Bully boy ways, part one. Labor Party staffers are gaining quite a reputation for their bully boy ways with John Olenich, who is on the staff of Federal Climate Change and Water Minister Penny Wong, the latest to engage in the game of bludgeoning journalists. Rosslyn Beeby, the Environment writer for The Canberra Times, told the story of the Olenich stand-over tactics, which has led to her being black listed from the department’s media list, in her column this week. Last month, wrote Beeby, we reported a comment from Senator Wong’s adviser John Olenich that the minister was “too busy with something called COAG” to comment on the impact of funding cuts to the integrity of Australia’s climate records. A Senate Estimates committee hearing revealed the Bureau of Meteorology is so cash-strapped because of the Rudd Government’s razor gang cuts that it can’t hire any graduates this year, can’t upgrade ageing computer equipment and is likely to close regional weather observation stations. Beeby thought that these decisions, which put the accuracy of Australia’s climate records at risk, was worth a ministerial comment but when none was forthcoming wrote her story with the “too busy” comment included. Olenich responded with an email stating that Senator Wong’s office would no longer deal with Beeby as the newspaper’s environment reporter — on any issue at any level — and she would be expunged from the media list. “This threat has been carried out,” Beeby wrote this week. Yesterday I rang and spoke with Olenich and asked for his reaction to The Canberra Times column. He said he would like some time to consider what was written and I suggested he ring me this morning. He did not do so.

Bully boy ways, part two. Punishing the press is not just a Federal Labor phenomenon. They are pretty good at it over in Perth too. On Wednesday16 police from the major fraud squad raided the offices of the Murdoch owned Sunday Times and tried to find a confidential document allegedly leaked to journalist Paul Lampathakis for a story about election funding. The complaint to police, and to the Corruption and Crime Commission, came from the department of Premier Alan Carpenter, a former journalist.

Rudd’s retreat on privatisation. The way Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has used weasel words to try to escape any embarrassment from the humiliation NSW Premier Morris Iemma is facing at the hands of his Labor Party hardly inspires confidence about his ability to stick with difficult decisions. Back in February the PM was right behind Premier Iemma’s decision to sell off electricity assets but now at best he is equivocal. “Well, I have been absolutely clear cut in my support for Premier Iemma and I do not back away from that one bit,” he told Sydney radio 2UE yesterday before adding his “but”: “But this is a very difficult negotiation and what I have encouraged all sides of this argument to do is to try and find a reasonable compromise through this.”

The Daily Reality Check

Good to see that western tabloid newspaper values have infiltrated the English language site of The Chinese People’s Daily. Normally the site is a very staid affair with the “most read” list headed by such stories as: World’s longest sea bridge to open in east China. But for just a little while this morning a story featuring this picture found its way to the top:

The contestants for the upcoming Miss Philippines Earth 2008 pageant, it was recorded by the Chinese Government’s Xinhua news agency, hold signs encouraging motorists to cut emissions, as the contestants are presented to the media at a hotel in Manila on April 29, 2008. Even though it is hard to get more serious than that environmentally correct message, the pageant did not stay on the list for long. Within hours that bridge had claimed top position.

The Pick of this morning’s political coverage

$17 billion! $21 billion! Any increase on $21 billion? The budget prediction auction is well and truly underway as the political journalists of Canberra endeavour to show how clever they are by telling us now what Treasurer Wayne Swan will reveal on 13 May. This morning we can choose between a budget surplus of $17 billion offered by Dennis Shanahan in The Australian and $21 billion from the Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher. Seeing who gets closest will add some interest during the hours the journos spend in the budget lock-up. Perhaps Crikey readers would like to enter the game. Add your guess at what Treasurer Swan will predict the 2008-09 budget surplus will be as a comment on this item. The winner will be rewarded with budget bragging rights.

Quote of the Day:

“This is a disturbing reminder that governments in Australia will resort to legal muscle to redress political embarrassment. If there are laws that allow people telling the truth to be charged and convicted, those laws need to be changed.” — News Limited chairman and chief executive John Hartigan commenting on the police raiding the office of Perth’s Sunday Times.