Self interest by totalitarian leaders. The prospect of adding 12 million people to the ranks of the unemployed would surely concentrate the minds of any group of political leaders so there was little surprise yesterday that the People’s Bank of China cut interest rates by 1.08 percentage points. The rate at which factories are shutting down on the Chinese east coast as exports dry up is already serious enough but, as The China Daily reports today, economists point out “that if Beijing could not sustain a yearly growth of 8 percent, up to 12 million workers would have lost their jobs next year, posing a very perilous problem for social stability, because more than 90 per cent of farmer-turned-workers do not have protection of nest eggs.”

A very perilous problem indeed. I would think so Australia can expect that the communist leaders of its major market will do everything it can to substitute domestic demand to replace the lost export contribution to growth.

A cool Conroy is a king of spin. Chat with Labor MPs about communications and you quickly learn that it has only taken one year for this government to feel as filthy about Telstra as its predecessor ended up after 11. It is now rare indeed to hear a good word from a politician of any side about the telecommunications giant in which the government, through its Future Fund, is still the major shareholder. If the politicians could achieve it they would delight in using the current tender for the development of a national broadband network (NBN) to help a strong competitor emerge.

Given Telstra’s dominant position as the owner of so much of the national infrastructure that is easier thought than done. Yet you have to hand it to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy — in public he keeps up the pretence that all is well in his kingdom with the NBN project completely on track.

“The strong response from industry proponents is vindication of the Government’s commitment to undertake a fair, open and competitive process,” he declared in his press statement yesterday.

“The stage is now set for an extremely competitive assessment process.”

There was not so much as a hint in these prepared words that Telstra was again playing games which will surely delay even further the evaluation process by the Government’s independent Panel of Experts and the ACCC.

Today’s survey of news by survey. The Brisbane Courier-Mail finds a survey by NRMA Insurance which alleges that Queenslanders are less likely to know the people next door than are residents in other states. This scandalous slur by an organisation based over the border in NSW sent the paper scurrying to provide an explanation. It settled on some “experts” declaring that the reason was Queensland’s rapid population growth and not an innate unfriendliness.

One for the political aficionados. They are still counting the votes in Minnesota for the Senate race between Republican Senator Norm Coleman and the Democrat candidate Al Franken and there are suggestions today that it may be well in to the new year before a decision is finally made about who won. At the moment the incumbent Sen. Coleman is some 200 votes in the lead but the Democrats are crying foul because some absentee ballots which favour their man have been excluded. It is becoming a wonderful occasion for the lawyers with challenges in the courts and a reference to the Senate as the final arbiter quite probable.

The other state where a Senator has yet to be chosen is Georgia where Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin take part in a run-off ballot next week after neither got to 50% of the vote on 4 November. The Crikey election indicator puts the Republican as a 93.5% chance of victory.

Should the bolter get up and take the Democrats to 59 Senate seats then an attempt to have the Senate decide would demonstrate clearly what is at stake in Minnesota. The Republicans would engage in one of those filibusters where Senators just keep talking so that a vote cannot be taken. The Democrats need to get to the magic number of 60 to be able to stop this time honoured American political tradition which has been such an impediment to progress over the centuries.

The Wall Street Journal recalls this morning how in 1975, the Senate refused to accept New Hampshire’s certification that Republican Louis Wyman had won by two votes. The seat was vacant for seven months, with the Senate debate spanning 100 hours and six unsuccessful attempts to break a filibuster and vote on who should be seated. The impasse ended only when a special election was agreed to, which was won by Democrat John Durkin. The Journal report also contains plenty of wonderful details about exactly what is and is not a valid vote that should give someone like Malcolm Mackerras paroxysms of delight.

The Crikey election indicator on the Minnesota race puts the Republicans as a 65% chance of ending up with the Senator.

Peter Fray

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