Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

John Brogden Quits Politics

Today's news that former NSW Liberal leader John Brogden has decided to quit politics altogether, following his deposal as leader and subsequent suicide attempt, came as a surprise; though in retrospect, it should not have done. Clearly, the same conservative forces that saw to Brogden's deposal would not have been happy about his initial pledge that he would hold on to his seat, much less his affirmation of interest in one day regaining the top job. These same forces are, no doubt, plotting the pre-selection of their preferred candidate as I write. Also in no doubt is the fact that the Liberal Left are now dead in the water.

Not so long ago (though currently in NSW politics, anything past two months ago seems like aeons), my partner suggested to me that John Brogden was `like a Mark Latham figure for the NSW Liberal Party' (this was at the time where Latham was seen as the party's saviour). It was an interesting comment. Like Latham, Brogden was a young, somewhat iconoclastic leader with many progressive ideas that reflected his party's original charter but clashed with the views of many influential party members. And look what happened to both men.

Perhaps Brogden was down south and caught Latham's speech at Melbourne University yesterday. Even if he didn't, he'd surely agree with Latham's assessment of the Australian political system as `fundamentally sick and broken'.

Don't get me wrong. This is a political system I actively participate in. But here we have two young, idealistic - yes, undoubtedly flawed but undoubtedly talented individuals, on the political scrapheap in the prime of their lives. It behoves all of us who participate in organised politics to do something to address the problems in the system. I hesitate to say `before it's too late'.

Brendan Nelson: F for Grammar

AM, ABC 702 about 8:45 this morning
BRENDAN NELSON (Federal Education Minister (on a possible to return to an outcomes based system of education in Australian schools:Well look, not everything that occurred in the past is worthy of leaving there, and it's interesting that when you go around the country and this benchmark assessment of the primary school curriculum, Queensland and South Australia is very strong in primary school physics, whereas Tasmania and Victoria it's considered to be quite weak. South Australia is the strongest in mathematics and New South Wales also, but Tasmania is struggling.

Stick to hockey, Brenno (yeah, I know you've all seen it ... but it's funny. :) )

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Brave New Workplace

Last night's 4 Corners (yes, the ABC again - I don't deliberately spruik the ABC, I just find their stuff the best and most reliably balanced on TV) contained probably the first comprehensive dissection of both the Howard Government's industrial relations reforms, and the union campaign to battle them. It's well worth watching when it's repeated at 11pm on Wednesday night, as well as on ABC Digital - or there is, as always, transcript.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Your ABC, My 2 Cents Worth

Given the Federal Government's review of the `adequacy' (ha!) of funding for the ABC, the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance have launched a campaign to draw attention to the consistent underfunding of the ABC, Our ABC - The Eyes and Ears of Australia.

Having worked at the venerable Aunty myself, I can testify to the atrocious state of affairs there. `Underfunding' would imply there's any money. I've seen an entire studio full of radio professionals huddled around a single microphone because the only other one for the task was being borrowed by another radio station. More recently, there's been severe cuts to the ABC's flagship current affairs radio shows, AM, PM and The World Today. That's not even counting the fact that the ABC manages to run four national radio networks, 60 local radio stations, Radio Australia, two TV stations, a website, three Internet radio services and two TV stations.

The campaign is being launched on Monday, October 10th at 10:30am at the Museum of Sydney (corner of Bridge and Phillip St) - RSVP 1300 656 512.

Or, if you can't make it, drop your local MP a line - the campaign website has contact details for all MPs.

Think about a media world without the ABC - without Lateline, Stateline, Insiders, 4 Corners, the 7:30 Report, Inside Business ...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Latham Diaries: One Week On

It may be hard to believe, but it's less than one week since the release of The Latham Diaries. Though discussion of the diaries has dominated debate for two weeks, we've only had a chance to read it for one. Since the book itself - not the News Ltd-picked excerpts - have been available, the reaction has begun to change.

The most sensible and balanced interepretations have come from Mike Steketee in The Australian (the irony!) and Michael Duffy, Latham's biographer, in The Herald. Duffy's analysis is particularly apt if read in light of Latham's belief, confirmed in his Lateline interview the other day, in the so-called `Iron Law of Oligarchy':
"Michels (1911) came to the conclusion that the formal organization of
bureaucracies inevitably leads to oligarchy, under which organizations originally idealistic and democratic eventually come to be dominated by a small, self-serving group of people who achieved positions of power and responsibility. This can occur in large organizations because it becomes physically impossible for everyone to get together every time a decision has to be made. Consequently, a small group is given the responsibility of making decisions. Michels believed that the people in this group would become enthralled with their elite positions and more and more inclined to make decisions that protect their power rather than represent the will of the group they are supposed to serve. In effect Michels was saying that bureaucracy and democracy do not mix. Despite any protestations and promises that they would not become like all the rest, those placed in positions of responsibility and power often come to believe that they too are indispensable, and more knowledgeable than those they serve. As time goes on, they become further removed from the rank and file.

I hope that, now that the hysteria about Latham's memoirs has subsided, some of his concerns can be addressed. Latham is, was not, and never shall be, the ideal human being. But the more I read, the more I am convinced that the most dangerous thing a member of the ALP can do is not to read his book.

`Small' Government?

Alan Kohler's editorial on Inside Business today was so interesting that it bears summarising (you may well have missed it, having kicked a hole through your TV after Andrew Bolt's idiotic comments about the Stolen Generations being `a myth' at the end of Insiders. Come down my way, Andy. A lot of my mates are myths).

The Federal Budget Surplus for 2005, published on Friday, revealed that the May estimate was out by over 50% or $4.4bn. As Kohler pointed out, the chief accountant of any major corporation would be sacked over a mistake that big - Peter Costello's still plugging away for the job of CEO. But more importantly - government spending is out of control. Spending increased by 7.5% last year, nearly the largest increase in Australian history. This comes even despite the Liberal party's ostensible commitment to `small government', and its neverending criticisms of the `big government' approach of previous administrations such as the Whitlam Government. Interestingly, the same thing is happening under the Bush Administration, which has increased spending by 5% every year it has been in power. For all the rhetoric about `being the one to trust' with the copious amount of money we shovel their way, the Howard Government demonstrate about as much fiscal discipline as an obese five year old with a fistful of twenty dollar notes at a cinema lolly counter.

I am certainly no opponent of big government. I have a crazy old fashioned notion that governments are elected to take care of their people. But where is this money going? Is it going to assist the mentally ill, and by extension, reduce crime, suicide, and domestic violence? No. Is it going towards strengthening public healthcare (unless you count the 30% private healthcare rebate, and frankly, I don't)? No. Is it going towards bridging the ever-increasing gap between the rich and poor? Doesn't look like it.

Last year, amidst all the financial gerrymandering (yep friends - the election was less than a year ago), a few brave souls dared to suggest that the government were throwing away the chance of a lifetime in million dollar bundles. One day - in much the same way as people did the Roaring Twenties during the Great Depression - we might well look on these days with a very wry smile.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Industrial Relations: Back on the Boil

I haven't seen it reported anywhere, but very quietly, the Leader of the House Tony Abbott issued an announcement last week that a parliamentary sitting week has been added in November this year to urgently implement the bloody wonderful agenda the government has to ram through this year (and set aside the nasty bits until everyone's busy tucking into their Christmas shopping). In other words - hand over industrial relations and nobody gets hurt.

Yes, industrial relations. Remember? Before Telstra, before all the other hubub that has successfully drowned out this tawdry little topic that led to the most spectacular drops in the Howard Government's popularity in its 9 year history? This excellent article from Australian Policy Online may help to refresh your memory - and remind you why we've still got an extremely important battle to fight, and it's looming ever closer. The government are struggling to put it off, but they can't put it off forever.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Cranky Franky Meets His Waterloo

What had initially appeared to be a minor spot fire for Minister for Redfern-Waterloo Frank Sartor has now proven to be a blazing row. Sartor, whose control of the controversial portfolio has been vexed from the start, has now told an Estimates hearing that he `never wanted the job in the first place'. Meanwhile, the Aboriginal Housing Company, whose vision for the iconic Aboriginal precinct "The Block" Sartor has consistently opposed, are intensifying their push for Sartor's sacking from the portfolio. It ain't pretty.

The approach on the Opposition side has been quite startling. You will remember that at the time of the Redfern riots which (ostensibly) sparked the formation of the Redfern Waterloo Authority over which Sartor presides, then-Opposition Leader John Brogden deemed the only solution for The Block to be bulldozing the entire area. Instead, Peter Debnam has named himself Shadow Minister for Redfern Waterloo and committed to retaining Aboriginal housing at The Block - something Sartor has had trouble doing. This is a major turnaround on the Opposition's part. It remains to be seen, however, whether Debnam's position on the highly contentious needle exchange centre at Redfern will prove as intractable as his convinction to close down the Kings Cross injecting room.

Details here

Whistle Blown on Nola Fraser

The Independent Commission Against Corruption has delivered its final verdict on the claims of misconduct at Camden and Campbelltown Hospitals made by so-called `whistleblower nurse' and Liberal candidate for Macquarie Fields Nola Fraser, dismissing them as false and based on "rumour and innuendo ... Not only were they denied by the alleged wrongdoers and not supported by any documentary or electronic evidence obtained by the commission, but none of the more than 100 persons interviewed … claimed to have any first-hand knowledge of the alleged wrongdoing."

As today's Sydney Morning Herald puts it, `It is a damning indictment for the Opposition, for whom Ms Fraser ran as a candidate in the Macquarie Fields byelection', but also `the Government, which took the claims seriously enough to sack the executive and board of an entire area health service.'

