Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Women In Uniform

IT WAS interesting to learn via the ABC’s 7.30 that, when talking amongst themselves, some soldiers take a vulgar interest in women, use roughly language, enjoy coarse jokes and make disparaging remarks about your more irritable foreigners, the sort who put a lot of effort into shooting, blowing up or hacking the heads off Australian comrades currently serving somewhere in the Middle Ages.

While those revelations came as a terrible shock, it was nothing to the surprise of seeing the ABC's source of guidance on the need to re-wire the warrior circuitry of Australia’s fighting men. That would be Laurel Papworth, whose expertise was said to have been drawn from “advising defence forces overseas on social media policy.”

Laurel is certainly the go-to gal on matters martial, as her inquiry into the Canadian Air Force leaves no doubt. Smart as a whip, that one, as her de-briefing of an informant in item #2 also makes clear.

Anyone who still doubts Papworth’s expertise in matters of tactics and strategy should consult the war memoirs of MuMbrella’s Tim Burrowes, who witnessed one of her longer campaigns at close quarters.

UPDATE: Laurel explains Monday's spill for those not so smart as she. How could the ABC resist such insight?


Back Later...

...chores and errands, duties and obligations today -- to be followed by a few days in pursuit of fish and tranquility

Will be back to post warehoused comments later today, and possibly to post a bit as well.

But after that, the Billabong will go dark until early next week.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Warmist's Case For Lies And Fraud

IT MAY not in itself justify The Conversation's $6 million dollar existence, but this report on "impossible" crystals is fascinating. Read and enjoy if geological curiosities are of interest, but hold no hope of further entertainment at the site because academia's leading vanity press soon returns to form, which is a pity. After a bona fide man of science's thoughts on crystals, every word accessible and honest, Andrew Jaspan's visitors may next be confronted by Stephan Loondowsky, scourge of sceptics, who has slipped the leash once more to throw another foam-flecked fit.

Loondowsky's performance is even more alarming than one of those heretic-hunter videos he likes to post on YouTube (see below), and that is saying something, because this time the University of Western Australia's Savanarola on the Swan does more than serve as his own case study in abnormal psychology. In a display that can only dismay the university's fee-paying parents, the psychologist takes on utilitarianism and, in his efforts to explain it, loses badly. That he does so in defence of Heartland forger Peter Gleick's actions and motives is also a worry.

If Loondowsky were a philospher of old you would want to be very careful when selecting a spot to sit beneath the olive tree, as his gift for exposition and persuasion best suits someone who teaches dogs rather than young minds. Because Churchill deceived Hitler in order to defeat him, thereby improving the common good, lies are justified in a just cause. He doesn't quite mention utilitarianism or Bentham and Mill*, but that is just as well, as neither is known to have had much tolerance for simpletons, and this is the perspective of a mind that is either poisoned with condescension or, just as likely, which has absorbed little and retained less. Nor does he touch on Popper, who begged to differ about betterment being the correct denominator of enlightened choice, arguing that suffering's reduction must always be the better yardstick. Rafe and the Catallaxians could expand Loondowsky's horizons on that point, particularly in regard to the anti-carbon crusade's disproportionate impact on the world's poor, but they would need to be operating an outreach mission to the baffled and challenged if they were to go through the motions with any show of enthusiasm.

On second thoughts, Loondowsky's essay is worth reading, especially by whichever minister-to-be takes up tertiary education in the imminent Coalition government. The University of Sydney recently sent some 100 academics packing and the chill winds which prompted that eviction will grow only colder as the Abbott government's hunt for waste, fraud and abuse leads it quickly to the nation's institutes of higher learning. More mad uncles will be winkled out of their attic rooms and it would be reassuring to believe pink slips are being slid under the most deserving  doors.

* originally mis-typed as "milne". it was late, OK? Thanks to  commenter Stephen Dawson for the fix. 2 - AAAAARRRRRCCCCCHHH. THIS IS A CHERNOBYL MOMENT. NO BLOODY 'S'!!!!

