Once when I worked for a tobacco company, a federal Health Minister called me the lobbyist of last resort and, in time, I became rather proud of the title. Judging by the email I received yesterday from a Dr John Stockard about the great, green bin dispute up in the Greater Taree City Council (GTCC) I am now well on the way to becoming the journalist of last resort asked to back lost causes. Given the tedium involved in reporting events form Canberra, I am prepared to take the risk and turn my attention to this serious matter of the GTCC forcing an extra one of those big rubbish wheelie bins on its ratepayers while slugging them with a massive rates increase to pay for something they do not need and probably will not use.

In its own small way what is happening in Taree is symptomatic of what is wrong with the system of government in Australia. Politicians in their policy speeches, state and federal and probably local government although I have never read one of those, continually make promises to cut down on red tape and over regulation while they, in practice, make decisions that do the opposite. Decisions such as adding to the 1×140-litre red lidded bin for waste (collected weekly) and the 1×240-litre yellow lidded bin for recycling (collected fortnightly) a third bin — 240 litres and green lidded — for greenwaste, which also is to be collected fortnightly.

The inspiration for this greatly increased rubbish disposal capacity appears to have occurred during the joining together of GTCC with the neighbouring councils of Great Lakes and Gloucester as the first stage in achieving greater efficiencies in waste management. The trio not only made that wonderful economically rational decision to privatise the actual rubbish collection, but to go really green at the same time and make the collection of “garden organics” a new priority. JR Richards and Sons, the successful tenderer for this collection of waste, recyclables and garden organics, must have been delighted at the increased size of the job.

Not delighted was my correspondent, Dr Stockard, who appears from the emails he has sent me to have some interest in a block of units where the concreted grounds will not be generating any of those garden organics he is now being asked to pay for. The good doctor has been writing to all and sundry threatening the launch of a campaign of civil disobedience based on blockading the offices of the GTCC with a load of unused greed-lidded waste bins.

One thing I am certain of is that political stories of this kind from close to where people actually live and work are of more interest to people than any number of reports on the world economic crisis.

Only one serious site. We can poke fun at The Australian because we often have a different point of view to some of its writers but there’s no denying one thing: the national daily runs the only internet news site where the most-read stories are about serious subjects. Even the ABC these days is attracting a lightweight reader. The Fairfax sites are strange ones. They have a serious look about them in the early morning when stories from The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald are featured but the stories, and the readership, get trashier as the day goes on.

This morning’s survey of the five most-read stories on the 12 major media sites:

The Crikey Australian Election Indicators. We have added the next Tasmanian state election to our survey of Crikey Election Indicators. It shows that while Labor is favoured to be returned, the market men think it could be quite a close-run thing.

Peter Fray

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