I would hope that this puts paid to Fraser and the NSW Opposition's ridiculous ongoing claims that the ICAC is `in the pocket' of the NSW government (frankly, if they were, they would have assured that this verdict came out before rather than after the Macquarie Fields by-election).

May I also gloat just a little in predicting all of this.

Thankyou. ;)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

It's Time?

After Tampa, the full sale of Telstra, the war in Iraq, Cornelia Rau, industrial relations, interest rate lies, and all the rest, could it be petrol prices that finishes them off?

Grant Goldman show, 2SM 9:39pm today:

Talkback caller, Connie (middle aged woman) complains about the government's claim that they can do nothing about the high petrol prices. She says we put the government in there and should be able to kick them out. Goldman says we have to wait a while before we can do this. He says the mood in the electorate seems to be beginning to say that it's `time for a change again', and that this happens after a government gets a bit tired. Connie says everyone she has talked to is very dissatisfied about the Howard Government and the excessive power they wield but feel there is nothing they can do.

Eighteen months, people. Eighteen months ...

Monday, September 19, 2005

That Certain Sartorial Something ...

NSW Minister for Redfern Waterloo Frank Sartor has comprehensively put his foot in it, having apparently made some rather boneheaded comments about Aboriginal Housing Company chief Mick Mundine (uncle of boxer Anthony) on Sydney's Koori Radio this morning. To wit:

SARTOR: I couldn't be more genuine about this, but - you know, the good thing about this is we're at least having a public debate, Mickey and I. It's good to see. I'm glad he wrote this long letter. Got him off his backside for a change. Hehee. He won't like that much, but I should say that to him more. `Get off your backside, Mick, and bring your black arse in here to talk to me about it.'

PRESENTER: That's not the way that a Minister should speak publically, should it?

SARTOR: No ... Mick and I joke with each other all the time. And I brought my white arse out there to talk to him. So let's just talk. Let's just talk is all I'm saying, you know?

A not-particularly-happy-in-any-way-shape-or-form NSW Premier Morris Iemma has had `heated' words with Sartor over the comment, which Sartor dismissed as a `friendly jibe', but he has so far refused to resign from the portfolio.


Fabian Society Event: A More Diverse Media: Can the Club Be Busted?

A More Diverse Media: Can the Club Be Busted?
Event date: 21 September 2005
Location: Theatrette at NSW Parliament House
Time: 6pm to 7:30pm

As the Howard Government prepares to overhaul Labor's cross media laws we ask what needs to be done to open up Australia's small media club to more players and a greater diversity of voices and points of view?

Our speakers will consider what the new reforms may mean, and how to genuinely invigorate an homogenised and concentrated media.


Mark Scott - Editor, Sydney Morning Herald

Julianne Schultz - Editor Griffith Review and ex-ABC digital strategy

Andy Nehl - TV Producer (Chaser Decides & CNNNN) and Head of TV, AFTRS
Chaired by Branch Committee Member Tony Moore. 7pm to 7:30pm in the Theatrette at NSW Parliament House.

Should be interesting - especially given this hairy little court case that's currently playing itself out (I use the term `little' advisedly) which could potentially be a fly in the ointment for the government's cross media ownership plans.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Sober Assessment of the Triple-M By-Elections

As predicted, Labor easily retained all three seats contested in yesterday's by-elections.

Maroubra, without a Liberal candidate or a clear sentiment towards the Greens, was the most easily retained.

Possibly the most startling result was in Marrickville where, even despite the predictions of an upset win by the Greens, Labor candidate Carmel Tebbutt's primary vote actually improved on Andrew Refshauge's in the 2003 NSW election.

The most concerning result for the NSW government is clearly Macquarie Fields, where there was a 13% swing against the government. Given that the largest individual swings were at booths taking in housing estate areas, I'd say this has more to do with the Macquarie Fields riots earlier this year than the release of the Mark Latham diaries, as some have suggested. It's still hard to say exactly how representative of wider trends this result might be.

All in all, despite the negativity of some media (and, as usual, the plain inaccuracy of a couple of outlets, which I won't even bother linking), a pretty strong result for the Iemma government which - as Iemma said himself last night, and which it's very easy to forget - is a mere five weeks old.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Labor Triumphant in Triple M By-Elections

Ok readers. Brace yourselves for the unvarnished truth. Minotaur is just a little pissed on beer paid for by one of the candidates in the Triple M By-elections and well chuffed by said candidate's triumphs over various smear campaigns by at least one fierce opposition candidate. Fortunately, said candidate appears not only to have won, but to have won on primary votes, an absolutely phenomenal result that has justified your poor Minotaur's decision to work a 7 day week which involved huddling in local train stations arguiing for the local Labor candidate, for whom Minotaur deeply believed in.

I also remind you that controversial Liberal MP David Clarke will be Monica Attard's guest on Sunday Profile on ABC 702 this week. Expect interesting stuff - more so if, as rumoured, openly gay mother of two Penny Sharpe takes Carmel Tebbutt's seat in the Upper House.

