Monday, 31 August 2009

The press gallery herd has stampeded

Julia Gillard is no longer an untouchable. On Saturday the lads and lasses of the press gallery declared an end to her protected status. It was if there had been a meeting of the columnist’s collective to reach an agreed position.
Julia Gillard  — from Teflon coating to feet of clay? wrote Laurie Oakes in the Brisbane Courier Mail and the other News Limited tabloids. This long time herd leader found that suddenly the Deputy Prime Minister’s competence is being questioned. Two other veterans in Saturday columns were on the same track if not as pointed in their criticism.
Stimulus an item of faith Paul Kelly called it in The Australian,writing that the Rudd government’s $42 billion fiscal stimulus has now been exposed for its inefficiencies, cost overruns and lack of “value-for-money” — largely failings of the Gillard education package.
The headline Come election day, Rudd and co may get a lesson in the folly of self-aggrandisement above Tony Wright’s commentary in the Melbourne Age also spared the Education Minister but the questions about how clever it is to insist that schools receiving federal funds from the stimulus package put up signs saying so finally rest with her.
On Sunday in the Sydney Sun Herald, Michelle Grattan’s headline similarly gave the Prime Minister the spotlight — Rudd’s largesse a sign of the times for all to see — but the person in the Government who “has turned its stimulus building program into a long and shameless taxpayer-funded electoral advertisement” is clearly Ms Gillard. The story School signs break election law, says Chris Pyne — Education Minister Julia Gillard faces fresh problems with claims the signage requirements attached to her schools stimulus scheme could breach state electoral laws in this morning’s The Australian left absolutely no doubt about who is to blame.
Don’t provoke a cranky poodle was Malcolm Farr’s advice in theSydney Daily Telegraph on a number of policy incidents which have left Gillard, who also is Minister for Education, Employment, Workplace Relations, a touch embarrassed. To round out the weekend’s commentary for the Minister there was Glenn Milne’sPoodle’s bite may yet wound the government.

I interrupt this trip to London to bring you news from home …

It was understandable when South Australian Premier Mike Rann interrupted his tour of UK defence establishments to have a Guinness in Ireland with cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Getting the seve- time Tour de France winner back to Adelaide to lead his own new Radio Shack team in a race around the roads of South Australia is by way of being something of a public relations coup. If a small part of the Armstrong price was to leave the company of the merchants of military death to join his friend Lance, perhaps the world’s most famous cancer survivor, in addressing Dublin’s Livestrong Global Cancer Summit then so be it.
Being a Premier concerned with finding cancer treatments fits in every bit as well with an electoral image as does a man racing around the world to drum up defence jobs and next year’s state election will be within a couple of months of the Tour Down Under ending.
What was a surprise, however, was the way that the next day, when back in London under the guidance of his hosts BAE Systems Australia, Premier Rann again diverted from his study of solutions to current cyber security threats to have a few words to say about another local issue — the introduction of a register of lobbyists.
Without any explanation of why the decision was made or why its announcement could not wait until he returned home, the news was broken in that most modern of ways via Twitter.

The Adelaide Advertiser led with the story on Saturday: New code reins in lobbyists.
The SA State Government will restrict the activities of political lobbyists to guard against corruption, cronyism and conflicts of interest” — is how the paper put it without giving anything by way of background as to why the need but the story did point out that the South Australian laws would not be going as far as those promised recently by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.

The reason for the timing of this intervention from afar by the travelling Premier became clearer this morning when The Advertiseragain led with a story about lobbying — this time the tale of Labor lobbyist’s wife gets government job telling how a prominent Labor lobbyist’s wife has been appointed to the State Government’s top planning body, despite having limited development experience.
The Advertiser explains that Davina Quirke was appointed to the Development Policy Advisory Committee, the body responsible for advising the minister on planning changes, while her lobbyist husband, former State and Senate Labor member John Quirke has developer Makris Corporation as a client:

It all looks just a little too cosy and it certainly is not the kind of yarn that a Premier would like to have up and running as he gets in to full election campaigning mode.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

One to watch

It did not make the front this morning but watch this one progress to page one as the game of industrial bluff brings us closer to the last Saturday in September. Security guards win right to strike on AFL Grand Final day — Herald Sun this morning. Imagine the hysteria of a headline saying “Grand Final may be off”.

