It's called malicious aforethought. It will come as no surprise to anyone even vaguely aware of what the Howard Government is doing to higher education, that internal government documents reveal the Government had been warned of impending university collapses before last May's budget. Funding cuts are forcing universities to rely more on fees from students essentially making them take more full-fee paying students rather than taking students on merit. Three months before the announcement of the changes which the Government promised would not leave any university worse off an analysis of their effects showed that universities would have to increase charges and that the package would threaten the continued viability of some of Australia 's 38 publicly funded universities.
* * *The Reptile Idiot, Steve Irwin, was paid $175,000 for the advert promoting the Federal Government's quarantine service. At least that campaign had the useful aspect of warning people about bringing unwanted pests into Australia. In addition to Irwin, the Government has paid other celebrities $250,000 to promote existing services. This includes $80,000 to media doctor James Wright, who fronts the ads that blame patients for increasing the costs of prescriptions. Altogether, since being elected in 1996 the Howard Government has spent $650 million of taxpayers' money promoting what have in reality been public service cuts and privatisations. * * *More program cuts at the ABC are in the pipeline, with managing director Russell Balding warning that a serious reduction in Government funding is bound to hit the national broadcaster soon. The long-running schools program Behind the News, the most high profile recent axing, was targeted because it would not result in job losses and would deliver an immediate cash package to the ABC's drastically reduced coffers. The costs of broadcasting, program acquisitions are increasing at a faster rate than our budget, Balding explained. * * *Last week it was revealed that the Fiji Lands Minister, Naiqama Lalabalavu, had magically slipped under the anti-terrorist wall surrounding Australia to watch Fiji play in the Rugby World Cup. Last February Lalabalavu was charged with mutiny in connection with the November 2000 coup that ousted the government of Mahendra Chaudhry. Chaudhry accused the Howard Government of hypocrisy. The central issue is how Australia deals with people who are terrorists and take part in terrorist acts, he said. * * *CAPITALIST HOG OF THE WEEK: is Australian mining transnational, Newcrest, which is demanding that the Indonesian Government evict 2000 villagers from the site of its Toguraci gold mine project, in Northern Maluku province. Production at the mine was stopped last month by the villagers when they took over the site demanding compensation be paid to the land owners of another nearby Newcrest mine, and that they also receive 10 percent of the profits from the Toguraci mine.