Postponing user pays. The real reason for postponing the introduction of the user pays principle into the horse industry (see Crikey on Wednesday) is now clear. Given the appalling stuff-ups in the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service revealed by the report of retired High Court Judge Ian Callinan, there would justifiably have been racecourse riots if the Commonwealth had tried to get the industry to pay the $100 million plus cost of getting rid of the equine influenza.

Fun and games out west. WA Premier Alan Carpenter was yesterday downplaying the prospect of calling an early election but the prospect must surely be tempting as the Opposition Liberal Party finds yet another way to split itself asunder. The new Liberal crisis involves the shadow police and justice minister Rob Johnson threatening to quit the front bench if Party Leader Troy Buswell does not sack South Perth MP John McGrath as the shadow road safety minister. Mr Johnson, (the man the official Liberal Party website recently incorrectly listed as the Opposition Leader – see this Crikey report) feels betrayed by his colleague Mr McGrath over a parliamentary motion in 2006 on road safety. The motion was in a form provided by the lobbyist Brian Burke who was in the pay of a company that sold radar detectors and which would benefit from the motion’s success. “How can the shadow minister for road safety do something in a way that delays the introduction of a ban on radar detectors?” Mr Johnson said yesterday. “They are completely diametrically opposed. If he’s got any integrity he should stand down immediately. If John McGrath is still a shadow minister on Monday then I might make a decision not to be.” That comment caused the Liberal member for Roe Dr Graham Jacobs to declare his Party was on the verge of self-destruction and it is hard to disagree with him as Opposition Leader Buswell says he has no intention of sacking Mr McGrath.

WAToday. I must say the small team at the new Fairfax site WAToday, which is at last listed on the Smage websites, is making a good fist of their news gathering efforts. There’s no point boasting of a staff of journalists 20 times larger, like the West Australian does, if their work doesn’t get posted on the website. The nine journos at the new site are producing a readable summary of happenings in the West and are not succumbing to the lowest common denominator approach of their Age and Sydney Morning Herald affiliates.

Ramsey home needs protection. The Canberra home of Sydney Morning Herald columnist Alan Ramsey may need protection following a world wide outbreak of garden gnome snatching. Recent thefts of gnomes in France, Canada and the United States suggest that the influence of the Paris-based Garden Gnome Liberation Front is going global.

The acerbic political columnist Ramsay’s garden is home for one of the national capital’s most famous gnomes. The newsagency Agence France Press reported this week on the work of a serial garden gnome thief arrested in Bretagne suspected of the thefts of 170 of the garden ornaments. Apparently it is proving difficult to return the gnomes to their real owners — the thief painted them different colors, making identification tricky – and no link to the FLNJ has yet been discovered. At Torrington in Wyoming, USA, Police Chief Billy Janes said community awareness is the first action the citizens of Torrington can take to assure their lawn ornaments stay on their property after reports of stolen lawn ornaments from back yards and front yards throughout the town. In Collingwood Canada earlier this month two large concrete gnomes were taken from a garden on Cameron Street. One has a painted red coat, with a black hat and pipe, the second is slightly smaller with red paint.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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