Crikey has a wonderful cartoonist Mark Cornwall and the originals of his work can be bought for just $60. Check out what is available here and below are some of the toons that have already been snapped up.


News Corp’s reduced disclosure

(SOLD)

3 February, 2005

By Don BoredWalk

In its first quarterly result since the shift in domicile occurred late last year, Rupert Murdoch’s company has dropped the geographical breakdown of the group’s operating income from the second quarter and half yearly profit announcement.

The information was included in the US dollar and Australian dollar versions of the first quarter profit announcement last year, but dropped from the half yearly announcement released at midnight on Wednesday.

Investors, especially those in Australia and New Zealand now have no guidance on how the Australasian part of the empire, mainly News Limited newspapers, is travelling.

But indications are that the Australian newspaper business is doing very well and is now the most profitable media company in the country.

But the only hint of a result was the improvement from News’s newspapers around the world of 8% to $US 184 million in the latest half.

With lower income in the UK due to the capital expenditure of new printing plants requiring higher depreciation charges, the improvement came from the 34% rise in local currency operating income in Australia.

Catholic action in Adelaide(SOLD)

2 February, 2005

nvitations have gone out to the Adelaide media asking them to join Chris Pyne and Health Minister Tony Abbott at the opening of Pyne’s new electorate office on 18 February.

Fresh abortion quotes, no doubt, will be forthcoming from both the Jesuit old boys – just in case the debate goes off the boil over the next fortnight. And does this mean Pyne is no longer doing the numbers at the Canberra end for Peter Costello or simply that he’s having a bet each way?

Early success for Beazley(SOLD)


1 February, 2005

Kim Beazley has only been back in the leader’s chair for four days and already he’s scored a success. Today’s Newspoll for Western Australia was reported in The Australian and the detailed figures available on the Newspoll website shows the two parties neck and neck, which represents a six per cent swing to Labor since the previous poll.

Most people didn’t believe that earlier poll; at best we suspended judgement until further data appeared. But to the extent that there’s a real movement to Labor, it’s probably due to a combination of two things: the fact that the election has been called, and the return of local hero Beazley to the federal leadership.

The Gallop government is certainly not out of the woods yet, but they will be breathing a bit easier after this result. Interestingly, the poll shows that a majority (44% to 32%) expect the Coalition to win the election, despite the fact that expectations are usually biased towards incumbents (most notoriously, to Paul Keating in 1996).

It will be interesting to see whether the Labor leadership change starts to lift the poll results in other states, or whether it’s purely a WA phenomenon. Either way, it looks as if Geoff Gallop will be milking the Beazley factor for all it’s worth.

But speaking of other states, Newspoll’s Sol Lebovic – a thoroughly reputable pollster – is either getting careless reading his own numbers or else is being misquoted by the Australian. Today’s story has him saying “Every state poll we did for the December quarter had Labor going backwards except in Queensland.” But a quick look at the Queensland poll also available here on the Newspoll website shows that it reported a 3.5% swing against Labor – not as bad as the other states, but still “going backwards”.

Well, if no one’s challenging the Bomber…(SOLD)

January 25, 2005

Political correspondent Christian Kerr writes:

The Labor Party is so short of plausible leadership talent that it seems set Kim Beazley will be elected unopposed when Caucus meets on Friday – but at the same time there’s someone sitting very uncomfortably in a Number 2 spot.

The solution is obvious. Labor should choose Peter Costello as its new leader.

He’s sick of being Treasurer. He wants to be top dog (geddit?!?). This is his chance to tackle John Howard for the Prime Minister’s position without destabilising the Liberal Party.

It’s not as ridiculous as it first appears. It’s certainly no sillier than bringing back a two-time loser. Peter Costello and the ALP are quite a good fit in many ways.

Costello is a sorry-walking republican who tops off his social policies with plenty of latte froth – and he’s almost as close to big business as Hawkie used to be.

Costello offers Labor new blood, new ideas and new directions. He has at least as good a chance of winning the next election as any of the Labor wannabes – and a better understanding of John Howard’s and the Government’s weaknesses. Why, Bob Ellis even tells us that he used to be a member of the party until… well, what more could Labor want, anyway?

Mark Latham’s agonies(SOLD)


January 10, 2005

Political correspondent Christian Kerr writes:

To paraphrase a certain comment made by a certain Labor figure about a certain Liberal leader, if the answer is Chris Evans, then it was a bl**dy stupid question.

Mark Latham is missing today’s tsunami briefing because of illness. Pancreatis can be excruciating – and sometimes the causes are impossible to diagnose – and we hope he recovers soon. Physically. You might as well get in early and order the floral tributes for his leadership now.

Latham and his deputy Jenny Macklin are has beens. Their staff are utterly gormless. And the idea of making someone virtually no-one’s ever heard of Senate Leader was always going to end in tears before bedtime.

True or not, fair or not, Latham and his staff have created a situation where it looks as if he played coy about his illness to hide any signs of weakness and protect his leadership.

Poor dumb b*stard. The spin-doctors were already despairing of it long before the pancreatis returned.

The ubiquitous “senior party sources” quoted in reports last week all made comments along the lines of “no-one’s going to kick a bloke when he’s down”. They could have added “and while we’re all on holidays”. The leadership challenge if now a matter of when, not if.

Wayne Swan is out of the running. Full stop. It’s amazing that no one’s wheeled out the allegations made at the time of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters inquiry into quaint Queensland Labor Party customs. Presumably the Government dirt unit has been saving them up.

So, who’s it to be. Kimbo? Kruddy? Beazley is known, liked and respected. Rudd is respected – and his profile is growing and growing and growing. Beazley, however, has had two shots at the top job and seems to save his best performances for defeats.

How about both? How about this for a leadership ticket – Rudd as number one and Beazley as deputy? A promising new bloke backed by experienced and wise counsel – a former deputy PM, in fact.

The Emily’s Listers might whinge, but the words “Joan Kirner” and “political expediency” don’t go hand in hand. And the beauty about putting a veteran like Beazley in at number two is that when a strong contender for the deputy’s job – male or female – emerged it would be easy to do a shift. No one would be surprised. The old warhorse would retire with honour.


Disaster relief John Howard style(SOLD)

January 10, 2005

The Prime Minister was at pains to stress that Australian tsunami aid will not be wasted in his address to the nation last night:

“This will be the largest individual aid package in Australia’s history,” he stated.

“Under a plan to be called the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development, this $1 billion amount will go directly to areas of need through programs that must be approved by the Australian Government, in conjunction with the Government of Indonesia.

“This process will ensure that resources go where they are most needed.”

It’s a pity that he’s not so careful with money all the time. He seems to count the pennies on humanitarian matters, but doesn’t care how much he wastes on his more inhumane policies – like the “Pacific solution”.

Finance Minister Nick Minchin fessed up last week that the cost of Christmas Island detention centre has blown out by more than fifty per cent.

The original plans were for a 1,200-bed facility, to be constructed at a cost of $220 million. These were scaled back almost two years ago in favour of a centre that would hold 800 people.

Minchin, however, says this will now cost $336 million – and work on site won’t begin until next month.

Still, presumably the PM and Minchin believe that every dollar spend on subliminal pitches to racism is worthwhile.

PS Talking about tsunamis and immigration, our Prime Minister might like to have a look at this par from a media release put out by his Commonwealth counterpart Paul Martin http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/news.asp?id=373 on tsunami relief over a week ago:

“All existing applications for permanent resident visas will be fast-tracked for those family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents from the region. A priority emphasis will be placed on spouses, partners and children. All processing fees will be waived for new applications. Regular security and medical reviews remain in place.”

Howard’s tsnunami diplomacy(SOLD)
January 9, 2005

As John Howard addresses the nation on Australia’s response to the tsunami disaster, the world digests the politics of the big donations being lashed around, and a few are beginning to ask if things aren’t getting a bit out of hand.

This

BBC piece on tsnami diplomacy links to many media opinions, while slate.com asks: Does Size Matter?

So far, Howard’s donation is playingwell internationally. Writes Slate: “Germany’s center-right daily Die Welt was rather blunt about it. ‘The government was certainly right to increase its pledges, which were modest to begin with. But was it necessary immediately to bring figures into play which give the impression that nations are engaged in a rather selfish donors’ competition?’

“The figure referred to is Berlin’s pledged $674 million in aid. Only Australia — whose prime minister, John Howard, received a standing ovation at a Jakarta summit when he pledged a cool billion Australian dollars ($764 million) — beats Germany in the benevolence contest.”

The Canberra Top 40 – riding the wave(SOLD)


January 9, 2005

Political correspondent Christian Kerr writes:

What do you prefer? Riders on the Storm or Kill Surf City ? Forget the Triple J Hottest 100. The Canberra Top 40 is back, thanks to our friends at Rehame.

What’s hot? John Howard and Alexander Downer are riding a wave of publicity and have crested the charts this week. Justice Minister Chris Ellison has surfed into the Top 10 in their wake.

