The failed financial system. Treasurer Wayne Swan is naturally enough preoccupied with his first budget for it is the short term course of the Australian economy that will determine his immediate political career but we should hope he is soon able to move on from concerns about inflation and the desirable level of government spending to start thinking about developing a better financial system than the one he inherited. My attention to, in the recent words of former US Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker, “the bright new financial system – [which] for all its talented participants, for all its rich rewards – has failed the test of the market place” was drawn this morning by a column in the London Financial Times by Martin Wolff. Wolff, who writes with a clarity rare among economists, forcefully makes the case that “regulation will need to be radically reconsidered, unless, as Mr Volker points out, we are comfortable with a substantial financial crisis every five years or so.”

The battle of the bras. Western Australia is setting itself up for a battle of the bras now that Premier Alan Carpenter’s karaoke dancing has emerged as an issue to rival Troy “Snedger” Buswell’s bra snapping antic. Perhaps we should just dismiss it all as being a storm in a B cup.

A wonderful place for a meeting. Good to know Senator the Hon Nick Sherry, Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, has met with key Finance Ministers from across Asia and the Pacific in a series of bilateral meetings at the Annual Meetings of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). And where do you think Minister Sherry held these discussions with Indian Finance Minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, Chinese Finance Minister, Xie Xuren, Singaporean Finance Minister, Tharman Shanmurgaratnam, Japanese Vice Minister for Finance and International Affairs, Naoyuki Shinohara, the President of the ADB, Haruhiko Kuroda, and senior delegations of officials from Indonesia and New Zealand? Why, in Madrid, Spain of course. Where else would you expect an Asian Development Bank to hold an annual meeting.

Send them home. When the analysis is finally done on the costs and benefits of alcohol bans in the Northern Territory it is to be hoped that the assessment takes in the consequences for those living across the Territory border. There were recently complaints from northern South Australia about an influx of Aboriginal drinkers deprived at home moving to Coober Pedy and now the Mayor of Mt Isa is joining in the complaint about a problem being shifted rather than solved. Mayor John Molony wants the Queensland Government help to send “boozers and losers” from the Northern Territory back across the border putting the number of permanent arrivals at around 70. He urged federal and state governments to do all they could to send them back. “Local people, including the Kalkadoon tribe, don’t want them here,” he said as reported in the Northern Territory News. “They’re boozers and losers and all they do is strain the (welfare) reserves here.” While he backed support agency calls for more government funding, the former policeman said more welfare would encourage the interstate migrants to stay. According to the News report, Mount Isa Family Support Services and Neighbourhood Centre manager Christine Buckland said about 200 Territorians had arrived since the intervention began in June and the sudden influx was jeopardising the help her organisation could give.

The Daily Reality Check

The Frankston Daily Leader has shown the metropolitan dailies what a real news story is with its coverage this week of the mystery sign writer who has erected a sign depicting two people in a passionate embrace above the word “hump” on the side of a major Victorian highway. The Leader newspaper reported that a “mystery artist is having fun with motorists by installing witty road signs in the area.” The signs have been appearing and disappearing, said the paper, with one a speed hump sign with a couple in bed causing offence among some residents. Others make statements, but they all have been carefully made painted to look like official road signs. Vic Roads regional director Steve Brown declared the placement of inappropriate signs such as the hump was unsafe and illegal. “VicRoads has arranged for them to be removed immediately and may request police to assist in identifying who was responsible,” he told the paper. The story did make it to the top of the most read on the news.com.au site this morning. A worthy victory for the suburban throwaway press!

The Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage

Reporting last year’s news today is an idea that is catching on. Yesterday we told of the Nine Network bringing us news of former Treasurer Peter Costello disregarding advice given to him before the 2007 budget and today it is the turn of The Australian to lead the paper with a Treasury minute from 13 months ago commenting on Labor’s then version of industrial relations policy.

What the world is reading on the net

There’s nothing subtle about the effort of The People’s Daily to portray the pre-Chinese rulers of Tibet as cruel and heartless feudal oppressors. Pictures from an exhibition at the Cultural Palace of Nationalities in Beijing which are top of today’s most viewed list on the paper’s internet site concentrate on eye gouging and other forms of torture by the Dalai Lama’s team.

The paper quotes Xue Qinglin, a teacher from Lankao city of Henan province, writing in the visitors’ book: “This exhibition is significant as it shows the truth about Tibet. Without the Party, the Tibetan people would still be suffering under the cruel rule of serf owners.”

Quote of the Day:

I … think that the Iraq experience has set back the cause of idealism in American foreign policy and the willingness of Western countries to intervene for humanitarian reasons. Take Darfur: I think it’s because of Iraq that nobody wants to intervene there. So on the whole the effects have been huge and overwhelmingly negative. I don’t see anything good that’s come from this war, I’m afraid.

Lawrence Kaplan, a leading US neoconservative, who, in 2003, helped deliver arguments that justified the invasion of Iraq in an interview with Spiegel Online.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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