Turning on the televisions. Federal Government departments will be making special efforts tomorrow morning to encourage participation in the Parliamentary national sorry day celebrations. Circulars have been sent to staff telling them that grieving rooms will be available for those who do not wish to just watch proceedings on the especially erected departmental television screens. Indigenous employees have been alerted to provisions in their employment conditions enabling them to take up to two days leave should they feel it necessary. I have no comment.

Remembering the revolution. There must be someone in the Australian Government Media Release Service (AGMRS) aggrieved that the Department of Foreign Affairs did not give due acknowledgement to the 29th anniversary of Iran’s “Glorious Victory of the Islamic Revolution”. There is no record of the Department making a comment on this historic event but the following did appear in the daily list of press releases emailed around by the AGMRS:

For the record, let it be known that Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad used the occasion to tout the revolution’s alleged success at a rally in Tehran’s Azadi Square saying that Tehran did not fear the possibility of another round of United Nations sanctions. The West “should know that the Iranian nation will not retreat one iota from its nuclear rights.”

Money for nothing. The Papua New Guinea Minister for Foreign Affairs Trade and Immigration, the Hon Sam Abal MP, is in Australia this week to commence discussions on the future of the Offshore Processing Centre on Manus Island which has not been used to house asylum seekers since May 2004. While refugees and other asylum seekers will not again see Manus, or the other Pacific solution location on Nauru, the legacy of this Howard Government initiative lives on. While Labor will in future process all “unauthorised boat arrivals” on Christmas Island, the cost to the Australian budget of Manus and Nauru will continue. Mr Abal will be seeking to find out exactly how many dollars will make up Labor Immigration Minister Chris Evans’ promise that “Australia will continue to honour its commitment to a generous aid and capacity development program for Nauru and Papua New Guinea.” The last of the refugees detained in Nauru will arrived in Australia last Friday.

A baptism of fire. One thing that new Prime Minister’s Department head Terry Moran has plenty of experience in is dealing with the eccentricities of inexperienced ministers. I recall his first assignment as private secretary back in the early 70s to then Health Minister Doug (spell that Dug) Everingham who among other things was trying to convert Australia to phonetic spelling. Among the interesting proposals that the young Mr Moran had to contend with was his Minister returning from a conference on s-xually transmitted diseases and calling for the Attorney General to begin drafting legislation to make it compulsory for people who changed s-xual partners more than once a year to have their names placed on a government register. This at a time when the newspapers were full of a kind of love between Jim Cairns and Junie Morosi and Rex Connor was showing financial ingenuity that would do a sub-prime loan salesman proud.

Counterfeit fags. I wonder why drug bosses bother with this heroin and ice business with its potential penalties of years in the slammer when some good old fashioned cigarette smuggling provides plenty of potential for profit while the courts provide much lighter penalties that often do not include any time in jail at all. Representatives of more than 150 nations are meeting in Geneva this week to start talks to supplement an existing tobacco control treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which became international law in February 2005. About 600 billion cigarettes, almost 11 percent of the 5.8 trillion cigarettes sold globally in 2006, entered the market illegally, according to the Framework Convention Alliance reports Blooomberg. Illicit tobacco trade could represent a loss of $40 billion to $50 billion in revenue every year, said the organization, a 300-member lobby. Australia is not exempt from the illicit trade. Australian Customs reports that last year they foiled some 40 separate attempts to smuggle cigarettes and tobacco into Australia, mostly in sea cargo containers through Port Botany in Sydney. Up to 95 million cigarettes and 236 tonnes of tobacco were seized, amounting to attempts to evade revenue in excess of $100 million. The significant volume of detections – a 14-fold increase in the quantity of tobacco and double the quantity of cigarettes compared to 2006 – reflects the world-wide rise in cases of large-scale organised cigarette and tobacco smuggling. Just a week ago a man who illegally imported 3,705 kilograms of tobacco from Indonesia, for which the duty payable exceeded $1.1 million, was fined only $45,000 in Downing Centre Local Court.

The Daily Reality Check

Brendan Nelson might have been right the other day when he listed the lack of water in the nation’s dams as one of the major reasons for the Coalition’s defeat last November. This morning is yet another where stories about the weather rate as highly as anything political on the lists of most read stories on the internet news sites. Up in Queensland the Courier Mail can publish what it wants about apologies to Aborigines, Timorese leaders being shot and interest rate rises being threatened but it is filling dams with more rain on the way that people actually read about. The evidence of our Crikey surveys suggests that television news bulletins ought to start with the weather rather than end with it. Or perhaps not; unless there were plenty of stories like those this morning about insatiable s-x maniac Heather Mills, a cop seeking s-x from a P-plater, the Indian doctor getting life for filming nude patients and a fat pizza being no laughing matter for the health-conscious, viewers would switch channels before the finish.

The Pick of This Morning’s Political Coverage

Interest rates could hit 10% – Dennis Atkins, Courier Mail

When words aren’t enough – Noel Pearson, The Australian

No more ugly brawls, Rudd warns his MPs – Mark Davis, Sydney Morning Herald

Libs, Nats unite to take on Brumby – David Rood and Paul Austin, The Age

Fired civil servants milk $9m from NSW taxpayers – Simon Benson and Kelvin Bissett, The Daily Telegraph