There’s a trio of new – newish – Labor talent in there, too. Kevin Rudd, Chris Evans and Jenny Macklin have all made the Top 10. If the ALP decides the best way it can return to government is to let the punters chose leaders Australian Idol style, it looks as if Kruddy’s got the job.

Amanda Vanstone’s way up there, too, at Number 5. She’s done a controversial cover of Frank Zappa’s The Torture Never Stops , dedicated to all the Christian asylum seekers she shipped back to the mad mullahs in Iran last week.

But this week’s success story is Downer’s Parliamentary Secretary, Bruce Bilson. Talk about an understudy’s dream. In at Number 4. Break a leg, Bruce! (Not in a tsunami, we hasten to add.)

Latham’s leadership takes a turn for the worse(SOLD)

January 7, 2005

By political correspondent Christian Kerr

Pancreatitis rarely is terminal. Mark Latham’s leadership, however, is looking more and more that way.

Yesterday morning I got a call from a Labor staffer. It was after news of Latham’s illness had broken – but this individual was unaware the Opposition Leader was in hospital. By yesterday afternoon it emerged that most of Labor’s frontbench only learned of their leader’s condition through the media.

Illness is a private matter – but surely a one par statement from Latham leader would have been appropriate. After all, blurring the line between the private and the political has been one of his trademarks.

A monologue from his bed about how back in Green Valley, before Gough and Medibank came along, the neighbours used to come in with leeches because it was all they could afford and it’s the Austrayin way, Laurie, wasn’t called for – and, with any luck, Latham has learned that these sort of gestures don’t necessarily strike the intended chord.

Latham’s silence, however, has left us with one inescapable impression. The Opposition Leader is terrified of any sign of weakness.

Reader feedback – Howard’s masterstroke?(SOLD)


January 7, 2005

Some readers think Crikey was a bit harsh on John Howard in our response to the $1 billion Indonesian aid package. We’ve even had a Liberal Party office bearer prepared to go on the record:

Clearly, in Crikey’s eyes, Howard can do nothing right. How sad that your absolutely cynical, puerile prejudice blinds you from even beginning to consider the bigger picture. No, you’re just going to let fly with your clever little sarcastic shots, congratulating yourself on your pontificating, how your incisive-in-your-own-lunchtime wit will really, really tickle your readers’ fancy. Where’s the assessment on Howard’s move possibly just having a touch of the humanitarian about it?

Where’s the analysis of a possible strategic masterstroke in Australian-Indonesian relationships, to say nothing of the wider Asian community? I subscribe to Crikey because I want to see incisive journalism and inside stories, things that Crikey can be proud of. If I want to read clever adolescent cant I’ll subscribe to some left wing university student rag.

John Devaney

PS Disclosure: I’m Cairns Branch Secretary of the Liberal Party (Qld Division) but clearly, the views expressed above are completely my own and not authorised in any way by, for or on behalf of the Party.

CRIKEY: OK, we accept that Howard has humanitarian motives. But he’s first and foremost a politician, and it’s not unfair to judge his actions in political terms. And we predict that we’re going to be hearing a lot more about the politics of Aceh and self-determination.

Ironically, Australia has an official who’s supposed to be responsible for the big non-political, Australians-all-together symbolic gestures. He’s called the governor-general – remember him? Apart from one tsunami announcement, he’s been very quiet lately.

Howard’s billion-dollar tsunami pledge(SOLD)

January 6, 2005

The election is over, but John Howard can’t kick the big spending habit. Today he has grabbed the international limelight with a pledge of $1 billon to tsunami aid for Indonesia.

Australia has leapt to the top of the world aid table, putting us into the headlines in a way that probably nothing in our region has since East Timor. But how much weight will that carry with the taxpayers who are going to foot the bill, given that this is already the highest-taxing government in Australia’s history?

Past practice has been for special levies to meet unexpected expenditure: the gun buy-back levy, the East Timor levy, the Ansett ticket levy. Will there be a tsunami levy? Perhaps a one-off increase in the resource rent tax to tap into some of the windfall profits in the oil industry?

There’s certainly no guarantee that this will be enough. Tim Costello this morning was saying that the total bill for reconstruction could eventually run to between $50 and $100 billion, no doubt making his brother the Treasurer choke on his cornfakes. The world has so far kicked in about $5 billion.

To its credit, the government is trying to attach some strings to the money, to ensure that it actually reaches the people in need. But it also seems to be driven by Howard’s ideological opposition to the United Nations, who are being shut out of the picture completely.

The real test will be whether our new closeness with Indonesia can deliver peace with the rebels in Aceh. How about making a referendum on self-determination part of the conditions on the aid? If the Indonesian generals just take the opportunity to divert money from aid to guns, then we could soon have a man-made humanitarian crisis on our doorstep that will rival the natural one.

Not that Indonesia is alone in pouring money into its military. The tsunami aid response has already put the costs of the Iraq war and occupation into perspective: Iraq and Afghanistan are costing US$5 billion every month. Even in Australia, imagine how much more we could do if the government had been putting our military spending into useful things like logistics and engineering instead of guns and tanks.

Speaking of useful aid, one of Crikey’s union-bashers wonders how much the unions have been donating to the tsunami appeals. How about sending a special team of CFMEU volunteers to help rebuild Aceh? They could even offer to work for Indonesian-level wages.

Turning on tsunami news – turning off current affairs (SOLD)

January 5, 2005

By Terry Television

Tsunami Television? Despite what some in the ABC might think, the Asian tsunami crisis has seen a big lift in viewing of TV and it was again the major factor driving Tuesday evening viewing across the country’s five free to air networks.

Nine was again the major beneficiary, the ABC again did well, and Seven also showed more benefit, but remained far behind rival Nine, especially in the Sydney market where it was doing well before Christmas.

But there was also a larger that usual turnoff from the various news broadcasts to the network’s respective current affairs programs, indicating perhaps that while viewers want to see the News, fewer appear to want it in the ‘depth’ of A Current Affair , Today Tonight or The7.30 Report .

Nine won of course thanks to not only the strong performances of Nine News and A Current Affair but the 1.67 million people who watched a repeat of CSI . That’s the sort of audience that a first run program sometimes gets on an average Tuesday evening in proper ratings.

It meant Nine ended with a national share of 32.3%, well ahead of Seven on 25.5%, the ABC third with 18.6%, Ten fourth on 18.1% and BS with an average 5.5%.

Nine again won everywhere bar Perth which Seven won.

Nine News was second to CSI with a national audience across the network of 1.633 million people, up a hundred thousand or so viewers on Monday night.

ACA was third watched by 1.376 million people, 30,000 or so up on Monday night, while the ABC News was fourth, down 30,000 on Monday night. Seven News was fifth with 6,000 more viewers while Today Tonight’s audience rose 74,000 or so on Tuesday over Monday as more viewers realised that host, Anna Coren was in the disaster area.

An interesting development was the very sharp turnoff from Nine News (1.633 million) to ACA (1.376 million). That’s a drop of more than a quarter of a million people. Over on Seven there was also a turnoff. Not as pronounced as Nine’s, but still around 79,000 viewers. Likewise on the ABC, where 148,000 or so fewer viewers watched the 7.30 Report on average than the 7pm News .

In Sydney Nine News was the second most watched program after CSI and it accounted for Seven News quite easily, while in Melbourne Nine News was the most popular program and again beat Seven’s effort quite easily. ACA was an easy winner over Today Tonight in both major markets. Today Tonight’s audience was noticeably higher in Melbourne than Sydney.

Ray Martin was steadier on ACA on Tuesday night and thankfully omitted his silly phrase from the night before when he concluded A Current Affair with the remarks, “That concludes our special edition of A Current Affair from Aceh. I hope you enjoyed it!!” Last night it was a, “thanks for watching” type concluding remark, which was far more neutral.

His comment from Monday night attracted some criticism in the press and from Crikey subscribers with one quite rightly pointing out that Ray had not thought about what sort of pictures his viewers had just watched on ACA when he thanked them for watching!

Packer, Aspinall, casinos and UK councils(SOLD)

December 23, 2004

We all know that Kerry Packer has joined forces with British businessman Damien Aspinall to lobby for the introduction of super casinos in the UK, but what message is Australia’s richest man selling to potential regulators and licensing bodies.

Crikey hears that they are promoting Melbourne’s den of iniquity Crown Casino as their “template” for a chain of gambling outlets in England and Wales. The dubious glossy brochures credit Crown with “transforming the state of Victoria”, whilst “bringing strength and vitality” to communities.

No mention of the hundreds of crooks who frequent the place and the hundreds of millions of stolen or dirty money that has been washed through over the years.

Although the UK government has put any changes to the gambling laws in the UK on hold until after the elections, Packer and Aspinall are having a big impact on councils across the UK, particularly those in areas desperate for a cash injection. They’re negotiating “socially responsible” investment packages and Packer already has licenses for casinos in Newcastle and Swansea and is looking to get a foothold in the West Midlands.

This sort of activity has attracted the interest of the BBC which is making a documentary on the Packer-Aspinall “vision” for the UK. We hear that a crew will be out in Australia in January to investigate Crown Casino and the “super casino template” for themselves.

Irish reporting on NAB’s Belfast bank(SOLD)

December 23, 2004

Poor old NAB can’t take a trick, with another $50 million gone west in Belfast. But News Ltd readers can’t take much of a trick either. Compare these reports, with A for The Australian (Tim Boreham and Stewart Tendler) and B for the “other” News dailies (Bruce Wilson and others):

A: Northern Bank was not insured against such a crime (no attribution).
B: The theft is covered by self-insurance (attributed to NAB spokesman Brandon Phillips).

(CRIKEY: Self-insurance is often seen as not being insured but it usually entails a corporate putting the premium not paid to the insurer into an internal fund. Naturally, NAB wouldn’t have $50 million in such a fund.)

A: The families were held captive in their homes.
B: The families were driven away and held in a forest (later called “a mystery site”).

A: 10 million pounds was left behind because they were Northern Bank notes and easy to trace.
B: Most of the haul taken away was in Northern Bank notes, making it hard to launder. An unknown amount was left behind because there was no more room in the getaway van (also referred to as a truck – it was a semi-trailer in The Australian ).

War on terror claims another scalp(SOLD)

December 22, 2004

Crikey’s Combat Correspondent, Colonel Kurtz, reports on events far from home:

Fresh from celebrating his time-serving record yesterday by vilifying the Bakhtiyari family (see ABC report here ), Alexander Downer might reflect on the results on some great journalism this year that opened up a can of worms here and in the US.

When word got out in late June that Melbourne filmmaker Carmela Baranowska had gone missing in a desolate area of Afghanistan, many feared the worst: Taliban fear on filmmaker

But Baranowska emerged alive and with a tale of brutality by US marines against local villagers, a story that won her a Walkley award last month. Check out the Dateline transcript of her story, ‘Taliban Country’ here .

As Mark Day wrote in The Oz: “Having been taken on an embedded tour by the military in Afghanistan, she felt there was more to learn, so she went back, unescorted, into Taliban country and got quite a different story of perfidy and brutality. That’s courage and determination, and perhaps a lot of luck that she got out alive.”

That story has had its sequel with news that the commander of the marine unit covered by Baranowska, LtCol Asad “Genghis” Khan, has been sacked. It’s a case of news travelling slowly, as Khan’s fate was reported in the States in October, and caused a stir in military circles as you can see here.

The sacking follows – but seems to be independent of – an inquiry by the Judge Advocate General, and it appears Khan has been made the scapegoat after the revelations in ‘Taliban Country’.

Khan, who was not in direct charge of the prisoners, has not been court-marshalled, just sacked. And he looks like the modern day Lt Kelly of Mai Lai – he cops the blame for carrying out orders from above.

Surely the lesson of Abu Ghraib and now Afghanisatan is that orders for mistreatment of prisoners must have been widespread and come from the top.

So where does Alexander Downer come in? Apparently the Foreign Minister’s office was phoning SBS regularly wanting to know what Baranowska had been doing in Afghanistan. Above and beyond ensuring her safety, DFAT wanted to know her movements when she went “missing”.

Given the political sensitivity of the prisoner abuse issue, it must have been a relief to Downer that the story never gained traction in the media here. The last thing this government wants as it reflects on its glorious years in power is a reminder of the more nasty ways the war on terror it enlisted for is being fought.

Telstra and strategic leaks(SOLD)

December 17, 2004

By Don BoredWalk

Don’t we all love our Telstra, the ‘magic pudding’ of the Australian financial and political markets over the next two to three years.

A scoping inquiry announced this week by the Howard mob to start the sale process, a carefully leaked media attack on middle management numbers.

That one was the News Ltd paper, The Australian and this is the way it was confirmed and reported by the ABC here .

And in another strategic leak, this time to The Australian Financial Review , about the newly tough Telco board rejecting a proposal to buy the regional Pay TV operator, Austar for $1.4 billion.

That was rejected by Austar as speculation this morning after the AFR story first appeared.

Both major media groups fixed up and both a little narky for not been leaked the other’s story!

Read Don’s full report here: http://www.crikey.com.au/business/2004/12/17-0002.html

Ziggy’s email tostaff (SOLD)

December 5, 2004

Poor old Ziggy Switkowski got fired by the Telstra board whilst in his sick bed last week. This is the note he sent to staff before Friday’s press conference:

Dear colleagues,

You will have seen the Chairman’s statement and ensuing media coverage in relation to the decision of the Board and myself that I step down as CEO. This will occur on 1 July 2005 or earlier if a new CEO is appointed before that date.

I would have liked to communicate with you earlier about this outcome but this has been my first opportunity, having returned to work today following a gastric infection. I will also be holding a press conference today to discuss this outcome.

The decision for me to step down reflects the Board’s desire to put in place the right leadership for the period encompassing the further privatisation of Telstra and beyond.

The challenges in front of Telstra remain considerable, and its continuing success requires immense effort. I know there must be complete alignment between the Board and the CEO regarding strategy, execution priorities, and key measures for success. I feel that this alignment has been difficult to achieve in recent times. In these circumstances, the CEO should step down.

I believe the decision for me to step down once a new CEO is identified is a sensible one – for the company and its shareholders.

At the present time, the company is travelling well in a very competitive market. We have not changed our guidance to the market and I expect the Half Year results to provide further evidence of our steady progress.

I am looking forward in the next few months to availing myself of the opportunities to thank you for the privilege of working with you over the past (six) years at Telstra.

In the meantime, can I encourage you to keep up the great work as we all focus on succeeding in the market for our customers and shareholders.

Regards, Ziggy

Mark Latham’s great legacy(SOLD)

December 3, 2004

Assuming Bob Hogg’s advice is followed and the Labor caucus gives Mark Latham the heave ho, what will his greatest legacy be? Improving kiddies literacy? Saving the PBS from big American drug companies?

Nope, it will be the abolition of the parliamentary superannuation scheme.

And the funny thing is that this might help Labor more than the Coalition in the long term. You see, a seat in Parliament is often treated like superannuation for long-serving Labor staffers, union and factional hacks.

They never earn much slogging away for the union, so the big reward comes from winning three terms in a Parliament and then locking in the life-time pension that no union could ever afford.

It is often said that the smartest unionists and staffers don’t want to sit in Parliament so that is where the duds and time-servers finish up. It is hard to sack an ineffective union leader but you can get rid of them by parachuting them into a Parliament. Sadly, this doesn’t help Labor win elections or run good governments.

After the PM took up Mark Latham’s suggestion to reform the Parliamentary super scheme, this scenario is no longer open in any Australian parliament.

Strangely, Labor might actually now end up preselecting people who are dedicated to serving and not looking for a cushy pension to wind up a lacklustre career in the job placement network known as the ALP.

David Oldfield vs Frank Lowy(SOLD)

November 29, 2004

This one is anonymous so treat a little warily:

Hi Crikey

Here’s the inside scoop. I watched Lowy at the Inquiry this morning. This was another pathetic attempt by the NSW Opposition to squeeze some media coverage out of the Orange Grove saga.

Their strategy is to throw a salvo of allegations at a witness or pick an argument with them, interrupt them before they can address the allegation to fluster them, and hope the journalists are dumb enough to think this newsworthy.

What’s more its all a dramatic act for the benefit of the media. During the hearing John Ryan (Lib) and David Oldfield (One nation) were empassioned, righteous and belligerent. As the committe broke for morning tea, immediately after the Lowy questioning, I heard John Ryan say to David Oldfield “that was a beautiful performance, you were great today” as they chatted casually.

He was refering to an argument between David Oldfield and Frank Lowy. Oldfield accused Lowy of having too much money and Lowy took great offence. He launched on a defence of capitalism, the virtue of the working man, and his philanthropic efforts.

He attacked Oldfield for being jealous of his wealth and being ‘no fan of mine’. Lowy also defended his family and the wealth they have created for Australia. Oldfield is a freak, but I have to acknowledge his pluck for seriously p*ssing off a billionaire in public view.

Cheers, Political staffer

CRIKEY: Oldfield is a complete clown no matter which way you look at it. Whilst Lowy put on a truly theatrical performance today, his essential claim that he never discussed Orange Grove iwth Bob Carr during two meetings last year should take some of the heat out of the debate. Check out the AAP coverage here.

Australia’s worst trade performance in the best of times(SOLD)

November 29, 2004

Whilst the Labor Party continues to tear itself apart, you have to ask just how close to the edge of the cliff is the super-charged Australian economy?

Australia’s current account deficit and foreign debt soared to record highs in the September quarter as a debt-funded consumer binge continued and exports disappointed despite the best terms of trade we’ve seen in 30 years.

The CAD blew out by 16 per cent to $13.69 billion in the September quarter, equating to a dangerously high 6.5 per cent of GDP.

Just as big a concern was the jump in net foreign debt by another $13 billion to a record $406 billion – equivalent to more than 50 per cent of the Australian GDP.

The best way of creating wealth is by producing goods and services that are exported to the world, but out exports have now fallen below 1 per cent of world exports for the first time in our history.

While we all may laugh at Peter Costello’s lines in Parliament – “over the weekend, a rooster declared a jihad on a dead parrot” – but the Treasurer was his usual sneaky self today, using weasel words and diversions to paper over the growing economic cracks.

Cossie made out as if the rising Australian dollar was the cause of our trade problems. Has someone told the Treasurer that Australia’s terms of trade are currently at a 30 year high?

In other words, while the Chinese economic boom drives up commodity prices, we’ve never had it so good. Yet, the best possible terms of trade is coinciding with our worst ever trade performance.

Even on the basic arithmetic Cossie was deceptive today. He ticked off Wayne Swan for claiming foreign debt had doubled since 1996 – Cossie said it was only up from 39% to 50% of GDP.

But then Cossie claimed the Australian dollar had doubled from US47c to US78c. Er, not quite. To double the dollar would need to hit US94c – that’s some 20.5 per cent above Cossie’s doubled figure of US78c.

The Nats’ pork policies (SOLD)

November 26, 2004

Political Editor Christian Kerr writes:

Next week the Senate will have to decide whether or not it is going to investigate the Tony Windsor claims. They might like to consider what we were we saying about the Nationals, pork and principals a couple of days ago.

Crikey agreed that even if an attempt wasn’t made to bribe Independent MP Tony Windsor or not, issues about the funding of the National Equine Centre in his seat of New England needed to be looked at.

“Not too long ago, a minister was deemed to have favoured Government held seats in the delivery of programs and facilities,” we recalled. “They were rightly ridiculed for their explanation. Even more rightly, they resigned. This person’s name? Ros Kelly. Remember her?”

We looked at the egregious comments of the even more egregious Senator Sandy Macdonald, the other player in the saga after Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson.

Well, whaddya know. Queensland political scientist Ross Fitzgerald was thinking along similar lines. He published a wonderful piece on the Nats in The Australian yesterday – Nationals negative on independents .

“Which part of independent do John Anderson and his National Party cohorts not understand,” it began – setting the tone perfectly.”

Iconic political photos: Whitlam and Calwell(SOLD)

November 26, 2004

“Who shot Gough Whitlam and Arthur Calwell at the behest of Alan Reid outside the Hotel Kingston in 1963?” we asked
yesterday?

An authority on Alan Reid responds:

“I believe it was the 36 person ALP National conference (meeting in a special session) not the 12 person executive that Reid was involved in in 1963. The only thing I know about the photographer is that Reid refused to divulge his name – other than to say that he was an old
fishing mate.

Stephen J Holt
‘Unofficial biographer of Alan Reid’
Canberra.”

However, a Crikey-ite with a long memory writes:

“The pic was taken by Tele photographer Peter Hardacre,
Peter Rees.”

CRIKEY: So there you have it. A great fishing expedition undertaken 40 years ago by two very sharp fishermen: Alan Reid and Peter Hardacre. We’ve been trying to track down a copy of the photo, but with no luck so far. Any ideas? Send them to our man in the gallery: [email protected]

Meanwhile, we could spread this to iconic cartoons as well if anyone would like to send through their suggestions.

That lonely photo of Mark Latham in The Age was a ripper and we very much like this Cornwall effort on Mark Latham’s relationship with all those charming Labor Premiers such as Tasmanian tree-lopping thug Paul Lennon.

Has Labor already lost the next election?(SOLD)

November 19, 2004

What do you do when you go from holding all the electorates in one state to losing almost half of them? Why, you make one of the dumped members your special man on the ground there. That’s what Mark Latham seems to have done.

Check out this link.

“Defeated Braddon MHR Sid Sidebottom has landed a plum job as Opposition Leader Mark Latham’s adviser in Tasmania,” the Launceston Examiner says.

“Mr Sidebottom, who lost his federal seat in the October 9 election, has already started in his new position.

“ ‘It will keep the wolves from the door,’ Mr Sidebottom said…”

It also suggests that Latham might be loyal – but doesn’t have a snowball’s chance at winning the next election. If he even stays leader that long.

Kerry Packer and the colourful Stanley Ho(SOLD)

November 17, 2004

Kerry Packer seems to have found a gaming partner who is even more colourful than himself if the feature pieces in today’s papers are any guide. “Macua gambling tsar” Stanley Ho has done it all and we enjoyed the way The Fin Review’s Rowan Callick rounded off his effort this morning:

“Stanley Ho’s links with Beijing have blown hot and cold, and he has constantly denied connections to triads. His main recreation remains ballroom dancing – tango, cha cha and waltz being his specialities. He thus appears to remain sufficiently light on his feet to duck frequent fights with his wives, his business competitors, criminal gangs and communist cadres. A handy partner if you’re trying your luck in Asia’s gambling scene.”

It is interesting that the deal was supposedly struck by the sons of the respective billionaires. The last time James Packer was let off the leash for a major “sons of” special deal it gave us One.tel and a combined $1 billion loss for the Packer and Murdoch empires.

PBL shares are up 37 cents to $15.89 in morning trading as the market continues to embrace the move. Kerry Packer arguably knows the gaming business from both sides of the table better than anyone in the world, so he’s unlikely to stuff up this sort of deal.

Meanwhile, The Australian’s Jane Schulze deserves a pat on the back as she led the charge in Tuesday’s paper suggesting that a deal was in the offing as you can see here.

Arafat – difficult even in death(SOLD)

November 11, 2004

After lingering between life and death for the last few days, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has died in Paris, and he couldn’t have pick a worse time.

A high ranking doctor from the military hospital where Arafat had been treated since October 29, read a brief stern statement to the media announcing Arafat’s death at 3.30am Paris time.

This will play havoc with the European papers as they struggle to include the conclusion to this chapter of history in their daily papers.

Closer to home The Australian Jewish News , which comes out on Friday will probably have just missed their deadline for this momentous story.

Meanwhile a subscriber writes:

For what it’s worth the first reference I saw to Arafat’s official death was in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. They had a 2.55 (Melbourne time) item saying that Kol Israel [Voice of Israel] was quoting Saeb Erekat as announcing Arafat’s death.

I immediately ran a Google news search for Saeb. There were two items with the news and the earliest one was the SMH (3.03 pm).

Your Hebrew Reading Media Watcher

The SMH did well to turn round the story so quickly for their online readers, however, the email news alerts took a bit longer. The Wall Street Journal news alert arrived at the Crikey inbox at 3.21pm, while The Age alert was dragging the chain a bit at 3.39pm. And Crikey? Well we’re right up with the pace with this 6.15pm update.

We’re going to put together a list of prominent figures whose death in the job would be of similar significance and have a similar impact internationally? Arafat has been a big player in history for more than 30 years.

Early entries include the Queen, Fidel Castro and Kim Il Sung. Send your suggestions into [email protected]

The Garrett and Turnbull show(SOLD)

November 10, 2004

Federal Parliament resumes next week and the excitement is already building around the two star recruits, Peter Garrett and Malcolm Turnbull.

Whilst both missed out on a front bench position there will be many closely watching the respective maiden speeches.

Will Garrett broaden out from his environmental past? Will Malcolm present a more modest and tolerant persona? Will Malcolm mention the republic?

However, of more interest to Crikey will be the first declarations of pecuniary interests by both men.

Afterall, Malcolm is the richest man ever to set foot in an Australian parliamentary chamber and Peter Garrett is a multi-millionaire who has actually run quite a large enterprise with international scale.

Malcolm has not neutralised his assets and we’re predicting there will be inevitable conflicts of interest that have to be managed.

For instance, it is Malcolm’s company FTR Holdings that hosts most of Telstra’s web activities.

What will Malcolm declare about that?

A post-mortem on the final Senate results

November 1, 2004

By Crikey psephologist Charles Richardson

Three weeks later, the federal election of 2004 is finally over. Most people have moved on to other things, but the final Senate results are still worth a look.

The big news is the government winning control of the Senate: unprecedented, but not all that surprising. It was always a possibility once Brian Harradine retired, since that meant that the 3 “right” senators from each state would all be Coalition, as they were in 2001.

To get a majority, the government therefore just had to do especially well in one state to split it 4-2, and in their best state, Queensland, that’s what happened. The various right parties had four quotas between them, and the Hanson/One Nation component was low enough for them to be eliminated and their preferences to ultimately elect the National Party.

As icing on the cake, the right also won 4-2 in Victoria when the Assemblies of God party, Family First, won the sixth spot. But that was entirely due to preferences from the left (Labor and the Democrats); the right had less than 50% of the vote on primaries, and Labor and the Greens had a comfortable three quotas between them.

John Howard’s minimalist reshuffle(SOLD)

October 22, 2004

It was a case of steady as she goes for John Howard as he today unveiled possibly the smallest reshuffle in Australian political history after a general election.

When Joe Hockey’s appointment to the new outer ministry portfolio of Human Services is the biggest change, you know that not much is happening.You can find a full list of the fourth Howard ministry here .

However, there is some interesting shuffling amid the outer ministry. Veterans Affairs Minister Dana Vale is the only casualty, joining an illustrious list of “dumped poor performers” (as opposed to sacked for travel rorting) that includes Bronwyn Bishop and Wilson Tuckey.

Dana was very unpopular with veterans and also had that memorable stuff-up when she faxed 2UE telling 2GB’s Alan Jones to “stay brave and true”.

Outspoken Queensland Nat De-Anne Kelly takes Veterans Affairs with the PM probably thinking she’s better inside the tent than out with things like Telstra privatisation on the horizon.

Malcolm Turnbull and Andrew Robb were not given any walk-up starts but you get a sense today was just steady as she goes ahead of a much wider reshuffle to accompany the new Senate on July 1 next year.

The Government will attempt to get as much through the old Senate as possible and then options such as giving Tony Abbott Industrial Relations for the new Senate still remain open.

Looking at the changes from the perspective of Howard vs Costello, it is amusing that Tony Abbott’s two underlings, Aged Care minister Julie Bishop and new Health Parliamentary Secretary Christopher Pyne, are both strong Costello supporters.

Similarly, moderate Joe Hockey comes in under conservative Finance Minister Nick Minchin and Hockey ranks about the hard-right Erica Betz who remains Special Minister of State. And Tasmanians are still getting a rough deal despite their strong election results – Erica is their only representative and he still can’t make it into cabinet.

Peter Dutton’s appointment to the new position of Workforce Participation Minister is a reward for the huge performance by Queensland and an acknowledgement that Mark Latham’s participation focus during the campaign was clearly noticed. The PM admitted in his press conference today that Australia’s participation rates remain disappointingly low and he well knows that things like the huge numbers on disability pensions and the huge disincentives for people to get back into the workforce are key problems.

The sad, slow strange death of Iron Mark Latham(SOLD)

October 20, 2004

Political editor Christian Kerr writes:

The sad, slow strange death of Iron Mark Latham continued yesterday – briefly interrupted when this yours truly paused to draw everyone’s attention to the remarkable physical resemblance between Sharan Burrows and David Combe. If only she had darker hair…

It’s been hard to actually get a good view of the expiring carcass, as it’s been surrounded by a flock of noveau Kremlinologists lovingly studying the entrails that trail across the ground.

As high profile figures leave like dying breaths, they mumble to each other about the way in which the ultimate dummy spitter is complaining about his former shadows throwing a dummy spit and nod knowingly.

Puh-leaze! For poor old Iron Mark’s state, for their state, for the Party’s state and the nation’s state – there’ll be even more need for quality opposition after July 1 next year, remember – can we all put a sock it in.

Mark Latham needs to confront his own election loss. Full stop. Once he’s done that, his party can then confront its loss. Ok? No mention of the stories about mum on election night. No whispering. No finger pointing. That’s it. That’s all we’ve got to say. Do it.

We need quality Opposition. We need an Opposition than can deliver.

The Liberal Party suffered an even more shattering defeat in 1993 than Iron Mark and the ALP have been through this time.

And, to their credit, within about six months of that they’d already put an enormous hole in Paul Keating. He never really recovered.

Part of it was because he was in full Captain Wacky mode – but part of it was also because people like the then shadow treasurer, Alexander Downer, identified his weaknesses and went to work on them. Mercilessly.

John Howard is back there with a majority in both Houses because the current Opposition has been very good at talking about all the symptoms of what’s wrong with his Government – but bl**dy useless at identifying and explaining the underlying rottenness at its heart. Ditto the meeja.

Good opposition is vital to good democracy. Fix it.

Sorry. We’ve lingered to long and can’t resist just a few kicks at the body sprawled on the ground before we move one.

The election results suggest that a majority of Australians believed that Mark Latham was simply pretending to be nice, that it wouldn’t be long before his autocratic, bullying days returned. They seem to have been right.

How, if he is acting in the interests of Labor – as opposed to his own – and genuinely wants strong parliamentary and cabinet performance, can someone like Tanya Plibersek (Left, lightweight and ever thankful to Anthony Albanese) get a shadow ministry over, say, Bob McMullan. Where does such crass, dated factionalism fit in with the new politics preached by Iron Mark?

At the same time, too, isn’t it just a little fraudulent that all these former frontbenchers who have intimated that they can’t work with Latham seemed quite happy to play along when it looked as if ministerial jobs were in the offing?

As we said, fix it. For all of our sakes.

Antony Green’s Senate details (SOLD)

October 15, 2004

By ABC election analyst Antony Green

Never in the course of political reporting have so many column inches been filled on the basis of so little information as has been the case over the last week in the conduct of the Senate count.

Speculation has run rife on all sorts of mad theories about who will get up in each state. Let’s cut through some of the rubbish published this week to set out the facts of what is going on.

New South Wales

The funny deals Labor did to try and save its third Senator have worked a treat. Most of the preferences directed towards the Greens were first sieved through Liberals for Forests. The result is that at the end of the count, the flow of preferences to the Greens has been choked off. The vote for Liberals for Forests has risen from 0.04 of a quota to 0.81 quota, Labor from 0.59 to 0.65 and the Greens from 0.50 to 0.54. With many Green preferences locked up by Liberals for Forests, the Greens are excluded at the final count, electing the third Labor Senator. The result in NSW, 3 Coalition, 3 Labor, a gain of one National Senator at the expense of the Democrats.

Even if Liberals for Forests fall behind the Christian Democrats at a key count, Labor still wins the final vacancy.

Victoria

The Lead of Family First has been increasing throughout the week. On Saturday night, Labor trailed the Greens by 30,000 and Family First by 40,000 at the crucial final exclusion. By Thursday night, those gaps had increased to 36,000 and 50,000. There are not enough below the line votes for this result to be reversed. The result is 3 Coalition, 2 Labor and 1 Family First, a Family First Gain from Labor.

Queensland

There has been virtually no change in the count since Sunday. Despite talk of the Nationals firming in their position, there has been no change. It is just the National Party rang me to figure out what was going on and started to crunch a few numbers themselves.

At a key point in the count, the National Party are 3,500 ahead of Family First, excluding Family First. This then puts the National Party 3,700 votes ahead of One Nation, excluding One Nation. This results in the 3rd Liberal Russell Trood and the National Party’s Barnaby Joyce being elected to the two final vacancies at the same count.

There are an estimated 100,000 below the line votes in Queensland, so that means these narrow gaps could be overturned. However, on past evidence, only 2% of the National Party vote will be below the line, and about 10% of the minor party vote. That means the National Party lead at both key counts is probably greater than it currently appears.

If the National party falls below Family First at the first key count, then the final two vacancies go to the Liberals and Family First. If the Nationals stay ahead of Family First but fall behind One Nation, the least likely scenario, then the final two spots go to the Liberals and the Greens.

The most likely result is 3 Liberal, 1 National, 2 Labor, a gain by both the Liberals and Nationals at the expense of the Democrats and One Nation.

Western Australia

The most straightforward count. Liberal 3, Labor 2 and Green 1. A Green gain at the expense of the Democrats.

South Australia

There is still some fevered hope amongst the Democrats that they can sneak over the line. At a key point in the count, the Democrats trail Family First by just 2,600 votes. However, the Democrats have only got this close by ticket votes, which suggests the actual gap is larger. If the Democrats go out, the Liberal surplus puts Family First ahead of both the Greens and Labor, and then the Greens are excluded, electing the third Labor candidate. The state splits 3:3, Labor winning the seat previously held by Meg Lees.

Tasmania

The weirdest outcome. The Greens start the count with 0.89 of a quota and only 4,200 votes short of a quota in their own right. However, if you assume all votes are ticket votes, by the end of the count, Family First win the final vacancy by 5,700 votes from the Greens.

If it was not their original intention, someone in the Liberal Party will be claiming great foresight in standing only three candidates. The result is that a full 0.29 of a quota goes straight to Family First rather than lingering with a fourth Liberal candidate.

You would estimate that in Tasmania there will be about 60,000 below the line votes. One evidence of past counts, you would expect their to be some leakage of votes out of all other tickets. It would be extremely unlikely that Democrat and Labor voters who choose to vote below the line would direct preferences to Family First ahead of the Greens. So expect the Greens to be picking up votes at all points in the count.

However, assuming about 80% of the votes are ticket votes, the final vacancy is very tight. The Greens do receive two small ticket votes. I would estimate the Greens need to garner about 3,000 below the line votes, possible but tight. We will be waiting some time for the final result.

Overall Outcome

The most likely outcome is the Coalition 39, Labor 28, Democrats 4, Greens 3, Family First 2. If the Coalition miss out in Queensland, the next most likely outcome has the Coalition on 38 and Family First on 3. The Greens then also have a chance of winning one of those Family First seats in Tasmania.

So what chance Senate reform? There has been past talk by the Coalition of introducing minimum quotas for election. Well, that would be an interesting proposal, as Family First would have won zero seats under that scenario, and the Greens would probably have won the final seat in Queensland at the expense of the Nationals. It would be interesting to see the Coalition introduce a new system having used the old system to get a majority.

