Saturday, 27 February 2010

Media wrap - Half a sacking for Garrett

POLITICS AND ECONOMICS

Insulation

Major rebuff to Garrett - Kevin Rudd has stripped Peter Garrett of control over the home insulation program in a dramatic and humiliating shrinking of his minister's responsibilities. After weeks of the government bleeding from the crisis, Mr Rudd has installed Greg Combet, the junior climate change minister, to implement the wind-up of the cancelled scheme and the roll-out of its successor – Melbourne Age

No sugar coating on this pill – Peter Garrett has been demoted and stripped of his energy efficiency duties under a ministerial restructure designed to ease the pressure on the government caused by the bungled insulation program – Sydney Morning Herald

Combet steps up to bigger environment role – Greg Combet is the government's new environment policy fix-it man after it narrowly averted another climate scheme disaster. Hours before his promotion yesterday as the Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the government revealed changes to its renewable energy target just in time to avoid more damaging headlines about stalled wind farm investments and mass job losses as it tried to mop up after the home insulation scheme bungle – Sydney Morning Herald

Dry resolve in the face of crisis – Robyn Kruk, the bureaucrat at the centre of the federal government's insulation scandal, is no stranger to trouble or political crisis - including to crises which involve deaths under a government's watch – Sydney Morning Herald

PM changes direction on climate – Kevin Rudd has sacked Peter Garrett over his handling of the bungled $2.45 billion roofing insulation scheme and overhauled the government's core climate change policies in the wake of the emissions trading scheme being put on hold until at least May – The Australian

Now the rorts are in foil inspections – Dodgy insulation companies have been accused of rorting the government's $19 million program to check 48,000 homes with foil insulation – The Australian


Lobbying

MP's ex-aide escapes lobbying ban - Federal government promises to clean up political lobbying have been tested after a former senior ministerial staffer exploited a loophole in a code of conduct. Tim Murphy, a former senior adviser to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Kim Carr, joined global pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline as government relations executive within days of leaving the government payroll – Melbourne Age



The other drug war - the politics of big business - Big Pharma spends millions every year buying influence in Canberra. Adele Ferguson and Eric Johnston investigate the ruthless tactics, the money and the spindoctors behind the scenes for the Sydney Morning Herald

Security

ASIO in fresh Israel spy probe - ASIO is investigating at least three dual Australian-Israeli citizens whom it suspects of using Australian cover to spy for Israel. The investigation was under way at least six months before the assassination in January of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, now widely believed to have been carried out by the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad – Melbourne Age

Israel warned before on faking passport: diplomat – A former Australian ambassador to Israel has revealed that he warned the Israeli government not to fake Australian passports for intelligence operations – The Australian

A web of spies, lies and troubled ties - Israel may find it has to do some fast explaining. Australia and the other countries that have been dragged into this murky episode are demanding answers to how their passports wound up in the hands of an apparent Israeli hit squad. Austria is also working to establish claims the suspects used the country as a communications base. And with the web of deceit likely to grow - Dubai police say more suspects will be identified in coming days - the pressure on Israel will only intensify – Melbourne Age

Political life

Business, colleagues see no joy in Barnaby Joyce – Tony Abbott is being urged to dump Barnaby Joyce, with senior Liberal MPs - and business leaders - warning the outspoken Opposition finance spokesman is damaging the Coalition's economic credibility – Melbourne Herald Sun

Economic matters

Barnett rails at GST revenue `rip-off' of Western Australia – Western Australia is the big loser from this year's carve-up of GST revenue, while the states with the two biggest economies, NSW and Victoria, will each get a bigger share – The Australian

In the red, mortgage burden soars to $1 trillion - Australians now owe financial institutions more than $1 trillion in housing mortgages, almost 15 times as much as 20 years ago, new Reserve Bank figures show – Melbourne Age

Elections

Libs likened to Stalinists for move to kick-start port – South Australian Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond has been accused of "communist economics" after suggesting a Liberal government may underwrite the capacity of a new deep-sea port for the state's growing mining industry – The Australian

It's plan B for Labor - Officially the line was that Labor would not react to this week's EMRS poll. Behind the scenes it is scrambling. Labor wedge politics about forestry is back – Hobart Mercury