(As we've now conclusively won, and we can put aside our tribal differences, I can now report, and chuckle, about the Greens scrutineer who told me about the bumper sticker that is apparently being distributed at the moment that says `The Christian Right Is Neither'. ;) )

Nationals Foreshadow VSU Battle

The Nationals have passed a motion at their Federal Council meeting calling for changes to the Voluntary Student Unionism bill permitting universities to charge a fee for student amenities. Don't mistake this for a stepdown on the issue, but what it may do is vindicate the very risky position Labor has taken, of abandoning its support for the principle of VSU in order to woo the Nationals and other potential dissidents into supporting alterate funding models that ensure campus amenities do not die off altogether. Such an idea has its merits, but could leave Labor with a bath bereft of both baby and bathwater if we have another rubble from Barnaby and co. Implicitly, it also endorses the ludicrous idea that student unions have even the remotest connection with trade unions in anything other than name. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's a good thing they didn't call Medicare `The Health Union', otherwise the government would be using that as the perfect excuse to get rid of it. It's semantics, pure and simple.

Details thisaway

Latham: Ends and Odds

The Enough Rope website now has the full (official) transcript of the Mark Latham interview. Last night's interview on Lateline (of which, I regret to say, I missed the majority ... let me just point to the phrase ` towing the company line' and yet again whinge about the dwindling quality of ABC transcripts. Whinge whinge. Thank you.)

I think I could start an entire blog called `My Musings on the Latham Diaries'. For the good of everyone, I won't. But I'll summarise my thoughts thusly. I've always considered one of the most insightful human fables to be the Emperor's New Clothes. To a certain extent, we all operate by a moral code that involves strenuously denying the nakedness of ourselves and others. We know what goes on. We all toil on through a tide of secrets of which everyone acknowledges the existence. When someone - like Latham - suddenly leaps out of the crowd and points out not only that the Emperor is naked, but so is everybody, including himself - the power of this purely psychological set of robes we use to cover ourselves, our political parties, and many of our social constructs, becomes painfully apparent.

What are the ethics of doing this? I'm just not sure. Perhaps we're in the middle of finding out.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Latham: Odds And Ends

An edited transcript of the Enough Rope interview is now available at The Age website (caveat emptor - it's clearly not a professional job, all the ums and ah's have been left in. While the ABC seem to have employed monkeys chained to typewriters for their transcripts recently, this is far worse).

Meanwhile, Julia Gillard, attending this morning's EOWA event at Darling Harbour, has made undoubtedly the most eloquent and diplomatic statement on the Latham Diaries so far (she would, you might say - she's the one Latham said should be leading the party). Seriously, to give Gillard her due, she performed the extraordinary balancing act of acknowledging the gravity and substance of Latham's allegations, pledging support for both Latham and Beazley, expressing sadness over Latham's decision to release the diaries in the first place, and ruling out a leadership challenge. The text is available at Margo Kingston's webdiary.

Paul Kelly and Michael Harvey's long interview for The Australian is now online and, while it reiterates some of what was in the Enough Rope interview, is still well worth reading.

I might add that it's rich for 2UE's Steve Price to be whinging about Latham giving him a slap for perpetuating the allegations of the existence of a sallacious buck's night video, based on nothing more than a caller to his show who later turned out to be talking bollocks. On what basis are you pissed off, Pricey???

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Latham: The Aftermath

It's an hour after ABC's Enough Rope aired its interview with Mark Latham and my head is still spinning. For one, it was completely unexpected - there I was, waiting for my daily dose of Lateline and - KABOOM.

KABOOM indeed.

It was a surreal experience, somehow like a long gone friend coming to you in a dream - irrevocably different, distant, half-friendly, half mocking, insightful yet inscrutable. Was I apprehensive? Of course I was. Yet I wanted Latham to speak in his own words, something he has not done in eight months. It's sometimes hard to remember that everything we have read of him since then has been coloured somehow; recontextualised. Here, we had the unvarnished, straight-from-the-horses mouth Latham version.

As I expected, I agreed with a good deal of what Latham had to say. The ALP's fortress of fiefdoms is rich for reform. Some of the people he named as out-and-out ratbags deserved the slug in the guts. Some, demonstrably, did not. Something inside me sobbed and sank when Latham said he hadn't spoken to Gough Whitlam since leaving politics. The gasp was audible when I heard Tony Abbott was the only one who sent Latham a letter of condolence when he left Parliament. And who would have thought Big Kim would steal the line of the night - the one about `Don't worry if you lose the election - at least you get to go home with Janine, Howard has to go home with Jannette'? In describing That Handshake, Latham demonstrated some of the spark and rapport with the - for want of a better term - audience, which had biographers constantly describing him in terms of reaching beyond or over Parliament and towards the ordinary people in a way that few contemporary politicians were able to do.

