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If it takes one to know one then former newspaper publisher Conrad Black is well placed to judge others on matters of bribery and corruption and a little misappropriation. Hence the interest in the annual “Sleaze” awards sent from his prison cell for publication in the Canadian National Post. Once again, Thailand has won in the coveted political entertainment category with the United States of America once taking out the major title for sleaze, vulgarity and misplaced self-righteousness. There is a full report on the Sleaze Awards below in the media section of this morning’s Breakfast Media wrap.

THIS MORNING’S FRONT PAGES

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POLITICS AND ECONOMICS

Australia

Foreign relations

China steps up film festival row – A diplomatic row between Australia and China over the planned visit of exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer has escalated, with Australia’s ambassador called to a dressing-down by China’s Foreign Ministry. As Chinese hackers again attacked the website of the Melbourne International Film Festival, which Ms Kadeer is scheduled to attend this week, ambassador Geoff Raby was told of China’s strong dissatisfaction and opposition to the visit. Sunday Melbourne Age

Political games

ALP staffer facing 42 counts of fraud – Victorian Labor’s senior election campaign officer, George Droutsas, will face court tomorrow charged with 42 counts of fraud relating to a 2005 council election campaign – Sunday Melbourne Age

Power, politics and integrity – Claims of murky council interference by political powerbrokers have echoes of Brimbank – Sunday Melbourne Age

Bligh bans MPs from fundraisersBrisbane Sunday Mail

Instability ‘threat to NT statehood’ – The Territory’s prospects of statehood have faded dramatically, a prominent political analyst said after another indigenous minister publicly held the Labor Party to ransom – Sunday Territorian

Speaker calls for stronger ethics code – The Speaker of the Victorian Parliament believes the institution’s failure to ‘‘deal openly” with misbehaving politicians has led to MPs earning a discredited image for which a stronger code of conduct was needed – Sunday Melbourne Age

ICAC tipped off on Labor favours – NSW ALP president Bernie Riordan has been referred to ICAC for allegedly trying to get a mate a job at a State Government-owned electricity company – Sydney Sunday Telegraph

John Howard’s $1m splash on us – John Howard is costing taxpayers more in retirement than he did while running the country. Australia’s second longest-serving prime minister commanded an annual salary of about $330,000 in the job. But in his first year of retirement he has racked up a $1 million bill at taxpayers’ expense – Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun

Turnbull wife played key role in Utegate – Glenn Milne previews tomorrow night’s ABC-TV’s Australian Story to discover the role played by Malcolm Turnbull’s wife in the utegate affair – Sydney Sunday Telegraph

Labor conference

Lifelong Labor: Its Hawkes party – Bob Hawke, 79, revelled in the adoration, receiving life membership from the party he led to four victories before caucus dumped him for Paul Keating in 1991 – Sunday Melbourne Age

Hawkie raises a glass with Rudd – Sydney Sunday Telegraph

Protesters take over ALP climate change debate – Protesters have attempted to hijack the ALP national conference debate on climate change. However Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has told detractors Labor is the only party which is capable of acting on the issue – Sunday Melbourne Age

Wedded miss: bid for same-sex marriage laws torn asunder – Gay Labor activists yesterday lost their battle at the party’s national conference to have same-sex marriage recognised in law – Sydney Sun Herald

Opinion polls

Bligh Government on the nose with voters, poll reveals Brisbane Sunday Mail

Foreign students

Student exodus could cost NSW $300 millionSydney Sun Herald

Public service

Furore over merger plan – NSW Premier Nathan Rees’s grand plan of 13 super government departments is set to blow up in his face with the state’s 70,000 rural firefighters declaring war. They believe merging the world-renowned Rural Fire Service with the Police and Emergency Services Department will be its death knell – Sydney Sun Herald

Queensland Health dept hires $1.5m worth of bureaucrats – Brisbane Sunday Mail

Opinions

Without fear or favour – Jeremy Rapke, QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions for Victoria, writes in the Melbourne Sunday Age that sexual assault claims are taken seriously by the DPP and investigated with rigour and care.

Watching donated pennies makes sense for Labor – Michelle Grattan in the Sydney Sun Herald writes that new rules to bring greater transparency to political donations may be long overdue but they will be difficult to implement.

Minister in twilight zone – Sometimes open access to government can be a little too open when it comes to the web, writes Lisa Carty in the Sydney Sun Herald about NSW Planning Minister Kristina Keneally.

Sense of history lost as a legend is revived – Kerry-Anne Walsh writes in the Sydney Sun Herald how larrikin former PM Bob Hawke is honoured as the polished, poll-driven Kevin Rudd cements his own place in party lore,

Rudd gets to the point, eventually – The Opposition should make light of the PM’s latest dense manifesto, writes Paul Daley in the Sydney Sun Herald.

Where corruption is a growth industry – Piers Akerman writes in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph that Queensland has long been imbedded in the mire of corruption, and will remain so while much of the media wastes its time on self-congratulatory programs rather than exploration of the grim truth.

