on ABC Stateline last Friday admitted Sydney is more exposed being a global finance sector kind of place.

So the editor of this micro news service (70% USA readers apparently) had a 12 month review yesterday with our job agency. Don't jump to conclusions now: We live a busy life - 2 biggish pro bono environmental cases in the last 6 months, part time paid work work as a secretary. About 10 job applications a week. Always building the blog portfolio. Free conferences to attend and report on.

The odd repair and resale hobby via The Bower. We rebuilt a bike totally from spares earlier this week. Our last temping job for 4 weeks was with Allen Arthur Robinson. The temp agency rang again yesterday to see if we were still on call. Of course dear. Never a dull moment.

But the truth is we have a long, long google tail. Anyone can see we are political and more than that, quite effective, indy and fiesty and therefore worriesome. We may even be unemployable. How's that for Gough Whitlam's free education and 2 degrees.

We have left two jobs in the last 2 years due to illegal behaviour of the employer. We're a bit like that - we don't like bullshit, or liars. And we find 20K readers per month on this non profit, 'non advertising' blog alot more socially satisfying and constructive anyway. Look out for advertising any week now.

But as good natured G pointed out "Does it lead to work?" "Does it get you off the dole?" To which we said Mission Australia job agency is laying off 200 staff. You might be out of a job soon too. Here is the news:

8 Dec 2008 Staff face sack at charity job network - National - smh.com.au

Adele Horin

MISSION AUSTRALIA has joined the Salvation Army in announcing retrenchments in their Job Network agencies, just as unemployment is expected to rise.

Between 100 and 120 jobs will be lost at the Salvation Army, and last week Mission Australia said 73 positions would go, mostly in NSW. The agencies - the two biggest providers of job placement services - cited the lack of job vacancies because of the global financial crisis as the main reason.

Under contracts with the Federal Government, the Job Network agencies get their biggest payments for placing long-term unemployed people in jobs and for maintaining them in work for at least 13 weeks.

But with businesses putting the brakes on hiring and able to choose newly unemployed and better-skilled people for any vacancies, the long-term unemployed are missing out and income is declining for Job Network agencies.

Mission Australia's executive leader of employment services, Leisa Hart, said vacancies in the job market had fallen steeply over the past four months, particularly in NSW.

Mission Australia's placements into jobs were down 25 per cent year on year in October and 31 per cent last month.

"Job Network providers receive the bulk of their payment as they place people into work. If the vacancies aren't there, then that impacts on income."

Because Mission Australia used the surpluses generated by its Job Network agencies to fund its charity work, it had to act with great care in financial matters.

"If our employment services are doing it tough that has a direct impact on our ability to provide crucial community services," Ms Hart said.

A Mission Australia Job Network manager said staff would be told on Tuesday next week who would lose their jobs.

"Managers have been told who is to go, but we're not allowed to tell staff. It's disgusting."

Ratios would increase from one staff member to 80 clients to one staff member to 100 clients, she said.

"Bad times are coming, and more people are coming through the door, but you don't make very much money out of those [newly unemployed] people."

David Thompson, the chief executive of Jobs Australia, the peak body for not-for-profit providers, said Job Network agencies would face tougher times under new three-year government contracts to take effect in July.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/12/07/1228584656089.html

Our job agency dude looked a bit cranky after that and told me to come back in the New Year.  We explained the long google tail which might have been journo Thomas Friedman's point to his kids. Indeed it was here 18 months ago:

In a flat world imagination is the key - Opinion - smh.com.au Thomas Friedman
May 4, 2007

"The fourth thing I tell my kids is that how you do things matters so much more today. We are living in a transparent age where everything you do is going to leave a digital footprint never to be erased.

Our kids will not have the luxury we have of being wild and crazy when they were young because it's on somebody's cell phone camera forever. It's in somebody's MySpace. Everyone who has a cell phone is a paparazzo. Everyone who has a blog is a journalist and when everyone is a paparazzo and a journalist, everyone else is a public figure - so be good.

Last, imagination matters most of all. We always think of economic competition as between countries and countries or between companies and companies. The most important competition is between you and your imagination.

Therefore the country that's going to win is the country that empowers more of its people to imagine and to act on its imagination. Washington DC today is brain dead. But do not be misled by that, because the rest of our country is alive. "

Now we're researching why 3 days job searching with 15 applications in a falling market, instead of 2 days and 10 applications, is illogical. Especially when my existing "Activity Agreement" is still valid until April 2009. 

P - the manager at said job agency rang and said 'it's becaue I'm in the next continuum'. But he says it like it's punishment for being partially unemployed 12 months. Like he's the tough guy who runs the boot camp. To which we said "Do you know what section of the Social Security Act 1991 that is based on?" Oh I'm not a lawyer, you will have to talk to DEEWR (presumably Dept of Employment Education & Workplace Relations).

Indeed G let the cat out of the bag "The best thing for us would be you get 6 months work so we get paid, than you get sacked and come back here. Then we do it all again." Quite.

We suggested to P the agency manager we would probably be talking to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal instead about the job agency breaching my Activity Agreement by trying to change the terms mid contract.


Postscript #1

We had a some phone calls today with

- Centrelink inquiries who referred us to DEEWR Hotline

- Stewart at Job Network Hotline,

- Frances Hadlington lawyer at DEEWR Job Network Legal Section in Canberra,

- an intern on reception at the Welfare Rights Legal Centre in Sydney.

