THE LAST GASP: Collective action

This week the HSU dumps a gaggle of officials, Spain keeps spinning and Coles keeps ribbing.

The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s news, every week. This week, the ALP faces another Count, Spain can take a bailout but not a trick, and Coles warns against the evils of forcing prices on others.

Party line

The embattled Health Services Union drew a line in the sand this week, with the scandal-plagued body suspending eight officials including senior figures Michael Williamson and Kathy Jackson. The move came after Jackson used a speech to the HR Nicholls Society to slam the organisation and lament the state of the union movement as a whole. The HSU national secretary said basic democratic processes had broken down within the sector because of power-hungry Labor Party leaders. The idea was rejected as far-fetched by government sources, who said the thought of a major power struggle inside the Labor Party was farcical. Jackson singled out Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, comparing him to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Shorten denied the claims, but did reportedly admit to sometimes wearing a cape, but only at home and on weekends, and only in his backyard, in a fort, made from boxes.

By George, I think they’ve got it

Despite denying it to the last minute, Spain finally gave in to pressure this week and asked for a bailout of its struggling banking sector. The move, which saw €100 billion injected into the industry, was initially hailed as a victory for Europe and a cure for all Spain’s ails. One European Union official said the move showed confidence was returning to the region. So much confidence, in fact, that Spanish borrowing costs spiked to an euro-era record in the days following and Moody’s slashed the country’s credit rating. Again.

That’s a bit rich

Wesfarmers owned-Coles seemed to delight in rubbing it in this week, with chief executive Richard Goyder demanding that suppliers justify any price rises resulting from the introduction of the carbon tax. Experts have reportedly suggested producers could just mirror what the supermarket giants did when they forced lower prices on suppliers at the start of their pricing war: not attempt to justify anything and just do it anyway.

Pretty please?

Struggling carrier Qantas has pledged to boost its takeover defences, as its share price recovered from record lows brought on by a string of bad news including an earnings downgrade. The airline has hired experts from Macquarie and Citigroup in a bid to fight off raiders. However, the group has completely ruled out a capital raising, so it is unclear what its exact tactics are short of asking very nicely. Advertising mogul John Singleton’s name has been put up as a possible candidate for a bid, as well as big names Lindsay Fox and Paul Little. With some reports claiming a deal for Qantas could be as simple as paying $2 billion for a group that has $3 billion in cash, the defences would want to be pretty strong.

Not so plastic fantastic

The Reserve Bank of Australia isn’t here to make friends within industry, and has moved to curb excessive credit card surcharges, in order to prevent companies from charging more than the cost of a transaction. The plan will target groups such as airlines, which sometimes claim over $30 in surcharges on certain services. Affected parties are upset with the move, and have returned to the drawing board for new methods to legally empty their customers' wallets.

Tell them where to go

Tech giant Apple has unveiled a new mobile mapping program this week, as it seeks to take on behemoth Google in an industry somewhat devoid of competition. Motorists have welcomed the news, as the added distraction of which program to use is definitely what more people need while attempting to drive.

Remember to pause for effect

The federal government’s much-touted economic forum went off without a hitch this week, save for criticism that the entire thing was crafted purely to show the Labor Party in a positive light. When reportedly asked directly about the accusations, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she would consult with advisors before attempting to explain herself. Wayne Swan spent the forum channelling Charles Darwin, claiming that the way the economy adapted to changing economic conditions, including the high Australian dollar, would determine its success. Experts reportedly suggested such principles must not apply to the manufacturing industry, given the millions of dollars in handouts the government gave the sector only months ago.

The second most controversial fight this week

Anyone disheartened by the current state of Australian politics should spare a thought for the poor citizens of Greece. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more ridiculous, far right MP Ilias Kasidiaris has pressed assault charges against rival Syriza party MP Rena Dourou and communist KKE party member Liana Kanelli. If that last name sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the woman Kasidiaris struck in the face on national television, an event that was later broadcast worldwide to billions of people. If anything, it will be fun listening to him try to justify his actions.

Quick misses

– Automotive giant Ford announced this week that it was considering job cuts at its Australian operations as sales stall. At its heart, the choice facing the group seems to be between continuing to pay these people, or firing them, relatively consequence free, in a sector ravaged by job cuts. The business world awaits the decision with baited breath.

– Opposition leader Tony Abbott has warned voters that the mining tax will be expanded should the ALP win the next election. Labor sources laughed off the claims, saying that it was unlikely they would attempt such a move seeing though they had no idea what was going on even when they put the thing together.

– An Australian Institute of Management survey has found that more than two-thirds of large Australian companies are happy to hire foreign workers. The study is considered groundbreaking as it is the first known evidence that big business is willing to do anything to save money.

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