I fear I’m in danger of becoming more
tolerant of the minor foibles of public figures – possibly a reaction to a
severe outbreak of pettiness in every second media outlet.

This morning The SMHslaps at Premier Dilemma for taking his wife and children to the Easter Show
for free, courtesy of an invitation from the Royal Agricultural Society. Wow, a
whole $97 involved in that scandal.

The Terror – with the obligatory repeat performance on ACA last night – has been campaigning hard over local councils
spending anything on staff or councillors, especially when it involves a
corporate credit card and a conference: “A $15.80 McDonald’s snack was put on
plastic by Fairfield general manager Alan Young during a stop
at Lithgow”.

Well hold the front page – oh, sorry,
that’s where the story was already.

And of course Crikey has been banging on
about pollies and their families bagging the odd upgrade from Qantas. Were we supposed to be shocked that a company
might seek to curry a little favour with the crown? Anyway, the marginal cost
of an upgrade is nothing compared with the standard donations at the many grubby
political fund raisers.

Declaration: I’ve been happy to stretch my
legs on a few airlines thanks to an upgrade without feeling “bought”, I’ve
attended myriad events gratis either on press passes or corporate invites and I
have put considerably more than a Mac attack down on expenses over the past
three decades or so. And I’m happy to do all of the above again if given the
opportunity – as I guess just about every hack scratching away in the chook
yard pettiness stakes would too.

The joke is that while the chooks are beaks
down in the dust and their own cr*p, the gate’s been left open, Brer Fox is
about, there’s a chicken hawk at 12 o’clock and the duck sitting in the water
trough just sneezed. All figuratively speaking, of course.

But pettiness is a relative thing. As part
of John Howard’s attack on Labor’s family allowances proposal, the Prime
Minister said the suggested cap would only save “a paltry $6 million”.

Yes, in the general scheme of federal
government spending, $6 million is rather paltry – but it would make a massive
difference to half a dozen charities I know that are doing considerably more
for the country than the prime minister. Maybe that’s the level of paltry the
poultry should be pecking at.

Peter Fray

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