The PM keeps his nerve. Another national opinion poll at the weekend and another 50:50 result. There’s no sign yet that the Rudd led Labor revival is petering out. And tomorrow the odds are favouring another interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank, which would do the cause some good. Maybe the Prime Minister is right to be keeping his nerve and not naming an election date.

In the weekend’s battle of the pictures, a definite difference in style. A Prime Minister in Afghanistan with a wife and a flak jacket; an Opposition Leader in north Queensland with a big hat and a white horse.

So to the verdict on the week. A very slight improvement for Labor.

Tension in the team. At first glance you might think the story about Malcolm Turnbull having an investment in a company awarded almost $2 billion in federal government contracts was just another of those negative spins by the Labor election campaign team. Read down further in the story and you would get a quite different impression:

“The links to the government contractor have emerged amid tensions in Liberal ranks over Mr Turnbull’s recent public declaration he was more popular than Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.”

For young music lovers. It is not just with photo opportunities that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is going for a youth vote. He’s found a role for music ambassadors as well.  A national Office for Live Music, with $560,000 to spend on designing a strategy for the support of the live music industry in Australia, will feature Kevin Mitchell, aka Bob Evans, representing Victoria, Hoodoo Gurus frontman Dave Faulkner and Stavros Yiannoukas from Bluejuice jointly looking after New South Wales, Katie Noonan from Queensland, Matt Lambert aka Suffa of Hilltop Hoods for South Australia, Kav Temperley of Eskimo Joe for Western Australia and singer-songwriter Dewayne Everettsmith for Tasmania.

For old five and dimers like me. The death of JJ Cale on Friday was the end of a great song-writing career that blossomed in 1970 when Eric Clapton covered his song After Midnight. Note the cigarette in the strumming hand. Ah yes, those were the days.

News and views noted along the way.

  • Bad boy in Bayreuth: Wagner’s ring gets a brash reboot — “In [director Frank Castorf’s] version, oil will be the gold in the Rhine, the Nibelung treasure. And because Wagner makes him think of Route 66, Castorf sets some of the action in the North American plains. He says that he wants to ‘move away from illustration,’ use a lot of video and a revolving stage, and set his oil storyline primarily in Azerbaijan and Texas.
  • Europe’s new Jewish question — “In March 1936, Poland’s Sejm (the lower house of parliament) almost succeeded in outlawing shechita (slaughter according to Jewish law). Only the Polish Constitution prevented an outright ban.  … A few days ago, the ghosts of the past returned to the Sejm, when deputies rejected a government bill intended to keep religious slaughter legal.”
  • Asia’s weakening economies — how concerned should the world be?
  • Forgotten war — “The looming centenary of the landing at Gallipoli is a reminder of the unfinished business between settler and Indigenous Australia left over from the decade of incomplete reconciliation, writes Henry Reynolds in this extract from his new book.”
  • Al Qaeda is back — “Two spectacular al Qaeda prison breaks in Iraq, freeing over 500 of its members in two separate prisons simultaneously this week, demonstrate the group is back with a vengeance. Al Qaeda’s Iraq branch is also the moving force behind the jihadist success in Syria. The resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq has sobering implications for what is likely to follow the drawdown of NATO forces in Afghanistan for the al Qaeda mother ship in Pakistan.”
  • How America’s top tech companies created the surveillance state — “They’ve been helping the government spy on people for a very long time. The cozy relationships go back decades.”
  • The trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing: on the need of hyperarticulate people to get raving drunk — “The lives of six writers, and the reasons why they drank so much, are explored in this nuanced portrait which give pleasure in every sentence and offers bright collisions with the past.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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