Hillary’s comeback. So far so good with my decision last week to back Hillary Clinton to become the Democratic Party nominee when she was rated a 17.1% chance in the market. After yesterday’s primaries in Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island she is now rated as a 27% chance. I still think there is an unreal sentimental attachment to Barack Obama that presents us with a betting opportunity. I note that Clinton is a firm favourite in Pennsylvania which is the next major state where a primary is to be conducted. I am also bemused by the way that United States political commentators are too obsessed with being politically correct that they fail to mention that extraordinary picture of Barack Obama dressed as a Somali chief as a factor in the swing back towards Ms Clinton.

A return of protectionism. The rhetoric of the two Democratic Party candidates in the industrially suffering Ohio (but not that of the Obama aide reported as telling Canadians that his boss did not really mean what he was saying) suggests that protectionism is well and truly back on the US political agenda. Trade and manufacturing jobs are sure to be key issues in the run up to November with the relatively free trade policies of the Bush administration likely to be abandoned by his successor. There is a parallel upsurge in protectionist thinking in the European Community as well with José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, warned in a recent interview that “political forces in Europe that were traditionally pro-market are today – let’s put it elegantly – more prudent. Some on the centre-right are now more conservative in that regard.”

Jasper and Abby watch. Aficionados of political trivia will find much to amuse themselves with in the Hansards of Senate Estimates committees as the following recent interchange illustrates:

Senator Faulkner—I have seen, I believe, some press speculation about this. I think the Prime Minister, in fact, has commented that the Rudd family has restrained their dog, who apparently has the name Abby, from digging up the garden. He has also described that as a big challenge. I am advised that Abby the dog has not caused any damage to the gardens or grounds.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS—That is very good to hear.

Senator Faulkner—I knew that you would be pleased to be so informed.

Senator RONALDSON—You are convinced the dog was being honest with you when you made those inquiries?

Senator Faulkner—I certainly would not want to mislead the estimates committee on such a critical issue, but I can assure you that I have a brief in front of me that so records that. I could give you more information about Abby’s behaviour, if you would like. Would you like to hear about Abby’s brief toilet trips outside, for example?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS—Does that mean the animals are kept inside or outside?

Senator Faulkner—I can inform you, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, that Abby is free to go outside, but she generally only goes outside when she is accompanied by a member of the family or staff, apart from brief—

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS—So they are kept inside. I am sure that any damage that they might do—

Senator Faulkner—Please, let me finish: apart from a brief toilet trip. So there you are.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS—So they are indoor pets. I am sure that, if there is any damage that may be done to the Lodge, the Prime Minister and his wife will no doubt pick up the tab for that.

Senator Faulkner—I think that is true. I am also informed, for what it is worth, that the Prime Minister’s family’s cat, which apparently goes by the name Jasper, is generally an indoor cat.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS—A well-behaved moggie. Well, we are very pleased to hear that.

Senator RONALDSON—Just so we are clear, Senator: every time these animals go outside they are accompanied by a staff member? Is that what you are telling us?

Senator Faulkner—No, I do not believe that is right, but apparently, from time to time, as you would appreciate, dogs do go outside for the odd toilet stop, as has been described.

Friends in the right papers. I notice that Bob Mansfield, a businessman John Howard was prone to trot out now and again for tasks, got a bit of stick from The Australian for not agreeing to become the long term chairman of the “debt-stricken Allco Finance Group”. The story questioned why Mr Mansfield, as the senior independent director, did not take up the chairman’s position following the resignation of Allco founder and executive chairman David Coe. “Mr Mansfield’s reluctance to take on the chairman’s role full-time also belies his strong leadership role in the business previously, making many of its key decisions,” the story said. What was not questioned was the role of that other independent director on the Allco board, Sir Rod Eddington, who has become the businessman that Kevin Rudd is prone to trot out now and again for tasks. Could the absence of a mention of Sir Rod have anything to do with him also being an independent director on the News Corporation board? Surely not.

Mac makes the list. McDonald’s Australia Pty Ltd is the solitary retail organization to make the 2008 Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency’s (EOWA) Employer of Choice for Women just released list. Given the considerable number of women working in the retail industry that seems to me like a pretty poor show. The average pay gap in 2008 EOWA Employer of Choice for Women organisations is 10%, 7% lower than the national average. Each of these organisations have shown that gender pay equity has been analysed, that the gap is less than the industry average and that they are working to address any gap identified. Organisations have also shown that their recruitment and promotion processes are merit based and transparent and they have provided training to all staff about preventing sex-based harassment in the workplace.

The Daily Reality Check. Taking a cruise on an ocean liner to listen to speeches by Wilson Tuckey is not my idea of a holiday but the West Australian Liberal might be on to something that Brendan Nelson should consider. Instead of putting on his “more in sorrow than in anger” face to criticize Opposition colleagues taking a few weeks off outside the country, perhaps Dr Nelson should be joining them. Surely a long holiday could not make the polling figures any worse than they are? Back home here the mob are showing scant interest in reading anything political. Only three stories out of 50 on this morning’s most read internet news list and two of them are about the billion dollar helicopter bungle. When people don’t want to listen there’s no point in talking. Which makes me wonder how many people actually turn up for a ship board Wilson Tuckey lecture?

The pick of this morning’s political coverage

Peter Fray

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