Elsewhere

Economic matters

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Economy Turning Out of Steep Dive – Slow to Spend Again, Consumers Could Be Holding Up Recovery – The nation’s economic decline is moderating, laying the groundwork for growth in the months ahead, according to new government numbers. But the fine print in Friday’s report on the gross domestic product also shows a key threat to that expansion – Washington Post

Congo

In Eastern Congo, Conflict, Strife Continue to Kill – By some estimates, at least 5 million people have died in eastern Congo during more than a decade of conflict rooted in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. At the moment, the conflict in eastern Congo is surging once again. Since January, at least half a million people have fled a U.N.-backed Congolese army operation targeting Rwandan rebels – Washington Post

Fiji

Commonwealth gives Fiji ultimatum – Fiji will be tossed out of the Commonwealth if it fails to commit within a month to holding democratic elections next year – Sunday Melbourne Age

Iran

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BUSINESS

More Australians are looking after their superannuation – Investors are waking up to the professional funds management industry as new research indicates the professionals take more than they deliver – Brisbane Sunday Mail

Why we need rates to rise – by Terry McCrann in the Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun

ENVIRONMENT

Desal firm logged the Amazon – The multinational company behind Victoria’s $3.5 billion desalination plant was fined by environment authorities earlier this year for illegally logging Amazon rainforest during the construction of a controversial hydro-electric dam in South America – Sunday Melbourne Age

Climate threat to heritage sites – The Federal Government has warned that Australian icons such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, the Tasmanian wilderness, Carlton Gardens and the Sydney Opera House could be damaged irreparably if the Coalition fails to support Labor’s emissions trading scheme – Melbourne Sunday Age

MEDIA

Shinawatra wins with Berlusconi challenging

The Conrad Black citation awarding Thailand victory in the political entertainment category of the annual Sleaze Awards reads:

Former premier Thaksin Shinawatra became a billionaire in the computer software business, founded the Thais Loving Thais political party to exploit rural discontent with the elites in Bangkok, was elected, abolished capital gains taxes … and then sold his business for a capital gain of over $1-billion.

It was suggested by malcontents that he had used his position in a self-interested manner. After being re-elected, he was chased from office and indicted for tax fraud, along with his wife. The Shinawatras then combined a visit to the Beijing Olympics with a departure from the vagaries of Thai justice, to London.

His partisans remained in office for a time, led by the country’s leading television personality, who hosts a phone-in cooking program and draws a huge viewership for his vituperative rejoinders to callers complaining about his recipes.

In his column Mr Black has warned Thailand that it has been coasting on its long-won laurels; unless the comedy takes a new turn, it risks the embarrassment of being surpassed by Italy and its great leader, Silvio Berlusconi.
Mr Berlusconi’s free-wheeling romantic life and alleged orgies do not in themselves make him a strong contender in the political-entertainment category. But his strong skepticism about what he regards as “the unctuous humbug of conflict-of-interest concerns, and his success in eliciting from his countrymen a reaffirmation of their unshakeable faith in the absurdity of politics, do.”
Mr Black comments:

My impartial judging panel has awarded him a lifetime achievement award for doubling the tax on the Italian satellite television service Sky Italia, that competes with his own Mediaset network. While at first blush, this might seem a heavy-handed and self-serving use of a public trust, it is important to remember that his target is Rupert Murdoch (who controls Sky Italia through News Corporation), the world’s greatest defamer.

This makes it an act of natural justice, nuisance abatement and cultural hygiene, in other words. This is statesmanship of the first water.

Other Sleaze award winners are Guinea-Bissau in the category for rough and tumble politics with the best-governed country, for the 64th consecutive year (awards can be made retroactively), going to Vatican City where rare elections have the most sophisticated voters in the world.
First place for sleaze, vulgarity and misplaced self-righteousness goes to the perennial front-runner, the great United States of America with Mr Black citing an impressive list of federal and state political scandals.

LIFE

Same sex marriage

Wedding protest sealed with a kiss – A crowd estimated by organisers at about 5000, holding rainbow-striped umbrellas and red balloons reading Equal Love, booed the news announced yesterday at Melbourne’s Federation Square that the ALP national conference had voted against legalising same-sex marriage – Sunday Melbourne Age

Swine flu

Swine flu shuts hospital as pigs get virus – Swine flu forced a NSW hospital to close its doors to new patients yesterday as Premier Nathan Rees moved to reassure the public after an outbreak of the flu at a piggery Sydney Sun Herald

Bullying

Plan to curb cyber bullying – The Federal Government will today announce a massive $3 million education campaign to try to curb cyber bullying of teenagers in schools around the country – Brisbane Sunday Mail

Violence by our girls increases – Violence by females is on the rise, prompting one school to introduce a program to teach teenage girls about the consequences of bullying – Sydney Sun Herald

Law and order

65 crimes but no jail timeMelbourne Sunday Herald Sun

Consumer affairs

Fair’s fair: ethical products winning consumers – Sydney Sun Herald


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