Saturday, 20 March 2010

Media wrap - Election day previews - Poll in SA has Liberals in front


POLITICS AND ECONOMICS

Elections

Labor bracing for state poll hit – Isobel Redmond is today on the cusp of one of the most remarkable election victories in Australian political history, with the Liberals edging ahead of Labor in South Australia – The Australian

A State in the balance – Voters are casting their votes today to decide the future leader of the state as polls show the election result is on a knife-edge – Adelaide Advertiser

Rann puts jobs at heart of South Australia poll pitch – Mike Rann has emphasised his record on jobs and the inexperience of Isobel Redmond's Liberals in his final pitch to South Australian voters – The Australian

Change inevitable, regardless of poll result – Whoever wins today's election, the face of South Australian politics will undergo a massive change. If Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond manages to engineer an unlikely but not entirely impossible victory, she will become the state's first female premier and usher in a new era. Should Premier Mike Rann win against the tide, he would appear to be unlikely - despite his protestations to the contrary - to serve a full term and lead Labor into the 2014 election, thus making way for a new Labor leader – Adelaide Advertiser

Voters' mood swings to change – There is a mood for change. The signs in South Australia today point to an all-too-familiar tale of a once-popular, long-term leader on the nose with voters – The Australian

Mike Rann chased by panda protesters and Save the RAH crew – Mike Rann's final press conference of the election campaign has been crashed by a trifecta of independent groups including protesters in panda masks – Adelaide Advertiser

Isobel Redmond on defensive over deputy's 'spin' gaffe – Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond's final media conference before voters decide her fate was hijacked by her deputy's startling admission of spin. Ms Redmond was forced to defend her party's "all substance, no spin" motto against sustained questioning over Deputy Leader and Shadow Treasurer Steven Griffiths' extraordinary revelation that Liberal claims to save $1 billion by rebuilding the RAH were "in essence" spin – Adelaide Advertiser

Counting may take weeksHobart Mercury

Polls in South Australia and Tasmania may put Rudd in a minority – Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, already chaffing against Labor premiers reluctant to join his public hospital overhaul, could be completely outnumbered by the end of the weekend - Sydney Daily Telegraph

States' fates to shape a nation – Labor’s national dominance and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's ambitious reform agenda are under threat this weekend, with two critical state elections poised on a knife's edge – Melbourne Age

D-Day on fourth term for Labor in Tasmania – Tasmanians decide today whether to give state Labor a fourth consecutive election victory, or to vote for change – The Australian

Rudd turns to the underdog defence in state elections – The federal government took out insurance yesterday against expected opposition claims of a damaged Labor brand should there be big swings against the ALP in the state elections being held today – Sydney Morning Herald

Labor's Price to resign at next election – The veteran NSW federal Labor MP Roger Price will resign from politics at this year's election. Mr Price's decision enables his Right faction to install the union official Ed Husic into his safe western Sydney seat of Chifley – Sydney Morning Herald

Debates

Parties squabble over health debate - The government wants the debate held at the National Press Club at 12.30pm. Mr Abbott and the Liberals want it to be 90 minutes from 7.30pm, conducted like a campaign debate, and televised nationally – Sydney Morning Herald

Polls to temper hospitals debate – The political atmospherics for Tuesday's health and hospitals debate between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will be influenced by the outcomes of today's South Australian and Tasmanian elections.

Stimulus projects

Unions grab $80m slice of school building funds – Unions have exploited a loophole to have almost all schools stimulus upgrades in Victoria declared "major projects" in order to pocket site allowances estimated to total at least $80 million – The Australian

Experts at a loss on school costs - Graham Henderson says he knows how much the controversial outdoor shade structure at a school on the NSW north coast -- charged at almost $1 million -- should actually cost taxpayers. And he should, given he built a similar structure -- known as a covered outdoor learning area -- for the same school in 2003. Building costs had rocketed since 2003, but his company would still only charge about $250,000 for a similar structure – The Australian

Shutters go up on building audits as the issue of savings surfaces – The federal and NSW governments have refused to release the findings of 102 audits conducted on school buildings projects in NSW since September. But the NSW opposition spokesman for education, Adrian Piccoli, has warned that those audits would be meaningless unless they reviewed whether individual projects had been priced at a competitive market rate – The Australian

You pay $150m for rich schools – Taxpayers have helped fund tennis courts, swimming pools, gyms, playgrounds, green schemes and even an atrium refurbishment at some of the state's richest private schools. Fifty top independent and religious schools pocketed more than $150 million in Federal Government economic stimulus payments, a survey by the Herald Sun has found. Some private schools got more than $5 million each, while some government schools didn't get a cent – Melbourne Herald Sun

Health and hospitals

States attacked as Kevin Rudd warms to health fight – Kevin Rudd has guaranteed no hospitals will close because of his planned shake-up of health funding, and attacked state government bureaucrats for running scare campaigns on the issue – The Australian

Euthanasia

New fight for euthanasia – A group of Tasmanians have vowed to continue to fight for changes to laws to allow death with dignity – Hobart Mercury

Foreign affairs

Barack Obama no-show gives Kevin Rudd leverage – The  Rudd government has been handed political ammunition to resist US pressure for more troops in Afghanistan after Barack Obama cancelled his visit next week, it was claimed yesterday – The Australian

Obama visit plans on hold as president stays home – Officially, the federal government understands and is ''relaxed'' about being bumped by Barack Obama, but parliamentarians and staff who had scrambled to book flights and beds are disappointed they will now have to wait three months to see the US President – Sydney Morning Herald


Security

Operation Blue Gum for Barack Obama visit gets the chainsaw – The  codename chosen for a secret policing operation to protect US President Barack Obama during his visit to Australia sounds innocuous enough. But calling it Operation Blue Gum, after Australia's iconic native trees, almost caused an international embarrassment. US consular officials were aghast when briefed by their counterparts in the NSW Police Force about the title, Blue Gum. In America, a "bluegum" is offensive slang for a lazy African-American who refuses to work – The Australian

Sacked spy chief reopens his case - At the age of 93, the last surviving founder of the intelligence community, W.T. (Bill) Robertson, has reopened one of its great controversies – Max Suich writes in The Australian

Jobs for the boys

Labor in new 'jobs for the boys' row – The state government is embroiled in an election year ''jobs for the boys'' row after appointing former federal Labor minister and ALP factional chief Robert Ray to a sensitive public sector job. Mr Ray, a minister in the Hawke and Keating governments who was regarded as the ''godfather'' of Premier John Brumby's Right faction, has been appointed chairman of the state's risk-management agency, the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority. He will be paid about $60,000 a year for the part-time job – Melbourne Age

Child welfare

NT child services unable to keep staff – A child in foster care in the Northern Territory can be seen by up to 35 different caseworkers in three years, in what an academic has told an inquiry amounts to a "treadmill of staff" – The Australian

Animal welfare

Wombats buried alive – A “cruel” culling attempt on southern hairy-nosed wombats in the Murraylands highlights the need for better programs and more funding to protect the animals, conservationists say – Adelaide Advertiser

Political life

The rise and rise of Mr Fixit – Katharine Murphy in the Melbourne Age looks at Greg Combet’s transition from trade unions to politics and contrasts his rapid rise in Canberra to some of Labor's star class of 2007 who have found themselves gridlocked (think Maxine McKew and Victoria's Bill Shorten or Gary Gray)

Defence

Australia worst in defence spend – Defence officials have been caught short by a new report revealing that Australia and its closest ally, the US, are the world's most wasteful nations when it comes to buying and maintaining military equipment – The Australian

Transport

Rudd wants $80m back as metro bill grows – The cost of the scrapped CBD Metro is climbing, with the Rudd government requesting the return of more than $80 million it contributed to the project – Sydney Morning Herald

Dream ride, but cycling still faces uphill battle – Kristina Keneally’s ride to work on a bike laden with shoes, make-up and files is about to get easier, thanks to a series of new cycle paths that will cut the time she spends dodging traffic – Sydney Morning Herald

Development

Residents reclaim inner city – A third of Melbourne's population growth is taking place within 15 kilometres of the city centre - a sharp change from the pattern of the '70s and '80s – Melbourne Age

Windsor plan splits Labor MPs – Planning Minister Justin Madden's decision to approve a huge redevelopment of the Hotel Windsor has divided the state Labor caucus, with several MPs fearing towers will now overwhelm heritage parts of the city – Melbourne Age

Trade

Ban on uranium to India under fire – The ban on Australian uranium sales to India is under renewed challenge after the federal government this week lifted an 18-month freeze on a deal for yellowcake exports to RussiaMelbourne Age

Opinions

Is the Mad Monk to give Rudd a caning? Asks Laurie Oakes in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Rudd is supposed to be the cautious politician, Tony Abbott the risk-taker. But Rudd is gambling big-time with next week's debate over health policy.

Labor must lift game to retain economic credibility – Peter van Onselen says in The Australian that if Labor wants to attack the prioritisation of where the Howard government chose to curb spending and where it allowed middle-class welfare to bulge, by all means do so. There are plenty of nuanced points of attack worth making. But don't invite the public to form a view that the government is being tricky with the figures in a bid to paint Abbott as a minister who let health spending decline when he did not.

Last man standing of Labor's fab four – George Megalogenis in The Australian looks at Bob Carr, Peter Beattie, Steve Bracks and Mike Rann - their names alone would guarantee re-election for their party. The premiers of NSW, Queensland and Victoria each retired on top. But the last one standing of the Labor quartet, the South Australian Premier, might have stayed too long.

Tale of two premiers plays to mixed reviews - The Rann government may fall today but basket-case NSW Labor is on the rise writes Jeff Penberthy in The Australian

Looking for the real Abbott – Paul Kelly in The Australian says Rudd and Abbott have similar views on same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia but Abbott's more prescriptive rhetoric brings him into the firing line.

Hospital reform died on the table – Michael Stutchbury argues in The Australian that Abbott's more fundamental health policy problem, however, is that he couldn't convince Howard to force the states to deliver some version of Labor's overdue technocratic hospital shake-up. For the Coalition, that politically rules out pressing Kevin Rudd to deliver genuine micro-economic reform that would use competition and consumer choice to deliver better value health care for Australia's ageing population.

It's uplifting to stand on ceremony - It is legitimate - and often necessary - to severely criticise Aboriginal organisations, communities or individuals. It is legitimate to criticise policies in indigenous affairs and reconciliation. Even if such criticism is incorrect, it is not racist. It is possible to discuss such specific criticisms with those who make them. However, when I encounter the underlying, constantly shifting, ever mutating sentiment that "the pendulum has swung too far" and that Aborigines have been given too much, materially or symbolically, I know that I am up against irrational thinking that is not amenable to rational debate – Noel Pearson in The Australian

Tougher times for borrowers are here to stay – warns Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald

Navy vindicated over sinking – Miranda Devine in the Sydney Morning Herald looks at an inquest finding and notes the Northern Territory Coroner, Greg Cavanagh, this week made a point of praising the ''great efforts, professionalism and bravery'' of Australian Defence Force personnel involved in the rescue of the Afghan asylum seekers after their boat exploded on April 16.

How Rudd can outflank his noisy opponent – Peter Hartcher in the Sydney Morning Herald reckons Australian politics has entered the haka phase. Like the war dance of the All Blacks rugby team, it's a pre-game pantomime of chest-puffing, thigh-slapping, tongue-poking, eye-rolling intimidation.

