Bring back the wig. I’m all for a bit of pomp and ceremony myself so I’m in favour of rescuing Doc Evatt’s wig from its display in the Old Parliament House and putting it on the head of Peter Slipper at least on the weekly ceremonial day the House of Representatives will have in future with the Speaker following the mace in a procession into the chamber.

Who knows, it might even make the decorum of parliamentary proceedings a bit more like that of the High Court when Dr Evatt last wore the horse hair before donating it, when he became an MP, to be worn by the Speaker.

Not that the dignity of the Speaker’s office can come from the costumes alone. As in all good theatre the actor must be able to act. And in that regard it seems to me that Peter Slipper has made quite a promising start. On the admittedly small sample of the couple of days this week he has had more control during question time than his predecessor.

Believing in the tooth fairy. There seem to more episodes in the negotiations over Greece’s austerity package than there were in Blue Hills.  Presumably there will eventually be an agreement between the three major Greek political parties on the one side and the troika of the European Community, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund on the other.

Not that such an agreement will mark the end of the serial. One of the key components will be a 20 per cent wages cut and, not surprisingly, that idea is not going down well with the voters who are being hit as well with increased taxes and charges. Agreement among the Greek leadership will be no guarantee that the necessary legislation will pass through the Parliament.

And then there will be a little matter of an April election. Support for PASOK, the governing party before the imposition by the troika of an economic bureaucrat to “run” the country, is down to 8% according to one recent opinion poll. At the last election PASOK got 47%. The principal opposition party, New Democracy, is down to 18% while assorted parties of the far left who are not parties to the agreement being negotiated are polling in the mid 30s.

It is not a promising outlook for words about accepting tough measures actually being turned into reality.

No wonder there’s pessimism. In the face of the current economic and political troubles it is not surprising to find Greece on the list of international polling company Nielsen’s list of countries where consumer confidence is declining.

As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes today on his London Daily Telegraph blog:

Greece’s tax revenue from VAT collapsed by 18.7pc in January from a year earlier.

Nobody can seriously blame tax evasion for this. It has happened because 60,000 small firms and family businesses have gone bankrupt since the summer.

The VAT rate for food and drink rose from 13pc to 23pc in September to comply with EU-IMF Troika demands. The revenue effect has been overwhelmed by the contraction of the economy.

Overall tax receipts fell 7pc year-on-year.

This is a damning indictment of the EU-imposed strategy. Greece is chasing its tail. The budget deficit is stuck near 8pc to 9pc of GDP because the economic base is shrinking so fast.

Here in Australia we are in the group where optimism exceeds the pessimism with Nielsen putting us in the top 10 on its confidence scale.

Those naughty young men. It is 18 year old men who are the most prolific criminal offenders. The Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us so today. Police took action against almost one in ten eighteen year old males during 2010–11 — that was the nation’s peak offending age with 9925 offenders per 100,000. Young women lagged behind but their criminality peaks earlier — at 16, but with a much lower rate of 3120 offenders per 100,000 females aged 16.

According to the Bureau the most common offence for both male and female youth offenders was theft. The male youth offending rate for theft was 1161 offenders per 100,000 males aged 10 to 19 years while the female youth offending rate was 772 offenders per 100,000 females aged 10 to 19 years.

During 2010–11 police proceeded against 371,040 alleged offenders over the age of 10, with males accounting for more than three-quarters (78% or 287,632) of the total. The number of male offenders was down by 0.9% on the previous year, while females offenders dropped by 1.9% (82,502) for a total decrease of 1.1%. Overall, this represented 1,892 offenders per 100,000 people aged 10 years and over.

The most common principal offence for male offenders was Public Order Offences (20%) while theft was most common with female offenders (30%).

Peter Fray

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