Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Headlines Wednesday 25th February 2009
Executives must cut their salaries, says Rudd
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called on corporate executives to rein in their own salaries, as the global financial crisis takes hold....
Horror bushfire conditions to return on Friday
More horror conditions are expected in Victoria by Friday, as firefighters work to bring six major blazes under control and strengthened containment lines....
Lapthornes banned from Croatia search
The Croatian government has barred the family of Britt Lapthorne from searching for the young Melbourne backpacker's missing remains....
'Boob job will help you find a boyfriend': doctor
Australians are being warned to check the qualifications of cosmetic surgeons, with some accused of trying to coerce women into having breast enlargements in order to find a partner....
Bernanke eyes possible recovery... but not for a while
US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says he sees a "reasonable prospect" for an end to the deep recession this year if the numerous rescue and stimulus programs work as intended....
Nine News story 'had racist overtones'
A Nine Network news broadcast last year had racist overtones towards Aboriginal people in a news story, the media watchdog has found....
Mickey Rourke goes the grope on Jessica Alba
Mickey Rourke tried to grope Jessica Alba at the Independent Spirit Awards....
Alcopop tax faces scrapheap
The fate of the Alcopops tax hike is in jeopardy, as new figures show more people are being rushed to hospital because of alcohol related incidents.
Divorce 'hurting the planet': Family First
Divorce adds to the impact of global warming as couples switch to wasteful single lifestyles, Family First senator Steve Fielding says.
Man shot dead at $3m cannabis plantation
Sydney putting cruise tourism at risk
The cruise liner industry is the fastest growing sector of tourism in NSW, but the government's putting that all at risk, according to Alan Jones.
Making sense of loss by words and pictures
SUNDAY’S national day of mourning is not the end of the grieving process for those involved in the Black Saturday bushfire tragedy. - Thing about grief is a need to be able to speak of it. The expression of that need is different depending on the community. Asian communities are tightly bound with family, and discussing grief with strangers is not natural for them. That isn’t generally the case for Westerners who have a need for grief counsellors who will listen. I know this because of several former workplaces which dealt with substantial grief.
As for the behavior of press in times of tragedy, it is not very different than other times, but individual members of the press generally try to be good people and often will put themselves out to help those in need. - ed.
I talked my way out of a speeding ticket the other day. Not bad for someone whose driving record is basically Gitmo-worthy. But I’ll never compare with ticket-dodging maestro Prawo Jazdy:
Irish police have solved the mystery of a Polish recidivist who clocked up 50 traffic offenses on different addresses and who was never caught, after one officer noticed his name meant driving license in Polish.
Irish cops thought “Prawo Jazdy”, printed on Polish driver’s licenses, was the holder’s name. The next time you’re tempted to tell a Polish or Irish joke, please recall this story and remember who wins.
WARMING DOESN’T FLY
A NASA satellite intended to track global warming has crashed near Antarctica after failing to reach orbit:
AN INCONVENIENT GRAPH
Following criticism, Al Gore gives up one of his lies:
Former Vice President Al Gore is pulling a dramatic slide from his ever-evolving global warming presentation. When Mr. Gore addressed a packed, cheering hall at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago earlier this month, his climate slide show contained a startling graph showing a ceiling-high spike in disasters in recent years.
One hopes this wasn’t the cause of all that cheering.
The graph, which was added to his talk last year, came just after a sequence of images of people from Iowa to South Australia struggling with drought, wildfire, flooding and other weather-related calamities. Mr. Gore described the pattern as a manifestation of human-driven climate change.
The only pattern here is that everything – too much rain, not enough rain, fire everywhere, water all over the place – is blamed on The Great Warmening.
“This is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented,” he said.
Now Mr. Gore is dropping the graph, his office said today.
Joe Hildebrand reports:
A Greens politician has been told to stop bringing her husband to council meetings because he eats too much of the food.
Waverley councillor Prue Cancian was told not to bring her activist husband Chris Maltby to meetings because the ratepayer-funded catering could not sustain it.
God descends to earth
With his bumbling, it’s a miracle Barack Obama hasn’t fallen even further from the stratosphere:
We have approval ratings for each of the last nine elected presidents after their first month in office, back to Dwight Eisenhower. (We’re leaving Johnson and Ford aside.) There’s been a healthy range, from a low of 55 percent for George W. Bush after the disputed election of 2000 to a high of 76 percent for his father 12 years earlier. (I’m using ABC/Post polls since Reagan, Gallup previously).
But the average? Sixty-seven percent. And Obama’s? Sixty-eight percent, as we reported in our new poll yesterday. His initial rating, then, is strong – but it’s also generally typical for a new guy.
Garrett’s playlist shrinks
Annabel Crabb wonders how many of his old hits Peter Garrett now dares sing when Midnight Oil reforms for a bushfire benefit next month:
But can Midnight Oil field 20 whole minutes of material that wouldn’t get Mr Garrett sacked if he were to read it out in Parliament rather than shrieking it while twitching violently to guitar music?…
US Forces, obviously, is right out… Power And The Passion? With its references to Uncle Sam and Pine Gap? Best left out, on the whole. And as for Truganini - “I see the Union Jack in flames; Let it burn”, well - are you kidding? The Dead Heart looks OK for a bit, but disqualifies itself in the final stanza: “Mining companies, pastoral companies, uranium companies. Collected companies; Got more right than people.”
This is very off-message stuff here in Ruddland.
Bligh’s excuse thrown overboard
Not a good start for a bunch of cheap opportunists, dashing to a poll before voters realise how bad things have got under Labor:
THE Queensland Government’s top investment adviser has undermined Premier Anna Bligh’s justification for an early election, saying there is no evidence political instability has hindered business investment in the state…
Queensland Investment Corporation chief executive Doug McTaggart told a Brisbane lunch yesterday: “You can’t find evidence that things like elections have an impact.”
Ms Bligh had claimed speculation of an early election was adding to economic uncertainty in Queensland, and partly justified her decision to call an election for March 21, six months early....
“I think it would be a very foolhardy business, and whoever runs that business, to think about basing their information or their business’s information on the outcome of an election,” Dr McTaggart said.
Until we drop
Living longer, getting poorer - so no wonder:
MORE than a third of older Australian workers now plan to work until they are at least 70, in an astonishing cultural change, the Bureau of Statistics reports… If this eventuates, it will transform the Australian workforce and concepts of retirement. The bureau found people already retired, on average, did so aged just 52 (58 for men, 47 for women).
Besides, who wants to spend their last 20 years redundant?
Another reason to doubt we need quite so many immigrants, or need quite to fear the greying of the population.
Free money isn’t
NEVER have we handed so much free money to the reckless, careless, brainless and plain lazy.
Not good at all. Rewarding fools risks making us all dumber.
Go through just the recent handouts.
Don’t work? Poor because you gamble or drink? Never bothered saving in your life?
Here, have a $1000 “stimulus” cheque from the Rudd Government’s $10.4 billion bag of December handouts. Oh, and there’s another $900 coming to you in a fresh round of handouts, in case you’ve already splurged the last lot.
Didn’t bother insulating your house? Here, let the Government spend another $4 billion doing that for you, too, and for free. Free to you, that is.
Didn’t insure your house or contents, now burned in Victoria’s fires, and thus skipped the 20 per cent insurance levy for the fire services that tried to save you?
Disunity in death
WAS Sunday’s memorial service for the bushfire dead really a time to preach race politics?
Was the State Government’s mistimed show at the Rod Laver Arena really the place to divide mourners into First Australians and the rest?
No wonder the stadium was left more than half empty. This was not a ceremony for the victims, most of whom wisely refused to get on the fleet of buses sent to Whittlesea to fetch them.
This was instead a show run by and for our political class, who divided rather than united, and preached the stalest of fashionable pieties.
