A wrong choice by Telstra. Telstra’s hiring of Labor’s pollster is right out of the lobbying text book and the research findings Glenn Milne wrote about in The Australian this morning should be dismissed as the rubbish that they probably are for that reason alone. Crude bullying tactics should be rewarded only if there is no alternative but to give in to the blackmailer. If that was the case with the national broadband network (NBN) proposal there would be no need for Telstra to be the bully in the first place and it could have saved the considerable sum it is paying to John Uttting’s UMR Research. Utting, of course, is the man credited with providing Labor with the data it needed to plan Kevin Rudd’s successful election campaign a year ago. Telstra, with all the rat cunning of a would-be monopolist, hopes that having an organisation Labor trusts tell the Government that the mob actually like and respect Telstra would carry considerable weight as decision day on the project arrives. My guess is that Telstra has misread the Rudd style with this assessment. The PM has shown considerable caution about exposing himself to any allegations of making decisions other than by the book and that he will want to avoid any suggestion of being influenced by a Labor mate.

A pleasant change at The Oz. What a pleasant change from the normal ramblings of Dennis Shanahan this morning to find the Newspoll findings explained by a journalist who is both literate and numerate. George Megalogenis wrote how a strong majority of voters would be concerned if the federal Government pushed the budget into deficit next year to stimulate economic growth but saw that as the only blip in yet another dominant Newspoll for Kevin Rudd and Labor. Newspoll has Labor leading the Coalition 55% to 45% and that is the most successful opening year by a Government in the history of Newspoll, while the Coalition has endured its worst sequence on record with its primary vote stuck below 40 per cent.

But nothing’s changed at the Tele. Words matter for the Telegraph‘s new editor Gary Linnell we were told in The Oz‘s media section this morning but there has to be some doubt about whether he cares if they are fact or fiction. For the Tele on its website this morning (having read it there I couldn’t bring myself to actually pay for my normal newsprint copy) has perhaps the bodgiest opinion survey ever used by a news organisation in search of a cheap headline. No wonder the story on the web is without a by-line as any self respecting journalist would be embarrassed to put his name over “Kevin Rudd 747 rates an ‘F’ with readers, failing Prime Minister“. The so-called evidence for this proclamation is an on-line poll from the newspaper’s own web site where, of 1600 replies, 55.4 per cent said the Prime Minister had done a poor or really bad job. Just 26.2 per cent said he had done a good or a really good job, with 18 per cent describing it as “average”. The story boldly concludes that this majority view of Telegraph responders justified the declaration that Kevin Rudd has been a failure since his election 12 months ago.

The Gary Linnell Tele would have us believe that this is “crushing news” for Kevin Rudd while the story admits that “the survey didn’t cover a representative cross-section of the electorate and about 60 per cent of respondents did not vote Labor on November 24, 2007” and “it clashed with opinion surveys showing the Government and the Prime Minister in strong positions over the Opposition of Malcolm Turnbull.” The story surely marks a new low point in the idiocy of the Telegraph‘s version of political journalism.

A foolhardy prediction.

The IMF billions keep rolling out. On Friday it was Latvia’s turn to knock on the door of the International Monetary Fund in Washington and ask for a hand to survive the horrors of the international financial crisis. No sum needed has been mentioned in the early reports but it’s almost as if a billion or two between friends is nothing.

“We have decided to start official talks with the European Commission and the IMF about funding to stabilise the economy,” Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis told reporters.

The Baltic country has seen a sharp economic slowdown this year, reports euobserver.com, with a contraction of 4.3 percent in the third quarter, breaking its previous record of being one of the fastest growing economies in the EU.The financial crisis has made it hard for Latvia to obtain funds in its attempts to counterbalance its large current account deficit. The government has been forced to take over the country’s second largest bank of Parex and offer millions of euro as guarantees to its creditors.

When Latvia gets its IMF assistance it will be the second European Union country to do so with Hungary getting a $USA15.5 billion credit earlier this month. Now the guessing game is who will be next. Talks are under way between the IMF and the governments of Pakistan and Turkey and the speculation is that the other Baltic States and also Romania and Bulgaria will soon be in the queue.

Shut due to public demand. Opening and closing a new business on the same day would not normally be a good sign but things are a bit different for Europeana. This new website went on line last Thursday making available an initial two million books, maps, recordings, photographs, archival documents, paintings and films from national libraries and cultural institutions of the EU’s 27 member states. The site was instantly overwhelmed by the 10 million visitors per hour it was receiving and crashed mid-morning, requiring a quick doubling of the number of servers supporting the library. It crashed again in the early evening.

Europeana is a project of the European Commission which commission president Jose Manuel Barroso at the launch described as being much more than a library, but “a veritable dynamo to inspire 21st century Europeans to emulate the creativity of innovative forbears like the drivers of the Renaissance.”Some 1,000 cultural organisations have provided material, from the Louvre in Paris to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and the British Library. By 2010, the project hopes to hold some 10 million items.

The great paintings of Europe, the musical scores of the continent’s finest composers and documents of profound historical importance – from the Magna Carta to Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring and Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal” – are now digitally available. Website: europeana – European Digital Library

Peter Fray

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