No scalp and the boys and girls are angry. The lads and lasses of the Macquarie Street press gallery in New South Wales tried very hard, ever so hard to get a scalp from Iguanagate, and the Sydney team had plenty of backing from their Capital Hill based colleagues in Canberra. So the disappointment yesterday was palpable when both the federal and state Directors of Public Prosecution decided not to lay criminal charges against either NSW Education Minister John Della Bosca or his wife Belinda Neal who is the federal Labor Member for Robertson.

The newspapers had found the couple guilty all those weeks ago and had written as if it was a fait accompli that the unpopular pair would have to have their days in court. At the SMH website they were churlish enough about the decision not to even put it on the home age but it did get a minor display after the Crikey Breakfast wrap drew attention to what we described as “Fairness Fairfax fashion!”

Here’s the before the Breakfast wrap appeared version:

And here’s the after: 

To be fair I should point out that the printed version of the SMH carried a report on its front page about the decision not to prosecute even if it was slanted in such a way that a casual reader might have thought Belinda Neal had been found guilty as charged by Herald journos. “Rudd Puts Neal on good behaviour bond” was the headline.

Over at the Sydney Daily Telegraph they at least found room for a straight account of the decision not to prosecute under the headline “Case closed over Iguanagate scandal”.

Not that there is any hint on the blog of that paper’s statepolitical editor Simon Benson that he grievously misled his readers into thinking that something criminal had been done by the married political couple. Judge Benson has decided that he knows better than a couple of DPPs and “their alleged behaviour on the night of June 6 at the Iguana’s night club in Gosford, if true to a word, was disgraceful.

The question for both Kevin Rudd and Morris Iemma is whether they are fit to be in political office. It was also a matter that perhaps should have been investigated by the ICAC under the provisions of misuse of political office.” Not much concern there for people being innocent until proven guilty.

Afghan war gets really serious. The Australian casualties in Afghanistan are but one indication of the way this war is getting serious. The same day that our troops were ambushed by the Taliban, American and Afghan government troops were pursuing insurgents across the border in to Pakistan.

This escalation of hostilities is bound to cause problems for a Pakistani government which has troubles enough of its own after a falling out between coalition members and an assassination attempt yesterday on the life of the country’s Prime Minister.

As the weeks and months go by, our involvement in this war is bound to become a major problem for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who has left himself very little wriggle room with his repeated declarations that Afghanistan is where Australia should have been concentrating its anti-terrorist efforts all along.

Supporting a war where Australia suffers very few casualties is one thing but it is quite another when the casualties caused by real action start mounting. PM Rudd will want to keep a careful watch over his left shoulder because there are many in his own Labor Party ranks who agree with Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown that Australia should not have troops in Afghanistan any more than it should in Iraq,

Following the spin. US election tragics – and at Crikey we can tell there are plenty of you – might have their own way of keeping track of election advertising but I’ve become a convert to USA Today‘s Campaign ad tracker. I don’t know what influence these ads actually have on the result but it sure is fun looking at Democrat vice presidential candidate Joe Biden saying nice things about Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

A victory for the press. Over recent weeks the Brisbane Courier Mail has been running a wonderful little campaign drawing attention to the way that the bosses of state owned corporations have been rewarding themselves with free entertainment by pretending that they are really just cementing relations with important clients.

Queensland Rail, for example, planned a lovely little dinner, the paper reported, for 60 at a riverside restaurant, with French champagne and canapés, to coincide with the annual Riverside fireworks display. The state Transport Minister John Mickel, who was not invited to the event, put a stop to that little soiree after being told of it by the paper and now Premier Anna Blight has stepped in to call a halt to all similar public displays of largesse.

The Government has written to all the chairs and chiefs of its Government Owned Corporations warning them to curb excessive entertaining and prepare for a new edict on wining and dining that will be coming shortly.

Yes Premier, but is the polling real? Western Australian Premier Alan Carpenter was on the radio this morning giving the reason that his Labor Party released details of an internal opinion poll from five marginal seats showing a 7 per cent drop in support for Labor.

It was, Mr Carpenter told Radio National, because Labor is worried about being ousted by voters who do not particularly want a Liberal Government. “So yes we, you know, obviously deliberately released the polling to try to make people focus on what the actual situation was rather than what they thought it might be,” he said. Which is all well and good but does not answer the real question which is whether the poll is a fair dinkum sample of voters or carefully taken from a sample chosen to give just the kind of result the party announced?

The remnants of the experienced Labor Party operative within me tells me that of course the poll of which Mr Carpenter spoke was bodgy with the result contrived within the ALP office. Why would anyone pay good money to get a result that can so easily be made up and fed to gullible journalists?

Note: Richard Farmer always fancied himself as an expert pollster who could produce a required result when working on Labor campaigns during the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Peter Fray

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