The PM’s Taiwanese friends. An acquaintance who has had a thing or two to do with China over the years tells me that Kevin Rudd the China consultant back in the 1990s had closer ties with gentlemen from Taiwan than he did with anyone from Beijing. Just thought I should throw that in to feed a little something to the conspiracy theorists! Certainly the Prime Minister will have surprised the China lovers within the Labor Party with his comments about human rights and Tibet. Those who should be pleased are the Japanese who wondered whether the Australian Prime Minister was a Sinophile who would neglect the lengthy friendship between Australia and Japan.

When more than a poll is needed. The opinion polls and even the official counting figures can tell only part of the story when we look at elections in many parts of the world with Zimbabwe being a good example. All the evidence is that Robert Mugabe did not get the number of votes needed to say on as President but there he is today still in office. At times like these I turn to the collective wisdom of the market where I find this morning that there is still great uncertainty about the likely outcome with Mugabe being in office at the end of June put at around the 50% probability mark.

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Lack of infrastructure may be helping. In all the discussion about the need for a greater investment in Australian infrastructure I am yet to see an analysis of what would happen to prices of things like coal and iron ore if the capacity of the nation’s railways and ports had been increased to handle all of the current international demand. Presumably if we were shipping out all the tonnages that customers would like and which miners could dig up then the prices obtained would be considerably less. I am sure it will not be long before the Labor Government gives us another committee of enquiry to answer such a basic question.

The Daily Reality Check

It makes sense to think that where internet news editors position stories on their site influences which ones attract the greatest readership so as part of our Crikey survey this morning we have looked not just at what stories were most read over the last 24 hours but what is on display now. It looks clear to me that there is nothing surprising about the trivial nature of what makes the top five list at the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and why he sites of The Australian and the ABC are the ones where more serious fare is rewarded.

Most read stories at the SMH:

1) Soldier shoots four relatives dead; 2) Trusted banker siphoned off $1.4m, court told; 3) Sydney plane found; 4) Admit your signs to the Lord, priest tells gay judge; 5) Tired of all the endless nit-picking.

All froth and bubble!

Most read stories at The Age:

1) Torch ‘thugs’ from elite Tibet force; 2) The whole truth and nothing but…; 3) Rudd confronts China on human rights; 4) Woman stabbed in Southbank attack; 5) Underbelly leaves Roberta Williams in tears.

The PM got a run but that’s as far as seriousness went.

Most read stories at the ABC:

1) Row flares over Rudd’s Tibet comments; 2) Rudd didn’t respect the Queen enough: Brandis; 3) China sprays Rudd over Tibet human rights claims; 4) Former police officer and wife murdered in Perth; 5) Rudd repeats Tibet human rights concerns.

Plenty of political coverage in that lot – almost overkill perhaps!

Most read stories at The Australian:

1) Maseratis seized in Opes chase; 2) Rudd tackles China over Tibet; 3) Farce hits San Francisco torch; 4) Growth to remain above 3 per cent; 5) Dad-daughter couple had earlier.

These look the most balanced lot of readers to me.

The Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage

At last the travelling lads and lasses of the Canberra Press Gallery have something real to write about! The Prime Minister they have followed around the world finally abandoned his diplomatic gibberish and said what he thinks in good, plain, old-fashioned Mandarin. When Kevin Rudd mentioned human rights and Tibet in his speech to students at Beijing University, the press corps knew they had a yarn. When they learned that Chinese officials about the same time were being critical of earlier comments by Mr Rudd they knew it was an even bigger one. Surprising, though, that there has been no comment so far on whether it is actually good sense for a visitor to be publicly critical of his host. Just imagine how Australians would react to a foreign leader bobbing up at the ANU to lambast the Australian Government for its treatment of Aborigines. In diplomacy some things are best said in private but the Rudd style is always more conscious of the immediate impact on his popularity at home than anything else.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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