Real interest rates return. The Reserve Bank aims to keep inflation in Australia between two and three percent and while the consumer price index figures out today show a rise of just 1.3% over the last year all the news is not good.

The Bank’s economic boffins are always trying to predict the future trend rather than concentrate on the past record and their own measures to help them do just that — the weighted median and the trimmed mean — are both still above the three percent level.

That, I fear, will encourage the Bank’s board to sneak official interest rates up once again. The good news is that, while still high, both the Bank’s measures are on the way down which suggests to me that there might not be as many future increases as most in the financial market have been predicting.

Repetition I know but still valuable advice. I am reminded again this morning by the big run given to Rohan Gunaratna in The Australian of how helpful it is to give yourself a grand title if you want to be quoted as an expert on something. In Mr Gunaratna’s case he is “of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research” which sounds much better than being a “former student in Finland, claiming to be a recipient of an untraceable Australian-Europe award to study American-Australia diplomatic and security co-operation” as he was described in Crikey earlier this week by the maverick former Aussie diplomat Bruce Haigh.

The good doctor feeds the insatiable appetite of journalists for so-called experts whenever there is a terrorist or security crisis. He keeps bobbing up on all kinds of media — he is clearly an ABC favourite — because the first thing a reporter does when covering a new story is look up the press cuttings or Google references to see who has given a view on a subject before. Thus in The Oz today Rohan Gunaratna, talking as “a leading terrorism expert”, was allowed to authoritatively reveal that a “small number” of Tamil Tigers are in immigration detention in Indonesia having been intercepted on their way to Australia.

What was not disclosed was that the Professor, himself a Sinhalese Sri Lankan, previously was employed by his government. That knowledge might have helped readers understand what was meant by his comment that “I am unable to disclose (how many) because it is now a matter of investigation. But certainly you can ask the Australian authorities because they’re also aware of those investigations.” The comment certainly made him sound like a real insider unable to disclose everything he knows about the murky world of Tamil Tigers.

For an assessment other than Bruce Haigh’s on Prof Gunaratna’s academic abilities you might care to start with a look at some views expressed on the blog site of Michael K Connors of the City University in Hong Kong.

Experts at everything. Is there absolutely nothing that Kevin Rudd thinks a Federal Government cannot do better than a State one? Running hospitals one day, town planning the next. Luckily he’s all talk and no action so we won’t have to find out the hard way that the splendid isolation of Canberra is not a good place from which to plan anything. And as for our man’s special role at the world climate talks it is enough to make a grown man weep in the face of such self promoting vanity.

Straight out of that Opposition playbook. Why someone thought it necessary, or even helpful, to put in writing the advice to Opposition press secretaries to look for populist targets when attacking the Government is quite beyond me. Good spinners leave no traces but one of them should be taking the credit this morning for the delightful little beat up in the Murdoch tabloids about the expenditure on the Governor General’s trip to Africa.

In the diplomatic scheme of things $700,000 is a paltry amount to spend on trying to win a bit of goodwill among the African nations that have such a disproportionate influence on the goings on at the United Nations but that, of course, is not the point of the story. Have a go at fat cats the Opposition playbook recommended and even our thin as a rake Governor General flying around in a government jet can be made to look quite chubby.

Let the lobbying begin. A promising start for the Australian Olympic Committee’s four yearly campaign to keep their funding gravy train on the rails. What a load of nonsense the press swallowed with those dire predictions about a fall in the number of medals that will be won in London. Who actually cares?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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