Denton didn't shy away. He didn't go soft on Latham. When the transcript appears (it could take some time, given the News Ltd injunction that already delayed the show by two hours), it will make fascinating reading.

There was something very sad about the interview. Denton tried to bring this out; Latham resisted. But the point he was making was correct. Here is a 44 year old man, bursting with good ideas and vision, retired in early middle age. What kind of system allowed this to happen? Latham may be dismissed as a Labor rat, but might this be shooting the messenger? What if this is a shock to the system bringing on the sort of renewal Labor badly needs?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Telstra Through The Senate as Barnaby Rubbles

T'was a historic day in the Senate today, for a number of reasons. The legislation enabling the full sale of Telstra was passed, 37 votes to 35, the 37th being a queasy Barnaby Joyce, who had earlier been in hospital with stress headaches, and who can blame the bloke? He's going to be slapping his forehead for the rest of his life. True, I guess when you have Bouncing Bill Heffernan waiting to kneecap you outside every meeting your definition of `constituency' changes pretty quickly from `80% of ordinary Queenslanders' to `National Farmers Federation with $$$ flashing in their eyes'.

In an extraordinary example of the Howard Government Not exercising unnecessary control over the Senate and Not abusing its powers, all opposition debate was gagged to allow the legislation to be rammed through at top speed. This comes despite all observers agreeing the full sale is a year off at the very least, given Telstra's atrocious share price. has a very interesting piece of analysis comparing the full sale of Telstra to that other contentious battle still looming on the horizon - industrial relations reforms. As Shane Wright argues, even with a Senate majority, the full sale of Telstra has cost the government a hefty $3bn bribe. How many other Joyces will the government attempt to appease to ram through other contentious legislation? Compared to IR, Telstra may prove to be a mere spot fire.

(I bloody hope so ...)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Your Tax Dollars Hard At Work

According to 2GB's Luke Bona, Sky News' coverage of Parliamentary Question Time caught Tony Abbott on camera with his finger lodged up left nostril `up to the first knuckle' today.

Now that I have at least three copies of the screenshot of Sky News proclaiming George W. Bush `One Of The Worst Disasters To Hit The US', who out there can provide me with one of Abbott picking a winner, eh???

A Four Leaf Clover Overlooked at Town Hall

The control wielded by Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and her bloc of independents at City of Sydney Council has been weakened overnight with the deposal of her deputy, John McInerney, to be replaced by Labor councillor Verity Firth.

Moore, who as the long-serving Independent Member for Bligh in NSW Parliament was a tireless campaigner for greater transparency and public deliberation in policymaking, has sparked controversy during her 18 month tenure as mayor for pulling in the opposite direction and, according to many, running scared from big business interests; most recently refusing to ban work on building sites on public holidays, despite similar bans in surrounding councils. Such was apparently the reason behind Greens councillor Chris Harris's decision to withdraw his support from Moore's bloc, forcing a spill of the Deputy Mayor position.

Moore was elected following the backlash from Labor's notorious and disastrous amalgamation of Sydney and South Sydney Councils, and Harris is amongst those who has criticised her for retaining her seat in parliament and the mayorship. What about the future? An imminent redistribution of Bligh will tailor the electorate to Moore's demographic, shedding the increasingly affluent areas such as Pyrmont that are becoming less sympathetic to her - it will be interesting to see whether she considers it worthwhile holding on to both roles. If she doesn't, there's a good possibility that Labor could win Town Hall - finally.

Steve Fielding on Telstra: NO SALE

Family First senator Steve Fielding has announced that he will not be supporting the full sale of Telstra.

Fielding, who, before Barnaby Joyce was confirmed as the final member of the new Senate, looked like holding balance of power, has been somewhat of an unknown quantity so far. A Federal MP I know says his office has been a bit of a shambles - it's been hard to get hold of him, let alone get a position from him on any issue. Nevertheless, on 2SM this morning, Fielding cold-called Grant Goldman shortly after a very enlightening interview with Independent MP Tony Windsor and extensively detailed his position on Telstra, saying he is not convinced the sale will be good for families, or that families think it is a good idea. Fielding also said governments must provide essential services such as telecommunications, and the government has allowed Telstra to begun to be run as a business rather than an essential service, which means unprofitable areas such as the outer suburbs and regional areas may be cut back. Most importantly, Fielding unequivocally said the full sale of Telstra will not be getting his support.

If the ever-unpredictable Barnaby Joyce officially pulls the plug, the government are sunk. Who would have thought having control of the Senate would be such a shit?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Who is Scott Parkin?

Why is it that of all the supposedly numerous terrorists scurrying round Australia, the government decided that American anti-corporate activist Scott Parkin - was the one to get both alert and alarmed about?

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Parkin `failed [the Dept of Immigration's] Character Test'. Attorney General Philip Ruddock has refused to say exactly why this has come three months into a six month visa which was presumably given lawfully. As his lawyer told AM this morning (transcript's not up yet), the only explanation can be his participation in the protest against the Forbes CEO conference, given that Parkin is a well known opponent of the Halliburton corporation.

But who exactly is Scott Parkin, and why is he so bloody dangerous?

I did a bit of Googling. Yes, I found a few articles by Parkin opposing Hallburton (such as this). I also found links to the The Houston Global Awareness Collective, a group for which Parkin is a community organiser, and whose stated aims are to get Halliburton out of Iraq, to get America out of Iraq and Afghanistan and discourage them from invading other countries, to support community based mobilization, and to advocate for direct action and popular education as tools for social change.

Are we scared yet?

I found a few articles about his attendance at protests in the US. He's also been doing some workshops up and down the east coast of Australia on direct action, including with the Australian Greens. He appears to be affiliated with a group called `SmartMeme, who describe themselves as `a group of skilled, creative and dedicated change agents ... [working] to build a culture of strategy, vision, and change, connecting struggles for democracy, peace, justice, and ecological sanity.'

Crikey ... I'm shaking in by boots here! This crazy mother was obviously over here to blow up the lot of us! Shee-yut! Stop the hunt for Osama! He's shaved his beard and changed his name!

All of this hyperbole is, of course, a backwards way of saying ... how on earth is the Federal Government getting away with deporting this bloke? Half of Newtown fits this bloke's profile, and I'm not sweating when I'm looking at their backpack on the bus. This is an utter joke and a travesty of justice. And this is happening BEFORE the new, stronger, better, fatter anti-terrorism laws come in ... I'll leave you with this frightening thought from yesterday's Insiders

PHILIP RUDDOCK: The fact is that visas can be revoked on character grounds. Character grounds can go to a person's criminal record or they can go to broader issues of security and if there is an adverse security assessment that's not a matter about which I would be able to comment.

BARRIE CASSIDY: His supporters say, though, he's a '60s peacenik and no threat to security.

PHILIP RUDDOCK: I'm not going to comment on matters about which assessments are made by competent agencies. The only point I'd make is that in relation to those matters there are provisions by which the decisions can be challenged if people are inclined to do that.

DIMIA, a `competent agency'? AHAHAHAAAA !!! There was always the possibility I'd leave Australia in disgust (my brother already has), but now I know the truth: we'll all gradually get booted out til there's nobody left but Liberal voters.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Telstra Tequila

It promises to be a great morning for Senate watchers - and increasingly alarmed Telstra watchers - with a gun-shy Barnaby Joyce un-rubbling, according to the major Sunday papers, and withdrawing his support for the full sale, and ABC's Inside Business to do a special on the Telstra gymnastics at 9:45.

I belatedly note this cracker of an interview Kerry O'Brien conducted with John Howard on the Telstra sale on the 7:30 Report this week. Ah, always so nice to see someone getting Howard all hot under the collar ... as Mike Carlton noted in his column this weekend, `Viewers got five"Well, Kerrys" on Wednesday night, as well as a bunch of "Hang on, Kerrys", "Kerry, Kerrys" and even a "No, no, no, I'm sorry, Kerry."'

Update: Well, Alan Kohler didn't disappoint, with a succinct summation of the situation and a curt editorial, in which he attempted to work out exactly who had been made more pissed off by the past week - Telstra execs, Telstra shareholders, Nationals senators (didn't get a chance to sample Barnaby Joyce's spray over on Channel 9 but the transcript's here), ASIC? The only certainty he could identify was that it's been a shitty week for one John W. Howard, and that the `2007 election might be too soon'. Phwoar!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Triple-M By-Election Hijinks

Well, it's now only a week away from the Triple-M By-Elections - Marrickville, Maroubra and Macquarie Fields.
- Last night's Stateline gave the lowdown on the Macquarie Fields election, the high point being Nola Fraser being introduced to local commuters as `Nola Fraser The Whistleblower Nurse' (sounded a little bit like Cherry Ames, Frontier Psychiatrist or Julia Longbottom, Girl Detective), the low point being the fact that Labor candidate Steve Chaytor is apparently a robot programmed by a greeting card company.

- Meanwhile in Marrickville, despite being credited with an above average chance of winning the seat, the Greens seem determined not to release any policies or alternatives, instead concentrating on the time honoured method of the big sook. Send the government a message! We're not going to take it! And ... um ... we're really cranky!

- Finally, in Maroubra, after an, ahem, spirited pre-selection battle comprising several of the local figures whose noses were knocked out of joint by the N40ing of Peter Garrett into Laurie Brereton's old seat of Kingsford Smith, things seem to be proceeding extremely quietly and without incident (not surprising, given the lack of Greens and Liberal side shows).

Will the by-elections really be the baptism of fire for the Iemma Government? Yes and no. Let's not forget - no matter how much the NSW Opposition argue that Iemma was a minister for seven years so played some major role in whatever state it's in now, NSW has been Carr's World for nine years. His autocracy was famous.

