The underdog strikes again. Evidence at the weekend from the Northern Territory of just how dangerous it can be for a Government to call an early election when it is universally predicted as the winner yet there is no great interest in who governs. This was an example par excellence of the public giving a complacent Chief Minister a wake up call. The message for Alan Carpenter in Western Australia is clear: make sure that there are plenty of opinion polls showing that defeat is possible.

No surprise at protection changes. There is no reason for anyone to be surprised that the Labor government is flirting with a more protectionist industry policy than its predecessor. On several occasions during his 10 months as Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd vowed that he did not want to be the leader of a country without a manufacturing industry. Keeping tariffs for motor vehicles will be absolutely consistent with that promise.

The more things change. The Russian newspaper Pravda remains true to tradition this morning as it gives a crude dose of anti Semitism to its coverage of the conflict in Georgia. Under the headline “Georgian troops burn South Ossetian refugees alive”, Pravda begins its report not with details of casualties or news of Russian forces but a reference to Israel. Apparently readers are intended to believe that the most important thing about this war is that the Israeli mass media published several articles on August 10 dedicated to the war in South Ossetia. “Newspapers paid special attention to arms shipments to Georgia, which Israel had made in the past,” wrote Pravda before going on to quote Russia’s Foreign Ministry accusing Ukraine of encouraging Georgia “to interventions and ethnic cleansings in South Ossetia.” Pravda also claimed that Ukraine “had armed Georgia to the teeth” and that Georgia’s ground forces possessed weapons, ammunition, unmanned aircraft, night vision goggles and other equipment made in Israel. Only with that out of the way did the report get on to describing the fighting in South Ossetia.

Our man in the pictures. They know who butters the bread at the People’s Daily. Consider this wonderful series of pictures celebrating the visit of dignitaries to the opening of the Olympic Games. And yes — our boy Kev is there in the first XI collection taken with President Hu Jintao which is better than being relegated to a photo opportunity with Premier Wen Jiabao who did the honours with Vanuatuan Prime Minister Vanuaroroa HamLini, Tongan Prime Minister Feleti Vaka’uta Sevele and Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama of Fiji’s interim government.

Old media dethroned . That’s what Los Angeles Post columnist Tim Rutten called his piece on Saturday which looked at the role bloggers and online commentators played in eventually making the s-xual activities of Democratic Party presidential candidate John Edwards into a story of national prominence. The National Enquirer first wrote about an affair between Edwards and filmmaker Rielle Hunter, a former employee of his campaign, several months ago but the mainstream media chose to ignore the story. The National Enquirer kept plugging away at the yarn but, as Rutten points out, it was the bloggers and online commentators who refused to let the story sputter into oblivion. Wrote Rutten:

But what’s really significant here is the cone of silence the nation’s major newspapers — including The Times — and the cable and broadcast networks dropped over this story when it first appeared in the tabloid during the presidential primary campaign. Next, the Enquirer reported that the unmarried Hunter was pregnant. Still no mainstream media interest. Indeed, never in recent journalistic history have so many tough reporters so closely resembled sheep as those members of the campaign press corps who meekly accepted Edwards’ categorical dismissal of the Enquirer’s allegations. Late last month, Edwards came to Los Angeles, and Enquirer reporters trailed him to the Beverly Hilton hotel, where he met Hunter and her daughter in their room.

But not in Australia. Things are clearly a little different in Australia when it comes to reporting on the love life of politicians. On Friday the Sydney Daily Telegraph gave us the earth shattering news that the unmarried NSW Minister for Health Reba Meagher and newly appointed Morris Iemma spin doctor Adam Walters, were seen getting cosy at a private function the night before. By Sunday there were more details. It was no longer a rumour but, reported the Sunday Telegraph “Reba Meagher has revealed she is dating ex-TV reporter Adam Walters after they were caught canoodling during a boozy night at an exclusive nightclub. Ms Meagher, who launched an alcohol awareness campaign only in June, admitted her new relationship after she “probably drank more than was recommended” by health authorities. Her embarrassment was compounded by a failure to relieve her ministerial driver, found asleep the next morning in the ministerial office car park.” By this morning the boardloid Sydney Morning Herald entered the fray with “Meagher forgets driver after leaving bar.” With crusading Sydney papers giving us news like this who needs bloggers and a National Enquirier ?

Peter Fray

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