The Premier plays Nutsy. There must be votes in koala bears.

The Queensland Premier Anna Bligh is doing her best to pretend her Government cares about the cuddly critters with an announcement of measures she says need to be taken to save an estimated 20,000 koalas living in the state’s southeast. Dogs may be banned in new housing developments and fences made compulsory around existing houses with dogs kept indoors at night to ensure the safety of the Blinky Bills. Exact details of the rescue plan, which may also include lowering speed limits around koala habitats and building tunnels under major roads so koalas can safely cross, will be worked out by a taskforce including the RSPCA, local councils, developers, conservation groups and koala experts.

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A foreign divertissement. It is interesting to observe how governments in trouble at home manage to find a little foreign divertissement. That Dustin Hoffman and Robert de Niro movie Wag the Dog is too true to life to be really funny. The latest example is in Thailand where the Government racked by scandal has managed to find a border dispute with its neighbour Cambodia as the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra awaits trial as his wife appeals against a jail sentence. 

Can Gordon Brown be a Paul Keating? It has become quite fashionable for the Conservative side of British politics to call on Australians to help them with their election campaigning. The team of Mark Textor and Lynton Crosby were behind the last unsuccessful general election campaign but had more success in helping Boris Johnson become Lord Mayor of London.

Perhaps the time is fast approaching when the embattled UK Labour Prime Minister should call on the former Labor Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating for a little guidance in what is clearly a time of need. Gordon Brown, like Keating, succeeded his party’s most successful Prime Minister ever, having been forced to remain in charge of economic policy for much longer than he considered fair and reasonable and now has the disadvantage of having to overcome a pronounced feeling in the electorate that it is time for a change.

Paul Keating could tell him all about that as he was the definite underdog when campaigning got under way for the 1993 election but he proved a master campaigner in winning the unwinnable. Keating did so by staying true to the principles which made him such a reforming Treasurer. Brown should learn the lesson from the wild colonial boy and do the same. 

One poll lead Obama does not want! There was mixed news from Barack Obama overnight in the various samplings of public opinion. A couple of pollsters had him improving again and back in the lead (see Real Clear Politics if you are interested in such daily movements) but over at’s best-seller list it is anti-Obama books that are selling well. While barely getting reviewed in the mainstream press, Hillel Italie of Associated Press writes that going negative against Obama isn’t just a campaign strategy for Republican John McCain. It’s also a good formula for selling books. Three anti-Obama releases are now in the top 20.

Begging for cash. Businessmen and politicians alike claim there is no connection at all between donations to a political party and future influence. And yet … parties looking like sure losers find it very hard to raise money. The latest lot to find itself in this predicament is the Country Liberal Party of the Northern Territory which last week had to send out an emergency email to supporters requesting donations to cover campaign expenses. The CLP is being well and truly outspent on advertising by a Labor Party that is a clear favourite to be returned (an 85% chance on the Crikey Election Indicator) on Saturday and seems to be having no fundraising difficulty at all.

Good news for polar bears. Cross fingers and hope for chills. The polar bears seem safe for another year. Whatever impression you might have got from Marian Wilkinson in the Fairfax papers and Four Corners this week, there has been a better-than-expected northern summer for Arctic Ice. During July the ice cover was better than in July during the last three years which had produced very gloomy predictions indeed about the future for the bears.

Not that foreboding about the future should be banished. The figure for July 2008 has simply returned to the long term downward trend line but at least the prediction of the experts in these matters at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre is that, with sea ice now at the peak of the melt season and ice extent below average, “it seems less likely that extent will approach last year’s record low.”


Back in April at the beginning of the melting season the NSIDC had headlined its forecast “Arctic sea ice extent at maximum below average, thin”. By May the report was even gloomier: “Arctic sea ice forecasts point to lower-than-average season ahead”. By early June if bears could read they would have been truly alarmed: “Arctic sea ice still on track for extreme melt”.

Pessimism continued at NSIDC on 2 July: Melt onset earlier than normal but by 17 July there was at least A different pattern of sea ice retreat. It was not until the next report of 1 August that even a little optimism – just a little mind you — was allowed to come through: Race between waning sunlight and thin ice. There was almost a tinge of disappointment in that headline and a grudging acknowledgement that the “rate of decline should soon start to slow, reducing the likelihood of breaking last year’s record sea ice minimum.”

Confusion among the helpers. A kind reader has sent in more about the confusion Dickson’s Peter Dutton has sown among his helpers. Local Dickson residents who attended the Pine Rivers Show on the weekend were somewhat bemused by the member’s stall. Despite Dutton’s support for the newly named Liberal National Party, his helpers wore Liberal shirts, the signage — with the exception of a Springborg corflute was all Liberal — which may have been excusable except that Dutton LNP corflutes were there but stacked to the side.

Dutton obviously thought it only worth attending on the Friday evening and didn’t bother to front on Saturday or Sunday — would have been useful if he had because his helpers had to admit when asked that the LNP actually did not have any policies.

Could it be that Dutton, along with the rest of the Santoro faction, embraced the LNP at the Sofitel but doesn’t want a bar of it in his own electorate? Given that the Liberal Party no longer exists in Queensland it seems that Dutton is suffering an identity crisis. But when you are part of a bubble and squeak party — warmed-up leftovers mashed together — there will be the view that the ingredients singly are more recognisable. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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