A new round of ACTU ads. There would not be many marginal seat holders in the Parliamentary Labor Party who didn’t think that the television campaign by the ACTU attacking the Coalition’s WorkChoices legislation played a major part in their success. Those same members should thus be a little apprehensive that the ACTU has decided that it should “continue its conversation with working Australians about their rights at work, through an advertising campaign.” This time it is not the dreaded John Howard who is being sent a message but his successor Kevin Rudd. “These ads put all politicians on notice – working Australians voted to get rid of John Howard’s unfair industrial relations laws and we expect the Rudd Government, the Opposition and all Senators to respect the will of the electorate,” is how union boss Sharon Burrows puts it. Ever so politely Ms Burrows explained the need for the campaign: “Just because the Liberal Party was defeated at the last election doesn’t mean WorkChoices is dead. Until we see the final legislation we won’t know if the rights of working families will be protected, although we are confident the Prime Minister will keep his election promises. Until WorkChoices is completely scrapped and a new fair and balanced industrial relations system introduced, the ACTU will continue our discussion with the Australian public. Labor’s new laws need to restore the rights that were stripped from working Australians under WorkChoices, from unfair dismissal to the rights of unions and collective bargaining.” The new television ad started going to air last Sunday.

Conflicts of interest and credit rating agencies. Senator Nick Sherry, Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, might be a junior minister in the formal scheme of things but the upheaval in the world financial community has given a new importance to the corporate law part of his ministerial title. When the financial markets of the world finally settle there are bound to be changes in regulations to ensure that there is not a repeat of the sub-prime crisis so the investigation into the role of credit rating agencies Senator Sherry announced last week is highly appropriate. There does seem something odd to me when the agencies rely on the companies that design these elaborate financial derivates for their payment. It will be intriguing to see what recommendations come out of this Australian review to stop conflicts of interest occurring. Almost certainly the new Australian rules will implement changes announced this week by the International Organization of Securities Commissions to its Code of Conduct for Credit Rating Agencies. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is represented on the IOSCO technical which drew up the changes described by Michel Prada, the committee Chairman, as assisting credit ratings agencies “in strengthening their processes and procedures to protect the integrity of the ratings process, ensure that investors and issuers are treated fairly and safeguard confidential material information provided.”

Second hand is better. With truly great wines a little age normally beats the new release so before rushing out to buy a bottle of the recently released 2003 Penfolds Grange for around $500 to $550 a bottle take a look at this list of recent sales at Wickman’s auctions of earlier vintages:

Vintage Price Auction
1973 Penfolds Grange $350 Feb-08
1974 Penfolds Grange $340 Feb-08
1975 Penfolds Grange $340 Apr-08
1977 Penfolds Grange $300 Feb-08
1980 Penfolds Grange $260 Feb-08
1981 Penfolds Grange $300 Mar-08
1982 Penfolds Grange $300 Mar-08
1984 Penfolds Grange $300 Mar-08
1985 Penfolds Grange $290 Feb-08
1986 Penfolds Grange $560 Apr-08
1987 Penfolds Grange $290 Feb-08
1988 Penfolds Grange $300 Mar-08
1989 Penfolds Grange $320 Apr-08
1991 Penfolds Grange $400 Nov-07
1992 Penfolds Grange $260 Nov-07
1993 Penfolds Grange $295 Apr-08
1994 Penfolds Grange $320 Apr-08
1995 Penfolds Grange $300 Apr-08
1996 Penfolds Grange $400 Apr-08
1997 Penfolds Grange $300 Apr-08
1998 Penfolds Grange $500 Mar-08
2000 Penfolds Grange $400 Jan-08
2001 Penfolds Grange $400 Apr-08

Methinks the people at Foster’s have got a bit ahead of themselves with greed.

Getting excited over petrol

Much excitement for the political journalists about the goings on in Federal Parliament but I would think there is much less interest among the readers. The papers are full of reports of “damaging” leaks of advice to Cabinet that was ignored and the debate between Government and Opposition on whether a FuelWatch Scheme will lower or raise petrol prices. Despite the headlines and the prominence given to this political equivalent of a boxing match, those who obtain their information from the internet were unimpressed. The story came in number three on the most read list of The Australian and featured on only one of the four tabloid lists.

The consensus view of the writers is that Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson is well ahead on points in this contest. Both the advice itself that the FuelWatch Scheme copied from Western Australia might lead to dearer petrol and the fact that such advice was disclosed to the press two days in a row worked in Dr Nelson’s favour. Presumably this view that the Opposition was at last on a winner will have harmed the cause of Malcolm Turnbull within his Party as a leadership challenger. It was the Shadow Treasurer, after all, who reckoned that promising to cut the petrol excise was the wrong thing to do.

Why the advice?

No analysis yet of why the view of the economists in the public service so unanimously provided Cabinet with the view that FuelWatch was not such a good idea when the Labor politicians in Perth, who soon enough will face the judgment of voters on just such a scheme, would not dream of scrapping it. If it really did lead to higher prices it is a wonder that the people out west have not scared their politicians into putting Fuel Watch on the scrap heap. Perhaps the free market ideology of the government economists is prevalent as well in the Canberra press gallery.

What the papers say about politics and economics:

Apart from petrol there is no single issue that dominates in the papers. The SMH reminds Brendan Nelson he still has a few things to worry about following the resignation of some factional allies from administrative positions within the NSW Liberal Party branch. Around the States, The Age has yet another analysis of a dysfunctional opposition and in Tasmania there is the suggestion that the new Premier will be less accommodating to timber company Gunns than the man he replaced.

It happens in the best of internet families – I recall that at Crikey we once repeated part of yesterday’s news as today’s – but it’s still an embarrassment when you tell readers that Matthew Hayden might be unavailable for the first test against the West Indies at Sabina Park.

The Age did that this morning as it repeated a story from 21 May instead of giving us a preview of Test number two.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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