A journey of harmony. Chinese government officials are entitled to be a little quizzical about the reason Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has given for not being able to take part in the Canberra “journey of harmony” which is how the visit of the Olympic torch is officially described. When the relay runners trot the flame around the national capital, Mr Rudd is planning to be far away in Sydney where the navy will conduct a memorial service for the recently found HMAS Sydney. Yet the Chinese officials are bound to note that times for these two events have not been finalised and Canberra to Sydney takes less than half an hour by plane. A Prime Minister who did not wish to snub his fellow Mandarin speakers could surely influence the timing of him waving at the torch outside Parliament House so that he did not miss appearing at Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral either before or afterwards.

Sydney‘s great dog battle. The heat is temporarily off NSW Premier Morris Iemma as the rough and tumble of political debate in the harbour city turns to whether or not to let dogs run free 24 hours a day in Sydney parks. Sydney City Lord Mayor Clover Moore, a bull terrier owner who also serves as a State MP in her spare time, had proposed to turn 44 parks, or 55 per cent of council owned open space, into dedicated dog parks. Parks and reserves with unfenced playgrounds were excluded from the council’s off-leash plans after what the Sydney Daily Telegraph described as “rabid outrage” from parents of young children. Threats included targeting dogs with ground glass hidden in strategically placed mince meat. Lord Mayor Moore has compromised and cut the number of parks where dogs can roam free to 30 but the fiery debate continues with her policy described this morning by a citizen writing for the Tele ‘s op-ed page as “selfish, ill-conceived, impractical and laughable.”

Denmark‘s schäferhund lover. While Clover Moore is clearly a dog lover she has not yet gone to the lengths of kissing one of her four legged friends in public as Denmark’s Minister of Justice Lene Espersen did recently.

Brendan is slacking. As anyone who has tried to keep one will tell you, keeping a daily diary can be a chore. Sometimes it is hard to find the time to put down the reflections on events just after they happen but saving memories up to write down days later defeats the purpose. Dr Brendan Nelson, I am somewhat loathe to report, has now fallen badly in arrears. Nothing has appeared on his diary from the road since last Friday. Can a man who teases us with the promise of daily revelations and then so quickly breaks that promise seriously expect to become Prime Minister?

A shadow minister for erections. I suppose Gough Whitlam will make an appearance at John Button’s funeral and so he should for the tall Labor Leader can thank the short Victorian Senator for becoming Prime Minister. It was Button’s relentless assaults on the lunacy of Bill Hartley’s lefties that led to the federal intervention into the Victorian Labor Party that was a prerequisite to convincing the Australian people that the conservative coalition could safely be thrown out after 23 years in office. Not that Gough let his gratitude to Button overshadow his capacity for some old fashioned Labor score settling after the Victorian supported Bill Hayden becoming the parliamentary leader after the electoral disaster of 1975. Having beaten off that challenge, Whitlam punished Button, certainly one of the brightest of those left in the rump of a Labor Party, by making him the lowly shadow Minister for Construction without even the slightly more glamorous Housing bit that traditionally went with it. The irrepressibly humorous Button henceforth went around describing himself as the Shadow Minister for Erections.

The Daily Reality Check

Just a sign this morning that those in charge of The Age website read the views of my colleague Steven Johnson about the damage being done to a serious brand by trivialising the news run on the internet version. The two most read items currently are both of a serious nature – Rudd heading into a storm over Tibet as he arrives in China and the IMF warning that Australia is vulnerable to US financial “tsunami”. Over at the SMH,  the broadloid approach still predominated with footballers r-ping women, teenage gangs on the rampage, cash found behind sealed walls and a shark attack among the top five.

The Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage

There was a change of pace this morning in the Murdoch tabloid attack on high interest rates. After days spent dragooning the Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stephens as a heartless fool, the technique has changed to finding “evidence” that a decline is inevitable. Journalist Stephen McMahon set out to make the case of rates falling to 6% by late next year in an article I noticed in the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the Brisbane Courier Mail . As you judge for yourself the power of the argument, just remember that newspapers are not just concerned with the hardship created for their outer suburban readers by high home mortgage rates but by the impact that curbs on consumer spending have on advertising revenue as well.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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