Many a true word. Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson tells us that people have been under estimating him all his life as he battled his way upwards ever upwards to the leadership of the Liberal Party. Many true words, I have decided, are said in jest as I for one under estimated just how embarrassingly awful his diary from the road could be. I advise those of you who have not caught up with his happy touring snaps to do so quickly as surely this pantomime must be nearing the end of its run. You will find in here on the Liberal Party website.

What governments give … governments can take away. I am surprised that some of my colleagues in the Crikey stable are getting all indignant about the decision of the Victorian Government not to pay compensation to Tattersalls and Tabcorp for not renewing their cosy oligopoly to cream money off poker machine players. The scandal here is not the taking away but the granting in the first place. To cry foul now should have as much force as the arguments of other rent seeking companies in the past which complained loudly when governments reduced tariff protection. If ever there was an example of “buyer beware” it is when decisions are made to invest because of a benefit granted by a government. The letter from then Victorian Treasurer Alan Stockdale to Tatts 13 years ago, published in The Australian this morning, put it nicel,y. “I must, however, make it clear that the statement of principles in this letter does not bind this Government or future governments and, of course, that the Victorian Parliament has the power at any time to amend existing legislation or pass new legislation affecting your operations or the terms on which those operations are conducted.”

Falling housing prices the coming problem. It is not yet John Howard’s barbecue stopper but the downward trend in housing prices is getting there. Over the weekend, and again this morning, there were reports of falling prices (see our Pick of the Political Coverage that follows) and this will become Treasurer Wayne Swan’s biggest problem over the next few months. First home buyers having trouble financing a house is one thing but the real political problem comes when people see their wealth disappearing. Toss in some dismal superannuation fund returns and there is no doubt that consumer confidence will fall. I predict a rough road ahead.

The come back kid. The face lift and hair transplants seem to have worked for Silvio Berlusconi who is rated an 86% chance of again becoming Prime Minister in the elections held yesterday and today. The Crikey election indicator assess the probability of a victory by his opponent Walter Veltorni as only 14%.

The Daily Reality Check

Queenslander. Queenslander. Queenslander. Prime Minister. Treasurer. And now Governor General. And in Queensland they clicked past the news about Quentin Bryce and got on with reading about the important things; stories like the woman who died in a fall at the airport and the Brisbane Grammar boys who may boycott their school formal because they cannot attend with their boyfriends. The news, first broken by The Australian, that the parole board would allow Brisbane’s so-called lesbian vampire killer “a graduated release” clearly stirred some interest too because within hours of it making the most read list on The Courier Mail website the Department of Corrective Services was saying the article was wrong because the prisoner, who was eligible for parole back in 2002, still had social and anger issues. The reaction to stories like yesterday’s announcement of a new Governor General clearly illustrate the gap between what most newspaper editors think of as news and the opinion of that part of their readership who visit the internet. Papers across the land splashed with the woman getting the job. The story only made the most read list in four of the 10 sites in the Crikey daily internet news survey.

The Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage

The Pick of the Weekend’s Political Coverage

If we cannot have an election date to speculate about or an opinion poll to comment on then a leadership spill will have to do. Getting rid of Brendan Nelson is the kind of event that a political journalist can really get excited about. You can speculate madly and no one ever seems to remember the number of times you get it wrong. The lure of the leadership challenge is so great that even the sober sided Greg “I’m a serious foreign policy commentator” Sheridan can not resist the temptation. He stirred along the latest outbreak with a page one lead in the Weekend Australian which set the scene for the News Limited speculator in chief, Glenn Milne, to weigh in on Sunday and again on Monday. Kicking a man when he’s down, and rarely has a political leader been as far down in the polls as Dr Brendan, really is fun; and absolutely meaningless as well. If a drover’s dog could win some elections then even the top dog at Crufts would sometimes be unable to win when up against a political pure bred like Kevin Rudd. Kevin is one of those top dogs who could lift his leg and obliterate the mark of any contender. Surely the real leadership story would be explaining why anyone in the Liberal Party would be foolish enough at this stage to want to be the leader. The old dog needed for the hard road leading the Coalition back towards government would be staying in his or her kennel for a year or so yet.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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