Kevin Rudd gets his hair doneThe treatment by the media of the story about the Prime Minister and the unusable hairdryer should teach the Labor Government’s minders something about truth telling.

The reason the story got off the ground running was that no-one believed the denials by the PM’s press staff that the incident of Kevin Rudd throwing a wobbly while visiting troops in Afghanistan actually occurred. And the reason for that? The fact that the very same press advisers months ago denied the story about the PM abusing the air force stewardess when that story turned out, on Kevin Rudd’s own admission, to have been true.

This time Mr Rudd has unequivocally backed up his staff’s denials and perhaps there the matter should be allowed to rest, but being an inquisitive chappy I did go searching through Google Images to bring you this collection of Prime Ministerial hair shots:

The startling feature of them all, and of the hundreds of others in my survey, is just how impeccably groomed the prime ministerial head always is. Inside or outside, windy or still, the hair sits perfectly. What can his secret be?

In other news…

Cigarette street sellers. The threatened excise increase on cigarettes in next week’s budget will be welcomed by the fellow who sidled up to me while having a puff outside a restaurant in Canberra last night. From his jacket pocket he brought out a selection of imported brands — all carrying the requisite health pictures I must add — and gave me a couple of samples with the message that if I found a brand I liked he would always be round about to offer me a deal on a carton.

So it has come to pass that government action has now succeeded in creating another profitable market for illegal operators. Smuggling fags is big business and after Tuesday it will be even more lucrative if the budget leaks turn out to be true.

Banning paintball. I expect it will not be long before Australia’s law and order eager politicians follow the example of Germany and seek to ban the game of paintball. According to reports in the Berliner Zeitung and Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspapers, games like paint ball and laser tag are to be banned in Germany in the future and people who violate the law could be fined up to €5,000.

Tourism turns the corner. The tourism industry seems to have survived the global financial crisis with visitor numbers again on the increase. This morning’s Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that in trend terms short-term visitor arrivals to Australia during March 2009 (472,100 movements) rose 0.9% when compared with February 2009 (467,800 movements). Currently, short-term visitor arrivals are 0.7% higher than in March 2008. And at the same time, Australians are travelling overseas less with March short-term resident departures (469,700 movements) down 0.5% compared with February 2009 (471,900 movements). Short-term resident departures are currently 2.4% lower than in March 2008.

Celebrity politics that hurts. Actress Joanna Lumley’s campaign to let retired Gurkha soldiers live in the United Kingdom continues to grow, with a page one splash in the London Evening Standard and The Guardian.

The Guardian describes the government’s policy towards the Gurkhas as having descended into a potentially hugely expensive shambles yesterday after the actor Joanna Lumley extracted fresh concessions in an extraordinary live television confrontation with the home office minister Phil Woolas.

The actor, who has been a powerful champion for the Gurkhas as they have fought through the courts and parliament, exploited Home Office heavy-handedness to demand assurances from a sheepish Woolas after five former Gurkhas received letters from the home office apparently telling them they did not qualify to settle in Britain.

The letters arrived only a day after Gordon Brown at prime minister’s questions and in a private meeting with Lumley had promised their cases would be reviewed and insisted he was taking personal charge of the issue.

Brown had not known about the letters and was only informed of their existence by Lumley who tartly spoke of “a gap in communications inside government” and her sense of personal shock.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey