A bit like Lewis Carroll. He’s a bit like Lewis Carroll’s queen is our Prime Minister. Not quite “sentence first, verdict afterwards”, but certainly decide the guilty then have the federal police investigate. The leaking of details of departmental opposition to the Fuel Watch scheme was not done by a Minister. No sirree. It was a public servant wot did it and plod will hunt the villain down. And when it comes to punishment make it collective. Give all of those Canberra pen pushers a lashing. Acknowledging his nickname among bureaucrats of Kevin 24/7, given for the work ethic which sees early starts and late finishes for the top brass, Prime Minister Rudd seemed to delight in promising more of the same. ”I understand that there has been some criticism around the edges that some public servants are finding the hours a bit much,” he said as he announced legislation for FuelWatch. Well, I suppose I’ve simply got news for the public service, there’ll be more.” It certainly sounded very macho and attacking public servants probably gets good reviews in focus groups but there is another, and quite serious, side to tackling the public service in this way. It is not just on Yes Minister that bureaucrats sabotage politicians. It happens in the real life of governments too when the politicians are over bearing bullies.

A few more fearless predictions. A few more wonderful predictions about coming events to add to our Crikey list. This morning saw Jacob Saulwick in the Sydney Morning Herald put his reputation on the block by taking an egg beater to the prediction of a bank economist and concluding the Australian “economy could be heading towards its first quarterly contraction since 2000.” Should it not come to pass he can at least take comfort from his source, JPMorgan economist Helen Kevans being wrong along with him. Ms Kevans believes stalling of investments means economic growth could be negative for the first quarter of this year, the first time growth had been in the red since the last three months of 2000, before probably rebounding later in the year as income tax cuts and commodity price rises kicked in. We shall see. So shall co-head of economic and market analysis at Citigroup, Paul Brennan, who has lowered his forecast to 0.1 per cent for the quarter, or 2.7 per cent for the year and the chief economist at Lehman Brothers, Stephen Roberts,who tipped 0.2 per cent growth, but said that he might revise it below zero.

Would you like a condom with that? Advertisements for alcoholic beverages must not suggest that the consumption or presence of alcohol beverages may create or contribute to a significant change in mood or environment and, accordingly must not depict the consumption or presence of alcohol beverages as a cause of or contributing to the achievement of personal, business, social, sporting, s-xual or other success. So says the rather pompously titled Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Code to which the Australian Associated Brewers Inc, the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia Inc, the Winemakers Federation of Australia and the Liquor Merchants Association of Australia Ltd claim to be committed. So how to promote Vodka Cruiser in this new environment of higher prices for alco pops? The salesmen from Independent Distillers Australia came up with the idea of giving away free condoms with the product. Nothing promoting s-x in that surely but, reported The Age recently, the company was eventually shamed into ending the promotion. And this is the industry the Coalition are thinking of supporting in the Senate to stop the increase in excise!

What the papers say about politics and economics

Just as well that the people do not instantly seize on what the papers say and make a snap judgment about how a government is travelling because there is not much joy this morning for the Labor team. Along with the inevitable stories about the price of petrol there are a couple of stories about home buyers in some Sydney and Melbourne suburbs falling behind in their payments that will frighten voters if they keep appearing and start dominating the television news.

The Courier Mail:

  • Public service betrayed me, says Rudd – As they write for the PM’s home town paper, Clinton Porteous and Michael Madigan can be sure their words are read in high places. They had their boy “defiantly pushing ahead last night with his so-called FuelWatch scheme.”

The Herald Sun:

  • Prime Minister Kevin Rudd low on FuelWatch – They must be overstaffed at the Herald Sun if it took Gerard McManus, Ben Packham and Holly Ife to write 22 pars telling us that Kevin Rudd’s controversial FuelWatch scheme may be doomed in the new Senate but at least they went for a different angle than the rest.

The Age:

  • Rudd was warned of petrol backlash – Katharine Murphy, Michelle Grattan and Nassim Khadem quote a a “Regulation Impact Statement” warning that the FuelWatch legislation it accompanies could increase petrol prices in the bush, confuse consumers and dampen competition among retailers.
  • Labor gives go-ahead to options on abortion vote – David Rood and Carol Nader say state MPs will decide whether abortion should no longer be considered a crime in Victoria by the end of the year.

  • Late-night lockout prompts protest – Patrick Donovan and Cameron Houston tell of a furious response from members of generation Y, who will take to the streets tonight in protest at a looming ban on patrons entering bars and other venues in inner Melbourne after 2am.

