A nasty subjective business. What’s news and what’s not is very much in the hands of the media. News is what is chosen to be printed or broadcast. So what should we make of this morning’s decision by the 11am Sky News to report what some residents of the Christmas Island detention centre had for Christmas Dinner?

Whatever the motive of the reporter and her editor, one consequence is clear enough: telling of a lunch with oysters and lobster for detainees while ordinary, proper residents of the Island went without such luxuries will feed xenophobic sentiments. As best I could judge the gratuitous menu reference followed the Sky reporter being peeved because a young internee chose not to answer when a microphone was thrust in to his face. It was not a pretty sight. Perhaps the influence of Fox News is spreading!

Voting on ethics versus religion. A truly intriguing election takes place tomorrow. The citizens of Berlin are going to the polls to vote in a referendum which we could best describe as a contest between ethics and religion. At issue is a decision made in 2006 whereby ethics became a compulsory subject for all high school students in Germany’s capital city and religion an an optional one. A “Yes” vote advocated by the “Pro Reli” campaign would see those rules changed so that pupils would have to choose between ethics and a faith-based religion class divided along religious lines, with Protestants, Catholics and Muslims being taught separately. The “Pro Ethik” campaign, advocating a “No” vote, wants to keep ethics compulsory and religion optional.

Der Spiegel reports that with a few days to go until the referendum, opinion polls show that Berliners are split nearly exactly down the middle, with polls showing a 51 percent to 49 percent divide, sometimes for one side, sometimes for the other.

Miracle worker wanted. There are hard jobs, very difficult jobs and now a near impossible job. Joe Hockey is looking for someone to make him economically literate.

An unfortunate consequence of a blinkered view. It sounds very sensible if you say it without thinking about it: directors must always act in the best interests of the shareholders who elect them. But when that doctrine is put into practice without any overriding ethical consideration of a broader public good, we end up with some tragic consequences. The decision in the trial of James Hardie directors well illustrates the point.

A slow move north and west. The centre of population is one way in which the Australian Bureau of Statistics describes the spatial distribution of Australia’s population This centre point marks the average latitude and longitude around which the Australian people are distributed and figures released this week show it is moving north-west.

At June 2008, Australia’s centre of population was located around 50 kilometres east of the town of Ivanhoe in the western NSW LGA of Central Darling (A). This reflects the concentration of people in south-eastern Australia, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. Since June 2003, the centre of population in Australia has moved approximately 11 kilometres north-west as a result of the relatively large population growth occurring in northern NSW, Queensland and Western Australia.

Peter Fray

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