Monday, August 30, 2010

Another watermelon -- A Trotskyite, by the sound of it

GREENS MP for Melbourne Adam Bandt has defended comments he made on a Marxist student website 15 years ago, in which he denounced capitalism and labelled the Greens a "bourgeois" political party that could be used to push a socialist agenda.

The comments, made in a two-page memo written by Mr Bandt on March 4, 1995, while he was a student activist at Murdoch University, first surfaced on Victorian political blogger Andrew Landeryou's website VexNews.

As Mr Bandt and Greens leader Bob Brown continued discussions yesterday with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan about the formation of the next federal government, the memo raised questions about Mr Bandt's student politics and his views of the Labor Party, which he referred to in the 1995 memo as "almost as right-wing as the US Democrats".

In the 1995 memo, Mr Bandt said he was "towards an anti-capitalist, anti-social democratic, internationalist movement".

Identifying himself as a member of the Left Alliance, Mr Bandt said, "the parliamentary road to socialism is non-existent". He called the Greens a "bourgeois" party but said supporting them might be the most effective strategy.

"Communists can't fetishise alternative political parties, but should always make some kind of materially based assessment about the effectiveness of any given strategy come election time," he wrote in the 1995 memo.

The Greens leader said there was absolutely no need for Mr Bandt to publicly distance himself from his remarks in 1995.

Mr Bandt, a former industrial relations lawyer with Slater and Gordon, made history last weekend by becoming the first Greens candidate ever to be elected to the House of Representatives in a general election.


Tired surgeons risk lives in Australia's most dangerous public hospital system

Fatigued surgeons have been ordered to work up to 80 hours a week to slash the state government's surgical waiting lists, putting lives at risk.

Angry surgeons say they are so tired during operations that their cognitive and motor skills are similar to drivers who have had five standard alcoholic drinks. "It's totally dangerous," said a surgical registrar from one of Sydney's biggest hospitals. "Would you allow someone who's had five beers to drive you or your family home? Of course you wouldn't. Then why are you allowing them to operate on you?"

Research carried out by the Centre for Sleep Research at the University of South Australia suggests that after 20 to 25 hours of wakefulness, performance of shift staff is equivalent to someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.1 per cent - double the legal driving limit.

The registrar, who did not want to be named, said patients were paying the price and government needed to acknowledge the long hours were "a direct result of their policy of trying to cut the waiting list at all costs".

"Instead of really trying to get absolutely every last lymph node out of a particular patient, which if we'd been a bit more spritely and awake and alert we might have, we may not push 110 per cent and just accept 100 per cent," he said.

While doctors are typically rostered on for 40 hours a week in theatre, they must visit patients before and after theatre in their own time. Often they are then on call for an additional 12 hours after spending 12 hours at the hospital.

"It is a lot easier for bosses to implicitly require you to work unsafe hours. It is either you or them that has to be there operating on the patient, and obviously it's not going to be them," he said.

Simon Suliman, a surgical registrar, said surgeons deserved more support from the government: "You need all your commitment to save patients - they need you. It puts a lot of pressure on the surgeons … It can affect [a patient's] life directly."

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons surgical affairs executive director John Quinn acknowledged "it is hazardous to work for more than 14 hours at a time".

He said while the college provided guidelines to protect surgeons from fatigue, the responsibility fell on the health department and hospitals to ensure safe working hours. "We would prefer regular breaks and a minimum of 10 hours sleep in a 24 hour period," Dr Quinn said.

Australian Medical Association president Andrew Pesce confirmed that fatigue among surgical registrars was a black cloud looming over the struggling health system. "The public hospital system is under a lot of pressure and asking people to work harder with less support wouldn't surprise me," he said.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said forcing surgeons to work long hours was akin to making a pilot fly long-haul without a co-pilot: "It's not allowed and yet surgeons have as much responsibility."

One surgical registrar, who did not want to be named, said he felt "delirious, emotionally labile and cloudy" after being on call for four days at a NSW hospital and would refuse to do so again. "I've never experienced that sort of sleep deprivation in my life. I couldn't cope with anything."

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt said there was "no such directive" to surgeons and the "system does not support doctors working 80 hours a week".


The war on photography continues

Photographers protest new permit for shooting at landmarks

SYDNEY'S two most iconic landmarks have formed backdrops to hundreds of photographers protesting against laws that require them to have permits to do their work.

As many as 1000 commercial photographers from all over Australia positioned themselves at Campbells Cove, behind Sydney's Overseas Passenger Terminal, on Sunday morning, to take part in the protest. With the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background, they carried banners emblazoned with words including "Artists have rights to sell their work," and "Capture the moment, not the photographer".