Senate reform should come. The most obvious idea is to get rid of the appalling Senate ticket voting system. Voters should be able to fill in their own above the line preferences, maybe in conjunction with optional preferential voting.

I appeared before the Joint Standing Committee on electoral matters after the last election and warned that we could see results such as the victories by Family First. The same occurred at NSW Legislative Council elections in 1995 and 1999, resulting in the abolition of ticket voting for the 2003 election. The Commonwealth should look towards the NSW reforms as a guide for change.

The current Senate system advantages parties that deal on preferences rather than campaign for votes. It is a system wide open to the final result being determined by backroom deals and errors in preferences. The sooner the system of ticket preferences is abolished, the sooner the Senate election will more accurately reflect the intent of voters.

Election ’04 forecast: Stormy Weather ahead(SOLD)

October 8, 2004

For our man in the Press gallery, Hugo Kelly, it’s one sleep till Christmas:

Stand by for a wild Saturday night, subscribers. There are a lot of folk telling the pollsters they’re undecided – up to 16% of them. One theory is that most people already have made up their minds. It’s just that they want to keep their views to themselves, thank you very much.

Some of these “undecided” voters will be oiling up their cricket bats, ready to give John Howard a Michael Clarke-style thumping. Others will be considering dallying on the Green, Green grass of dissent politics.

Forests may play well in many seats for Bob Brown and Labor but Family First could also take plenty of votes from the Greens.

When Crikey checked at the busy pre-polling centre at Melbourne Town Hall Council this afternoon, the Greens were doing a roaring How to Vote card trade. It’s anecdotal at this stage, but there is a swing on. The question is, where is it going geographically and politically?

This is going to be a strange one, with lots of cross-currents flowing in zany directions. The polls don’t really seem to be picking up the size of the dissaffected vote that will probably go to the Greens and then on to Labor.

And although this is Latham vs Howard, it will be about 150 individual battles in which local issues, national themes and the quality of candidates will be crucial in each and every electorate. The personalities are as unpredictable as the result. Key operatives on all sides of politics are surprised at some of the private polling, particularly in what used to be “safe” seats.

Perhaps the lesson from Election ’04 is that there is now no such thing as a safe seat. In the new era of cross-over politics, the landcape has changed dramatically. This is an election when a Conservative PM can make a successful pitch for votes by promising federal TAFE colleges and tool kits for apprentice tradies. And where his Labor rival trumpets a “tax and family” policy that will leave many working mums worse off.

It’s all up for grabs.

Look for the Coalition to hold on to a slab of its endangered marginal seats, but lose some of its so-called “safe” seats. In Queensland, for instance, the Liberals are vulnerable in their Brisbane valley seat of Blair.

Held with a 6.6% margin by a Lance Corporal of the Liberal Party, Cameron Thompson, whose claim to fame was beating off Pauline Hanson with the help of Labor preferences in 1998. This former journalist and party hack with poor people skills is unpopular in Ipswich on his stance over the Ipswich Motorway. His preferred option is supported by himself and no other Liberal we can identify.

Labor has a solid candidate, Shayne Neumann, who is making a good show of it. Watch for an outside bolt on Saturday night. If the ALP gets a 3% swing – expect him to double it. Robert Tickner’s old southern Sydney seat of Hughes is held comfortably by Liberal frontbencher Danna Vale. This could be another dark horse seat for Labor.

While Vale has been bumbling around as Veterans Affairs Minister, Labor’s Greg Holland has been building a steady profile.

Vale holds it with 10.4 %. The seat could be a surprise swinger if a high proportion of “undecided” voters go with Greens, whose preferences flow strongly to Labor. There is the added frisoon for Vale of the presence of Bob Davis, of the Ex-service, Service and Veterans Party.

In the bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro, Crikey has polled some 200 locals and found that the underdog – Labor’s Kel Watt – is ahead. So don’t be suprised if the $3.50 outisder with Centrebet gets up.

The sitting member, the Liberals’ Gary Nairn, howveer, is a tough competitor with a high seat-wide profile and the incumbents’ advantage. It will be a gripping batle right down to the wire. Tomorrow, watch for surprise packet seats like Hughes, suspend your disbelief and, above all, don’t forget to vote.

Tassie tart Greg Barns spreads it far and wide(SOLD)

October 8, 2004

Hobart-based Liberal-turned-Demcrat Greg Barns has been busy this election. So busy Crikey is awading his awarding him our inaugural award for Biggest Media Tart of the campaign (and we’ve known some pretty big tarts in our time).

A former chief of staff to retirend Federal Finance Minister Nick Minchin, Barns fell out with the Liberal Party during the last election when he was disendorsed for a safe Tasmanian seat for criticising John Howard’s refugee policies.

Barns has written columns for the following publications this election :

Herald Sun, August 31, on Howard’s tough election fight
New Matilda, Sept 6, on Latham’s bogus ladder of opportunity
New Matilda, Sept 13, on David Hicks and Jakarta bombing
Fin Review, Sept 17, on overpaid lawyers
New Matilda, Sept 20, on sifting through all this media analysis
SMH, Sept 23, on how logging helps Tassie economy
New Matilda, Sept 27, on mental health
The Age, October 4, on health
The Courier-Mail, October, 5 on Tassie forests
Herald Sun, October 6, on Tassie forests
Canberra Times , October 7, on why Hewson would have been great

Tassie tart Greg Barns spreads it far and wide(SOLD)

October 8, 2004

Hobart-based Liberal-turned-Demcrat Greg Barns has been busy this election. So busy Crikey is awading his awarding him our inaugural award for Biggest Media Tart of the campaign (and we’ve known some pretty big tarts in our time).

A former chief of staff to retirend Federal Finance Minister Nick Minchin, Barns fell out with the Liberal Party during the last election when he was disendorsed for a safe Tasmanian seat for criticising John Howard’s refugee policies.

Barns has written columns for the following publications this election :

Herald Sun, August 31, on Howard’s tough election fight
New Matilda, Sept 6, on Latham’s bogus ladder of opportunity
New Matilda, Sept 13, on David Hicks and Jakarta bombing
Fin Review, Sept 17, on overpaid lawyers
New Matilda, Sept 20, on sifting through all this media analysis
SMH, Sept 23, on how logging helps Tassie economy
New Matilda, Sept 27, on mental health
The Age, October 4, on health
The Courier-Mail, October, 5 on Tassie forests
Herald Sun, October 6, on Tassie forests
Canberra Times , October 7, on why Hewson would have been great

Now his furious scribbling has culminated in a column for The Independent today on how Howard built his electoral success by appealing to a darker side of our character. The IndependentAustralia is now a damaged and divided land

He writes:

These days, television footage of young children and pregnant women behind razor wire in detention centres is as familiar an image of Australia as its golden surf beaches.

This sullying of the “lucky country’s” image has come about on the watch of the man who has been its Prime Minister for the past eight years – John Howard. Yet he looks likely to be returned to office at tomorrow’s general election.

Mr Howard has been able to build his electoral success largely by appealing to a darker side of the Australian character in which narrowness, selfishness, and xenophobia prevail.

But the Australia Mr Howard inherited from the reformist Australian Labour Prime Minister, Paul Keating, in 1996, was creative, independent, and Asia-focused. Australia had driven the foundation in 1989 of the powerful free trade Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group (Apec). A final cutting of the ties with the British monarchy was in reach, as was a formal acknowledgement of Aboriginal dispossession. There was a recognition that Australia’s future lay in greater economic and cultural integration with Asia.

The Howard government has been content to let Apec languish without direction, and instead pursue a free trade agreement with the US, which is of questionable long-term value to Australia.

But Barns isn’t the only Aussie to appear in The Independent of late. On Monday, the paper ran an extract from expat John Pilger’s new book, Tell Me No Lies: Investigative journalism and its triumphs, which argues that investigative journalism still matters, in Where are the Martha Gellhorns of today?

He writes:

What [Wilfred] Burchett did was to hold great power to account, which is journalism’s paramount role. Is that role now lost? Are great mavericks such as Burchett, and Martha Gellhorn, Seymour Hersh, Amira Hass and Paul Foot and Robert Fisk no longer the models for young journalists? Corporatism and consumerism are laying to waste the breeding grounds of free, inquiring journalism when it has never been needed more.

Meanwhile, check out Crikey’s list of other prominant election commentators here: http://www.crikey.com.au/media/2004/08/30-0007.html

Laws vs God (SOLD)

September 28, 2004

Crikey’s religious affairs correspondent, Ivan Jelical, writes:

Like Jonah before the whale, Family First federal leader Andrea Mason today threw herself into the belly of the beast when she took on that secular media god, John Laws.

And like the biblical whale, Laws chewed her up and spat her out.

Laws might have given John Howard a nice cosy run yesterday, but he wasn’t so kind to the woman leading the party that’s done a cosy preference deal with the Liberals.

During a stern ten minute interview, Laws quizzed Mason closely about the party’s connections to the religious right – and got a series of evasive and downright dodgy answers.

