Every
few months the head of the PM’s department, Peter Shergold, denies that
the commonwealth public service is politicised, says Tony Harris in the
Fin Review (not online). But there’s no doubt who he’s working
for. Like Howard’s first departmental secretary, Max Moore-Wilton, who
disclosed that while working for Howard he’d learnt to “provide advice
when requested and think about it when it had not been sought,”
Shergold is an “enthusiastic spruiker for government policies,” even if
that “conflicts with the public good.”

Both Howard and Costello’s statements about extreme Islamists in our midst have been
criticised by some as out of place, says Gerard Henderson in The Sydney Morning Herald. It was notable, however, that most Labor figures chose not to
criticise either Howard or Costello. What Kim Beazley and Morris lemma have in common with Howard and Costello
is that they, too, receive briefings on national security from
intelligence and/or police sources. In other words, “they know from
official advice that there is a threat, albeit probably a small
one, to national security from radical Islamists.” The potential problem in Australia
should not be exaggerated but nor should it be ignored.


It will take more than a well-crafted speech on multi-culturalism for
Peter Costello to show he’s got the real stuff. But, the Treasurer
knows he has to broaden
his appeal and his disdain for “mushy
multiculturalism” and his call for a more muscular national identity
worked well, writes Steve Lewis in The Oz. The next day Coalition MPs’ electorate offices were
inundated with calls, with overwhelming numbers backing Costello’s
hard-line view. If this was designed to win over the doubters, it worked.

The only thing rising faster than China is the hype about China, writes Minxin Pei in Foreign Policy. Western investors hail China’s strong economic fundamentals – notably a
high savings rate, huge labour pool, and powerful work ethic – and
willingly gloss over its imperfections.
But Beijing’s brand of authoritarian politics is “spawning a dangerous
mix of crony capitalism, rampant corruption, and widening inequality.”
Dreams that the country’s economic liberalisation will someday lead to
political reform remain distant. Indeed, if current trends continue,
China’s political system is “more likely to experience decay than
democracy.”

Writing is an unkillable impulse. It is like
second sight or a blood disease, a gift or a state beyond our control, says Richard Brockheiser in the New York Observer.
“Writing is older than writing, as the songs and stories of the
illiterate attest, and will go on, in whatever should be the prevailing
technology, as long as intelligence thinks in language.” But the book,
the bound collection of written or printed pages that has been the main
vessel of writing for 1,500 years, may be on its last legs.

Worth reading Highly recommended

Peter Fray

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