Peanut butter and the nanny state. I kid you not. Peanut eaters are about to be forced outside office buildings to eat their forbidden nuts alongside all those desperate smokers as the nanny state reaches ever further into people’s lives. The NSW Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission building in Sydney’s CBD has outlawed all peanut products for fear an employee could go into shock and die from the fumes. And this edict with its Peanut Free Zone posters is despite the fact, as the Sydney Tele reported, that Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s Rob Loblay claims it is impossible to trigger an allergic reaction from smell.

Old Habits Die Hard. The Federal Liberal Party is clearly in no hurry to throw off the policies of the past and if you look at the Party website you might think that nothing has changed at all since the November election. Pride of place is still given to John Howard and the bogeyman is still the connections of the Labor Party with trade unions.



The tooing and froing on an apology to Aboriginal Australians conveys the same message that nothing really has changed in Liberal policy as does the very equivocal stance on Labor’s plans to undo Liberal industrial relations law. The story by Samantha Maiden, Online Political Editor, The Australian, which is on the list of Saturday morning’s political coverage below, is worth reading. It captures the antagonism which is clearly bubbling along in the “broad church” of the Liberal Party. Perhaps just as significant is the report by Misha Schubert in The Age about the attempt by some Liberals to have the party’s federal deputy director Linda Reynolds dismissed for alleged logistical failures in the election campaign.

Big Brother spreads. Call in for a beer at an increasing number of Northern Territory clubs and pubs and idEye data scanning software will record your driver’s licence and store your picture. This so-called “Alcohol Management System” in some places is linked via wireless telephone internet connection to a central server in Darwin. The N.T. Liquor Commission describes the System in this way:

The central server will store all permit information, including digital photographs and other relevant details of the permit holders. The store located nodes will also store encrypted information relating to permit holders including an encrypted photograph, unique identification number and any imposed restrictions applicable to the permit holder. The purpose of the server will be to centrally store information and to update store nodes, for new permits or restrictions, on a regular basis.

On purchasing alcohol a customer will be required to provide a form of specific identification to the teller, the teller would then scan the identification in the Alcohol Management System, the system would then check the identification against the permit database. If a permit had been issued for that form of identification the scanned photographic image of the permit holder and any restrictions would appear on the computer screen for the teller to view. The permit holder would then be entitled to purchase the liquor subject to any restrictions imposed on the permit. Where a person under permit was subject to restricted volume purchases, the teller would be required to enter the volume of the particular alcohol purchased for that particular person for that transaction. If a customer purchases more than their restricted amount, email notifications are generated automatically by the system and sent to Commission staff indicating a possible breach of permit restrictions.

Do not fool yourself that this latest example of Big Brother is just something designed to curb problem drinking by Aborigines in the Northern Territory. Despite serious concerns about privacy, up to a dozen clubs and hotels in Victoria have introduced the system and hold details about customers for up to 28 days.

A world without income tax. In politics, ideas have a way of spreading. People striving to get elected are always impressed with a policy that worked somewhere else. So get ready for a populist Australian politician to start talking about abolishing income tax and the whole Australian Taxation Office to boot. The continued primary election success of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is sure to be noticed here. The principal policy of this God-fearing Republican, who surprised again at the weekend by beating Senator John McCain in Louisiana and Kansas, is his promise to abolish all income and payroll taxes and replace them with a national retail sales tax on new goods. The Huckabee “Fair Tax plan” includes a monthly rebate to reimburse people “for taxes on purchases up to the poverty line”, so that there is no tax on necessities. “That means people below the poverty line won’t be taxed at all,” is how the policy puts it. “We’ll be taxed on what we decide to buy, not what we happen to earn. We won’t be taxed on what we choose to save or the interest those savings earn. The tax will apply only to new goods, so we can reduce our taxes further by buying a used car or computer.”

A Sensitive GG. I confess to being a bit of an admirer of our Governor General Michael Jeffery with his dignified style and lack of desire to use his office to try and kid Australians that he should have a role that hopefully for most of the time is strictly ceremonial. Not for him the Sir William Deane approach of trying to influence the public debate and none of the controversy that retired politicians like Bill Hayden and Sir Paul Hasluck naturally brought with them to the job. Yet it is this very attractive and restrained approach to being Australia’s head of state that occasionally brings commentators to criticise General Jeffery – like the recent column in the Courier Mail by Mike O’Connor with his description of the GG as a man who having “risen without trace … would easily head any list of least-known Australian public figures, having blended in with the red carpet with such success as to become invisible.” What made this unfair attack – it wrongly claimed General Jeffery was seeking re-appointment – was the fact that this time Government House chose to respond, with Malcolm Hazell, Official Secretary to the Governor-General, writing a detailed letter defending his boss to the Editor of the paper. 


The Daily Reality Check:

There is more interest in a black American presidential candidate than the Australian apology to if the Crikey survey of 10 local internet sites is any guide. Not for the first time, Barack Obama’s battle for the Democratic Party nomination features more prominently than local politics in the stories that people are actually reading. Perhaps it shows that people have a proper understanding of what events will really influence their lives. That golden oldie Malcolm Fraser intrigued Age readers with a claim that his Liberal Party needs a drastic fix and at the Oz the Australian defence minister issuing a warning to NATO about Afghanistan topped the list. Things were not much different over the weekend with the only way federal politics made the top 50 on Sunday being an interest in the celebrities clamouring to be invited to Kevin Rudd’s ideas summit and Nick Minchin using the “f” word to Malcolm Turnbull. The readers preferred a good funeral with the Perth version of the farewell to Heath Ledger topping the list.

The Pick of This Morning’s Political Coverage

Bishop to fight ALP abolition of AWAs – Jennifer Hewett, The Australian

Liberals leap to Rudd’s People’s Power jig – Phillip Coorey, Sydney Morning Herald

DOCS insiders blow whistle on tragedy – Ruth Pollard, Sydney Morning Herald

Kevin Greene caned students with ruler, DOCS clogged with his requests – Joe Hildebrand, Sydney Daily Telegraph

Furore over lost millions for hospitals – Tim Martain, Hobart Mercury

The Pick of Sunday Morning’s Political Coverage

Migration scheme unravels – Eamonn Duff – Sydney Sun Herald

Let us kill and eat whale: Japanese – Julian Ryall, Sunday Age

Libs target high profile Patti Chong, Justin Langer – Paul Lampathakis, Perth Sunday Times

Fears of carer crisis – Michael Stedman, The Sunday Tasmanian

Fraser puts State fat on the chopping block – Darrell Giles, Brisbane Sunday Mail

The Pick of Saturday Morning’s Political Coverage

Swan sets watchdog on banks over fees – Peter Martin, The Canberra Times

Liberals gun for poll scapegoat – Misha Schubert, Melbourne Age

Yuan flows raise national interest questions – Elisabeth Sexton, Melbourne Age

Japanese whalers deny mother and calf slaughter – Lauren Williams, Sydney Daily Telegraph

Bureaucrats ban peanut butter over deadly smell – Byron Kaye, Sydney Daily Telegraph

Moving In: Aborigines plan parklands tent embassy – Michael Nilnes, Tory Shepherd, Adelaide Advertiser

Minchin used f-word in Turnbull stoush – Samantha Maiden, Online Political Editor, The Australian

Don’t let facts spoil the day – Keith Windschuttle, The Australian

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey