Be careful what you push for. An interesting feature of the last annual Lowy Institute survey of what Australians think about foreign affairs was the finding that the government paid too little attention to the opinions of ordinary people when making foreign policy.

It is a finding that those people currently attacking the Greens for taking a more pro-Palestinian stance than the major parties should take into account. For snuck away in answers to another question in the Lowy survey was this assessment of how Australians regard Israel:

When you rate just 50 on this warmth/coldness scale and are placed below Russia, China and India you are not exactly flavour of the month.

I searched this morning for more direct measurements of attitudes towards Israel and Palestine but it appears not to be a subject that the major pollsters have researched. The closest I got was a press release by an organisation calling itself Coalition for Justice & Peace in Palestine (CJPP) who had Roy Morgan ask a question about whether Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip in January 2009 was justified or not justified. In the absence of exact details being given of the nature of the question, I would not put too much reliance on the supposed finding that “more Australians generally have sympathy for the Palestinians than the Israelis in the Middle Eastern conflict.” But it was the only guide other than the Lowy question I could find:

Of the 636 Australians aged 18 years and over asked whether their sympathies lie more with the Israelis or with the Palestinians, 28% said with the Palestinians, 25% with neither and 24.5% with the Israelis; 23% indicated they couldn’t say.

Answers to the final question show most Australians (42%) think the federal government favours neither side, while 1% say it favours Palestine and 19.5% say it favours Israel. In effect, of those who perceived government bias, 94% thought it was towards Israel.

When asked whether they were aware of the events in January concerning the Gaza military campaign, 38% said they knew “a lot” or “a fair amount” about the situation, 61% said they did not know much at all or “nothing” and 1% couldn’t say.

Now I don’t want to make too much of this very limited evidence on the subject of what Australians think about Israel and Palestine but if I was a politician I certainly would not be making the assumption that there is overwhelming support for the Israeli cause.

Getting men back to the workforce. Australian women clearly are doing their bit towards building the size of the national workforce. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for March show an increase in the female participation rate while that for males went down. That continues a trend that has been evident for many years now.

With apologies to Alan Kohler … If the financial sector really is in uproar today, agog at what the reasons might be for the takeover of the Australian Stock Exchange being rejected, as Alan Kohler writes elsewhere on Crikey today, then the financial sector is even more out of touch with what the public thinks of it than I believed possible. If Treasurer Wayne Swan relents and allows the sale to proceed it will be putting his signature on a political suicide note irrespective of how many grubby dollars the ASX owners receive.

Do as I say not as I do. The Happy Meal War has begun. New York city councilman Leroy Comrie (pictured centre below with constituents) is pushing a bill that would ban fast-food chains from putting toys in meal packages that target children.

The New York Daily News says the Fast Food Toy Ban Bill would limit any meal that comes with a toy to under 500 calories.

According to nutrition info on McDonald’s website, Happy Meals range in calories from 380 for a burger, apple dippers and juice to 700 for a cheeseburger, fries and chocolate milk.

But Comrie’s office found that depending on what choices a kid or his parents make, the top calorie count can go to as much 1090 calories at McDonald’s; 1460 at Burger King; 1080 at Wendy’s; and 680 at KFC

“We are not trying to hurt anyone’s bottom line. We are trying to help people’s bottoms,” Comrie said Tuesday.

And talking of food … French chef Paul Bocuse speaking before being named “chef of the century” by the Culinary Institute of America at a recent reception in New York:

“Nouvelle cuisine was nothing on the plate, but everything on the bill.”

Peter Fray

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