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Issue #1680      April 15, 2015


There are jokes and there are idiots who think they are funny – usually at somebody else’s expense. Dozens of Commonwealth public servants were told by their bosses that their jobs were to be axed in an April Fool’s day in Canberra. More than 30 low-ranking workers at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade were greeted by a message on a big TV screen in the office that their workplace was being broken up and moved to Melbourne. Many of the public servants are on temporary contracts and they were advised to submit expressions of interest if they wanted to keep their jobs by moving interstate. The people responsible for this “hilarious” prank were bosses at the Passport Office’s Canberra Regional Eligibility Centre and they kept the message on display for five hours, despite the growing distress among the public servants at the centre.

The Abbott government and its leader are not all that popular, to put it mildly. Economic stagnation, cuts to services and everyday struggle for many people to provide adequately for their families are things that worry many people. Last year’s budget’s smell is still hanging around and there is another one to be had soon. But it will come as no surprise that instead of at least trying to work out how to assist the population, Abbott and friends are concerned about how to save their own positions. We shall all rejoice at the news that Prime Minister Abbott appointed a new personal photographer. Don’t know how much taxpayers will be paying for that in the tough economic times. News crews are provided with the footage provided by Mr Abbott’s press office and news photographers will be excluded from direct access to him. NSW Premier Mike Baird plays the same game, posting a staged photo on Twitter. As my Mum used to say – “handsome is as handsome does”. Ugly policies will not enhance politicians’ images no matter how much they are polished.

Air quality in Australia is quite good by world standards but it could be better. Environmental and health groups want to see new laws to curb rising pollution from toxic substances and heavy penalties for companies that breach pollution controls. Environmental Justice Australia has completed a three-month study tracking five years of data (voluntarily submitted by polluters to Australia’s National Pollutant inventory), which tracks particle emissions estimates for 93 toxic substances. Emissions of dangerous fine-particle pollution from the coal industry has increased by 52 percent in the past five years, compared with a general increase across all industries of 14 percent. The Environment Justice Australia study found coal was the leading source of particle pollution. “We have failed to protect the communities of Australia. Air pollution kills more Australians than car accidents – that was noted by the Senate inquiry into the health impacts of air pollution in 2013,” researcher James Whelan said. Air pollution contributes to premature deaths and a range of respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

Next article – Region Briefs

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