Maroubra may as well be written off right now - unless there's a late resurgence from the Fishing Party or the Christian Democrats, it's barely worth calling a contest. Macquarie Fields is of course the only seat in which the governing party and their opposition are both contesting candidates, and it is in the swing the party wins there that could be the most crucial in judging the future prospects of the NSW Labor government - far less so than Marrickville which, even despite its greater susceptibility to falling out of government hands (something I suspect it won't do - similar suggestions of a `Greenwash' of inner city Labor held seats during the Federal election did not eventuate), is not demographically representative of the greater majority of NSW seats.

Ah, don't you love an election?

Friday, September 09, 2005

More on the Rotten-ness in the State of the NSW Libs

It's taken some time, but the elusive David Clarke was finally coaxed out of hiding this week, but may want to go back in as ABC's Stateline tonight promises to probe further into the steaming heap of factional nastiness that is the NSW Liberal Party ... 7:30pm tonight, and 12:00 noon tomorrow with the immaculately coiffed Quentin Dempster.

Update: As it happens, this interview proved to be not much more than the same doorstop ambush already played on PM, to which I already linked above.

Possibly more interesting was the comments of George Brandis on Lateline:
GEORGE BRANDIS: I read what Mrs Forsyth and Mr Hockey had to say and can I just make a couple of observations. The Australian people don't like extremist politics, whether it's the hard left of the Labor Party or extreme right of the Liberal Party. They don't like it. They don't like their politicians to be on the fringe, they like them to be in the main stream. Unless they're satisfied that their politicians are in the mainstream, they won't vote for them. Can I observe that neither will they vote for parties that are warring among each other that are cannibalising one another. So I hope the Liberal Party in NSW picks itself up. Mr Debnam has assured us that that's his objective, which of course it is. I'm sure he'll heed the wise advice we had from the Prime Minister as recently as yesterday that the Liberal Party is not only a broad church, but a broad church with its doors wide open. There is room and a necessary place for all points of view on the broad Liberal conservative spectrum and if one were ever to try exclude the other, then it's the Liberal Party corporately that would suffer. Now the NSW Liberals have, I think, a tremendous opportunity to send a signal to the people of NSW they've leaded that wisdom. They've got State preselections coming up in the next 6-12 months, ,they've got a Senate preselection coming up in the next 6-12 months and I think if they're wise they'll use the opportunity of those preselections to show that they have reunited, that they've stopped cannibalising one another and that they're ready for government.

Human sacrifice and cannibalism? Hmm, the plot thickens! ;).

I also hereby start my Broad Church-O-Meter. Peter Debnam started the bidding, Brandis weighs in with not one but two Broad Churches - let's see the Libs push it into double figures!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Telegraph Brogden Allegations Dismissed as Trash

Though this made front page news on the Sydney Morning Herald this week - as indeed it should have - Media Watch's revelations that significant sections of the Daily Telegraph article that inspired John Brogden to attempt to take his own life was fabricated and a large part of the remainder came solely from Liberal Party sources and could not be backed up has made a surprisingly small impact on the blogosphere.

Contrary to the erroneous beliefs of some - such as Matt Price, who perpetuated the misconception on this week's Insiders - Brogden was not only aware of the contents of the article prior to the attempt, but had just been asked to comment on them, reportedly in a pretty aggressive fashion.

The question now is - where to from here? It seems perfectly within Brogden's rights to sue the Daily Telegraph for defamation or libel. This would be no open-and-shut case. Brogden would be far from willing to see his private life combed over by lawyers. However, pinching a journalist on the bum is one thing - being accused of asking two journalists for a threesome only to have those two journalists deny not only the claim but disavow the `quotes' apparently given on their behalf to the Telegraph is quite another.

We all know that certain journalists - not only for the Telegraph - are unashamed mouthpieces for the Liberal party. But when an entire newspaper becomes the mouthpiece for one side of a NSW Liberal Party factional war ... (and why am I saying this so often lately?) you really have to start worrying for democracy.

Return of a Repaired Mind

Have you ever been delirious?

This week, at about the same time as Barrie Cassidy was verbally clobbering Tony Abbott into incoherent submission (good one Bazza!), a bunch of nasty germs (a faction, if you will - perhaps even a right-wing faction) were mobilizing in my head, knocking me near-unconscious for days. This included two nights of delerium. Delerium is a deeply stupid state to be in. You feel absolutely compelled to do something very important. The first night of delerium was taken up mainly by Oompa Loompas (probably because Willy Wonka was on TV). I regret to report that, from what little I remember of it, I think I believed I was a union leader for Oompa Loompas. Yes friends, that's delerium.

The second night was probably worse. Given the current dilemma in NSW politics, I suddenly felt it my duty to redistribute the seat of Pittwater, despite that a) John Brogden has not left the seat b) there is no need for the seat to be abolished c) I have no knowledge whatsoever of the Pittwater area. No matter. It had to be done, and my mind kept me awake most of the night doing it. It was all very strange.

