Chatting about leadership. I’m quite sure that the journalists who wrote the leadership stories that dominate this morning’s papers actually did speak to Labor Party members of parliament who told them of unrest in the ranks about Julia Gillard and the various possible alternatives.

Politicians are great gossips and no subject excites them more than their own job prospects, be it retaining the income and perks of ministerial office or clinging to a seat in the House of Representatives or the Senate. As the saying goes, the first job of a politician is to be elected and the second is to be re-elected.

And re-election is now looking quite doubtful for many in the Labor caucus so it is only natural that thoughts turn to whether changing the leader might improve matters. But that does not mean that a leadership change is likely.

The first difficulty is finding someone brave or silly enough to actually take the job if offered. At the moment becoming Julia Gillard’s successor as Prime Minister would be a sure fire way of becoming the person who led Labor to the greatest defeat in its history.

The judgment Caucus members must make is whether the instability of sacking another Prime Minister would make the electoral prospects better or worse. They are unlikely to come to a conclusion about that in a hurry.

Upsetting the judges. Legal principles are not my strong point but one thing I have gleaned over the years is that judges tend to dislike any attempt by the executive arm of government to leave them out of the equation. This week’s High Court decision which so surprised our Prime Minister is but the latest example.

Asylum seekers as entertainment. Surely it will not be long before one of our enterprising networks buys the rights to the Dutch game show Weg van Nederland which has taken reality television to new heights. Or perhaps that should be to new lows for Weg van Nederland (The Netherlands Road ) pits failed asylum seekers against each other to win cash to spend after being deported back to their home country.

I particularly like the touch of dressing the obligatory female assistants to the quiz master as airline hostesses as, in the words of the program’s promotional website, five failed asylum seekers compete to show how Dutch they have become while waiting for deportation.

Please forgive the rather quaint wording of the instant Google translation but this gives the essence of the show’s attraction:

How much do they after their long stay in the Netherlands in our country, the Dutch language and Dutch culture? They get the chance to share their knowledge of the Netherlands into a nice sum of money. The winner of Euro 4000 Netherlands wins Road which he or she can make a new start in his homeland.

Candidates participating in Way of the Netherlands are all young and highly educated. So do take an Aeronautical Engineering student who will soon be returned to Cameroon, Guus Meeuwis and a fan that will soon be deported to Chechnya. The presenter who failed asylum seekers to the fire seemed explains, is Waldemar Torenstra. He fires questions at the quiz the candidates on which they can prove they have learned much about the Netherlands. They will include questions presented on the Dutch royal family, history and map of the Netherlands, Dutch artists and the Dutch language. In the final shows the asylum seeker has the best attention during his stay in the Netherlands. His chances of a residence permit may have miscalculated in his country of origin is quite neat 4000 euros waiting for him!

Viewers at home can join in the fun by answering the same questions as the contestants on their smartphone, laptop or tablet. And while the lucky winner gets sent back to whence they come the lucky winner sitting watching the tele gets a free air ticket to Curacao.

The Murdoch way of business. Phone hacking by journalists is not the only aspect of the Murdoch empire’s business practices currently under investigation. The Reuters news agency reports this morning that U.S. regulators and law enforcement officials are taking a close look at the business practices of News America, one of the nation’s largest providers of newspaper inserts, the coupon circulars that usually bulk up a Sunday edition.

As part of an investigation which began with so-far unsubstantiated claims that News Corp operatives illegally hacked into the phones of 9/11 victims, federal authorities are reviewing lawsuits brought against News America by several competitors that have cost about $650 million in settlements.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey