The Chinese connection. Dodgy conduct takes a long time to get through into the public consciousness so the Liberals beginning to ask questions of Kevin Rudd about his contact with Chinese businessmen should not expect any immediate tarnishing of the Prime Ministerial image. Keep plugging away about why someone would pay for a trip to Darfur here and a visit to China there if there was nothing in it for them for a year or more and it might, just might, start to hurt. It is not that Australians don’t care about the behaviour of their politicians, it’s just that most are not interested in listening to anything that does not directly affect them. Thus it won’t be copping a few free trips that will determine how long PM Rudd retains his amazingly high popularity rating but how it effects people’s purses.

Body language of significance. Annabel Crabb, my favourite writer on the goings on within the parliamentary chambers, had a wonderful little anecdote this morning about Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s body language when his colleague Wayne Swan answering a question without notice. “Every now and again,” Ms Crabb wrote, “he will massage his temple lightly and in a circular motion with the forefinger and middle finger of one hand, as if he has the beginnings of a tension headache. This happens quite frequently during answers from Wayne Swan. A Liberal frontbencher — I don’t want to embarrass him so let’s just call him “Joe Hockey, manager of Opposition business and shadow health minister” — recently sought advice from a body-language expert on the significance of this gesture. Apparently it signifies dissatisfaction.”

The haggling continues. The temporary hiatus in the battle for the Democratic Party presidential nomination as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton battle for the support of those delegates not chosen by a popular vote continues. While Obama remains the favourite to win out, his support on the Intrade market has declined a little over the last fortnight.

The Crikey election indicator, based on the Intrade market, now puts the probabilities at Obama 72% and Clinton 28%.

Twice a Maiden. Ms Sharryn Jackson has made a comeback as the Labor member for Hasluck in the House of Representatives so really her speech on the Address in Reply yesterday was not a maiden speech. As she herself put it, “You can’t be a maiden twice” but it’s worth noting because it was so much better than the efforts of most of the 42 people in the parliamentary class of 2007. With her re-election to the seat of Hasluck (which she lost in 2004 after winning in 2001) Ms Jackson became one of a select group of over 80 people who have regained a House of Representatives seat after losing their seat at an election. Seventy-eight people have served two separate terms, returning after a defeat, and another eight people have served three separate terms—that is, returning after two defeats. If electors judge their members on the quality of their speaking, Ms Jackson will not lose again. 7 out of 10.

James Bidgood, Labor, Dawson. The Biblical quotation was quite appropriate for a new member who needed a swing of over 10% to win: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” And perish the National Party did at the hands of this Labor man who owned and managed two medical centres in Mackay as the financial director before becoming an MP. His was a rollicking and good natured maiden speech that earned the comment from the Liberal who followed him that “his skills in oratory might have been honed on a soapbox in Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.” 5 out of 10.

The Daily Reality Check

I suspect that there is a significant minority of Australians who don’t know who was fighting who in World War II, or even when and if there was such a war, but that has not worried the editors this morning. Old bad news is good news so stand ready tomorrow for an account of the wreck of the Hesperus. The sinking of the Sydney is splashed over all the papers with the notable exception of the NT News which has found yet another crocodile angle. Yet on the websites there is little interest outside the elderly visitors to the ABC and The Australian . The McCartney divorce settlement makes far more compelling reading. Still little concern about the world financial crisis. It made a couple of the top five most read lists but that’s all. Perhaps the amount of money involved is just too great to be comprehended. A Beatle paying $52 million to his former missus can be grasped. All those trillions squandered by avaricious bankers mean absolutely nothing to Australians – at least until they get their next superannuation statement which translates them into real thousands of losses.

The Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage

Peter Fray

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