Who was that fuzzy wuzzy with our PM? There he was on the ABC television. Standing alongside Kevin Rudd outside Parliament House as the artillery fired some kind of salute. Goodness knows what all that pageantry was about. Last night’s 7pm News did not give an explanation as political correspondent Chris Uhlmann gave his report on Swine Flu and other political events of the day. The same bloke bobbed up in the picture towards the end of the Uhlmann report again, when the Prime Minister said a few words about fuzzy wuzzy angels and a special medal and thanked those PNG citizens who served as civilians helping the war effort, or to their widows or widowers. No mention again of who the right hand man was.

All very rude really when the national broadcaster chooses not to acknowledge the visiting Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. Sir Michael Somare was in Canberra to chat about the future of the Australia-PNG relationship, but his presence was not deemed worthy of a mention. Perhaps the only way he can get a mention on the ABC is to have an airport security guard make him take his shoes off.

If in doubt increase the penalty. Whenever there is a particularly nasty crime we expect politicians to immediately react with a promise to introduce heavier penalties. Acting tough after the event seems to be at the very core of every political party’s law-and-order policy. And now the approach of increasing the deterrent whenever something goes wrong is spreading.

The New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees now has ditch diggers in his sights after one of them yesterday cut through a cable causing a blackout in Sydney’s central business district. The solution to stopping this kind of inconvenience occurring again, Mr Rees would have us believe, is to increase the penalties for such accidents As it was the third occasion in a month that cut off electricity in much of the CBD it might be more appropriate to upgrade the infrastructure to stop Australia’s commercial heartland being vulnerable to such incidents.

Northern Territory succumbs to hoon attack. I am pleased to see that the Northern Territory is not being left behind in attacking the hoon problem. “Hoon drivers could have their confiscated cars sold or crushed into cubes, under new laws passed last night,” the Northern Territory News reported this morning.

In politics self interest is a wonderful thing. Having got elected, the next duty of a politician becomes getting re-elected. So it is that the Democrats in the United States are on the verge of getting the numbers in the Senate to actually do most of the things that President Barack Obama might want. Sen. Arlen Specter’s decision to leave the Republican Party and become a Democrat takes the Democrats to 59 seats and it is still favoured to end up with 60 once the courts have finally ruled on who has won last November’s ballot in Minnesota. That is the magic number required to prevent the Republicans from preventing legislation coming to a vote.

For Sen. Specter the reason for switching sides seems clear enough. In his state of Pennsylvania only registered Republicans are entitled to vote in the primary election which next year will decide the party’s candidate. Last year several hundred thousand of the more liberal Republicans switched and registered as Democrats so they could have a say in whether President Obama became the candidate. With them no longer voting in the Senate primary Sen. Specter was unlikely to overcome a challenge from a more conservative Republican.

Peter Fray

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