A weak excuse. The minders around Kevin Rudd excelled again yesterday with their bully boy treatment of the press gathered out the front of the new Fairfax headquarters which the PM was opening. It was nicely reported in The Australian this morning. The attempt at media management is surely going too far with security men trying to block the line of sight of photographers. That follows an earlier edict preventing television cameramen filming radio interviews. Perhaps the only way of teaching a little civility to the Labor team would be not turning up when they do deign to give those door stops. And surely the weakest excuse ever given by a press secretary for his boss not being able to say a few words to the waiting scribes was the comment by the Prime Minister’s media officer, Lachlan Harris, yesterday that “Unfortunately, he’s going to the airport straight after this event to catch a flight — we just don’t have time for a doorstop.” I thought VIP flights normally waited for Prime Ministers!

It would have helped Bob. The use of debit cards with restrictions on what can be paid for with them would have been a handy device for Bob Hawke back in those days of trying to stop children living in poverty. The big problem with increasing cash benefits is that the money does not have to be used for the purpose it is provided for. The debit cards, apparently to be extended from Aboriginal welfare recipients in the Northern Territory to negligent parents across the country, might not be a perfect answer to this problem but the American experience with food stamps (the pre-electronic age way of doing the same thing) is that they cut down on welfare payments being spent on booze for mum and dad rather than food for the kids.

Swiss Government Averts Football Crisis. The Swiss Government has changed import regulations to avert a crisis threatening the Euro 2008 Soccer tournament. Competition organisers feared the anger of visiting fans would be aroused by a shortage of chips at venues. The Swiss potato industry association, Swisspatat, had been warning there could be a fry shortage, as demand for potatoes before the soccer tournament had risen sharply. The association had asked the government to ease import restrictions. A spokesman for the country’s Department of Agriculture told Swiss radio station RadioDRS this week that the government would allow an extra 5,000 tons of potatoes to be imported. German news magazine De Spiegal reports that the potato crisis is the second food scare Switzerland has faced this year. The European Union recently banned the use of the Brazilian cows’ intestines traditionally used to encase the meat in the cervelat sausage which is a national delicacy. Euro 2008, now complete with chips but still short of cervelat, runs from June 7 to 29.

Note: why don’t cervelat manufacturers simply use intestines from cows other than from Brazil? The reason apparently is that the casing of a cervelat is especially critical, because they can be roasted, fried, boiled or eaten raw. My internet informant claims that only cows of Brazil and Paraguay are equipped with the high quality intestines which fulfil the thorough requirements.

The Daily Reality Check

Perhaps some things are so horrible to contemplate that we just don’t want to know about them. Perhaps it’s simply the absence of any Australians on the death list. Maybe we need dramatic pictures on the television like those of that tsunami to stir our sympathy. Whatever the reason, the tragedy in Burma is passing us by. Look at the most read list from this morning’s News Limited internet sites — more than 100,000 dead with the death toll still rising and not a single entry.

Not that today we can blame the editors of News Limited. Even its most low brow site features the devastation in Burma prominently.

Which is more than can be said for the once serious site of the SMH broadloid where Burma is tucked away well down the page.

The Pick of this Morning’s Political Coverage

What the world is reading on the net

Quote of the Day:

Grave stoners – men used skull as a bong

Headline on NineMSN website

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