Remember it is the Senate that will decide. At the risk of sounding like a broken record I write yet again that the most important truth about this Labor Government is that it is a government without the numbers to actually govern. As we ponder what will end up happening to the Australian health system we have to remember that Labor does not have the numbers in the Senate.

Neither Kevin Rudd nor all of his ministers can determine the health or any other legislative outcome. The real decision about what changes we end up with will be made in the party room of the Coalition and then, if the decision is to oppose what Labor proposes, by the Greens, Family First and anti-Pokies parties.

A rate cutting answer. If you are wondering why it was the National Australia Bank at the forefront of the move to remove those exorbitant fees on bounced cheques then just have a look at this little graph based on the Roy Morgan Small Business Owners Survey. The standing of the NAB of late has been low and going lower.

Keeping Medibank private public. I notice that in the United States one of the four key planks of Barack Obama’s health insurance proposals is that there be a government-run insurance plan competing with private insurers to help hold down costs. Without such a public organisation the belief among Democrats is that the free enterprise way would result in excessive premiums. How strange then that within the Australian Labor Party the push continued until the eve of this week’s national conference to allow the sale of Medibank Private, the government owned insurer that I’m sure has played an important role in keeping premiums down.

Nothing hysterical about Alexander. Quite a fascinating interview in the media yesterday with the former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer which seemed to me to endorse the quiet diplomacy approach that Australia is adopting to the imprisonment in China of Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu. There was certainly no impression from Mr Downer that he thought the current Government should have taken the advice of current Liberal Leader Malcolm Turnbull and been more direct and bluntly critical in dealing with the communist government. On the contrary the Downer verdict was that “just because something’s big in the media, doesn’t really mean anything in Australia.”

To his mind the Hu case had not changed anything in the political relationship between the two countries:

Australia has a lot of very big interests in China and China has pretty big interests in Australia, so you know to be frank with you I don’t really know enough about this case and the efforts to try and find out. I haven’t made great efforts to find out, but the company Rio hasn’t wanted to tell us, so given that they don’t tell us anything about it, we don’t really know. And there’s no reason why they should, by the way, but if they don’t want to tell us, well then there’s not much we can do. …

we’ve been dealing with state-owned enterprises for decades in China — since the 1970s. So this is one incident that has arisen, but we have done tens of thousands of transactions with China over the years. The argument here is: has China decided to do something fundamentally different and is this an indication that they have? Are they going to start going around arresting business executives left, right and centre or is that the plan? And I think the answer to that, is that that is not likely to be the plan. So, what has happened in this case?

See, the facts are going to be the key to understanding this case and bearing in mind we don’t know what the facts are if the company doesn’t want to tell us which is fair enough. I’m not saying they should, I’m not being critical of them, but it’s hard to know whether this case is as you would say it’s sui generis. It strikes me that it is sui generis [unique in its characteristics]. It may or may not be unfair, but it does strike me as being sui generis.

As interesting to me as what Mr Downer said on this subject was where his views were published. While I might be playing what newspaper chief executives see as the normal parasitical role of an internet journalists I was not quoting from the result of hard work by some main stream media outlet but from the Business Spectator website that is related to this one. This was not some insightful reporting