Landscape photographer Ken Duncan said the permits were destroying passion. "It's not just the cost of photographic permits, it's the logistics of getting a permit ... " he said.

He expressed concerns up-and-coming photographers would be put off by the red tape attached to getting permits, and would consequently give up pursuing their creative dreams.

He also said the tourism industry was missing out on the special skills of professional photographers. "It's a free advert for our country," he said in relation to photographs of iconic Australian landmarks posted on the internet.

Permit costs vary, depending on the time of day, location, and number of crew involved, Arts Federation Australia spokeswoman Renee Dandy told AAP. The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, for example, requires commercial photographers to pay a minimum $150 per session if more than 10 crew are involved. No fee is charged if there is less than 10 crew.

The $150 fee does not include $65 an hour for a site coordinator, along with another $65 an hour for security, and an additional $65 an hour for cleaning, with each service being provided for a minimum four hours.

Wedding and portrait photographer Graham Monro said the permit fees were unfair, given many photographers pursued their craft for love, rather than money. "Many (photographers) are nowhere near as affluent or well paid as many people believe," he said. "Many lose money ... there are so many expenses, including travel expenses, accommodation and the cost of permits. "When you take all that into account, it's questionable whether they make any money at all."


Food for thought about political donations

A far-Left union has switched its donations from the Labor Party to the Greens, to the clear disguntlement of the writer below. Her suggestion that all political donations from collective bodies should be banned has some merit, though. The American experience of such laws is not encouraging, however. Does Australia really need "bundling" and all the other American evasions, both legal and illegal?

So anyway, electoral reform. Looks like something could actually happen if there is enough pressure from a loose, very loose, coalition of square glasses and Akubra hats in Parliament.

The Akubra hats, those three country independents, are seeking "advice as soon as possible on a timetable and reform plan for political donations, electoral funding and truth in advertising reform" from the major parties. Let's hope that they can force change in one of the grubbiest aspects of our system of government: donations to political parties by corporations, trade unions and front groups.

Traditionally the Greens have been the party at the forefront of the fight for donation reform, with the purity and sincerity possible when no one wants to give you big wads of cash.

But something curious happened during the recent campaign. The Greens got a big chunk of money from a trade union. The Age reported last week that the Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union gave $325,000 to the Greens, aiding in the successful campaign to elect Adam Bandt to the lower house. It also reported it was the largest donation the party had ever received. The head of this branch of the union, Dean Mighell, explained on Fairfax Radio that the donation was given because the Greens had the most attractive industrial relations policy. "Certainly having policies that say we're going to abolish the building industry commission, that we're going to have one law that's fair for workers and respects our human rights is enormously attractive to a union," he said.

Mighell is right that it is no longer possible to assume that Labor is naturally the only party which can represent the rights of workers, or is naturally the party most likely to hold big business to account, especially when so much of Labor's funding also comes from big business. The people who are best served when unions automatically hand over funds to the Labor Party are union bosses themselves, who may be seeking to curry favour with the party in the hope of being preselected for a safe seat in the future.

But far from being the principled hero of the story, Mighell's actions only emphasise why it is wrong that trade unions are allowed to donate to political parties at all. He has personal reasons for fighting against the Labor Party, given that he was expelled from it by Kevin Rudd for boasting to his members that he had conned employers into giving bigger pay rises than necessary.

It is sad to think that the election of the first Green to the lower house may have been facilitated by the grudge of an individual union boss. Surely it should be up to individual union members to decide which political party best represents their interests rather than having union membership fees siphoned off to support the party union bosses like.

Tony Abbott is all pointing fingers and dirty hands when it comes to political donations. He demands reform of trade union donations while his party merrily accepts dollars from tobacco companies, including $158,000 from Philip Morris and $140,000 from British American Tobacco in a single year, according to the most recent figures reported by the ABC. (Labor does not accept tobacco donations, by the way.)

The arguments against political donations from trade unions equally apply to those from corporations. Just as it should be a matter for individual union members to decide who they want to support politically, it should be up to individual shareholders to decide where their interests lie at the ballot box.

Rather than singling out particular industries for exclusion, it makes a lot more sense to do away with this form of institutionalised bribery altogether. A blanket ban on political donations from corporations, unions and front organisations is what is needed.

This is what has happened in Canada. Since 2007, corporations, trade unions, associations and groups can no longer make political contributions to Canadian political parties. Individual Canadians can give no more than $1100 a year to political parties and contributions above $20 must be publicly disclosed.

The outrageous state of affairs which exists in Australia has gone on so long because both the major parties are hooked on donations. Let's hope things can change while the Greens are still only recreational users.


1 comment:

Paul said...

He's a good little Marxist yet he worked for notorious ambulance chasers Slater & Gordon. Nice. I suppose next he'll be wanting a seat at the UN as well.