The ringing of the bells at trendy Birrarung Marr that started this National Day of Mourning was just a warning that the ceremony would not be designed with the victims’ needs, culture, tastes or loyalties in mind.
A Liberal only a journalist could love
Gerard Henderson is not surprised that John Hewson, arguably the Liberals’ least successful leader but now one of its most spiteful critics, gets such a good run in the media:
Most journalists prefer Labor to the Coalition. This makes Liberals critical of their own party of particular interest to the media.
(Malcolm) Fraser is one case in point. Hewson is another. Last year Hewson appeared three times in ABC1 Lateline’s Friday Forum, where a pro-Liberal commentator is supposed to be ranged against a pro-Labor commentator. These particular discussions resembled a tennis match where two players on one side of the net score points at will against an absent opponent. These days Hewson is so beloved by sections of the media that he can even comment about economic matters without anyone asking him to explain his role in Elderslie Finance Corporation. He resigned as chairman shortly before the company collapsed owing some $200 million. It is unlikely that any former politician who is, or was, associated with a failed business venture would receive such an exemption from genuine media inquiry.
I guess that’s a yes
Reporter Matthew Franklin puts Tony Abbott’s claim to the Prime Minister:
Mr Rudd, are you a toxic bore?
A toxically boring reply follows.
Dead wood spends $8 million on dead wood
I know it’s a Labor shrine, but why doesn’t Labor use its own money to preserve it?
Meanwhile, controversy builds in Barcaldine, in central Queensland, over the size and shape of the state-backed memorial to the Tree of Knowledge. Locals have nicknamed the $8 million, 18m structure “Barky’s box” and “the gallows” as they grapple with the size and meaning of the monument.
Striking miners met under the original ghost gum tree in 1891 in a gathering that eventually led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party, but the tree was poisoned in 2006....
The structure is a towering cube in which 4000 suspended timbers of various lengths form the canopy of the Tree of Knowledge, the trunk and limbs of which have been preserved in Brisbane. The preserved parts will soon be transported to Barcaldine, the trunk stood upright and the limbs reattached.
I know these are tree-worshipping times, but this still seems an awful lot of money and fuss for a dead one.
Spending what Obama says he’ll save
A comedy routine, right? Maybe Obama’s rewriting of St Augustine’s “O Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet”:
President Barack Obama pledged on Monday to dramatically slash the skyrocketing annual budget deficit as he started to dole out the record $787 billion economic stimulus package he signed last week.
Surely the best way to get out of debt involves not getting deeper into it.
Give poor Mugabe a feed
Zimbabwe’s famine must be serious if a poor dictator can’t even scare enough people into paying for his catering:
ZIMBABWE began a week of lavish celebrations yesterday to mark the 85th birthday of President Robert Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader, with a party at a luxury hotel in the capital.
A crowd of 2,000 was expected to feast on beef in sauce or roast chicken, rice and vegetables last night, with serenades from a variety of musical acts at the Rainbow Towers in Harare.
The dinner was in part a fundraiser to make up a short-fall in donations for further celebrations next weekend.... Last year his supporters raised £175,000. This year, with the country bankrupt, almost half the population needing food aid and unemployment at 94%, donations have failed to meet targets.
Who will guard the police?
When even the police need more protection from the crooks, West Australia sure has a problem:
The State Opposition has lashed out after the latest attack on the Warwick police station, saying more should have been done to improve security at the compound after earlier incidents.
In the latest attack about 1.40am this morning, a police officer was doused in accelerant and set alight after he disturbed an intruder inside a secure car park at the rear of the station…
“This is the third attack at Warwick in as many months,” (shadow police minister Margaret) Quirk said.
What Rudd must do - instead of what he’s doing
In an excellent analysis, Michael Stutchbury warns that Kevin Rudd can’t keep borrowing big and spending bigger, hoping to stave off a slowdown:
Australia mistook the surge in iron ore and coal prices for a permanent increase in national income, which provided the misplaced confidence to spend up and borrow big. The bursting of this bubble has yet to fully hit Queensland and Australia because the boom-time contract prices for iron and coal exports run until April.
