Same, same but different. Tourists come across it when they step off a plane in south-east Asia; Hustlers from hotels too poor to have their own brochure waving one from their more affluent competitors. Same, same but different, they cry. This morning it was Peter Beattie’s turn. Here was a Premier who looked like he was retiring from public life with a great deal of dignity and propriety at a time of his choosing. He didn’t dive into bed with an investment banker nor join the board of a local company which relied on decisions of government to make its wealth. Instead he packed his bags and left for what was foreshadowed as an extended time abroad beginning with a period as a guest lecturer at a United States University. And what happens? Peter Beattie proves no different from the multitude of retired politicians who cannot keep their greedy hands off the public money. He becomes a Queensland trade commissioner to the United States with a nice little earn to supplement his parliamentary pension.

An agent of influence. The security forces welcomed in the Hawke Labor Government back in 1983 with the claim that the Soviet Union was trying to recruit the former Federal Secretary of the Party, David Combe, as an agent of influence – not exactly a spy but a man who could help the Soviet cause without realising he was doing so. After a Royal Commission, in which I had a minor role having been about to join David in a lobbying business, the hysteria evaporated and David went on to build a fine career as a trade commissioner and then wine marketer with his reputation intact. What the experience taught me was the care that has to be taken when you accept money or favours from someone. When you don’t know much about a person it is wise not to get too closely involved with them however attractive the offers might be. People rarely give you things for nothing. The current crop of Labor frontbenchers, including the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, are currently learning that there is a price to pay for their links with Ian Tang, a man described in The Age this morning as “a mysterious Chinese entrepreneur”. That price is increased scrutiny as political opponents, and neutral but curious journalists, attempt to discover who Mr Tang is and why he treated Mr Rudd and some of his ministers to thousands of dollars worth of free overseas trips.

A record number of working families. They set a new record in the House of Representatives yesterday. There were 57 uses of “working families”. This narrowly beat the previous record of 56 uses of “working families” back on 12 March. The result of the official Hansard search which produced the record is reproduced here. Those people who hoped that, with the election run and won, “working families” would disappear will be disappointed. Labor is just getting used to including it in the Government lexicon. On the first day of the parliamentary sitting it was not used once but Prime Minister Rudd and Deputy Prime Minister Gillard soon fixed that. Even members of the Opposition have now been lured in to using it. As an indication of what the future holds for us all I have projected forward using a polynomial and a straight trend line and my fear is that the Labor duo are polynomial people.

It will not be pretty listening!

The Daily Reality Check

What sport those legislators of the early 1960s deprived Australians of when they banned the publication of evidence given in the divorce courts. There’s nothing like the intimate details of some one else’s life to arouse the public interest as was shown this morning by the way internet readers took to the McCartney-Mills property settlement. It was on more of the top five most read lists than any other story. The full text of the judgment even made it at the Herald Sun! Over at the ABC website where the serious people gather, the earnest Brendan “more in sorrow than in anger” Nelson actually had readers for his vision for the future but it did come in behind a report on the Manson Family and fears that more bodies might be found 40 years on. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the absence of a football story on the Herald Sun site but, with the season about to begin, the broadloid Age kept faith with the AFL telling how the footy fan’s sick leave gamble failed to pay off. Only at The Oz did a story about the world financial turmoil rate in the top five.

The Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage

When the publicans scream in protest there’s a chance that someone might actually be about to do something which curbs alcohol consumption and the Freedom of Information editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Matthew Moore, tells this morning of the screams coming from Newcastle. Last Friday the NSW Liquor Administration Board ordered 15 hotels and nightclubs to close at 3am or earlier, to refuse entry after 1am, and to curb the sale of spirits after 10pm. The licensees have hot footed it into the NSW Licensing Court to try and freeze these tough new restrictions on the grounds of “public interest” with the “public interest” seeming to be the likelihood that they will cause considerable financial pain. It is an interesting read and reminded me of the difference that similar restrictions (1am closing and no entry after 11pm) had on behaviour in the southern NSW town of Eden when I lived there. There was a dramatic decline of violence in the pubs and the main street although I have not seen figures on what happened to domestic violence.

Peter Fray

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