Banning perms in the war on terror. Hairdressers, along with farmers, miners and green keepers, will be subject to increased supervision as Australian Governments begin to tighten regulations concerning the use of chemicals that could be used by terrorists. The Federal Government has just released a “Draft Report on the Control of Chemicals of Security Concern” for public comment before decisions on new regulations are made by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). The report estimates that in Australia there are 573,700 workplaces with chemical users, 5,340 workplaces that manufacture chemicals, 2,050 workplaces that import chemicals and 640 workplaces that export chemicals. “A relatively small proportion of the types of chemicals in Australia could potentially be used in a terrorist act,” says the report. “This smaller group includes chemicals with a diverse profile in terms of use and distribution. Many of the chemicals that terrorists seek are commonly classed as dangerous goods, or have very similar physical and chemical attributes, as these chemicals have the potential to cause injuries, illnesses and/or fatalities and mass casualties.”

Reforming the criminal law. New Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus is getting into the consultative swing of things which is becoming a hallmark of this new Labor Government with plans for a summit of his own. The new member for Macquarie used the occasion of his maiden speech yesterday to announce “a major forum later this year at which academics, the profession, the Australian Institute of Criminology, the Law Reform Commission and police unions will all be invited to participate and discuss proposals for reforms to federal criminal justice legislation.” Mr Debus professed to be keen to work with colleagues on coordination of criminal justice reform: for example, the Model Criminal Code and its implementation. “I want to move away”, he said, “from the adversarial approach which characterised the previous government and to take a consultative approach, including the legal profession. In New South Wales I found in the past the contribution of the Law Society and particularly the Bar Association to be invaluable.”

Rating the maiden speeches. The first speech of a new Member of the House of Representatives with a little bit of news in it is a rare thing but then very few new members come with a lengthy spell in a state parliament behind them. Thus Bob Debus, a former Attorney General in NSW among other things, perhaps has an unfair advantage over other new members but his effort yesterday will be hard to toss in the ratings which Crikey will be allocating to all maiden speeches. 8 out of 10 for a well delivered effort showing that his political experience will be an asset to the Labor Government.

Damian Hale: Labor member for Solomon. A conventional first speech full of thanks to Mum and Dad and everybody else from a former Northern Territory and Australian apprentice of the year. 5 out of 10.

Stuart Robert: Liberal member for Fadden. His hero is William Wilberforce who secured passage of the Slave Trade Act that abolished “the abhorrent” trade throughout the Commonwealth. “His firm Christian commitment, his passion for justice and his unstinting resolve to fight for what was right are a great personal inspiration. I look forward to bringing the same courage of my convictions to the inevitable parliamentary battles that are ahead.” A former army officer who joined the Liberal Party in 1991 and is “proud of the personal freedoms we enjoy, based on a bedrock of Christian based ethical standards.” A well delivered speech that forthrightly spelled out his convictions. 6 out of 10.

Nola Marino: Liberal member for Forrrest. A dairy farmer who used her time not on the normal thank you’s and a eulogy about the delights of her electorate but as an opportunity to state her interest in the issues of water, small business and trade practices. Unlikely to become one of Parliament’s great orators — 5 out of 10.

Mike Kelly: Labor member for Eden Monaro and Parliamentary Secretary for Defence. One of Kevin Rudd’s especially chosen few star candidates who perhaps was not aware of Stuart Robert’s history when he told the House he was “highly conscious of the fact that I am the only war veteran represented in parliament since the retirement of Graham Edwards. I feel a particular responsibility to be a voice for our veteran and ex-service community in this government.” — 6 out of 10.

The quitters quit. The great politicians are those prepared to suffer a setback – to go in to Opposition and come out again. Gladstone, Disraeli, Churchill, Menzies and, yes, Howard: they were not quitters like the Frasers, the Hewsons and the Keatings who lacked the stomach to suffer the indignity of serving without the perks of ministerial office but could not resist still sniping away from the sidelines. Now the ranks of the quitters are about to be joined by Peter Costello, Alexander Downer and Peter McGauran. They are all lesser men for their parliamentary retreat.

The spread of working families. The use by politicians of “working families” is spreading. Hillary Clinton used it in a speech last year and now Barack Obama is in on the act. It featured prominently in his victory comments after the latest round of Caucus and Primary victories.

The Daily Reality Check

There was a time when the Sydney Morning Herald prided itself on being a serious newspaper. The printed version might still have such a pretension, although its “Stay in Touch” section now plays the same game of celebrity nonsense as “Sydney Confidential” in the tabloid Tele, but the website has clearly decided that eye-balls, any eye-balls at all, are all that matters. The content is as populist as any Australian news site on the web and more so than most. It is surely just a matter of time before Granny’s internet image influences newspaper readers in to realizing why there are plans to abandon the broadsheet format. This morning, national sorry day was not among the featured stories although one did creep into the list of the top five most read. That is more than on five of the 10 sites in the daily Crikey survey. On NineMSN, the Advertiser, the Sydney Telegraph, Melbourne Herald Sun and the Courier Mail sites the apology to Aborigines did not make the most read list although it should be noted that up in Brisbane a report that Aborigine refused surgery `because of his race’ did interest the readers. And a special commendation should go to the Daily Tele for the most innovative piece of television reviewing of the year: the choice of Roger Rogerson to rate Underbelly as having “great tit” was inspired.

The Pick of This Morning’s Political Coverage

‘War cabinet’ to fight disadvantage – Patricia Karvelas, The Australian
Downer, McGauran to lead parliament exodus – Steve Lewis,
Pollies back to their old tricks – Malcolm Farr, Daily Telegraph
Super lobby seeks 15pc within seven years – Barry Dunstan, Australian Financial Review
Victoria’s sultans of spin try to mask growing problems – Ken Davidson, The Age

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey