Ugly Australian curry bashers. They are calling it “Curry Bashing” in the Times of India and anti-Australian feelings are still running hot in the sub-continent.

Check the TOI blog for the latest Indian version of the rash of assaults on Indian students and migrants that has “Indians in Australia … living in crippling fear. Worried parents in India are recalling their children from Australian universities. Victims have vowed not to go back. Aspiring students and travellers have decided against visiting Australia…”

The image of drunken white oafs was further enhanced this morning when an Australian passenger on a Dubai-Chennai Jet Airways flight abused the cabin crew and refused to apologise after locking himself in a toilet. On arrival in Chennai he was taken to the police station but later released without being charged. Meanwhile in Sydney police were showing similar restraint in dealing with about 70 young men who overnight demonstrated against what some claimed as racially-motivated attacks against Indian students perpetrated by members of the Lebanese community. The ABC reported that two men were arrested and taken to Parramatta Police Station. One was released without charge and the other was served a notice to appear in court later this month.

Talking about compulsory voting. An increasing proportion of the political decisions that affect European lives are now made in Brussels’ European Parliament rather than in the national parliaments of the member countries, but there is a great reluctance among voters to take the international body seriously. In the election over the last week across the 27-member union, just 42.9 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. That was the lowest turnout since direct elections began in 1979 and in Slovakia a mere 19.6% of those eligible went to the polls. I notice that there is now talk of trying to make voting compulsory, but, with support for European wide democracy at such a low level, politicians advocating that would surely be signing their own retirement notices.

The housing kick along continues. Housing construction just might get underway quickly enough to keep Australia on the growth path. Australian Bureau of Statistics housing finance figures for April out this morning show the total trend value of dwelling commitments excluding alterations and additions increased 2.6% in April 2009 compared with March and the seasonally adjusted series increased 3.6%. There was further good news in that investment housing commitments rose as well as commitments for owner occupied housing.

In original terms, the number of first home buyer commitments as a percentage of total owner occupied housing finance commitments increased from 27.3% in March 2009 to 28.0% in April 2009. This is the highest proportion recorded since the series commenced in 1991. Between March and April 2009, the average loan size for first home buyers fell $2,500 to $283,400, the second highest average value in the series. This is in contrast to the average loan size for all owner occupied housing commitments which rose $1,500 to $264,700 for the same period.

A win for Wilson. It is a rare backbench member of parliament these days who actually achieves anything of substance. Apart from participating in an occasional leadership ballot and reading out a Dorothy Dix question or two, most of them spend their time as little more than glorified social workers. So when one does play a major part in a significant change for the better, that backbencher deserves acknowledgement. Hence these words of praise for the West Australian Liberal Wilson Tuckey.

For many years, both when his team was in government and more recently when in opposition, the member for O’Connor fought the good fight on behalf of the wheat growers of his state to get the monopoly of the Australian Wheat Board removed. But no matter how persuasively Mr Tuckey argued the financial benefit of introducing competition, the National Party component of the conservative coalition would not listen and his Liberal colleagues were not prepared to risk upsetting them by forcing the matter.

With the advent of a Labor Government, and the AWB’s fall from favour because of its participation in sanction busting sales to Iraq, the sentiment within the Liberal Party changed and legislation to abolish the monopoly finally became law. This was a surprising enough show of independence by the senior coalition member party for the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke, to actually say something nice about the Liberals while answering a question in the House of Representatives.

On this issue they voted against the Nationals. That was the compliment. That will be as good as it gets. But on this issue it was a real compliment, because the National Party, for the sake of the local agripolitics that they get involved with, were willing to see the AWB monopoly continue to behave as it was and see Australian farmers suffer lower prices as a result. And yet, time and again, that judgment is the judgment that the Liberal Party is willing to defer to. But they were not willing to defer when this bill came up, and that is why, when they are willing to exercise a judgment independent of the National Party, we end up with a situation where we get decent legislation and Australian farmers get a premium.

That Nelson Tuckey was right all along about the economic benefit to grain growers was shown by figures from Wheat Exports Australia that Tony Burke quoted. Before the reforms were introduced, the international Chicago price for wheat was consistently above what farmers were getting on the east coast of Australia or the west coast of Australia. But since growers were given a choice as to whom they wanted to sell to, the east coast of Australia prices have gone up to close to parity with the Chicago price and in Western Australia there has been a $35 a tonne premium above what farmers were previously getting.