New properties only. If the aim of the bonus payments version of the first home buyers grant is to stimulate the building industry then it will make sense for the May budget to limit any extension of the bonus to people buying newly constructed housing. The evidence I get from within the real estate industry is the major beneficiaries of allowing existing properties to be eligible have been investors able to get a higher return from sales than they otherwise would have.

A good time to stay home. Those federal politicians planning an overseas trip when Canberra’s Parliament House shuts down for the winter towards the end of June should have a good think about the treatment given this morning to Peter Lindsay, the Liberal Member for Herbert in Queensland. Here’s how his local paper the Townsville Bulletin reports his current 35 day overseas study tour:

If MPs think they are harshly treated at the moment over their pay and perks, just wait until they see what things are like after the budget next month starts taking benefits away from voters.

An existential threat. Now I am the first to concede that a pass in Philosophy One at the University of Tasmania when Professor Sydney Sparkes Orr was sidelined over allegations of a relationship with a female student does not make me an expert on Soren Kierkagaard and existentialism. For students like me it was the soft option where the solitary lecturer was so grateful to have any students that nobody failed. But refreshing my hazy memory on the subject this morning still leaves me puzzled as to what Hillary Clinton is actually talking about. Pakistan’s fragile government is facing an “existential threat”, she said last week , from Islamic militants who are now operating within a few hours of the capital. Just what is an “existential threat” supposed to be?

To we students of the late 1950s and early 60s mention existential and thoughts turn, as Jan Freeman put it so nicely writing in the Boston Globe last year, to “Sartre in a Left Bank cafe or Woody Allen on a psychiatrist’s couch, pondering (or suffering) the struggle to create an authentic self in an indifferent and purposeless universe.” Clearly that is not what the American Secretary of State has in mind nor is it what former Vice President Dick Cheney meant when he declared of the war on terror that “this is an existential conflict” that must be won.

The philosophy Kierkegaard founded has been reduced by politicians like these — Britain’s Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton’s predecessor Condoleezza Rice were also worriers about existential threats — to shorthand for “threats to the existence of”. Is nothing sacred?

An absolutely fabulous campaign. They used to say that the British were prepared to defend Hong Kong to the very last Gurkha, but the colony finally ended with a whimper — not the bang from a Gurkha’s gun. With the retreat from the Far East the Gurkhas then serving were allowed entry to Britain, but those who served the British Crown before then were confined to Nepal to fend for themselves. Britain might be overrun with Pakistanis but there was no place for most Gurkhas in the land they fought for; which annoyed at least some representatives of the Raj, the actress Joanna Lumley among them. Ms Lumley was born in Srinagar, Kashmir, India, the daughter of Major James Rutherford Lumley of the 6th Gurkha Rifles, and she took up the Gurkha cause with a passion.

In 2008 the Gurkha Justice Campaign seemed to have a victory in when the High Court ruled in favour of six claimants arguing against the British policy that Gurkhas who retired before mid-1997, the date that the brigade moved its base from Hong Kong to the UK, did not have strong enough ties to the UK to be allowed to stay. Justice Blake ruled that the British government immigration policy in this matter was unlawful. Justice Blake quoted from the military covenant that soldiers are expected to make personal sacrifices and put the needs of the nation above their own and in return should always expect fair treatment and be valued and respected. He said rewarding long and distinguished service by the grant of residence in the country for which the service was performed would be a vindication and an enhancement of this covenant.

In light of the court’s ruling, the ABC reported at the time, the UK’s home secretary Jacqui Smith said the government would revise and publish new guidance. That guidance was finally issued last week with the new Home Office rules saying a Gurkha will be allowed in if he had 20 years’ service. That seemed to pay scant regard to Justice Blake’s finding, because Gurkhas could only serve for a maximum of 15 years unless they became an officer. The only alternative was of entering is to have a gallantry medal, family ties in Britain, have lived in Britain for three years or have an illness due to military service.

A defiant Ms Lumley described the new rules as “shocking” and vowed to help launch a new court battle for justice after the Government was accused of tearing up a legal ruling that they should be allowed to settle in Britain. The angry Joanna said: “It is far worse than we expected and has made me ashamed of our administration. It is absolutely shocking.”

Anzac hoons. Another little hoons update. The Sydney Morning Herald this morning has the police declaring Anzac Day has become a day of shame at the hands of young binge drinkers who are using it as an excuse to drink to excess rather than commemorate war veterans. And silly old me thought that that young drinkers were simply following the example of the old fellows who have been getting well and truly p-ssed ever since there has been an Anzac Day.

Peter Fray

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