Commission of cuts

Abbott’s sweeping Commission of Audit, announced in October, is a brazen farce designed to pave the way for cuts and privatisations. The five person Commission is stacked with rolled in gold, free market zealots.

It is chaired by Tony Shepherd, head of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), Australia’s most powerful pro-business lobby group. The BCA want corporate tax cuts for the rich, to increase the GST and to repeal the Fair Work Act. Shepherd is also chairman of Transfield Services, a construction and services firm that has racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts from the government in recent years, including a $184.3 million contract to run the maintenance and services for the immigration detention centre on Nauru.

Peter Crone, the BCA’s Chief Economist and Director of Policy will head up the Commission’s Secretariat. Crone was a senior economic advisor to the Howard government and in his role for the BCA has campaigned for cuts to programs for the sick, disabled and jobless.

Peter Boxall, another appointee, was chief-of-staff to Peter Costello and instrumental in implementing WorkChoices. As head of various public service departments he was earlier responsible for outsourcing IT and selling off government buildings.

Tony Cole is a former Treasury secretary who has described an increase in the GST as “inevitable”. His current job is at investment firm and outsourcing specialist Mercer.

Former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone, who in a rare moment of insight Wayne Swan called, “a political hyena who takes delight in attacking society’s most vulnerable”, complements the line up.

Occupy pepper spray cop wins payout

A University of California police officer who famously and mercilessly pepper-sprayed unarmed students during Occupy protests in November 2011 has been awarded $38,000 in workers’ compensation by the University.

John Pike was filmed calmly and casually walking along a line of seated student demonstrators, spraying them in the face with orange pepper spray. Video of the attack went viral and Pike was condemned around the world for the vicious assault against the protestors. An internal investigation found that Pike acted appropriately, contradicting the later compensation payout won by students after they filed a lawsuit against the university.

In a travesty of justice, the payout to Pike was $8000 more than the $30,000 eventually awarded to each of the students. He received the compensation on the basis of the depression and trauma he claimed to suffer in the wake of the incident where he was on the receiving end of public outrage.

Abbott’s mate: minimum wage ‘too high’

The chairman of Abbott’s business Advisory Council has declared that, “We cannot hide the fact that Australian wage rates are very high by international standards. Comparing Australian wages to notoriously low US wages, he said, “When we’re $US33,500 and the US itself is only $15,080 you can see there’s an enormous disparity.”

First they came for the bikies …

Last month Queensland Premier Campbell Newman rammed through a raft of draconian anti-bikie laws that massively increase police powers and trash basic rights.

First they came for the bikies ...

Under the laws those deemed to be “vicious lawless associates” of prescribed bikie gangs will get slammed with extra punishments if convicted of a crime, in some cases this includes an additional 15-25 years jail.

The definition of an “associate” includes taking part “on any one or more occasions in the affairs of the association in any way”. This law is vague enough to allow wide scope for abuse depending on how the courts interpret it. For example someone who simply has a family member in a prescribed gang could fall into this category.

The laws also give police more scope to arbitrarily harass innocent people. Police are now able to stop and search anyone on suspicion of being a member of a prescribed gang.

Absurdly, at a recent protest this lead two police to question a young man wearing a Sons of Anarchy t-shirt. The Sons of Anarchy are a fictional gang from an American television drama.

Newman’s government has also been found to have non-existent gangs on its list of banned organizations, such as the Scorpions’.

Even the cops are complaining that Newman’s crackdown is over the top. Police union president Ian Lever, in e-mails to Police Commissioner Ian Stuart, reports that officers are unhappy about having to apply for and execute “dodgy” warrants. Lever’s main complaint is not that the warrants are unjustified, but that officers are not protected from the “legal ramifications” of executing them.

Big pharma withhold Hepatitis C cure

Corporate greed is stifling progress towards an effective oral treatment of Hepatitis C. In its race to secure the hepatitis market US company Gilead Sciences has refused to make their drug sofosbuvir available for collaborative trials with products produced by rival companies. Another US company Bristol-Myers produces a drug daclatasvir which has proven to be incredibly effective when used in combination with sofosbuvir in small trials, showing a 100 per cent success rate.

The cold calculation on the part of Gilead comes down to the fact that if a combination treatment with another new drug was used Gilead would have to split revenues with their rival. Indeed, Gilead’s drug is likely to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in December and the company is predicting the drug will generate $1.74 billion in sales in 2014 alone. Upon approval the FDA urged Gilead to make their drug available for collaborative trials. Over 200,000 people in Australia suffer from Hep C and one in four with chronic Hep C will develop cirrhosis, liver failure or cancer. In 2012 Gilead raked in $2.8 billion in profits.

Research and writing by Adam Adelpour

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