Thus, it's probably a good thing that I've been absent from the blogosphere for most of this week ... from here on in, I promise: no Oompa Loompas.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Quote of the Week

"I have never met [Sophie] Panopoulos, but there was something oddly familiar when I saw her barging around on television this week. She reminded me of Margaret Thatcher, which is to say bum in the air and chest thrust forward, like a constipated duck being taught to march by a drill sergeant."

Mike Carlton, you rock

Friday, September 02, 2005

Patricia Forsythe Speaks Out

Tonight's edition of Quentin Dempster's Stateline should be fascinating viewing, with NSW Liberal MP Patricia Forsythe to speak out about the factional war going on within the NSW Liberal Party at the moment. I've heard a short excerpt of the interview on ABC 702 - it sounds like she will pull no punches, confirming claims that some moderate MPs had pre-selections threatened in return for their support for certain candidates.

In particular, Forsythe names ultra-conservative MP David Clarke as a ringleader, and warned that Clarke would alienate many of his colleagues with his far-right wing views, such as his push to ban abortion. Clarke, you may recall, has an ambitious young staffer named Alex Hawke - ring any bells?

Good on Forsythe for speaking out - the interview will be on ABC TV tonight at 7:30pm.

UPDATE - Our old mate Grahame Morris also appeared on Lateline to confirm the existence of a small but growing far religious right faction in the NSW Liberal Party - in doing so, denying new NSW Liberal Leader Peter Debnam, who rushed to pour cold water on the idea.

Telstra: Playing the Devil's Advocate

Ol' Sol Trujillo really didn't know what he was getting into when he took Ziggy Switkowski's old job at Telstra, did he? In other jurisdictions, it's simple - you get in, you slim it down, deregulate the pants off it, earnings go up, shareholders smile, winners are grinners, you move on. Aussieland isn't just any country, and Telstra's just not any company.

Let's play devil's advocate for a moment, though. Phil Burgess, one of Trujillo's `three amigos' (a racially tinged monicker I'm sure would have gone over a treat in America) has earned the ire of Peter `Turnbull? Malcolm Turnbull? Never Heard Of Him' Costello and John Howard for saying he wouldn't recommend Telstra shares to his own mother.

Is this surprising? Should it be? Only a few weeks ago, Finance Minister Nick Minchin conceded as such by proposing that the full sale of Telstra essentially be deferred and the government's shares instead be placed in the Future Fund for the very reason that it would be hard to get a good price for them. The Telstra share price has nearly halved since T2.

Let's be brutally honest. I'm no fan of the corporate structure - in fact I'm a major proponent of the theory that we should not let a construct that we created dominate us. But in its present state, a corporation's sole purpose is to return money to its shareholders. Trujillo's obligation is to facilitate this. Thus, it is not surprising that he would protest regulations that are not imposed on his competitors.

On the other hand, the reason government utilities exist is to provide essential services to citizens of a nation. Theoretically, they privatise utilities such as water, electricity and banking because they figure a corporation can do it better than a government can. But the minute this occurs, the government becomes just another shareholder activist - a noisy, influential one - but in the end, a voice on the sidelines. Once Telstra is sold, the government can call for as much regulation as it likes. It can throw as much money at rural areas as it cares to. But the fact that it needs to just shows how inherently incompatible the idea of privatising an essential utility like Telstra is with the original charter of such a company - especially in a country like Australia, where `essential' doesn't mean `nice' - it means `I'm trapped under my tractor 200 kilometres from the nearest hospital, please get the Royal Flying Doctors Service in ASAP'.

What it comes down to is that the privatisation of Telstra is ever more clearly an ideological pursuit of a government that can, not a government that should.

Four Seasons In One Day

It's been such a gloomy week in so many ways that Mike Carlton even decided to forgo his traditional Friday News Review this morning. Yesterday, I was listening to ABC 702 and - if you will indulge me the elegaic moment - I heard a song that so perfectly reflected this week in so many ways that I thought I'd put the lyrics down so you could sadly hum it in your head.

Four seasons in one day
Lying in the depths of your imagination
Worlds above and worlds below
The sun shines on the black clouds hanging over the domain

Even when you’re feeling warm
The temperature could drop away
Like four seasons in one day

Smiling as the shit comes down
You can tell a man from what he has to say
Everything gets turned around
And I will risk my neck again, again

You can take me where you will
Up the creek and through the mill
All the things you can’t explain
Four seasons in one day

Blood dries up
Like rain, like rain
Fills my cup
Like four seasons in one day

It doesn’t pay to make predictions
Sleeping on an unmade bed
Finding out wherever there is comfort there is pain
Only one step away
Like four seasons in one day

Blood dries up
Like rain, like rain
Fills my cup
Like four seasons in one day