The too hard basket is a wonderful thing. Much was made in the run-up to COAG of plans to curb binge drinking and do something about the havoc wreaked on gambling addicts by poker machines but the words proved easier to utter than agreeing on deeds. The official conference communiqué shows that both matters have been transferred to the too hard basket. No doubt binge drinking will come out of the basket eventually because the ploy used to avoid saying that the nation’s leaders actually don’t know what to do about the problem was to refer the question to a couple of committees. The Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy will report to COAG in December 2008 on options to reduce binge drinking including in relation to closing hours, responsible service of alcohol, reckless secondary supply and the alcohol content in ready to drink beverages. Meanwhile the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council is being asked to ask Food Standards Australia New Zealand to consider mandatory health warnings on packaged alcohol. As for gambling, which is a big revenue earner for the States, the communiqué merely said “COAG agreed to continue to discuss issues related to problem gambling.”

Do as I say not as we do. Kevin Rudd is making a reputation for himself as a hard driving man who demands public servants begin work early and are ready to be called at home late as he establishes himself as a can-do Prime Minister. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, he is tolerating a very sloppy standard of service from his own personal office staff. Last night at 10.45pm yours truly sought to get off to a flying start with his bits and pieces for Crikey by reading the Rudd speech on foreign policy given in Sydney and reading what was decided at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Adelaide earlier in the day. Neither event appeared on the Prime Ministerial website. According to the “latest news” section, nothing newsworthy had occurred since 23 March when there was a press statement saying that the chosen 1000 to appear at the 2020 conference had been notified they were the chosen ones. All I can say to that is that Australia Post is again falling down on its duty because my mail box is as empty as the Rudd website. PS – when I looked again before retiring at 11.45pm the COAG communiqué was posted. Almost as slow as my 2020 invitation by snail mail!

Guess who featured in that foreign policy speech. My colleague Bernard Keane persevered while I gave up. Bernard actually read the PM’s foreign policy to the East Asia Forum in Sydney. Full of: Creative middle power diplomacy; A more activist foreign policy; Regional architecture; All that stuff. But just in case you ever thought there was any escape, reports Bernard, the phrase “working families” was in his first sentence.

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Memories of Gough. The peripatetic Kevin Rudd is bringing back memories of Gough Whitlam with his enthusiasm for strutting on the world stage. The former career diplomat obviously fancies himself as a man who can set the world in the right direction and is wasting no time. Most of his predecessors, with the exception of Gough, were basically stay-at-homes for the first year or so and only developed their pretensions of international grandeur when well into their second terms. Gough ended up with his government destroyed by economic events that Australia was powerless to influence.

A batch of election indicators. Opinion polls from other countries are difficult to interpret. Outsiders are unaware of who the pollster is and what prejudices might be hidden within the sampling. So Crikey brings Australians this round-up of foreign election chances (and one Australian) based on what the markets, where people put their money where their mouth is, are predicting about the outcome of upcoming ballots. These Crikey Election Indicators are based on the prediction markets of Intrade, Betfair and the major internet bookmakers:













Silvio Berlusconi


Walter Veltroni


Any Other














Any other








Any other


WA State






The Daily Reality Check

They don’t publish a list of the most read stories on the website of the Hobart Mercury but I have no doubt which of this morning’s offerings would be on top if they did. “Go for it Tassie” screams the headline in the print version as mundane matters like conferences of heads of government are pushed well inside. In what might well be a first for The Voice of Tasmania this is no news report but a sports column by football commentator Tim Lane giving little more than one man’s opinion. It is what the opinion is about that has captured the imagination of The Mercury. Lane, an old boy of Devonport High who calls the game on Network Ten and ABC radio, is pleading for the AFL to make Tasmania the home of one of its new teams before worrying about a second one for Queensland and NSW. This is crusading journalism at its finest and surely it is just a matter of time before one of the major parties cracks and promises to spend $20 million a year of taxpayers’ money to ensure that justice is finally done to the state that produced Baldock, Hart, Stewart, Hudson, Crosswell, Bingley, Howell et al. Go for it Tassie!

Disclosure of interest: Richard Farmer was the Tasmanian Truth football writer who predicted that Peter Hudson would never make a success in the Victorian Football League.

The Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage