Australians should not get on their high horse too quickly about steel protectionism in the US stimulus package. It’s not so long since the Victorian Government unveiled an infrastructure investment package that proudly featured a “Made in Victoria” requirement. Crikey has repeatedly asked the Department of Foreign Affairs — responsible for the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, which specifically prevents governments from imposing such requirements where they harm US or Australian companies — if the Victorian requirements breach the AUSFTA, and they have failed to respond. Without reading too much into silence, presumably if they were clearly not in breach of the AUSFTA, DFAT would have said so quick smart.

With a big oil refining strike looming in the US with the US Steelworkers Union and Shell failing to reach agreement on a contract expiring at the end of Saturday, watch for similar developments here. Refinery operators who are members in Sydney of the CFMEU and Shell are miles Apart on a new enterprise bargaining agreement to replace the old one that expires at midnight Saturday. Some elements of the union membership want to bring on a dispute to back claims for big pay rises, others are not so sure, and prefer to remain working during the financial crisis.

Approximately 500 people have been made redundant from Cook’s Construction over the past three months all over Australia, head office’s last day is fittingly February, Friday the 13th.

The gossip is that a prominent Melbourne private school educator has just run off with the mother of a student. She’d be a she too.

I thought the Victorian State Government announced free travel today because all of the service interruptions due to the extreme weather … not Connex. This was taken at Ascot Vale station this morning (don’t you love the professionalism?):

Peter Fray

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