Packer power. Perhaps there is a downside to no longer being a media magnate. In the old glory days of the Packer family Consolidate Press it is hard to think that a state Liberal Party branch would baulk at giving approval to a deal made between James Packer and a Victorian Premier — even a Labor Party one. Fear of retribution used to keep criticism of Crown Casino by both sides of politics to a minimum.

Now the Government is being forced to get the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation to conduct an after-the-approval inquiry into an expansion of the casino. As Gaming Minister Tony Robinson put it yesterday “it became clear that a report would be necessary to secure the bill’s passage through Parliament.”

In the end presumably Crown will get the go-ahead to increase the number of its gaming tables from 350 to 500 in return for paying a higher share of poker machine winnings to the State but it is a bit embarrassing nevertheless.

Uncertainty about the future of his key remaining asset is the last thing James Packer needs at the moment when he is facing a takeover battle with Seven Network boss Kerry Stokes for the control of the remaining media assets in his Consolidated Media Holdings and things keep getting worse in Las Vegas where he has attempted to diversify his casino interests, I note that the Los Angeles Times overnight has reported on page one that Vegas’ ability to weather economic declines is no more.

“The carnage left by the economic downturn that began last year is unlike anything this town has seen. Tourism is down for the second year in a row, and the people who come aren’t spending with the abandon of the past. … In 2007, the peak year, 39.2 million people visited. Last year 37.5 million visitors came to town. Tourism officials say convention business is down about 27% from a year ago. If current trends continue, Vegas may barely break 35 million visits this year, the lowest level since 1999.”

The long and the short of it. President Nicolas Sarkozy should be calling in our very own little leader Bob Hawke for lessons. The French leader is apparently very sensitive about his height or rather the lack of it and has left himself open to plenty of guffawing by his latest attempt to disguise it. At a Normandy factory he visited last week instructions were given to find the shortest workers possible to be in the welcoming committee.

So it was that workers were especially bussed in for the occasion and placed on the podium behind him. Unfortunately a Belgian television cameraman twigged that something was up and one of the little women was interviewed and confirmed that she had been chosen because of her size. “You must not be bigger than the president?” the journalist asked. “That’s right” the woman said and the exchange has now become a hit on the French internet.

At 5ft 5in the President is conscious that he is overshadowed by his wife Bruni at 5ft 9in. The couple go some way to solving the imbalance by him wearing high heels and her flat soled shoes as in this picture taken on a recent visit to England.

Australia’s Bob Hawke, himself about Sarkozy size, nevertheless anormally appeared to be quite a tall fellow by clever subterfuges like his bouffant hair style and an uncanny ability to always be half a pace in front of anyone else when walking up stairs.

Following in the great sporting tradition. Watched a replay of the Brisbane versus Carlton AFL game last night and without a doubt the finest performance was that of Brisbane Lions supporter Kevin Rudd. A genuinely enthusiastic show of support for his home team which seemed to leave the chief AFL Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick a bit perplexed. The enthusiasm shown by the PM is normally not displayed in the official enclosure.