Monday, 27 June 2005

Memories for a Glug Grower - a Treasurer turned grape grower

Monday, 27th June, 2005  - Richard Farmer 
Politicians retiring voluntarily while at the top are a rare breed but National Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson joined their ranks this week. The timing of his decision to return to the farm at Gunnedah might have caught the members of the fourth estate napping but the decision itself came as no surprise. It was in fact very well previewed.
Which reminded us of the last such high ranking minister who really did surprise the pundits of the press when he handed in his badge without even a whisper before hand. The only reason we mention John Dawkins and his retirement as Paul Keating's Treasurer is that he has since become an Eden Valley grape grower and it was a pleasure to sample the other day a chardonnay which St Hallett's largely made from his 2003 crop. So impressed were we that 2006 will see grapes from the very same vineyard turned in to one of our very own single vineyard wines.

Monday, 20 June 2005

Preparing for an Embarrassing Report

Monday, 20th June, 2005  - Richard Farmer 
The best way to blunt the impact of a critical report is to make changes before the report becomes public. No one knows that better than Prime Minister John Howard. So we have had some concessions on the way illegal immigrants are treated in detention camps. Stand by for the report into the system which resulted in an Australian resident being held in detention.
The PM might not have had the report of former Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer in his hand when he reached agreement with the backbench critics of the detention policy, but he would surely have known the broad thrust of Mr Palmer's findings.
The Immigration Department is sure to get a caning and Mr Howard will continue trying to get the public service to carry the can for the detention abuses. As the impact of the report is played out over coming weeks we should note it down as the formal end of the Westminster principle of ministerial responsibility.

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Raiding the Poker Table When the Horse Has Bolted

Tuesday, 14th June, 2005  - Richard Farmer 
South Australia's finest struck last week to shut down a poker tournament being conducted at a local licensed club. Over in London they prepared the flotation of a company that hosts on the internet a billion poker games a year. A wonderful contrast and an example of how the world is changing faster than some national law enforcers.
The Adelaide police huffed and puffed about poker not being a game of skill and hence an illegal activity. Their job was to ensure that the only gambling going on in the City of Churches was gambling condoned by government. Hence the amazing scenes of a platoon in blue storming in to take down the names of those bold enough to have paid an entrance fee so they could compete for the title of champion.
Meanwhile, sitting at home in front of their computer screens, there were goodness knows how many South Australians betting dollars on hands with like minded souls around the world. Plenty of them I would guess because playing poker on the net is now a major past time. The Economist magazine recently reported that the listing of 23% of PartyGaming shares on the London Stock Exchange was expected to give the firm a market capitalisation of at least $US18 billion. That will make it one of the 100 biggest firms in Britain.
Australian Governments, desperately clinging to gambling as a major revenue source, appear unaware of the changes that the internet is bringing. For it is not only internet poker sites that are booming. There are sports books and casinos aplenty and a growing number of horse race punters have now discovered that the Betfair betting exchange (the English site Glug uses to calculate most of its Election Indicators) now operates on Australian races and that having up to 5% deducted from winnings beats the hell out of the 14% deducted by the TABs.

Tuesday, 7 June 2005

A Cautionary Tale for Political Mr Fixits

A trial started in Adelaide this week that should have the attention of political apparatchiks throughout the nation and from both sides of politics. Facing the court is a former ministerial adviser to the South Australian government and as details of the case unfold there are sure to be many Mr Fixits who think that “there but for the grace of God go I”.
Randall Ashbourne, 51, has pleaded not guilty to improperly using the influence of his position “to bring benefit to former state Labor backbencher and deputy leader Ralph Clarke” between 1 April and 21 November 2002. The allegation is that Mr Ashbourne offered Mr Clarke a seat on a government board if he agreed to drop a defamation suit he had brought against Attorney General Michael Atkinson.
With the trial just under way, this is not the time for commenting on the use by politicians of all stripes of jobs for the boys. Suffice it to say that the Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson should take particular notice of the potential consequences of trying to buy off an opponent with a cushy government job.