On the road with grey power. Wittier writers than me over the years have written spoof diaries purporting to tell the story of politicians and/or their spouses but the Australian Liberal Leader Brendan Nelson is making sure that no-one sends him up in such a satirical way. Dr Nelson is doing the job on himself and publishing on the Liberal Party website a daily account of his fravels around Australia.

This is riveting stuff. After telling all about Nicky and then Catherine, the small business owner, our intrepid traveler moved on to the really important political message of the day – grey nomads:

One of the other things I’ve learned is this country makes a caravan every nine minutes. But also the caravan parks around our coastline and throughout Australia are disappearing and I think there’s a real need for governments to make sure that there’s always going to be a place where you can take your family for a budget holiday. And caravan parks need I think to be protected and we’ve got to stop developers and people moving in and turning them into money-making machines for apartments and dwellings for people that have got a bit of money. I mean development is good, but I think we’ve got to protect the things that are really important to us.

Among the many classic sights I’ve seen is a lady driving a taxi on the Gold Coast with a passenger in the passenger seat and a jack russell terrier snuggled between the both of them with its eyes up looking out the front windscreen.

I will keep bringing you the highlights of what the alternative Prime Minister confides in his Dear Diary entries.

Australia inundated with road maps. The production of road maps by politicians continues apace. This week sees Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Employment Participation Minister Brendan O’Connor releasing “a road map” for the reform of vocational education and training. Has any astute Crikey reader kept count of how many road maps the Rudd Labor Government has issued so far?

Limits to cynical spinning. Surely there are some limits to political spinning, even in New South Wales? The latest attempt by Premier Morris Iemma to divert attention from a crumbling transport system and decaying hospitals reaches new heights of cynicism. Premier Iemma is resorting to that good old stand-by for a politician in trouble of pretending to be tough on yobbos and assorted other criminals but is giving a twist to his spin by saying that parents of truant school children should be sent to jail. Goodness knows what would happen to wayward children if this actually happens but if the South Australian experience of what happens to wards of the state is any guide it would not be pretty. That South Australian report released yesterday, incidentally, makes for most depressing reading and it is most unlikely that the s-xual abuse of children it outlines was not similar in other states.

The Daily Reality Check

It is amazing how the old fellow can still get the readers in. The most-read story of Kevin Rudd’s visit to the United States involved Barack Obama reportedly having a word or two to say about the Prime Ministerial predecessor John Howard. According to the AAP report carried on the Sydney Morning Herald website, Senator Obama is believed to have raised with Mr Rudd comments made by John Howard last year, during which the former Prime Minister said that al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden would be praying for an Obama victory because it would help the militants win in Iraq. No prizes for guessing which lot of spin doctors released that little titbit. Perhaps the spinners should have spread their largesse a little further because the only other story on the Rudd grand tour to make the most-read lists was Gerard McManus in the Herald Sun having fun with the Prime Ministerial vocabulary. A speech to the Brookings Institute, wrote McManus, included phrases such as “conceptual synthesis” and “natural complementarity”, leaving US observers bewildered and Chinese translators scrambling for dictionaries. That story illustrates why it is always dangerous for a travelling PM not to have enough real stories to feed the travelling press corps. Without something real to write journalists resort to making trivia seem important as they struggle to justify their expense accounts. There was another example of just that this morning with the reports of the Rudd meeting with Republican Presidential candidate John McCain. Mr Rudd was described as having “his own Karl Rove moment, similar to that experienced by former opposition leader Kim Beazley” when he referred to an interview he did last year with “John Denton” when he was actually speaking back then not with Andrew Denton but Rove McManus.

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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