Peter Garrett talks tough to Tasmania. Peter Garrett might be content to approve thousands of litres of poisonous effluent being pumped into Bass Strait from a pulp mill but he has drawn the line at the galaxias auratus. Yesterday the Federal Environment Minister gave a resounding “No” to further entreaties from the Tasmanian Government to release up to five megalitres of water per day from Lake Crescent. “In making my decision I have taken into account the Interlaken Lakeside Reserve Ramsar site and the endangered golden galaxias – a fish which only occurs in Lake Crescent and the connected Lake Sorell,” Mr Garrett said in a statement. Tasmanian Minister for Primary Industries and Water David Llewellyn wanted the water to ease drought conditions in the Clyde Valley around Bothwell. He accused the feds of making a decision that did not align with the Tasmanian community’s expectations regarding the balance between the environment and community needs.

Will those years of wining and dining be rewarded? The highlight of my survey of the international press this morning (Yes – old habits die hard and I’m posting my summary to my blog each day) was the news that the disgraced press baron Conrad Black is pinning his hopes on clemency from U.S. President George W. Bush as a last-ditch effort to get out of jail early. The story in the Toronto Globe and Mail showed that the jailbird has lost none of his arrogant disregard for other people’s money – he wants his former publishing company to foot the legal bill.

Keeping the confidence up – for now. With petrol prices falling rapidly, the interest payment to the bank dropping considerably and no friends and neighbours losing their job it does not really need a politician or a Reserve Bank governor to tell people not to panic. At this stage of the economic cycle the main reason people might be getting a little apprehensive is only because these people in authority tell them there is no need to. Even the annual statement from the super fund for the year ended 30 June was not too bad for those not actually on the verge of retirement. The loss of a few percent is not that troubling after all those great years of the recent past.

The Morgan Poll’s Weekly Consumer Confidence Rating (the graph here gives the annual average since 1973) is still well above its record lows. True there was a drop of 4.6 points to 91.2 in the week ended 16 November but it got down to 72.8 in June 1989 . The mob are far from being at panic stations yet despite what they have been hearing and reading about the stock market crash.

It’s the next progress super report showing the losses increasing, combined with unemployment going up at a frightening rate, and it is people you know without work, while the value of the family home is going down that will have an impact/ All the honeyed words from Prime Ministers, Treasurers and Governors will not stop despondency when that day comes.

Children betrayed – is nothing sacred? The government-owned Air Services Australia is betraying thousands of Australian children with its decision to get rid of red fire engines. The corporation yesterday trumpeted its decision to replace red with what it calls “a new bright ‘yellowish-green’ fluorescent colouring”. The unthinking bureaucrats, with no regard to the danger of making all those toy red engines redundant, rejected the sensible compromise many of the world’s fire services are following of having splashes of the apparently highly visible trendy new colour on predominantly red engines.

Peter Fray

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