Public sector strikes. The strike this morning by Victorian state school teachers and a planned stoppage on Friday by teachers in the Victorian Catholic school system suggest that the new Labor Government will soon have even more economic problems to deal with as it tries to contain inflation. A wage break out is just what the Reserve Bank fears as it moves to increase interest rates and a wage break out in highly unionized sections of the work force – predominantly the public sector these days – is what the action by teachers suggest is on the way. Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard will soon learn that amending legislation is the easy part of her job.

Buy Chinese buy bad. The scandals about quality control from China just keep coming. The latest involves the blood-thinner heparin which is made from pig intestines and suggestions that shipments from China are contaminated. More than 400 patients in the United States have suffered serious complications after receiving the blood-thinner using the Chinese ingredient. The New York Times reports that the Chinese heparin market has become increasingly unsettled over the last year, as pig disease has swept through the country, depleting stocks, leading some farmers to sell sick pigs into the market and forcing heparin producers to scramble for new sources of raw material. Traders and industry experts say even big companies have been turning more often to the small village workshops, which are unregulated and often unsanitary. The heparin scare is but one of many recently about the quality of Chinese products. I, for one, have now got to the point of studying the small print on labels at the supermarket and if it says Made In China I pass on to a more expensive brand made somewhere else. And I am staggered by the lack of interest Australian standards authorities have in warning consumers of the appalling quality control standards of Chinese manufacturers.

Enforcing the law a simple solution. The Tasmanian Labor Government might have expressed some reservations last week about the need to change laws to combat binge drinking but it will succumb this week to the increasing clamour to take action. The state Treasurer Michael Aird will this week introduce a Liquor Licensing Amendment Bill 2008 prompted, he says, by a recent review of the laws, as well as a growing concern over problems with binge drinking in Tasmania. “I think we all agree that there is an issue with under-age drinking and the way young people are consuming alcohol,” he said. “I think people want to see a greater compliance with the law and a stricter regulatory regime.” The Tasmanian proposals include heavier penalties for publicans although there will be no changes to opening hours or limits on the number of liquor outlets as has been called for by 2020 talkfest convenor the Revd Tim Costello. No mention in the reports I have seen, however, of the one simple measure that would actually work; use the police to inspect licensed premises and take away the licence of any that consistently serve people who are drunk with drunk defined and measured in the same way as for car drivers but with a higher limit.

Closer than reading the papers might suggest. I am intrigued by the way that journalists have jumped aboard the Barack Obama band wagon with such alacrity with much of the writing now about the manner in which Hillary Clinton should withdraw from a race she cannot possibly win. The evidence of the opinion polls and the Crikey US Election Indicators suggests that the contest is not yet over with Ms Clinton having a good chance in the the three primary contests on Wednesday (Australian time).

In Texas the opinion polls, as measured by the Real Clear Politics poll average, have Obama the narrowest of favourites after Clinton had led for many weeks. The Crikey Election Indicator puts the probabilities as Obama 76% to Clinton on 24%.

In Iowa Clinton maintains a clear lead in the opinion polls. The Crikey Election Indicator puts it as Obama 44% to Clinton 56%.

In Rhode Island the poll average has Clinton with a comfortable lead. And that is reflected in the Indicator’s assessment of the probabilities as Obama 19.4% and Clinton 80.6%.

The Daily Reality Check

I suppose when you have got a lot of brands you can afford to have one of them which panders to minority tastes but in any case readers of news on the internet should be thankful to New Limited for the site of its national daily The Australian. It alone of the major sites features a serious coverage of Australian politics and it is reflected in the stories its visitors actually read. At Crikey we monitor 10 sites every day and in the last week there have been a total of 31 stories about federal politics out of the total of 350 in the daily lists of the top five most read. The Australian provided 14 of them with only the ABC coming close with nine. You can see from the table below that politics did not feature at all on four of the sites:

Nine/
MSN

ABC

Daily
Tele

News.
com.au

The
Oz

SMH

Advertiser

Herald
Sun

The
Age

Courier
Mail

Total

Celebrities

12

7

9

10

2

2

9

9

2

10

72

Crime

7

3

4

5

9

6

8

2

2

46

Sport

2

8

1

11

4

9

7

3

45

Federal

politics

1

9

4

14

1

2

31

Accidents

3

6

1

2

1

6

2

6

2

29

Sex

3

3

2

4

2

1

3

3

21

TV/Film

2

2

5

2

1

1

2

2

17

Oddities

3

2

3

4

1

3

16

Health

2

2

1

1

2

1

1

1

11

Finance

2

2

2

1

1

2

10

US politics

3

1

1

1

3

9

State

politics

1

3

2

1

2

9

Foreign

1

3

3

1

8

Internet/

Phones

2

1

3

6

Animals

3

2

5

Property

1

1

1

1

1

5

Right v Left

4

4

Weather

1

1

2

4

Cars

1

1

2

Total

35

35

35

35

35

35

35

35

35

35

350

Stories about celebrities, crime and sport are clearly what people most read with sport the most fancied category for the broadloid Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

The pick of this morning’s political coverage

Maybe the honeymoon will prove to have lasted just the 100 days that the Rudd Government is celebrating this week. There is a somewhat ominous tone to some of the headlines this morning about a property double-whammy: a decline in housing affordability combined with what the Daily Telegraph calls a “landslide” in Sydney home prices. And tomorrow presumably there will be a further interest rate rise to accentuate both conditions.

Rudd determined to act on housing affordability – Michelle Grattan, Melbourne Age

Landslide: Sydney house values drop – Kelvin Bissett and Justin Vallejo

Home Crisis – Rudd warns housing affordability at ‘critical point’ – Laura Anderson, Adelaide Advertiser

Shooters links fire up Greens – Andrew Clenell, Sydney Morning Herald

$1.5b water grab – Foreigners bid for desalination deal – Ellen Whinnett, Melbourne Herald Sun

Thefts feed gambling addiction – Maria Rae, Hobart Mercury

Utopia is living up to its name – Nick Calacouras, Northern Territory News

 

The pick of the weekend’s political coverage

Rudd delivers progress report – Michelle Grattan, Melbourne Age

Labor’s first head rolls – Wendy Frew and Alexandra Smith, Sydney Morning Herald

PM flags reform of political donations – Phil Coorey, Sydney Morning Herald

Inflation worries growing – Sid Marris and Matthew Franklin, The Australian

Turnbull did a $10m rain dance – Laurie Oakes, Sydney Daily Telegraph

DRY CITY – Large swathes of Darwin declared alcohol free – Rebekah Cavanagh

Rudd a style leader – Miawling Lam, Sydney Sunday Telegraph

Peter Fray

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