Hillary has spawned some apprentice columnists and this one is first class.

Now your average Washingtonian couldn’t really care for whom the Australians root – although listening to Dubya get his tortured syntax around that statement might be fun.

But your more liberal Libs have to be very, very impressed by a precedent Dubya has now set and which they would love little Johnnie Howard to pull off.

It’s all to do with those awful Chinese. Well whether they’re awful is a very complex question depending on whether we’re trying to sell them something or trying to fulfil our key role as the region’s Deputy Sheriff.

You see, after the US spy plane was downed and the crew returned, the US State Department, the Presidential spin doctors and the US media all agreed that one thing the Yanks had most definitely, categorically had not done was to apologise.

The did say they had deep regrets. They even said – twice – that they were “very sorry”. But, they insisted, they didn’t apologise.

Just think what this means for Howard? If he really admires the Republicans so much he can follow their lead and utter the seemingly impossible word – “sorry” – and still claim he hasn’t apologised.

Who knows, he might even get away with itunless he gives the job of selling this very novel formulation to the inimitable duo of marketing dreck, Tony Nutt and Petro Georgiou, who’ve had a billion to spend over the past five years and look what they’ve created. (See Crikey a


Former US President, Calvin Coolidge, was notoriously taciturn.

One night at a function a gushing woman sat down alongside him and said: “I have a small wager with my friends that I can get you to say more than two words”

“You lose” Coolidge replied.

On another occasion Coolidge had been to church sans Ms Coolidge. She asked on his return what the preacher had talked about?

Coolidge replied: “Sin”.

“And what did he say about it?” asked Ms Coolidge.

“He was against it”, replied Coolidge.

Like the preacher, Johnnie Howard, and lots of other politicians, are against drugs.

But again, like the preacher, this is hardly a subject which would prompt lengthy discussionat least until they start spending our money on campaigns which do nothing to reduce drug abuse but lots to make it clear that they are “against it”.

So we get re-runs of shock, horror pictures of the outcomes of drug abuse and advice that we should “talk to our children”.

Now, although crikey’s editor still has children only on the way, his older friends make it clear that about the only thing you don’t do with them is “talk to” them. Well, not if you don’t want to end up with high blood pressure.

If you’re really lucky they might “talk with you” sometimes but the response to lectures is more typically that awful adolescent dumb insolence we practised on our own parents.

The ads also ignore the fact that lots of kids try drugs because they like them and – despite all the problems – they think they get some short term benefits. A bit like pollies, all in all, focus on the short term benefit and forget about the longer term problems!

Around the world some people are doing some interesting things in advertising and marketing to stop drug abuse. Some people are borrowing from the “culturejamming/adbusting” milieu Naomi Klein talked about in No Logo. Others are talking with street kids and people who work on the street to identify what works.

But the Prime Minister’s approach is more reminiscent of the spectacularly unsuccessful Nancy Reagan campaign, “Just say no”.

Which makes one wonder whether the ultra conservative, ultra expensive approach being undertaken – brochures and TV ads for all – might have been not only a product of the PM’s prejudices but also those of his spouse.

Just imagine it – a campaign directed to a youth problem conceived by John and Jeanette and executed by Nutt and Georgiou? God help us.

In Petro’s case it is even more ironic – sitting in judgement on campaigns to end addictions in between racing out of meetings to desperately satisfy his tobacco habit.

With that combination, and their track record, the whole population might end up high rather than clean.


Peter Costello generated front page news about his recent visit to the Tiwi Islands – an oasis of relative progress in indigenous Australian affairs.

He probably enjoyed it immensely, perhaps because the Tiwis have a curious syncretic religion composed of equal parts of traditional indigenous religion, Christianity and Australian Rules Football. Indeed, their main football ground features a totem topped by a photo of immortal Ted Whitten. A duplicate was provided to the Bulldogs for the Western Oval in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

Young Peter shares a similar syncretic religion – economic rationalism, Christianity (although not the Catholic version practised on Tiwi) and Essendon Football Club.

All in all it was a huge success which positioned Costello in the same space to which Nick Greiner once aspired – warm and dry rather than just dry.

But, surprise surprise. Peter was not alone. Now crikey is not risking another writ along the lines of the hapless Bob Ellis – rather he is just stating a fact.

Peter was, apparently, accompanied by the Health Minister, Michael Wooldridge’ although scrutiny of the media makes it impossible to confirm this.

Michael has had his problems from time to time but no-one can deny his genuine and effective interest in indigenous health. As with AIDS, Wooldridge has rowed against the Tory tide to try to actually do something about the problem.

So how come Michael missed out on all that delightful warm publicity? Perhaps he missed the trip. Or perhaps his press secretary – who previously helped Victorian Health Minister, Rob Knowles, lose his seat – was too busy with one of her radio appearances discussing successful spin on RRR? (Ed: that would be Serena Williams)


Crikey has been accused of being a trifle unfair to that pair, Tony and Petro, who have among other things obviously both indulged too much in trifle and other goodies.

Indeed, the question has been asked as to who in particular has been attacking the dynamic marketing duo who have spent a billion dollars driving the government’s rating down to levels which make unsafe sex and serial murder look popular?

“Not me”, has been the response of at least half a dozen government staffer denizens of the Holy Grail, ” I would have been much nastier.”


For many years there have been two simple rules for identifying the right time to sell shares in a company.

First, when the Chair or CEO starts telling the government of the day how to run the company.

Second, when Robert Gottleibson declares you businessperson of the year and puts you on the front cover of BRW. Bob has now departed BRW – along with most of its readers. But for many years his choice of outstanding business leader was a sure indicator of impending disaster. Older readers will recall that Bob always had this remarkable capacity. After leaving the AFR he joined the unlamented broking firm Patrick Partners and busily flogged shares in the very lamented Patrick Resources company.

But with business leaders it’s always a bit more spectacular. And the Schadenfreude is a trifle more piquant.

The latest examples are Stan Wallis and John Ralph who have, respectively, busily told us just about everything we didn’t want to know about super supervision, tax and assorted other things.

The problems at Coles Myer (currently it looks as if they might be better off bringing back Solly Lew and Peter Bartels) and Pacific Dunlop (currently it looks like spiritualist communing with Eric Dunshea might be a more rational strategy than some of those followed) suggest that Stan and John might just be shaping up as more evidence of the rule’s timeless value.

Meanwhile, to demonstrate that Karl Popper is right about theories being falsifiable, Hugh Morgan is providing more evidence of the theorem’s usefulness. Hugh – who was once very busy telling Australians how to run things – decided to focus on the business in hand instead. The results have been remarkable.