A depressing thought. Three more months of will they, won’t they. That’s what we are in store for now that the Senate has finally voted the first time against the Government’s climate change bills. Talk of double dissolutions will dominate the air waves. There will be hundreds of column metres analysing the possibilities. And all of it will most likely be irrelevant because the chances of any meaningful international agreement on climate change are still slight. Anything that Australia does or does not decide is largely irrelevant in the worldwide scheme of things. If far more significance than what finally happens in our Senate is what the Senate of the world’s major polluter decides. And the odds of the United States having any form of cap and trade legislation by the end of this year are now put on Intrade as just 50%.

Without US participation Stockholm becomes a useless talk fest.

Those Rio Tinto bribes. There’s still much confusion about what the Rio Tinto four are alleged to have done. Overnight we have learned that at least they are not to be tried under the same laws as spies who steal such things as nuclear secrets but not much else. Perhaps the greatest uncertainty is whether the bribery allegations refer to them having paid to gain information improperly from officials of Chinese steel companies or been paid by those companies to allow them by-pass the proper purchasing procedures. If it turns out that the four have put money in their own pockets then Rio Tinto’s protestations of innocence will sound a bit hollow.

Tough times in Spain. Of all the European nations struck by the international financial crisis Spain is at the forefront of those suffering the most. Unemployment is soaring towards 20% and more and all levels of government are having trouble paying their bills. None more so, it appears, than the town of PInto where youths have pelted their town hall with eggs and tomatoes in protest against budget cuts that have forced summer fiesta organisers to limit, or even scrap, the number of bullfights. “The news has been very badly received in the town and we feel we have been tricked by the local government,” said José Antonio Pérez, president of a club for bullfighting aficionados in Pinto. “This is the first time in living memory that we have not had a fight.”

Pinto normally holds bullfights between August 13 and 15 and the fiesta is in honour of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

The Financial Times of London reports that town hall, however, justified the measure on financial grounds. Juan José Martín, the socialist mayor, declared to El País newspaper that it had been a “difficult and painful decision”. The budget for the fiestas has been slashed from €500,000 ($711,200, £430,400) to €142,000 and the town owes 800 of its municipal staff back pay.

Peter Fray

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