Fudging the figures. There’s nothing like the impending arrival of some bad unemployment numbers to prompt a government to make a dramatic policy change. Years ago we had tens of thousands taken off the dole figures by putting them on a disability support pension. The last figure I saw was 730,397 of these disabled compared with 462,896 on Centrelink’s so-called Newstart (the dole to ordinary people) allowance.

Now Team Rudd has come up with a way of trying to disguise the ravages that are about to be inflicted on Australia’s youth by having yet another youth training scheme. The rhetoric is wonderful, the reality will be terrible. Not counting the new wave of unemployed young people will not alter the fact that their lives will in all likelihood be ruined as result of this global financial crisis.

Football administrators: sensitive and out of touch. Good to see Jeff Kennett back on page one this morning. It is his rightful place. Oh how we political journalists wish he had never gone.

Alas there’s no political comeback involved. These days the former Liberal Premier concentrates on issues that really concern the people. As President of the Hawthorn Football Club he is playing in the big league but still standing up for his principles by copping a $5000 fine rather than kow tow to the game’s authoritarian controllers who object to being told the truth. The offending Kennett remarks that officials were now “almost bigger than the game” would be supported by every AFL and NRL who knows that the whistle blowers rob their team every weekend.

Fewer little piggies go to market. Australian pig producers did not need a dose of swine flu to be in troubled times. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics this morning show that they were in trouble already. At 367 thousand in March, pig slaughtering has declined 14% over the past year. Perhaps the answer to a further drop in pork eating in the face of concerns raised by the latest flu scare comes from the Chinese — give away some star aniseed with every pork chop.

A Gurkha victory. Actress Joanna Lumley is proving an effective political operator. This week her campaign on behalf of Gurkhas who served in the British army saw the Labour Government of Gordon Brown defeated in a House of Commons vote. The Guardian reports that MPs, swayed by an overwhelming tide of public opinion, backed giving Gurkhas clear rights to remain in Britain. While it has been a good week for Ms Lumley it certainly hasn’t been for Mr Brown who yesterday had to withdraw a proposal on MPs expenses in the face of being outvoted for a second time in quick succession.

Farmers to the rescue. There is at least one economic bright spot for Australia: drought has all but disappeared. Figures for the last year show only very small patches of the country where rainfall has been significantly below average.

The map for April gives no reason to think other than that primary production will continue to grow.

When it comes to temperatures over the last year you can draw your own conclusion, but there is certainly no evidence that the country is getting cooler.

Peter Fray

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