That’s when the commodity price collapse will spread from the wealthy, who have been hit by margin loans on borrowed shares, to the mass of voters…
By then it will be clear Australia is already in recession. Kevin Rudd’s strategy of using budget borrowing to stimulate demand will run into the excess of government debt hitting stressed global capital markets. The Reserve Bank’s pre-emptive interest rate cuts will run into the limit set by the need to attract foreign capital. This should create an urgency to genuinely get ahead of the policy curve. There are several obvious options.
* Shelve the looming windback of labour market deregulation. As unemployment rises towards 7 per cent, it is against workers’ interests for governments to it make less attractive for business to hire them…
* Call an end to more taxpayer-funded entitlements. Tony Abbott is right that the budget cannot afford the increase in the government aged pension that Rudd promised…
* Maintain tax cuts… (W)e need to sharpen incentives to work and save, not blunt them.
* Postpone the carbon impost… When banks aren’t lending and industrial capacity is being junked is the wrong time to tax Australia’s advantage in fossil fuels…
We didn’t actually write it
One of the editors hired by Mr Eric Beecher (above), campaigner for ”quality journalism”, denies an accusation I never made - that he or his staff posted vile comments on this blog in order to discredit it. What I actually said is here, and the editor’s non-reply is in the comments that follow.
Readers tell me that the sudden attack I reported of vile comments posted by newcomers purporting to agree with me coincided with a post on one of Mr Beecher’s publications that included this exhortation:
Hands up if you’ve ever had a comment rejected at (Andrew Bolt’s) blog. Hands up if it was nowhere near as poisonous as a published comment who agreed with the writer…
So it’s time...to collect the most poisonous examples of comments at the blogs of Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair. Every month I’ll kick off a comment thread where you can cut-and-paste the poisonous comments you find (try to include a link where possible.) Remember that we’re looking for poisonous comments from commenters who agree and disagree with Bolt and Blair.
We can’t be surprised, I guess, if some people - frustrated by the lack of poisonous material on this blog - decided to supply the evidence they were convinced should be there. Not that I hold Mr Eric Beecher or his quality staff personally responsible, of course, any more than I’d blame a dog for its fleas.
Resisting the Chinese raid
Paul Monk says China’s grab for some of most important mining resources should be blocked by the Rudd Government:
INTERESTING as it is, the debate over the Chinalco bid for a bigger stake in Rio Tinto needs to be seen in a larger context… The problem is that the buyer is the Chinese state. Chinalco is an arm of the Chinese state, not a normal commercial enterprise. That Xiao Yaqing, Chinalco chairman, has been tipped to take a leading political appointment as point man for China’s global resources strategy is one symptom of this, but it is only a small part of the bigger picture.
The Chinese Communist Party, with a monopoly on political power, has retained a commanding heights role in the economy to an extent altogether at odds with the notion that China is a market economy… The problem lies in ... state-owned resource companies, state-owned financial institutions and state-owned military enterprises, all run by a secretive and dictatorial party..
(T)he kind of information Chinalco would be privy to if it gets the stake it seeks in Rio Tinto is not available to the Australian or British governments, it will go directly to the Chinese Government. This has considerable strategic implications.
Terry McCrann suggests Wayne Swan at least exploit the opportunity:
The opening is there for Swan to do to Rio Tinto what the Keating government did not do in 1995 and what Costello did do to BHP Billiton: to lock it into Australia. At the same time endorsing and strengthening our China growth future.
Here’s a tick to what you, Rio, propose with China’s Chinalco. But here are the conditions that go with the approval. They will be in writing, they will be policed and they will be enforced.
Rio Tinto’s head office will be in Australia. The chairman and CEO will live in Australia. The majority of board meetings will be held in Australia.
In this increasingly globalised world, despite the GFC (global financial crisis), it’s probably neither wise nor practical to require that a majority of directors be Australian. But it WOULD be wise to limit the number of representatives from Chinalco