Have we seen a swan song? Television can be a cruel medium and never more so than when it captured the lengthy silence as Wayne Swan yesterday struggled to find in his notes the Treasury’s new projections for inflation. It was painful to look at a politician who appeared so completely out of his depth. The rumour mill already is well and truly off and running with the suggestion that there will not be another Swan budget. To survive in the job the Treasurer needs to concern himself less with learning his glib one liners and more on mastering his brief and appearing stern and serious.

Saturday mornings just won’t be the same. For years reading Alan Ramsey in the Sydney Morning Herald has been a highlight of many people’s Saturday morning’s, mine included. His political commentary inspired both loving and loathing on occasions – sometimes within the same piece – but it was never a dull read. Alas in the mail this week I received an invitation to attend a dinner to mark his retirement.

A tieless speaker. It’s not that many years ago that speakers in Australian Parliaments dressed themselves up in fancy dress and wore wigs but the Australian Capital Territory has well and truly cast that tradition aside. The local Legislative Assembly yesterday chose a speaker who was not even wearing a tie in the chamber. The appointment of Shane Rattenbury as presiding officer brings the Greens into a position of parliamentary influence for the first time and suggests that the party will not be shy about using its balance of power position with four members to the governing Labor Party’s seven to get its own way. Yesterday’s support by Labor for the Green appointment came only after Labor Chief Minister John Stanhope was told the Greens would vote for a Liberal as speaker if they were not supported by Labor for the post.

Defeats for gay rights activists. An interesting sidelight to yesterday’s American elections was the referendum vote in three states declaring that same sex marriages should be illegal. California, Florida and Arizona all voted in favour of the ban. The California Supreme Court earlier this year had declared same sex marriages to be legal.

And a no to affirmative action? One of those votes where the result is still too close to call is in Colorado where voters were asked to decide whether to ban race- and gender-based affirmative action. The vote in favour of the ban was narrowly behind with 91% of precincts reported. In Massachusetts, meanwhile, the voters have now outlawed greyhound racing.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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