Saying the right thing. Opposition leader Tony Abbott is saying all the right things about NSW Labor backbencher Craig Thomson and his troubles from a past life as a trade union secretary. This is a story that does not need his help to keep bubbling along as the tale of call girls and lavish living is irresistible to journalists, myself included. The only thing Tony Abbott has to do is make sure that he does not say anything to divert the attention.

Naturally he is being asked about Mr Thomson’s plight and I thought his comments this morning were well nigh perfect. Asked whether he would sack a coalition MP in the same position he said:

“I don’t know all the details. Certainly what I would never do is express full confidence in a member without asking questions. I would try to get to the bottom of these things.

“I would be demanding answers. I would be insisting that official bodies investigate and if necessary prosecute in a fully transparent manner.”

A further hint at economic weakness. When banks voluntarily start reducing interest rates we can be sure that things are slowing down in the money lending department and there have been a series of falls in fixed term mortgage rates in recent days. And now we have the Commonwealth Bank reporting that its Business Sales Indicator showed sales by businesses deteriorated further in July “as the lacklustre performance in retail spending spread across the Australian economy.”

The Indicator, a  measure of economy-wide spending, tracking the value of credit and debit card transactions processed through Commonwealth Bank point-of-sale terminals, a sample of approximately 30% of the Australian market,  fell by 0.3% in July, following a 0.5% decline in June.

According to Matt Comyn, Executive General Manager, Local Business Banking, Commonwealth Bank, the latest figures further highlighted how low consumer confidence was taking its toll on the Australian economy. “We are now seeing signs of a broader fallout from continued subdued trading conditions, where a lack of consumer spending is starting to affect a wider set of businesses, not just those in the retail sector,” said Mr Comyn.

Saving the badgers. In Australia we have killing cattle in Indonesia as our animal rights issue. In the United Kingdom it is badgers.

The BBC reports that the Conservative government — backed by its senior scientific advisors — is in favour of a cull to stop badgers spreading tuberculosis to cattle. Labour has come out on the side of badgers and has launched an online petition and has written to more than 25,000 supporters of previous countryside and animal welfare campaigns asking them to lobby their MPs about the issue.

Will the talking win? If tough talking would do the trick then Syria’s President Assad would soon be on his way. World leaders are getting louder in their condemnation of his actions in putting down protests but I notice that the market on this matter is unmoved.

At Intrade the probability of Assad being gone by year’s end is still only 30%

The odds about Gaddafi losing power in Libya are put at 70%

Peter Fray

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