  • Home buyers fall behind on payments – Tim Colebatch gives details of a new survey showing up to 4% indebted households in some Melbourne suburbs are now behind in their mortgage payments and their numbers are rising rapidly.

The Australian:

  • Police in hunt for cabinet leakers – Matthew Franklin centres his coverage of the petrol price debate around the secretary of the PMs department, Terry Moran, calling in the federal police to investigate leaking of Cabinet material.
  • Penny Wong in clash with carbon emitters – Matthew Warren on tensions emerging between major greenhouse emitters and Climate Minister Penny Wong after a number of hostile meetings before the release of the Government’s green paper on emissions trading in July. And she hasn’t even told motorists yet how much her plans intend to put up the price of their petrol!

The Sydney Morning Herald:

  • Petrol crisis fuels bus, train crush – Linton Besser and Kelly Burke report on the rush for public transport as motorists begin to ration their petrol use with sales of unleaded falling by 4.4 per cent in the first three months of the year.
  • Defaults hit mortgages in city’s west – Jacob Saulwick tells a similar story about what’s happening in Sydney’s western suburbs.

The Advertiser:

The Australian Financial Review:

  • Rudd’s cheap drugs plan on sick list – Emma Connors writes the Rudd government’s plan to introduce cheaper drugs is in disarray but you will have to wait for a newsagency version to appear on other sites if you want more than a summary.

Some interesting bits and pieces

The Herald Sun:

The Advertiser:

The Daily Telegraph:

  • Two-year-olds now on Ritalin – Janet Fife-Yeomans reports the most widely prescribed drugs for the youngest children continue to be Ritalin and the longer-lasting associated drug Concerta and quotes conflicting views of the experts.

The Cairns Post:

The most read stories on Australian websites

The great debate on petrol matters is still leaving the readers largely unmoved. The subject hardly rates anywhere but try telling that to a Canberra political correspondent!

The Australian:

  1. Bouris backflips on Wizard
  2. Friendship the loser as Corby wins
  3. To hell and back for child s-x…
  4. Fuel pain not over: Qantas
  5. Security advice on Pope rejected

The Age:

  1. MySpace woos developers in search of apps
  2. The controversial career of Bill Henson
  3. Roving candid camera snaps Thailand’s Sin City
  4. Sydney mum, daughter reach Everest summit
  5. Airline sued for ruining family holiday

The Sydney Morning Herald:

  1. Petrol crisis fuels bus, train crush
  2. Celebrity chef under fire for ‘jihadi chic’
  3. Model’s mother defends Henson
  4. Bogut trousers $80m deal as Kings turn to hardship fund
  5. Defaults hit mortgages in city’s west

The Daily Telegraph:

  1. Ronaldo’s love in topless snaps
  2. Tales from the summit of Everest
  3. Mercedes cheers, Power’s tears
  4. Katie banned from taking Posh tips
  5. Dunkin’ dumps ‘Muslim scarf’ ad

The Herald Sun:

  1. ‘Carey girl’ in scam claim
  2. Sam Newman feeling pain
  3. Right Brain v Left Brain
  4. Jodie’s new love shocks Tinsel Town
  5. Priest ‘kidnapped over drug deal’

The Advertiser:

  1. ‘Dirty’ girl a firm believer in…
  2. Meeting the ‘dirtiest’ girl in p-rn
  3. Couple dumps ‘wrong s-x’ baby twins
  4. Developer on stalking charge
  5. Ronaldo’s love in topless snaps

The Courier Mail:

  1. Batten down the hatches
  2. Big Brother in courtroom
  3. Don’t watch fuel, do something
  4. Church labelled celebrity cult
  5. Snake bites man’s p-nis

Politics and economics on the international newspaper sites

It often seems that journalists are going out of their way to put Barack Obama in a good light and Hillary Clinton in a bad one but in the New York Times this morning the story Coverage of Obama Becomes Less Positive, Study Shows suggests that might be changing. In Europe the Der Spiegel website reports that with oil prices breaking all records, the next shock for consumers is already at hand with electricity and natural gas prices set to skyrocket. While experts fear for the economy, the crisis is driving a wedge between the partners in Germany’s coalition government.

The most read stories on international websites

A child missing, believed dead, can have a long life as the London Times proves this morning with yet another version of what Portuguese police think might have happened to Madeleine McCane. A local murder satisfies readers in Toronto with the good news story being about an outbreak of peace between Taiwan and the rest of China.

Surely a good news story about a lessening of tension in the world deserves a picture – Hu Jintao (R), General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, shakes hands with Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, on May 28, 2008.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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