Stewart felt sure the job network provider can change the Activity Agreement at any time but he couldn't give me any legal basis for that (other than Government Guidelines on the DEEWR website). We discussed with all these folks legal concepts like administrative law principles of judicial review involving 'inflexible application of policy' given:

- political economic circumstances and

- our Activity Agreement still on foot until April 2009,

- as well as political blogger status with about 20K readers per month.

 The NSW Ombudsman's office was also discussed.

Ms Hadlington in particular was friendly then increasingly professional and frosty as the issues were outlined including the political economic concerns about churning of the structurally unemployed which the Govt would have to grapple with in policy terms sooner or later.

Interestingly it turns out my particular job agency is tendering for their federal govt funding again in July 2009 and will want to get their statistics in shape for their pitch.


Postscript #2

12 Dec 2008 - The great irony is we like our local local job agency and most of the staff. The word on the street is they provide the best service and facilities compared to the other places. We do our regulation job applications and go on our way. But when we noticed a new manager was alot more pushy and started throwing his weight around well we confess we decided to engage rather than be passive. Not alot just a bit and entirely professional.

Now our man has dug himself in a bit of a hole as indicated by the Activity Agreement extract below and now blank signed transfer form below. In other words he knows he's got a legally valid Activity Agreement on foot till April 2009  inconsistent with a legally dubious inflexible Govt Dept guideline to re-issue another Activity Agreement immediately to intensify job searching in a falling market.  

My man just wants 'the issue' to disappear. Talk about blink. Why would we transfer? As George Orwell would say - it's all good research.

My man has already offered - behind closed doors - to make the third day per week an "offsite job search activity to get an agreed resolution". Poor bastard. His eagerness to over enforce the rules on the unwashed has resulted in tripping over his own feet and bruising his forehead. Doh! It may have been at the moment we revealed knowledge of the sensitive July 2009 tender. Is it about power or helping the unemployed into work? Of course it's about power, this is NSW after all.

The irony is that his job is in my hands now: Trying to avoid a difficult job seeker case (given our history of sometimes very effective political blogging free speech). Trying to quash an inconsistent Activity Agreement to April 2009 that 'conflicts with the computer programme'. Trying to refer me as far away as Burwood or Ashfield!? How indeed has it come to this, he must be asking himself. As we commented to one of the staff "I know you are just doing your job, it's the system, sister".

We did get a call back from the alluring Ms Frances Halingdale in the DEEWR legal dept who said she has referred my legal question of inflexible application of policy etc onto the right people in DEEWR. Meanwhile my man wants me to sign a new Activity Agreement by midday today or be reported for "a failure". Mmm. It's a railroad. I don't think so. Not yet anyway. We've won a case in the 3 person Social Security Appeals Tribunal before as pro bono for our disabled volunteer Carol. We got a $6K debt recovery dismissed because she is as innocent as the day is long. They are honest people there, and so are we.

Postscript # 3 11.55 am 12 Dec 2008

Well as they say God helps those who help themselves. As usual the social services sector are too busy and unavailable so we checked out the legislation ourselves as below. On the strength of this we postponed the 'negotiation to vary the Activity Agreement' as per section 606 (5) (a) of the Social Security Act 1991 until Tuesday next week. Which just happens to be our usual day at the job agency under the current Activity Agreement.

And the legal definition of "negotiation" to vary my AA? Well we do suspect as per dictionary.com it means agreement of both parties subject to reasonableness (just like the right to negotiate in native title land law?):


1.mutual discussion and arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement: the negotiation of a treaty.
2.the act or process of negotiating.
3.an instance or the result of negotiating.

Our evidence of reasonableness relates to contractions in most economic sectors here in Sydney. Not least the Legal Affairs section of The Australian today and all the other news generally. 


Sent: Friday, December 12, 2008 11:28 AM
Subject: Lastly legislation s.606 (5) (b) Re: contact details Re: Care to comment

Dear WR lawyers/case manager etc
My local Marrickville Legal Centre has referred me back to your office as the experts on the Social Security Act and Activity Agreements. .....
You may interested to consider section 606 of the SSA 1991 extract here via Austlii, especially sub section 5 about power to suspend and replace (but not cancel) and no doubt this is not exhaustive.
My existing Activity Agreement has not been suspended nor cancelled by a review. One assumes factors in (3)  and (4) (b), (c) and (g) would need to be formally considered for the AA to be suspended or cancelled on review.
Actually on reflection s.606 (5) (b) looks to be a slam dunk in my favour. Thanks for your time.
Yours truly, Tom McLoughlin, solicitor  tel. 0410 558838, 02-...


Newstart Activity Agreements--terms

             (1)  .....a Newstart Activity Agreement with a person is to require the person to undertake one or more activities that the Secretary regards as suitable for the person.


             (3)  In considering whether to approve the terms of an agreement with a person, the Secretary is to have regard to the person's capacity to comply with the proposed agreement and the person's needs.

             (4)  In having regard to a person's capacity to comply with an agreement, the Secretary is to take into account, but is not limited to the following matters:


                     (b)  the state of the local labour market and the transport options available to the person in accessing that market; and

                     (c)  the participation opportunities available to the person; and


                     (g)  any other matters that the Secretary or the person considers relevant in the circumstances.

             (5)  An agreement with a person:

                     (a)  may be varied (in negotiation with the person) or suspended; and

                     (b)  if another Newstart Activity Agreement is made with the person, may be cancelled; and

                     (c)  may be reviewed from time to time at the request of either party to the agreement; and

                     (d)  may be cancelled by the Secretary after a review under paragraph (c).

Posted by editor at 5:57 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 12 December 2008 12:37 PM EADT

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