Labor kiss and make up – It was kisses and hugs all round yesterday when Infrastructure minister Graeme Sturges met rival Labor candidate Madeleine Ogilvie. Almost every time the TV cameras pointed their way, the fierce Denison rivals insisted on a smooch, apparently intended to prove that the Mercury's front page story of a bitter rift between the pair was wrong – Hobart Mercury

Aboriginal affairs

Group of 40 okays NT nuclear dump - Traditional owners will be paid $12million for hosting what will be little more than an ugly concrete bunker. The money will be put into a trust – Northern Territory News

Defence

Australia's shrinking air force – The nation's air combat force has withered to its smallest size in a generation, with less than half of the country's fighter jets available for operations – The Australian

Racism

Most attacks on Indians not racial: report - A list collated by the Indian high commission in Canberra and tabled in the Indian Parliament, records 152 assaults on Indians in Australia since the start of last year. Most of the victims were students and taxi drivers. And most of the attacks were classified as robberies and assaults, but 23 were deemed to have racial overtones – Melbourne Age

Africans attacked in NT - About six African refugees were attacked by a 20-strong gang of indigenous boys after playing soccer at Malak Oval early this month – Northern Territory News

Opinions

Burning the Midnight Oil but still insulated - Peter Garrett is the frontbencher who shrinks and shrinks, but survives in part because of his iconic status – Melbourne Age


School's in for ALP – Shaun Carney in the Melbourne Age writes that the Rudd government got a good sense of its political mortality this month. In politics, no matter how well you're travelling, it is always going to be a temporary proposition, and the home insulation cock-up showed Labor just how quickly events and fortunes can turn. The second term of office that only a few weeks ago seemed guaranteed for the government has now changed categories, from "certainty" to "likelihood" – Melbourne Age

Crisis control in crisis as Rudd falters over fall guys – Tony Wright in the Melbourne Age remembers the Paul Keating playbook where ''Sometimes you have to kill one and hang him up in the town square so the people can sniff the corpse.'' Rudd has recoiled from quite so frightful a vision. Instead, he's gone the half-step and simply placed Garrett in a set of stocks, stripped of all but a singlet and a pair of underpants. He's still in the town square, however, a victim of ritual humiliation.

Putting a ceiling on the scandal – Peter Hartcher writes in the Sydney Morning Herald that after the collapse of Rudd's proposal for an emissions trading scheme, this is the biggest debacle of the government's first term. The failure of the ETS is a blow to Rudd's pretences to be a great reformer. The cancellation of the insulation plan challenges the Rudd government's claim to competence.

Garrett protected as long as possible - Ministers don't resign over departmental performance, writes Damien Murphy in the Sydney Morning Herald. A 1997 study by a British political scientist, David Butler, on political resignations in Australia between 1901 and 1996 found no ministers had walked ''accepting blame for public servants''. Since Federation, nearly 70 ministers have resigned but when they do yield it's invariably for personal peccadilloes that have nothing to do with departmental business.

The warning that we ignored – Miranda Devine in the Sydney Morning Herald says debate over the make-up of immigration programs has been largely shut down and marginalised as a redneck racist pastime. But we have vivid evidence of the consequences of poorly managed immigration in the disproportionate number of problems that have emerged from some Lebanese families who arrived in 1977 and integrated poorly into south-west Sydney.

War spinners on the defensive – Hamish McDonald in the Sydney Morning Herald on how the Australian Defence PR flacks ensure very bit of news is consciously filtered and projected to put the government in a good light.

The great march forward to spring - If there is going to be double dissolution election, Kevin Rudd will play it as safe as possible, writes Phillip Coorey in the Sydney Morning Herald

Be ready, the PM will speak to you now - Under pressure from his government's worst political blunder, Rudd had a message for suburban Australia: he accepted political responsibility for the home insulation fiasco, serious errors had been made and he was fixing the problem. Rudd staged a media onslaught that became deeply revealing. His tone was contrite and responsive. As Tony Abbott said, Rudd did a Peter Beattie: trying to win support and keep trust by admitting his failure – The Australian

Don't blame the polls for parties' woes, politics has its ups and downs – Dennis Shanahan writes in The Australian: Since the end of September, when Turnbull was floundering as leader and the Coalition vote was down, Labor's support and Rudd's personal standing have been in steady decline and the ALP's golden age of polling has come to an end. On primary votes, ALP support, which was about 42.7 per cent at the election, fell in polling from 46 per cent last September to 39 per cent two weeks ago. These are trends that will only reinforce the real concern within the government as it faces the prospect of further fallout from the disastrous handling of the roofing insulation scheme.