The lost weekend - Bad news is brewing for Labor supporters in today's state polls, and Liberals will be out to make the most of it – Shaun Carney in the Melbourne Age

We are in danger of walking an ugly road – Martin Flanagan in the Melbourne Age writes that Tony Abbott's mentor, former Liberal prime minister John Howard, was described as a dog whistler, an American term for politicians who whistle up racial prejudice with apparently innocuous statements. Under the leadership of Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberal Party appeared to make advances in this regard. It is extremely disappointing to think Tony Abbott is on the verge of taking us down this cheap, ignoble path again.

BUSINESS

Telstra says it has no broadband deal yet as rivals claim it holds assets to 'ransom' - Telstra's statement to the stock exchange yesterday indicates price is the main sticking point in discussions – Sydney Morning Herald

Chinalco, Rio strike record Africa deal – Rio Tinto and Chinalco have officially rekindled their once-fractured relationship, announcing plans to become partners in the $US12 billion ($13 billion) development of the Simandou iron ore field in west Africa – Sydney Morning Herald

Super fund facing closure – One of Australia's biggest super funds, the Motor Trades Association of Australia Super, is in danger of being slapped with a wind-up order if it doesn't pay a legal bill to its former chairman – Melbourne Age

ENVIRONMENT

State's plans for Riverina red gums face the chop – The state government's plans to continue logging Riverina red gums for the next five years are headed for defeat in Parliament. The Coalition, the Greens and the Shooters Party oppose the legislation, ensuring its defeat in the Legislative Council. The government needs the Greens' support to get parliamentary approval. The Coalition and the Shooters want logging to continue, and the Greens want it to be stopped immediately – Sydney Morning Herald

MEDIA

TMP's collapse surprises industry: advertising agency -  collapse of advertising agency TMP, once the biggest in the nation and controller of the "rivers of gold" classified advertising market, has caught the recruitment and government ad industry by surprise – The Australian

Plenty of bong for your buck – A comedy about a bong-smoking dog that has sex with a cat and a teddy bear has received $1.5 million of federal and state taxpayers' money. The cult SBS series Wilfred is also peppered with profanity, full-frontal nudity and jokes about rape – Melbourne Herald Sun

LIFE

Law and order

Victorian police chief Simon Overland carried live bullets on to plane – Victorian police chief Simon Overland should face the full force of the law and not be given special treatment for carrying bullets on to a Qantas passenger jet, one of the nation's most senior crime investigators says – The Australian

Top cop rapped on bullet scare – An aviation security expert says Victoria's top police officer highlighted serious flaws in airport security when he carried live ammunition on to a domestic flight undetected – Melbourne Age

Art

Art battle turns ugly as Aborigines condemn sculpture's sacred image – It was meant to be the Dreamtime set in stone, a celebration of reconciliation and a "revival of Aboriginal spirituality". But Wanjina Watchers in the Whispering Stone, an 8.5-tonne sculpture in Katoomba, has sparked vandalism and death threats – Sydney Morning Herald

Paris blockbuster heads for No 1 – The Masterpieces from Paris exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia is on track to become the biggest paid art show ever witnessed in Australia, but weekend visitors now face queues of three to four hours in the final month of the exhibition – The Australian

Consumer affairs

White lies: appliance rort snares shoppers – One in three electrical appliances audited for energy efficiency is either unfit for sale or has exaggerated environmental credentials, a Sydney Morning Herald investigation reveals.

Swine flu


The punt

Problem gamblers add $800m to club coffers - NSW clubs have conceded that almost $800 million of their annual revenue could come from problem gamblers - a fact that is prompting renewed calls for a shake-up of poker machine laws – Sydney Morning Herald

Education

Battle looms over cuts to history curriculum – Writers drafting the national curriculum need to reduce the amount of Australian history taught - raising the spectre of another fight over what is cut when the document is finalised later this year – Sydney Morning Herald
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