A funeral of solemnity and quiet pageantry

090830bostonglobefuneralKennedy funeral marked by solemnity and quiet pageantry - Boston Globe

Taylor sings tribute to Kennedy - At the close of his Thursday night show at Tanglewood, singer James Taylor paused to deliver a heartfelt remembrance of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. He told the packed house that Kennedy, a former trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, was an ardent fan of the music at Tanglewood and was instrumental in helping the BSO develop Seiji Ozawa Hall. His remarks were a brief segue into “Shed a Little Light,” a song about Martin Luther King written in the early 1970s that was included in a recent CD commemorating Barack Obama’s inauguration - Boston Globe website






Brumby embraces fire reforms - The Brumby Government will tomorrow announce its decision to accept all 51 of the Bushfire Royal Commission’s recommendations, legislating this year to make neighbourhood ”safer places” compulsory in fire-prone areas and revamping its ”stay or go” policy - Melbourne Sunday Age

Forgotten Australians

Forgotten’ children to get formal apology - The Federal Government will formally say sorry to the hundreds of thousands of people who were abused and neglected as children after being placed in institutions or foster care - Melbourne Sunday Age


Premier drowns sorrows with a lite on the hill - Premier Nathan Rees has gone in search of a little inspiration in Labor’s spiritual heartland. Yesterday, the leader downed a lite beer, or two, at the Coronation Hotel in Portland, near Bathurst - a district rich in ALP folklore - Sydney Sun Herald

Beef up Turnbull’s team - Glenn Milne writes in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph, tricky thing, reshuffles. Especially for Opposition Leaders.

Your Chance to question Premier Anna Bligh - Premier Anna Bligh could face a voter backlash over cronyism and corruption in a live online public debate this week - Brisbane Sunday Mail

Political life

For one night, the PM again - John Howard welcomed by those assembled at the Sydney Executive Business Lions Club charity dinner as a very special one of their own - Sydney Sun Herald

Brisbane travel bonanza for MPs - Federal MPs from today will receive more travel allowance to stay and eat in Brisbane than any other Australian capital city. The MPs will receive $364 per night to stay in Brisbane, $12 more than last year’s allowance. The next most expensive city is Sydney, where taxpayers fork out $356 per night - up $32 - for MPs’ stays - Sydney Sun Herald


Call for ALP links inquiry after Keppel plan approval - There are calls for an inquiry after a billion-dollar tourism plan by a developer who used Labor Party-linked lobbyists has been fast-tracked - Brisbane Sunday Mail


School leaving age to be lifted to 17 in Victoria - Sunday Melbourne Age

VCE faces axe for national education certificate - A paper created by the newly formed Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority and obtained by the Sunday Herald Sun reveals the transition to new national subjects and standards. It reveals all state and federal education ministers have now made a commitment to introduce a kindergarten-to-year 12 national curriculum. Until now, a national curriculum has been planned only up to year 10 -Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun

Foreign students

Slump in Indian student numbers - Indian student enrolments at Victoria’s universities are expected to plunge by up to 50 per cent next year following a spate of violent attacks in Melbourne - Sunday Melbourne Age

Cheating teenagers

L-plater lies in logbooks put practice rules in a spin - A third f young people surveyed by a NSW youth organisation have lied on their logbooks or plan to cheat on the requirement they complete the 120 hours of practice needed to earn a P-plate licence - Sydney Sun Herald

Safe sex

Teens warned on safe sex as infections rise - A surge in sexually transmissible infection rates has prompted the NSW Government to revive the safe-sex message for teenagers and young adults - Sydney Sun Herald

Rees wants to know your sexual history - The State Government is asking people to reveal how many sexual partners they’ve had in a confronting new campaign against sexually transmitted disease -Sydney Sunday Telegraph


If you pay peanuts… - Melissa Fyfe argues in the Melbourne Sunday Age that talented people are opting out of political life because of the sacrifices it demands.

Destiny is never a sure thing - Paul Daley in the Sydney Sun Heraldon the role of destiny in public life.

Rudd’s largesse a sign of the times for all to see - The Government has turned its stimulus building program into a long and shameless taxpayer-funded electoral advertisement, writes Michelle Grattan in the Sydney Sun Herald

A future free of UN meddling - Piers Akerman in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph explains why Australians should be grateful to United Nations special rapporteur on indigenous human rights James Anaya for the totally unrealistic picture he has painted of Australia’s Aborigines.



090830globeandmailTaliban claim victory over vote - Canadian Globe and Mail

US wants 20,000 more troops to fight Taliban - British and American soldiers to shoulder brunt of surge’s next phase - The Independent


In Somalia, troops for peace end up at war - African Union soldiers contend with a vague and underfunded mission with no cease-fire to enforce. Among the troops who have died, some apparently succumbed to illness due to malnutrition - Los Angeles Times


Chechnya and Its Neighbors Suffer a Relapse - Explosions and shootings have been a daily occurrence in the region all summer. Between June and August, 436 people have been killed, compared with 150 during the same months in 2008. And the number of attacks jumped to 452 from 265, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a private research group based in Washington - The New York Times

East Timor

Rift looms as Dili mourns dead - East Timor is under pressure to release an Indonesian citizen accused of leading one of the country’s worst massacres, as hundreds of East Timorese attended a ceremony yesterday remembering those who died in the fight for independence - Melbourne Sunday Age


Is this the end of the age of our social cohesion? - Discrepancies in recent poll results may be a symptom of increasing fragmentation in Canadian society, rather than of any fault in the methods of data collection. It is harder to find a representative sample when people actually have less and less in common - Toronto Globe and Mail


Hotels fight for survival - Of 30 hotels placed on the market in Queensland this year only a handful have sold, as brokers struggle to find buyers and buyers struggle to find lenders - Brisbane Sunday Mail


It’s not drought, it’s climate change, say scientists - Scientists studying Victoria’s crippling drought have, for the first time, proved the link between rising levels of greenhouse gases and the state’s dramatic decline in rainfall - Melbourne Sunday Age

Size trumps technology as big cars dent green gains - Australia’s enduring love affair with big cars means engine technology alone will not be enough to deliver necessary cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, a government report has warned - Melbourne Sunday Age


James Murdoch targets BBC ‘land-grabbing’ - The BBC needs taming and a radical overhaul of regulation is crucial to securing the future of UK broadcasting, says James Murdoch, the chief executive and chairman of News Corporation - London Daily Telegraph

Screening the same old dreary story - Michael Coulter argues in theMelbourne Sunday Age that public funding removes the imperative to make films we want to watch.

Seven ‘sorry’ for Bulger ad - Channel Seven has been forced to apologise after using the horrific death of British toddler James Bulger to advertise its police drama City Homicide. The network used closed-circuit TV images of the two-year-old being abducted in a promotion for last Monday’s program, which was loosely based on the Bulger case. James’ mother, Denise Fergus, has criticised Seven’s decision to use the clip - Melbourne Sunday Age



Obese teenagers opt for surgeon’s knife to fight fat - Melbourne Sunday Age

Law and order

Satellites catch out park perverts - Nine paroled pedophiles have been sent back to jail after a satellite tracking system found them loitering near schools and parks - Sydney Sunday Telegraph


Breeders brace for howls of protest - An expose on the dark side of dog breeding is expected to incite outrage. Australia’s main body for pedigree dogs, the Australian National Kennel Council, has appointed a public relations officer to deal with media interest from a BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, scheduled to show on ABC1 on September 10 - Melbourne Sunday Age


Medicare’s $1m doctors cash in - More than a thousand doctors claimed more than $1 million in Medicare benefits last year - with one GP alone claiming $1.4 million Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun

The drink

Queensland bans vodka tubes - A trendy vodka drink called Go Tubes, that comes in a brightly coloured, toothpaste-like tube, has been banned in Queensland - Brisbane Sunday Mail