And the Golden Tonsils’ verdict? “Her answers were not only evasive – but deceptive,” he declared.

Why, Laws asked, was Family First not preferencing Liberal candidiates Arch Bevis and Ingrid Tall – while at the same time preferencing hypocrite Liberal love rat Ross Cameron?

“You won’t swap preferences with that lesbian Ingrid Tall – but you will swap preferences with Ross Cameron,” asked Laws. “What’s going on there?”

And who were the Family First candidiates, he wanted to know?

“You can’t tell me whether there are Protestant evangelists, that there are pastors amongst your ranks, or that there is anybody from Hornsby church?”

“In your 23 page statement of values there’s not a single word about religion,” said Laws. “Why not?”

“And why can’t you tell me whether any of your candidates are associated with Protestent evangelicals?”

Mason: “Hmmm. It sounds extraordinary, I know…but I don’t know all our candidiates…”

Laws: “But you’re the federal leader of the party!”

Laws concluded: “People are saying this is the strongest push by the Religious Right to get into politics in this country. The Religious Right has every right to get into politics – but not by deception.”

He concluded with an ominous warning: “I’m not satisfied with Andrea Mason’s answers, and I’ll be hoping to speak to her again before the election to get some better ones.”

Amen to that.

Crikey blows $9bn hole in Howard surplus claims(SOLD)

September 28, 2004

But AFTER spending all this money, the unfunded liability will rise by another $9.34 billion. Even HIH wouldn’t have tried brazenly ignoring the small matter of a $3 billion annual liability blow out. It is an absolute scandal that this ballooning liability is not run through the budget bottom line.

In other words, the Howard government should be allocating $5 billion a year just to stop the projected liability from rising any more – but instead it is only paying the $2.1 billion a year that it estimated will be payable to already retired public servants.

This issue finally got a small run in the maintream media last night as you can see from this Lateline debate between Bob McMullan and Nick Minchin. The lies and distortions from both sides were breath-taking:

TONY JONES: Let’s move on to the unfunded super liability. Apparently, it shows that it’s blown out now to $90 billion. When will you start taking it seriously?

SENATOR NICK MINCHIN: We are the ones who are taking it seriously (yeah, another $9bn blow out over four years). We are the ones who have announced the establishment of a future fund into which future surpluses (what tiny surpluses, Senator?) will go in order to meet those unfunded liabilities.

Wentworth: the Greens, the truth and cheapskate candidates(SOLD)

September 23, 2004

There’s a lot going on it the hotly contested seat of Wentworth. So much so that ALP candidate, David Patch and Greens candidate, Mithra Cox have both taken up Crikey’s offer of a free six month subscription for candidates in order to keep abreast of what’s happening.

For some reason Greens and ALP candidates are keenest on our deal. Does that reflect our bias or the fact that Conservatives have more cash and can afford to pay? Both probably?

Whatever the case, poor old Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t seem to be doing too well at some of these Wentworth candidates’ forums or in the polls.

Meanwhile, following last night’s ‘Meet the candidates forum’ in the St Francis Church in Paddington, Afghani and all round nice guy Maqsood Alshams has penned an open letter to the Greens and candidate Mithra Cox, clearing up some factual errors in her speech.

Read Maqsood’s letter here and learn something about overblown Green claims that only they have campaigned to help refugees: http://www.crikey.com.au/whistleblower/2004/09/23-0007.html

Rogue states, rorting Medicare and reckless spending(SOLD)

September 22, 2004

John Howard continues to spend money like a drunken sailor, although Labor is fast catching up with this morning’s $1 billion pledge to boost hospital funding and subsidise visits to specialists.

Those Queensland marginals have suffered some of the biggest drops in bulk-billing rates so it was no surprise that Latham was in Brisbane today and loudly declaring the election was a referendun on Medicare.

Labor neatly lit a fire under the Medicare safety net yesterday with their analysis showing that the take-up rate is highest in the wealthiest seats.

Whilst Crikey hates to admit to rorting the taxpayer, we’ve just moved from Peter Costello’s safe seat of Higgins to Kevin Andrews’ equally safe seat of Menzies and we’ve already cost the Federal budget well over $1500 on this overfly generous and seriously flawed Medicare safety net.

For instance, the editor is on a weekly injection program to innoculate against dust-mites and all the doctors near Peter Costello’s Camberwell home don’t offer bulk-billing.

But why should we care that they charge $45 for a one minute injection each Friday? We’re signed up for the Medicare safety net and so it only costs us $3.15. Talk about encouraging over-servicing and enriching doctors. No wonder the PEFO revealed that the safety net policy has already blown out by more than $100 million.

We’re also seeing as many specialists as we can before Labor takes the safety net away. Our youngest daughter Alice is booked in to see a dermatologist next week for her dermatitis, which would normally cost $100 but will only set us back $8.

And it is not surprising that even Health Minister Tony Abbott admits there has been a blow out in claims by obstetricians. Mrs Crikey is due with our third child at the end of October and this will cost the taxpayer an additional $800 thanks to the safety net.

Meanwhile, the Government has copped a shellacking for its pre-emption flip-flopping which was best demonstrated by this hard-hitting comment piece from Michell Grattan in the Fairfax boardsheets today.

Crikey cartoonist Mark Cornwall best sums it up with this cartoon about the big-spending government and its increasingly shrill claims on national security.

Operatives stacking the airwaves and letters columns(SOLD)

September 20, 2004

The political operatives stacking talkback and letters pages is gathering momentum as we count down to October 9.

For instance, in The Australian’sletters pages today we have a letter from Richard Slater of Berowra Heights. Naturally the letter is highly critical of big business and the Libs, and to be fair, he signed it under his own name, but perhaps he should also have included the fact that he is President of the local branch of the ALP as well and a very active one locally at that!

Then you have the letter that appeared in Saturday’s Herald Sun from “Bernie Finn of Sunbury” which read as follows:

“In less than a week, Australia has turned the clock back 40 years or more. Mark Latham’s ideologically inspired attack on private education has revived the worst of “the bad old days”: bitterness and jealousy between government and non-government schools, suspicion between Protestant, Catholic and Jew, and the simmering hatreds created by class warfare. If this is the sort of Australia the Labor leader wants, I think I’ll pass.”

CRIKEY: Bernie Finn is a high profile former Liberal MP in the Victorian Parliament who is an active member of the Kroger-Costello faction and a party office holder. If the Herald Sun can’t weed out someone as blatant as that, what hope is there?

Keep sending your great letter writing and talk back stunts to [email protected] .

And check out some earlier examples from 2003 on the site here: http://www.crikey.com.au/yoursay/2003/08/07-bogusyousay.html

Famous alumni on Latham’s hit list(SOLD)

September 15, 2004

Mark Latham has identified 67 high-fee schools for his funding hit list, but for many people these “private” or “independent” schools are just nameless bastions of privilege.

So Crikey is attempting to put a human face to the funding furore with a list of the most celebrated (and notorious) alumni from the schools on Latham’s hit list – as well as some of those he left off.

See if your alma mater is on the list here: http://www.crikey.com.au/politics/2002/04/28-alumni.html

The independent school sector is stroppy at the ALP today – not necessarily because of its schools policy, but the way in which it went out.

Either the e-distribution service the Bruvvers used to distribute the document yesterday messed up – or the party didn’t want the details too widely known. Reports suggest some independent schools associations were still waiting for copies of the policy well into the afternoon – leading livelier members to contact various media outlets asking if they could flick their copies over.

Where did Brandis get the rodent from?(SOLD)

A subscriber writes:

G’day Crikey, Clearly (and allegedly) Senator George Brandis has given us an an accurate description of the current Prime Minister as a ‘lying rodent’. But am I alone in thinking that the term sounds awfully like something a regular Crikey reader would use?

Crikey and its columnists have a clear record of referring fondly to the PM as ‘the rodent’. In fact, when I ran a Google search for the term ‘rodent’ on the Crikey website, it turned up 324 results (not including the rodents in the emails that don’t get posted to the site). Even allowing for a few more ‘rodent’ mentions in the last week or so, that’s a lot of rodents going back to 2000. To my mind, that suggests that whoever came up with the expression ‘lying rodent’ must be very familiar with their daily fix of Crikey.

Or is there somewhere else in the media or political circles where ‘rodent’ is commonly used?

Perhaps I should be asking: Does Sen Brandis read his Crikey updates?

CRIKEY: Indeed, a quick search of our sealed section archive produces another 111 references to “rodent” and we haven’t used the term on anyone other than the PM. And yes, Senator Brandis does get the daily Crikey and we can disclose this because we think it was a subs for mention freebie earlier this year.

Mike Carlton flogs Paddy(SOLD)

September 4, 2004

Mike Carlton had a typically feisty column about this being the most spin-infested election ever in today’s SMH which is worth checking out here. But’s he’s sent through an even more cutting column responding to the opening salvo from Paddy McGuiness:

By Mike Carlton

So you’ve signed the old f*rt. I was hoping you would. If Paddy McGuinness’s splenetic opening diatribe on Friday is any guide – and I am sure it is – we are in for a rollicking good laugh in the weeks ahead. The intriguing thing, the hilarious thing about these ex-lefties who have made their long day’s journey to the lunar right is the cargo of bile they have taken on board along the way.