Chinese can fund our boom – Michael Stutchbury in The Australian looks at the views on debt of Barnaby Joyce and notes one way to spread the financing risk of this investment boom while the budget defence is repaired is to encourage foreign investment in the form of equity rather than debt. Unfortunately, Joyce also is campaigning against the most prospective source of such foreign equity: direct investment by Chinese government-owned companies in Australia's mining boom.

Team Liberal lite won't pull in the voters – says Peter van Onselen in The Australian. The Coalition must bring experience and ability to the fore if it wants to win.

Sceptics derail climate action - Global warming is a real problem, despite the ill-informed claims of the climate deniers argues Mike Steketee in The Australian

Decisive Rudd to atone for failures – Laurie Oakes in the Adelaide Advertiser (and all other News Ltd tabloids) on how Rudd is extending the self-criticism to cover the entire performance of his Government as it gears up for the federal election.

BUSINESS

Councils sue after $18.5m investment 'imploded' - Twelve councils in NSW are bringing actions against Local Government Financial Services, the body that invests council workers' superannuation, for misleading and deceptive conduct and breach of fiduciary duty. The group bought $45 million of financial products called Rembrandts and sold $18.5 million of them to councils that returned seven cents in the dollar. In turn, Local Government Financial Services is preparing cross-claims against the credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's and the investment bank that concocted the products, ABN AMRO – Sydney Morning Herald

ENVIRONMENT

Wong hits switch for renewable energy – The Rudd government has revamped its stalled renewable energy target scheme to head off job losses and a "strike" by investors reluctant to put their money into renewable energy projects – The Australian

Evidence of first step towards reductionsAustralia’s greenhouse gas emissions may be reaching a plateau, even though demand for electricity is rising inexorably, new data suggests – Sydney Morning Herald

Solar complaints are hotting up - There has been an eightfold rise in complaints about home solar energy systems in the past six months amid claims of dodgy installations, higher bills and unpaid rebates on electricity that has been fed back into the grid – Melbourne Age

Boon for clean-energy plans - Threatened big clean-energy projects have been offered salvation through a revamp of the Rudd government's controversial renewable energy target – Melbourne Age

MEDIA

Net tsar to issue clean-up orders after Facebook backlash – Kevin Rudd has backed the creation of a federal office to make online social network sites take down obscene material sooner – The Australian

Kerry Stokes hints at retirement - yet again – Kerry Stokes is not entirely convincing when he says that he is looking forward to stepping back from the day-to-day running of his $3 billion corporate empire – The Australian

LIFE

Law and order

Legal fears over new 'sex assault' disorder - Rape fantasies that lead to sexual assault will be redefined as a mental illness, with potentially far-reaching consequences for our criminal law system, under a new international psychological manual under development. Experts have warned of ''serious potential for misuse'' in a new disorder called paraphilic coercive disorder, defined in the draft Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders released this month in the USMelbourne Age

Lawyer to hold Ellis inquiry - A QC has been appointed to investigate formal complaints made against Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis. The Mercury has learned the Legal Profession Board has decided to investigate allegations made by former police commissioner Richard McCreadie – Hobart Mercury


Pedophile hot spots in our state of disgrace - enormity of the problem of internet pedophilia in Queensland can be revealed for the first time by this map. The map is a "live" snapshot of the extent of electronic file sharing of the most heinous kind – Brisbane Courier Mail

Real estate

Buoyant market brings out the buyers – There is momentum in the Sydney residential market, although vendors won't necessarily secure over-the-top prices – Sydney Morning Herald

Education

Curriculum puts Dreamtime first – School students will learn about Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, Chinese medicine and natural therapies but not meet the periodic table of elements until Year 10 under the new national science curriculum – The Australian
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