Marks for Malcolm but no votes. Once again Malcolm Turnbull gets full marks for reading the economic situation correctly but yet again it is Kevin Rudd who will get the votes. First as the Shadow Treasurer and more recently as Leader of the Opposition, the former merchant banker has understood that the fall out from the American banking crisis would be more serious than most people thought.

While Prime Minister Rudd was preaching the need to restrain spending to fight inflation, Turnbull was calling the likelihood of a world wide recession as a far greater danger than rising prices. He wanted a reduction in the size of the government’s budget surplus rather than an increase. It took until yesterday for the Labor Government to agree with him and announce a $A10.4 billion spending package to stimulate the economy.

Alas there are no votes for the Liberals in being right. The credit in politics goes to those who do rather than those who talk. When pensioners get their pre-Christmas handouts it will be Labor that gets the thank yous.

Curbing life’s pleasures guarantees someone an earn. The Australian Customs Service was congratulating itself again yesterday on its wonderful work in catching yet another smuggler. “Customs continues to crackdown on attempts to smuggle large quantities of cigarettes and tobacco into Australia,” its press release trumpeted. “In the latest case, 4.8 million undeclared cigarettes were detected in a shipping container that was landed in Sydney from China.”

Now that is a lot of fags but it is only one of more than 45 separate catches of smuggled cigarettes and tobacco since January 2007. All up, some 95 million cigarettes and 280 tonnes of tobacco have been seized, amounting to attempts to evade revenue in excess of $108 million.

Illegal cigarette importing is clearly a massive business. and is yet another example of what happens when government’s try to prohibit people from their pleasures. Organised crime is the beneficiary. Every time the do-gooders get their way and government increases the excise on tobacco products the incentive for the smugglers gets greater.

Note: Richard Farmer is a dedicated smoker who once coughed and spluttered as a tobacco industry lobbyist.

Economic Security Strategy. There was a time when governments had mini-budgets. Now we are having an Economic Security Strategy. The spin is clearly king.

Don’t mention the war. They are on the verge of going to war again in Cambodia although you might have missed it if you only read Australian newspapers. I didn’t notice a story about the growing tensions between Cambodia and neighbouring Thailand when I did my morning survey of the papers for Crikey but it might have been tucked away in one of them somewhere.

Peter Fray

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