Not content with the Damascene conversion, unrequited by basking in the approbation of their newly acquired High Tory friends and betters, they must prove their virtue, and prove it again and again, by swingeing ad hominem attacks on those whose ideas they once shared.

The odious Akerman is a case in point, the one-time anti-Vietnam pamphleteer and America-baiter now so rabidly the voice of his Murdoch paymasters. So is Paul Johnson, a former editor of the New Statesman turned arch-rightist pontiff. Bill Hayden is another sad example tutored, I am afraid, by McGuinness.

But none is so furious as Paddy himself. I fear he is psychotic. Fat a*se anchored to his Balmain bar stool, he peers through a glass darkly. Dull, dismal and discarded, he wallows in misery and loathing.

To be charitable, I suppose it must be painful to contemplate those long gone salad days and to conclude in hindsight that you had got it all wrong.

In the lonely watches of the night, if he remains halfway sentient after the pub, Paddy must grapple with the realisation that his earlier life was a f*ck-up: all those years frittered away in futile socialist fervour at the Bank Narodny or spruiking Medibank Mark 1 for the frightful Whitlam government.

Rupert Murdoch, if he recalls it at all, can lightly dismiss his pale pink youth as an Oxbridge folly, but Paddy was a soldier for the revolution. Even worse, he never got to bed Germaine. The horror, the horror.

How much happier to be an Andrew Bolt, an ignoramus who was evidently a complete sh*t from birth, or a dill such as Miranda Devine, whose loopy blatherings seem to have been genetically programmed. They know not what they do nor what was done to them.

But poor McGuinness is the quondam atheist who has flung himself into Opus Dei. He is tormented by the quaking remembrance of temps perdu, a sinner reaching for redemption. Perhaps he has found absolution in the Order of Australia gong that he once despised as a bauble for shonks and shysters.

Still and all, terrific fun for the rest of us. Although you feel a twinge of guilt, as if you were enjoying a bear being baited or peering through the bars at Bedlam to see the gambolling lunatics. But let him bring it on. It will add much to the public gaiety.

I think, though, that we should all promise not to sue, however vile the slanders and libels might become. I won’t if you won’t, Paddy, and I hope Ramsey, Kelly, Oakes, Grattan, Tingle, Steketee, Seccombe, Hartcher et al agree. Even Alan Jones. On for young and old.

CRIKEY: Paddy certainly copped a fair shellacking in the yoursay as you can see here: http://www.crikey.com.au/yoursay/2004/09/02-0003.html . We asked Paddy if any of this bile upset him and whether we should tone it down a touch and he replied as follows:

“Tone it down? Let the bile flow – I have a broad back, and you don’t have to worry about my taking offence against anything, no matter how loony. More soon – Sunday morning any use?”

So expect another column tomorrow folks and Paddy’s first controversial attack on all the press gallery heavyweights can be read here: http://www.crikey.com.au/media/2004/09/03-0002.html

War and politics by other means(SOLD)

September 8, 2002

Former chief United Nations weapons inspector Richard Butler has told the Sunday program that is little doubt Iraq is close to having a nuclear capability. Yet this is a man Hillary once saw in Sussex Street wearing brown shoes with a blue suit. Can we really trust his judgement in crucial matters?

The pollies’ friend(SOLD)

September 9, 2002

Do our pollies have any greater friend than Laura Norder?

First the Malthus of Maroubra, Bob Carr, waved his truncheon and set things rolling with his not mandatory sentencing mandatory sentences for killing teachers, judges and doctors. The following day, Saint Steve had jumped on the bandwagon. Twenty four hours later and it was rolling through Adelaide and Media Mike had climbed on board.

Is there any better partner in government?

The sleaze factor(SOLD)

April 3, 2002

Sunday’s Fairfax papers contained the “detail” all two pages worth of the Hitman’s allegations against Kirby. However, a backgrounder by Neil Mercer in Saturday’s Herald probably made some of the most pertinent comments on an aspect of the matter that has gone relatively unexplored.

Referring back to Royal Commission into Police Corruption and the astounding claims floated there, Mercer wrote: “Wood also found that some of the stories that float through Sydney on an almost weekly basis could simply not be substantiated, and he detailed the case of the ‘judicial officer’ who we now know to be Justice Michael Kirby. As the commission’s report makes clear, the allegations date back to 1986 and provide a classic case of how Sydney’s rumour mill works. According to the report, it all started with dinner-party gossip in the mid-1980s which in turn led to formal allegations. Once again, the NSW police failed to properly investigate, which only inflamed suspicions that something was amiss. Had there been a full and professional inquiry then, we might not find ourselves where we are today.”

When is New South Wales going to have a government with the guts to take on the Rum Corps?

Murdoch’s anti-Green template(SOLD)

September 1, 2004

Has a template for attacking the Greens been circulated to Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids in an attempt to curb their growing popularity?

CRIKEY: At face value, Brown’s got himself into a fight he can’t really win. Murdoch’s minions will continue to beat up on him. McManus certainly wasn’t backing off today in his follow-up – Brown backs off Greens’ drug ideas – with lines like this:

“Rattled Greens leader Bob Brown yesterday rushed to distance himself from his party’s policies on hard drugs. Senator Brown, who admitted smoking dope in his mid-20s, denied some of his own party’s policies.

“Senator Brown’s outburst follows a Herald Sun expose of his party’s soft-on-drugs policy. The revelations prompted wide debate about the Greens, whose recent polling indicates they might win the balance of power in the Senate in the new Parliament.”

But yet, in a funny way it could still be a win-win for the Greens. After all, Brown’s kooky antics and even kookier policies got him enormous publicity, including a prime time grilling by Uncle Ray Martin last night on ACA. Anyone who distrusts the Greens will take home the message – they’re extremist dingbats. But they weren’t going to vote Green anyway – or preference them.

But Brown has turned himself into such an effective brand name, any publicity is good publicity, especially for disaffected voters who don’t bother reading the fine policy detail of the Green fundamentalists.

And it is not surprising that the conservative Murdoch press is chasing the Greens – afterall News Corp is controlled by a man responsible for the consumption of more trees than anyone else in the history of the planet.

Flashback(SOLD)

April 14, 2002

Hillary has received a partial transcript of a fascinating phone call:

“Er Slater and Gordon?”

“Gidday. My name’s Dwight. For the past 25 years, ev’ry mornin’, after brekkie, I’ve bin bashin’ me head wif a bit of two-by-four until I concuss meself, an’ now the doc says I ‘ave brain damage and”

“Yep yep.”

“So you reckon I can sue the hardware shop I bought the wood from an’ the lumber company what made it”

“An’ the blokes what cut the trees down, too!”

“Well, I’ll just wait for the cheque then”

High standards(SOLD)

June 30, 2002

As Hillary has previously observed, many of the occupants of Parliament House worry about Mark Latham, the Enoch Powell of the Greater West. They do not so much worry about him going mad as how they can tell when he finally flips.

Last week he shaved his head into a mohawk and wandered the corridors muttering “You lookin’ at me” when he glimpsed his reflection. At Ronald Reagan’s sanatorium they laid on extra guards just in case he tried to shoot the poor old Prez in an attempt to impress Jodie Foster.

However, we should also worry about the Prime Miniature, and his gross hypocrisy. He refused to be drawn into the a row about the standard of political debate in Australia, sparked by Latham referring to him as an “arse-licker”. Instead, he let the Mad Monk defend his honour.

As a number of Labor figures rightly remarked, the Monk isn’t exactly renowned for being a shrinking violet or gentle in tongue. This didn’t matter to the Rodent, who simply spoke of “the integrity, the ability, the decency and the good character of the Leader of the House”.

Yecch!

Parliamentary liaisons and travel rorts(SOLD)

July 14, 2002

In the wake of the Evans/Kernot revelations, people are talking once again of the liaison between a still serving Liberal MP and a convicted travel rorter.

Some observers still feel that the couple’s arrangements warrant a recount of the nights when the rorter claimed travel allowance and a closer look at why the other party’s staff were asked to help him work out his TA “because it’s complicated”.

Just walkin’ the dog(SOLD)

September 1, 2002

The residents of leafy Northbridge are used to seeing toiler’s friend Bob Hawke and the missus walking their Rhodesian Ridgeback. They’re also used to seeing Bob ‘n’ Blanche getting in and out of Comcars.

What they’re finding it hard to deal with, however, is seeing the Comcar drivers getting the job of taking the dog for a walk.

War and politics by other means(SOLD)

September 9, 2002

God help us. Last week it was Earth Summit II the eco-weenies spouting all the lies they’ve been trying to scare us with for the last 30 years yet again (no-one can fault them in their commitment to recycling) and the usual third world mob asking for more money (their must be a new model armoured Mercedes out that or Swiss banks are as bad with their fees as the local boys).