A winning day for drinks lobbyist. Spirits industry lobbyist Stephen Riden has had a successful morning. The story he peddled around the press gallery on Sunday about what has happened to alcohol consumption since the increase in the alcopops tax gets a run everywhere. But what, I wonder, has happened to journalistic scepticism? The press has jumped at the conclusion that can be drawn from the figures produced by Riden’s Distilled Spirits Industry Council that total consumption of spirits has increased by 10% since the alcopops move in the budget. What the journalists have not explained is why the spirits industry is attacking the government for increasing its sales in this way. Could it be that the alcohol barons are actually fudging the figures? Or that they know the increase in June is nothing more than a temporary blip? What I do know is that selling spirits in a pre-mixed form rather than without additives is much more profitable for the industry. Gullible journos have been conned by a lobbyist and have just grabbed at the easy story given to them in a press statement.

Implications of that merger. The thinking behind the merger of Nationals and Liberals in Queensland is that a single non-Labor party provides the best way of maximising the non-Labor vote and thus gaining government. It is Labor, this theory has it, that will suffer from the amalgamation but I doubt that Queensland Labor is really concerned. There has to be a chance of some new form of small “l” liberal party emerging along the lines of the Liberal Reform Movement which was created in South Australia years ago when the then Liberal Country Party became too conservative an organisation for many party members to stomach. Should that happen there will be many traditional Liberal Party voting Queenslanders who find voting for reactionary remnants of the Nationals quite repugnant. These people will move towards the quite unthreatening Queensland Labor Party.

A conventional campaign in NZ. In New Zealand it is shaping up as a conventional and old fashioned “where’s the money coming from” kind of election campaign. The Opposition Nationals pledged themselves to giving tax cuts higher than those in Labour’s May budget and gave the impression they would be paid for by scrapping other schemes including the Government’s Working For Families tax credit scheme. Now the Nationals, having already copied Government policies on interest-free student loans, the nuclear-free stance, ownership of Kiwibank and other state-owned enterprises and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, has discovered that the Working for Families is too popular to get rid of. Which led NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark at the weekend to say:

I think this is getting a bit ridiculous. Where does money for much bigger tax cuts come from? Either you’ve got to borrow for the tax cuts — which we’ve always said is crazy — or you are heavily pruning existing Labour Government spending.

Differing versions. Very strange things those Fairfax websites. The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald just cannot agree on even that simple thing of what are the most read stories. It is as if down in Melbourne they have become embarrassed at revealing the truth about what those Sydneysiders actually get up to and have decided to give a sanitised version of what really goes on at the site of their stable mate. See for yourself.

Cartoons with smell. Recent duties as a stand-in grand father have reminded me that smelly jokes are quite a favourite with young boys so I was not surprised to read of the success which the Irish cartoon character Skunk fu is now having in the United States.

The idea of a mammal with a fantastic defensive mechanism, which he can’t control yet, is clearly appealing to a youthful audience. When suddenly surprised, Skunk automatically “pops” and produces a noxious smell and the kids love it so much that the US Cartoon Network is now running one of the 52 episodes virtually every day.  

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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