A terrible slur hangs over Chris. What a pity that the editor in chief of The Australian, Chris Mitchell, will not have the opportunity to clear his name before a Senate Committee of the terrible slur that hangs over it. Chris will not be able to prove that he is a journalist a Prime Minister can trust to invite to Kirribilli House for dinner without private conversations being disclosed. Poor Chris’s reputation is taking quite a battering over this “George didn’t know what the G20 was” business.

The rumour mill is blaming him for blabbing to his political writer Matthew Franklin about something Kevin Rudd told his guests on the night in question after his phone call with President George W Bush. Protocol for members of the fourth estate on occasions like this is to treat private dinner table chatter as being private dinner table chatter. Get a reputation for not being trustworthy about such a matter and not only will the dinner invitations dry up but an editor’s reputation for honesty gets torn asunder.

Editor Mitchell at least has been keeping a discreet silence about what really was said by whom at Kirribilli that night since the Liberal Party started trying to use the Franklin story as evidence of a Prime Minister prepared to put Australian-United States relations in jeopardy for the sake of an amusing throwaway line while pouring another glass of wine. By acting in this Trappist like fashion The Australian’s head honcho has unselfishly condemned himself to feeding the rumour mill and the continued trashing of his reputation.

The efforts of Family First Senator Steve Fielding to establish an inquiry into the leaking of the phone call would have presented Mr Mitchell with an honourable way out. Because of the high regard in which he holds the Senate he surely could have felt obliged to answer questions put to him. But, alas, this morning the Greens would not support a reference to a Senate committee.

“What Senator Fielding — who is quite new in the Senate — doesn’t understand is that the Prime Minister can’t and won’t be brought before such an inquiry,” Senator Brown told Alexandra Kirk on AM before the vote.

“Either the inquiry will fail, or if there was a move to force witnesses like the Prime Minister before the inquiry, we end up with a constitutional showdown between the houses, with the potential for journalists to be brought before the bar of the house and potentially sent to the dungeon.”

Come to think of it, perhaps a little continued speculation about not being a totally honourable dinner guest is preferable to having the speculation proved correct or ending up in a Senate slammer for contempt.

When you just have to have more Kevin. Need a little Prime Ministerial fix? Then click on over to KevinPM. The replacement for the Kevin07 website is up and running. In the master’s own words:

I’ll be using the site to speak frankly with you about the big challenges facing Australia; the global economy, education, climate change, and the health of Australians, but just as importantly it will enable me to hear your ideas for the direction of the nation.

The Chinese nanny indicator. The extent to which the world economic crisis affects Australia will depend largely on what happens to our new biggest export market China. If China continues growing at seven or eight per cent a year our major export industries will not fall over and Australia as a whole will avoid falling into a recession. But should things turn out worse in China than its Government expects, we too will be in dire trouble.

It is difficult to get reliable information from a very bureaucratic and autocratic state like China. Official statistics are not as reliable as those from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, so we must seize on what clues are available to determine what is happening there.

And today’s offering is not good. The People’s Daily is reporting that “with the financial crisis” heightening sense of menace, many are reconsidering what they can and can’t afford — and employing a nanny at 30,000 yuan ($4,280) a year is falling into the latter category.”

The hurricane howling through the world’s financial markets, The People’s Daily reports, has left an oversupply of nannies in its wake. A source from a local domestic service company said the city’s nanny market had dropped 20 to 30 percent in the past year, with nannies’ average salaries also decreasing from 2,000-2,500 yuan to 1,300-1,800 yuan.

The current oversupply of nannies is attributed to a flood of workers laid off as businesses have failed.

I guess she asked for it. West Australian Labor MP Melissa Parke got a rousing reception when she rose to ask a question in the House of Representatives yesterday. “Not another Dorothy” was the cry as Opposition Members tried to suggest there was a touch of hypocrisy about the Member for Fremantle asking what was clearly one of those Dorothy Dixer prepared questions to the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel. For Ms Parke, you see, had earlier in the week received more than a little publicity for suggesting that the Parliament would be a more relevant institution with the abolition of the practice of having questions asked of the government each sitting day by its own MPs prepared for them by senior ministers.

Politicians behaving badly. They are just like footballers really. Queensland’s Liberal National Party MPs were out on the town in Cairns, having a good time, and two of them followed the recent example of Brisbane Broncos players and left without paying.

The Cairns Post report said the group of about 20 MPs and party officials asked for individual bills and receipts and refused to leave tips, despite complimenting the service of two waiters assigned solely to their table. The booze-up ended when the two remaining MPs ordered final drinks then left, still owing money.

“An Opposition spokesman last night confirmed two MPs left Fetta’s without paying, but refused to identify them. The Cairns Post understands one of them was Robina MP Ray Stevens, who was also involved in a heated argument with fellow LNP member Ray Hopper over their share of food and drink costs at an Esplanade restaurant the following night.”

Peter Fray

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