Have a chew on that. The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs currently meeting in Vienna is likely to agree on more of the same when it comes to government policies but at least the Bolivian President Evo Morales provided a little light relief when he defended the practice of chewing coca leaves for health reasons. “It’s not a drug, it’s a medicine,” the president said, holding up a leaf, which he put into his mouth minutes later.

Getting serious quickly. The Queensland Premier Anna Bligh took a risk in going to the polls early when history suggests voters punish governments which do so but the unemployment figures out this morning suggest that the risk of waiting would have been even greater. Queensland now has a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.5% which is less than the average for the whole of the country at 5.4% but the state rate is rising quickly. A year ago Queensland’s unemployment rate was only 3.6%. With the employment consequences of a cut back in Asian demand for coal just beginning to work through, things will surely be much worse in six months time.

Remember Fosters? It used to be a brand of beer. More than that really — it was such a symbol of Australian beer that they made it the company name as the old Carlton and United Breweries set out to Fosterise the world. And the more the marketing men promoted Fosters in its blue can, the less of it that Australians drank. So much so that when Fosters the company retreated from its international ambitions it didn’t even think it worthwhile to keep the rights to the name in most other countries.

I was reminded of this sad passing of an Australian icon when I read in The Age this morning that sales of Victoria Bitter, the beer that locals turned to as Fosters faded, are slipping and a new marketing campaign is about to be launched. The paper reported the VB group marketing manager Paul Donaldson announcing a partnership with the Returned Services League Australia (RSL) and Legacy to launch a fund-raising appeal around Anzac Day. The initiative was a year in the making, Mr Donaldson said.

“It’s a genuine contribution back to veterans, and something no other beer brand could do,” Mr Donaldson said.

“It’s very legitimate and very real, something we strongly believe in.”

My fearless prediction is trying to tie a hard earned thirst into such blatant nationalism will simply escalate VB’s decline and that the brand will follow Fosters and KB (remember those golden cans) into drinking oblivion.

Spreading news of the alcohol code. The National Rugby League clearly has a bit to do to spread news of its responsible drinking code through to all aspects of its industry. Take this report from the player manager David Riolo after his client, the former half back Todd Carney (sacked by the Canberra Raiders after peeing on a patron in a bar) was given a 12 month suspended sentence, and banned from visiting his home town of Goulburn for the same period, after pleading guilty to jumping on the bonnet of a car outside Goulburn Workers Club early on February 27, causing an estimated $1000 damage, and admitting to damaging the door of a Fone Zone shop in Goulburn on October 4 last year:

Mr Riolo said his client was not overly concerned about being banned from Goulburn for a year.

”I think it’s a good thing, a lot of the issues he’s had have involved Goulburn and alcohol,” Mr Riolo said.

”It’s good to take Goulburn out of the equation. He can move on now and make a fresh start.”

Clearly alcohol will still be in the equation. Mr Riolo has arranged for his client to live and work at Queensland’s Atherton’s Barron Valley Hotel while he plays country football for the Atherton Roosters, whose president Mick Nasser runs the hotel.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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