Rorts on the way up, rules on the way down. The daily revelations of stock exchange manipulation are leading to calls for all kind of new rules and regulations, but perhaps the only real requirement is to remind people every now and again that thin markets are more likely to be distorted than big ones. It is now clear to me at least that many of the share prices that rocketed skywards during the boom were helped upwards by manipulators using borrowed money to create an illusion of demand. Now that these rorters of the way up have met the short sellers on the way down they are crying foul and trying to get the rules changed to protect their ill-gotten gains. I am pleased to see that Treasurer Wayne Swan is resisting these self-interested pleas. For capitalism to work then the ability to lose your money is as essential as the ability to make it.

Housing horror stories will spread. Last night it was Four Corners that highlighted the plight of people struggling with their housing mortgages. Soon it will be the turn of programs that ordinary people watch and then the political pain will really begin. It is when the likes of 60 Minutes and A Current Affair join the crusade that the pollsters will start picking up the message that will start the Labor Government worrying. In the meantime it is the banks which should be preparing for a difficult time to come. At the moment they’re being spared from attack by the politicians because of the understandable fear that telling people the truth about their avaricious behaviour in recent years might cause those people to lose faith in them. As soon as the immediate crisis is over the pollies will quickly want to pass the blame from themselves to the bankers.

Defence chiefs stop the killing. Mark one up for the animal rights movement. The on again, off again, on again culling of the grey kangaroos on Defence Department land in Canberra is off again. The cease fire was announced on the departmental website just as contractors were preparing to load the deadly sodium pentobarbital into their poison darts. The decision follows a concerted lobbying campaign from animal lovers throughout the world but their victory is not yet complete. Defence now must get approval from the ACT Government for its plan to “undertake a scientific trial of kangaroo management techniques, including translocation.” An earlier attempt by the military to catch the kangaroos living in a paddock in the heart of a Canberra suburb and ship them to bushland in NSW was vetoed by the ACT authorities. The animal rights movement will now switch sides and join the generals in lobbying Chief Minister John “Heartless” Stanhope to grant the cuddly kangas a permanent stay of execution.

Genetically modified support. Advocates of genetically modified crops in Australia have received support from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) which claims their use would provide a benefit of $912 million in the Australian economy by 2018 relative to what would otherwise be the case. ABARE says the continued uptake of GM crops in Argentina, Brazil, India and China has allowed these economies to achieve significant increases in crop productivity, improving their competitiveness on international markets. These four countries, in aggregate, account for around 39% of the world’s GM crop plantings and this share is likely to increase as they continue to introduce GM crops at a faster pace than other countries. Cotton is the only crop currently produced in Australia with GM traits. Production of canola is likely to begin soon in Victoria and NSW despite continuing opposition from environmental and consumer groups.

Populism reaches new absurdity. The populism of this Labor Government has no bounds. While pretending to be fiscally responsible it is now about to waste millions on an inquiry that can prove nothing. Finding the actual location of the good ship Sydney will not make it any easier to understand what was in the mind of its captain when it engaged the Germans off the West Australian coast.

The Daily Reality Check

I’m disappointed not to find a further instalment of the battle between The Oz and Media Watch on the web this morning but once again The Australian’s site is the only one of the 10 that Crikey surveys where politics is actually being read. Stories about Kevin Rudd trying to patch things up with Japan and Hillary Clinton receiving our Prime Minister’s support are in that paper’s top five. On the nine other sites nothing political made it.

The Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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