He Would Know

ACTING Foreign Minister Craig Emerson addresses Arbib's departure: 

"I do ask people to understand that as dads and as mums we know every day that we're in politics we are not being as good a dad or a mum as we could be, and I think that's what affected Mark."

Was it "being in politics" that wrecked Emerson's own marriage or being in the future Prime Minister?

His three kids' opinions on that question would be interesting to hear.

UPDATE: Our for-the-moment Prime Minister shared a tender memory with the ABC's Caroline Jones in 2006:
Craig and I were staying together at a hotel and I'd managed to forget to pack my contact lens holder. So I was just storing the contact lenses at the bottom of a glass, which wasn't exactly the smartest thing in the world to do. Er, the bathroom, this glass with the contact lenses and a bit of solution in them. So, you know, during the course of the night, Craig gets up and thinking it's water, grabs the glass and drinks it. So I was wandering around National Conference blind for the next morning. I did have to give the Health Policy Report at the podium not basically able to see my notes or see the audience. Craig and I lived in different states in very demanding positions.And in the hurly-burly of the Labor world, ultimately it was just too difficult. I'm not involved in a relationship now, and you know, your, sort of, your life history rolls on.
 Ah, love Labor-style and its silly little moments! How touching.

A Stench That Grows And Lingers

THE WAYS of Labor politicians really are a mystery. There is Mark Arbib, sitting pretty and looking very secure. Julia Gillard, the golem he helped install in The Lodge, has just put down Kevin Rudd's challenge and, at least for the moment, there is the prospect of relative tranquility. Even better, as Minister for Sports -- a very comfy portfolio, one would imagine -- Arbib has tickets and reservations in hand for London and the upcoming Olympics' fun and games.

Yet yesterday, at the ripe age of 40, he throws it all in and quits,  offering no better explanation than a desire to spend more time with his family. What gives? Eventually, the rest of the quality press may follow Kate McClymont's lead and take a hard look at the web of connections and intrigue which has been Arbib's turf since his days in nappies, when his first words may well have been "sweetheart deals".

In the meantime, as the quality press rejoices in clear air, energetic blogger  Kangaroo Court is wondering if a certain police investigation of Craig Thomson and the HSU cesspit might have prompted Arbib's decision to spend more time with nippers on knee. Kangaroo Court makes the following observations:

1. Mark Arbib has been living in Canberra with Alexandra Williamson,  the daughter of the HSU President Michael Williamson, who is being investigated by the police. Ms Williamson is a staffer in the office of the Prime Minister Julia Gillard. I have to wonder why she has not resigned or why Gillard has not gotten rid of her, maybe Mr Arbib has had something to do with that?

2. Mark Arbib helped negotiate the NSW ALP paying for Craig Thomson’s legal bill.

3. Mark Arbib has some serious questions to answer in relation to the unit he bought in Maroubra. It is very strange indeed. Like what price did he pay and was he given a discount?

4. If Craig did steal from the HSU (which everyone in the country knows he did), could the legal fees paid by the NSW ALP be seen as an attempt to conceal a crime? Definitely worth a close look by the police.

5. We all know that FWA has been deliberately delaying their investigation into Craig Thomson. Given that it is ex-union officials at FWA doing the investigation, has Mark Arbib used his union contacts to help delay the investigation on behalf of his mates Craig Thomson and Michael Williamson?

Good questions. Wouldn't it be nice if McClymont's sleuthing  were to be boosted by the inquiries of fellow senior reporters?

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Problem Must Be Flatulence...

CAN Julia Gillard get some clear air if she wins?Katharine Murphy in The Phage

Human Services Minister Brendan O'Connor says it is critical Ms Gillard gets clear air after the leadership ballot.Business Spectator

They owe the party a commitment to give Gillard the best chance of restoring Labor's fortunes. She needs clear air.Phillip Coorey in The Silly

Then, with clear air, the Government sells a competent budget and gets a boost from the tax cuts and pension increases in June. Then the polls start to riseTheir ABC’s Barrie Cassidy

… thereby giving Gillard clear air to the election, and a possible chance of defeating Tony Abbott.Ross Peake in The Phage

ALL THROUGH the afternoon it has been clear-air-this and clear-air-that and clear-air-everywhere else. Everyone is saying it on the radio as well, as became clear during an afternoon of Melbourne storms and traffic snarls. Heather Ewart on the 7 o’clock news just mulled the prospects for clean air, and if the ABC gets through what is left of the evening without “clean air” being uttered at least five more times on Q&A and Lateline it will be a marvel or, more likely, because you sat on the mute button.  Perhaps Ewart picked it up from hubby Barrie. Or maybe each seized independently on the seamanlike metaphor, originality and independent thought being hallmarks of Canberra’s analytic elite.

It is always good to observe the language evolve, especially so when it adopts a hot locution and in mere days flogs it half to death. But you really have to wonder in this case. “Clear air” lacks the zaniness of “all your base are belong to us” and while it has not yet been around quite long enough to grate like “world-class whatevers” it is certain to achieve that station soon.

A dreadful waste of personhours as well -- the entire Canberra gallery mouthing “clear air” to itself while nodding sagely.  Perhaps if only half those questers for truth were to stand about repeating the phrase, perhaps in a recognised location, the public might be better informed. It would be easier on the spinners if they could hand out the day’s catchphrase just once. Easier on shoe leather, more convenient for the reporters, and fewer carbon emissions, too, most likely.

And those other reporters, the ones liberated from the obligation to popularise a banality? Why, they could actually find interesting things to write about, and there are many of those.

Has anyone found and spoken with former prime ministerial party planner Tony Hodges? He was last seen in print on his way to London, but that was almost two weeks ago and the press corps does not seem any closer to having a word about Australia Day’s gathering of the tribes. Several reporters are said to have his SMS messages, but none have yet come forward to reveal their contents. Too busy stealing metaphors from honest sailors to spare a thought for how a race riot might have come to be provoked, could that be the reason?

Interesting stuff is all over the shop, and even an inquisitive Bunyip doesn’t have the time to satisfy every curiosity. A little help would be appreciated from the professionals. How much did Mark Arbib pay for that beachfront pad in Maroubra? What are those peculiarities which drew Coroner Alistair Hope’s attention to the contract of purchase for Christmas Island’s twin-hulled rescue boats, the vessels which could not put to sea when SIEV 221 went aground? Come Sunday, just for a little prurient fun before the gardening, it would be good to know if Craig Thomson is more often billed for overdue rental fees on blondes in blue lingerie or strapping women in leather.

There are so many little issues and inquiries a less preoccupied press might pursue, it will be a relief when the clear-air passion subsides and the gallery’s leading practitioners get back to work. As all now are saying of Gillard, a little clear air clear of clear air is all the opportunity they will need.

And that could happen … well, it should happen sooner or later.

Staying The Course

BETTER the liar they know.....

The World According to David Marr

IN THE 14 months since SIEV 221 came to grief off Christmas Island and 50 lives were lost, Silly star David Marr has churned out quite a bit of that quality journalism. The flow began well before the last body had been hauled from the water, when Marr went to press with his considered opinion that the Royal Australian Navy needed to be held accountable.  He took up the same theme at much greater length on the tragedy’s anniversary, once again blaming the navy for failing to detect the boat and, when its presence was known, for being culpably slow to mount a rescue. And on Friday, Marr was at it again, this time adding Western Australia Coroner Alistair Hope to his list of villains. Hope’s offence is to have produced a lengthy report which dares to disagree with Marr’s view of events.

We will get to Hope’s inquiry in a minute, but before then it needs to be noted that Marr’s boss, the quality CEO Greg Hywood, has lately been making all sorts of sanguine noises about his company’s transition to the Digital Age. Yet somehow, Cyber Dude Hywood’s Silly and Phage have each neglected to provide a link to Hope’s report, which is readily available via the web.  Read it and the one question yet to be answered concerns not the navy but Marr: is he the most incompetent journalist in Australia or the most dishonest?

Below are some of Marr’s more florid assertions, followed by what Hope has to say about them. Incompetent or dishonest, you decide:


MARR 2010: The key mystery of this tragedy is how that boat was allowed near those cliffs in that filthy weather. 

MARR 2012: [Hope] gives a lot of attention to the lack of radar, or indeed any, surveillance on the morning of the wreck; but the navy command comes out of clean.
True, Hope deals at length with surveillance, but he also explains why it is not to be regarded as a Navy failure:
HOPE 2012: The Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN) was not turned on at the time when SIEV 221 was wrecked and was never designed as a surveillance tool for detecting small wooden boats such as SIEV 221. At the time of the incident Border Protection Command had commenced a process to trial a land based radar system but that system was not operational. It is doubtful whether that type of radar system would have been capable of detecting SIEV 221 on the morning of 15 December 2010.
In his further comments, Hope notes the Navy ship, HMAS Pirie, and its companion Customs vessel, the Triton, were correct to have sheltered on the island’s lee, where they escaped the storm which drove SIEV 221 onto the rocks. From there, because a mountain was in the way, each was unable to scan the northern horizon, whence the doomed boat came.

Further, Hope observes that the area within 12 miles of Christmas Island is the responsibility not of the navy but of the Australian Federal Police, further noting that its patrol vessels were unfit to put to sea under such conditions. There would appear to be a story in this, as Hope reports AFP was forced to accept unreliable and unstable twin-hull vessels it did not want and whose adoption the Volunteer Marine Rescue Service also opposed. The Leisurecat craft were forced upon both services regardless and, as Hope remarks in passing, as a consequence of some curious business in regard to the awarding of contracts.

A quality journalist might catch the sniff of a story in that decision to equip rescuers with boats they could not use, but not Marr. So determined is he to blame the Navy and advance his initial judgment of its culpability, Hope’s points about those Leisurecats do not rate. Nor does he dwell on the fact that all those vessels were out of service due to safety and mechanical deficiencies when SIEV 221 hove into sight.

Finally, as Hope also points out, the navy had issued repeated reminders that its brief is coastal protection, not rescue. Its ships would be more than willing to take part in such operations, the brass advised, but they could not be counted upon as their prime duties might render them unavailable.

Indeed, when SIEV 221 went aground, the Pirie had its hands full tending to another people-smuggler boat, SIEV 220, which arrived at Christmas Island the day before. 


MARR 2010: Christmas Island is a gloomy mountain sticking out of heavily patrolled seas. Navy and Customs are everywhere. For a boat to reach the cove undetected is extremely rare. 
HOPE 2012:  …another vessel SIEV 220 had arrived on the morning of 14 December and had first been detected by persons onshore in the area of the Settlement when it was only 300 yards north of Flying Fish Cove … over the preceding six months there had been an increasing number of SIEVs arriving at Christmas Island.
Actually, undetected arrivals at Christmas Island are not all that rare. Most vessels are spotted relatively close to the island, and seven have dropped anchor without being spotted at all.

Indeed, as Hope also explains, finding and intercepting SIEVs off Christmas Island is not a priority for the entirely logical reason that refugee boats are already intent of going there, where they know safety awaits. The navy’s primary and more problematic chore is to intercept vessels which do not want to be found.    


MARR 2012: [Christmas Island residents] had realised at once that a refugee boat steaming out of the murk at 5.30am was in danger. 

No they didn’t. When first spotted, SIEV 221 was to the north of the island, its engine was working and its crew had the choice of heading to the storm-lashed western shore or the pacific eastern one, where a safe landing site was available at Ethel Beach. The first person to spot the boat was so unconcerned she did not bother to immediately contact authorities. Marr, who has made much of the precious minutes allegedly wasted by a “tardy” Pirie, also gets the time wrong: 
HOPE 2012: [Island resident] Mr Martin contacted the customs on call officer, Les Jardine, by telephone at 5.46am and advised him of the situation.
The boat’s true peril became apparent to those onshore only after it executed that ill-advised turn to the west. That was around 6:00am, when a deluge of calls began to flood emergency operators and Christmas Island officials.  As Hope puts it on page 34 of his findings, “the disastrous decision to turn to the west, presumably made by the crew, took place at about 5:55am and the boat then travelled to Rocky Point”, where it was wrecked. 
HOPE 2012: Residents on Christmas Island made emergency calls at 5:57:57am, 5:58:56am, 5:59:34am, 6:00:06am, 6:07:04am and 6:09:04am. These calls went through to the AFP On-call officer on the Island who advised the officer in charge, Sergeant Peter Swann, of the calls at about 6:07am.


Having mangled the timeline, an error that just coincidentally aids his prosecutor’s case for navy negligence, the Silly’s coverage continues thus:

MARR 2012:[Residents] made the right calls to the right people. They assumed the Pirie, sheltering in the lee of the island about half an hour away, would soon be on the scene. How wrong they were.”

What Marr also neglects to mention is that the Pirie was underway and making all haste for the island’s western side by 6:21am (page 63), just 11 minutes after Lieutenant Commander Mitchell Livingstone roused his crew and ordered the ship readied for rescue operations. 

By 6:32am, the Pirie was making 24 knots when Livingstone received a more comprehensive briefing of  SIEV 221’s engine failure and imminent danger. Such was its peril, Livingstone was advised to redeploy the second of his two rubber boats from attending to SIEV 220, which was allowed to drift unsupervised.
HOPE 2012: This appears to have been the first occasion on which those on the HMAS Pirie or ACV Triton were alerted to the concern that the SIEV might be in serious danger.
Remember, Marr asserts SIEV 221’s danger was apparent at 5:30am, suggesting the navy should have known about it and taken immediate action. Yet Hope states Livingstone only became fully aware of the situation’s gravity almost a full hour later.

Marr’s reaction is to sniff “Amazing!” – which it would be if Hope had not laid out an accurate timeline of the morning’s events, the timeline Marr pointedly declines to acknowledge.

Livingstone dropped a U-turn and retrieved his rubber boat, then resumed his original course – only to see his progress further slowed when one of his two engines went on the fritz. Marr, who declines to dwell on the dud Leisurecats, makes much of this mechanical failure.


MARR 2011: At 6.32am the Pirie set out at full speed for the other side of the island. Two minutes later her port engine automatically shut down. The cause of the failure - a small chunk of metal drawn into the turbo impeller - would not be discovered until the ship returned to Darwin. The Pirie was left limping through the swell at 16 knots.

Limping? Well, that is a matter of definition.
HOPE 2012: At about 6.35am HMAS Pirie suffered an emergency stop on her port main engine which initially limited speed to approximately 11 knots as the standing operating procedure, which was implemented, was to immediately bring the other main engine back in order to avoid damaging both engines.
Livingstone scrapped ship's operating protocol and thrashed the one remaining engine for all it was worth to achieve the16-knot speed which Marr regards as such a dawdle. In addition, he unloaded his rubber boats and sent them speeding by the shortest possible course to the crash site while he directed the Pirie via a longer route around an uncharted section of coast off the island’s northern edge.


While Marr makes highly selective use of Hope’s findings and narrative, there are some elements which do not rate a mention at all. One wonders if Marr’s eagerness to plead the boat people’s case might not have had something to do with these omissions from his late report:
HOPE 21012: the boat had no radio
·       there were not enough life jackets
·       the boat was overloaded
·       the captain left halfway through the voyage
·       the bilge pump was faulty
·       people were instructed to throw their mobile phones away
·       the engine had problems before the journey
·       the fuel was not secured
·       the survivors observed no emergency safety equipment, such as a maritime radio or EPIRB, and
·       the GPS was thrown overboard, thereby abandoning a navigational tool that could have ensured safe passage to the lee of the island
Marr began his latest assault with this statement “The navy gets off lightly.” Accurate reporting, however, takes quite a beating.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ginger Up Gillard's Base*

CRAZY Clive Hamilton's yearning to see ATO auditors unleashed on climate noncomformists is a pretty low notion, about as foul a tactic as those accusations of incest and child abuse so often filed with authorities by estranged wives. It is also dangerous -- call it MAD, Mutually Audited Distraction -- as a Billabong correspondent demonstrated this morning by suggesting in a private email that the tactic might just as easily by turned against warmists.

"Why not start dobbing your favourite in to the ATO?" he wondered. "The revenuers should be making their lives miserable, instead of harassing small business owners like me." The flaw in that plan is that if, say, you informed the ATO that some or other settled scientist had been pocketing grant money or directing it to mates, if would be, for want of evidence, a filthy lie. Yes, it would be entertaining to think of some nob in a white coat attempting to persuade an auditor that his adjusted and normalised modelling of expenses and deductions is even more valid than a shoebox of actual receipts, but it is a pleasure conservatives must deny ourselves.

After all, we are about probity and truth, not the base enjoyment of another's pain, no matter how corrupt, dishonest and contemptible that person might be, nor how richly the torment might be deserved.

And if readers do not  heed the Professor's sermon, please do not inform the Billabong. It is a very uncomfortable thing to to be gripped simultaneously by laughter and revulsion.

There is, though, one little mischief which is ethically sound: Readers who believe, as does the Professor, that Gillard is the Coalition's best hope of a landslide might want to call local MPs and urge them to stick with Gingerella. Some vegetable representing Mt Druitt was just on Sky News to talk about the volume of calls he has received and the great weight he places on his constituents' sincere counsel.

So why not speak truth to power and pass on your firmly held belief that Gillard must be retained for the benefit of the nation?

It would be true and accurate and not even a venial sin, because a PM bogged to her Christmas ham thighs in questions about Craig Thomson, Tony Hodges and all those other lies and scandals is the surest agent to bring about an Abbott government. And there can be no doubt that such a change would be in the country's very best interests.

The full list of Labor members can be found here.

ADVISORY: It is a hot, hot day in Melbourne, and the Little Lorikeet has just called to see if the Professor is up for a swim. Absolutely! After that, dinner by the water and perhaps, if things stay torrid, a moonlit visit to the mooring. Amazing the friends one can make on the strength of a little advice about keeping the feet an appropriate distance apart.

Back later.

* Ginger should have better taste

In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning

IMAGINE, if you will, that you are a member of the ALP caucus, it is already Sunday night and your mood is not as it should be on that typically most relaxed of any week’s evenings.  Your phone has been ringing for days, some calls bringing mates’ gossip and the latest word on who is said to be lining up with whom. These you don’t mind, whispers being the mother’s milk of politics. Other calls are less welcome. Those are the ones from the enforcers, the numbers men keen to be sure your vote in the morrow’s spill will be cast as promised. Of course it will be, comrade, you reply every time, perhaps adding by way of reassurance some loyalist’s gush about party discipline being the foremost virtue. The calls peter out as the clock advances, so that midnight brings the perverse luxury of undistracted reflection.

Of course you will vote as your faction dictates in the morning’s secret ballot, which isn’t secret at all, and isn’t that a grand joke! Labor rules say you must show your vote to a witness before dropping it in the hat, just so there can be no treachery. It’s the Labor way -- yes, treachery, too -- and if a head-kicker were to ring up right this second, you could supply a ready earful of boilerplate about the sanctity of party traditions. But the call doesn’t come, so your focus stays on all the polls’ message, which is unvarying and of doom, and also on the latest headlines, shockers every one.

There is that NSW police raid on the home of Craig Thomson’s printer mate, for example, the one who was so free with handing out credit cards to people who gave him extraordinarily lucrative contracts. Being a former union lawyer, like almost all your caucus colleagues, you don’t need to be told what the wallopers might find on the hard drives they hauled away. And if Thommo is for the high jump, then it’s election time and you are …. gulp…. looking for a new job. That political apprenticeship at uni, the stint as an electoral officer in some outer suburban wasteland, the Trades Hall jump and from there to a minister’s staff – you ticked every bloody box. Then it was preselection, the big day handing out how-to-votes, and your arse planted comfortably on the green upholstery ever since. If someone other than a dominatrix puts the cuffs on Craig, pffft, all those years of grease and effort wasted.

If only you weren’t tied to Gillard, how could you go past Rudd? The polls say he would give you a chance, and Gillard offers nothing of the kind. In the wee small hours of the morning you lie awake  and think of salvation in cracks and fissures. How many others in besieged electorates across the nation must be longing at that very moment for the freedom to swallow personal disdain and back that smug little twerp from Queensland?

It just isn’t fair! This isn’t the way it is supposed to work, you tell yourself as the sense of injustice builds. There was always self-interest in loyalty – rewards, promotions, your latest patron’s help to an ever-higher rung on the party’s ladder. But this time it is all wrong. Backing Gillard as promised means oblivion, and you have so much yet to give Australia and the party. This time loyalty brings a terrible cost.

If you can sleep at all, it is with dreams of Rudd regaining the leadership and how that might, just might, work out. A stunt or two – delaying the carbon tax would be a neat idea – and he really could pull it off, get you re-elected before voters begin to remember why they came to hate him the first time around. A bit of help from the press gallery would be a big assist, but that is a given.  It would be a long-shot with Rudd, but Gillard is a no-shot.

As the cock crows you wonder about betrayal, which you prefer to cast as common sense.

Who knows? The comrade who must inspect your ballot, perhaps he is having the very same thoughts, especially about cracks and fissures……

UPDATE: Apparently Albanese did his thinking last night. He's backing Rudd.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Music To Vote By

VIA Barnaby Is Right, a song about muppets by Muppets.

It's worth forwarding to friends.

Hot Flashes

IS NO ONE safe from the ravages of climate change? Certainly not women, who have just given a team of researchers the excuse to spend a little time enjoying the tropical sun in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, where they surveyed attitudes toward the imminent end of the world.

Asked for their explanations of recent heavy rains, many amongst the very small sample of residents knew exactly who to blame:

I think that in the past, land and the weather were looked after through the use of witchcraft and sorcery but today church activities have changed all these [customary rituals].”
Those villagers need to get hip. Today's witchdoctors come with grants, clipboards and computer models.

The Drum's Lawyer-Support Scheme

THE DRUM, that grease trap for piffle which the ABC can squeeze in nowhere else, recently ran into a little trouble when a contributor was allowed to amplify Marieke Hardy's allegations against an entirely innocent blogger she accused of cyber-stalking. Drum editor Jonathan Green received a private, good-natured warning more than a month before the writ arrived that the column amounted to an open invitation to sue, but that warning went unheeded -- quite possibly because it was the advice of a conservative and, as such, had to be rejected as a matter of pinata-whacking principle. Given that precedent there is probably no point in alerting Green to any further potential liabilities his contributors incur when allowed to use the ABC's pulpit for slagging people they do not like. Still, as the ABC's payments to victorious plaintiffs are drawn on the public purse, attempting to save taxpayers the expense of another settlement is probably worth a shot. Here it is:

Jonathan: the warmist Clive Hamilton has slandered James Cook University's Bob Carter in a rant which has, just this morning, been published on your site. Here is the bit that would concern your editors, if you had any:
There is a direct Australian link in the Heartland Institute files. Bob Carter, an adjunct research professor at James Cook University, has a long-standing record of denying climate science. Now it is revealed that he is on the payroll of the Heartland Institute, to the tune of $1,667 per month for unspecified work. On his personal webpage, Carter declares that "he receives no research funding from special interest organisations such as environmental groups, energy companies or government departments," a claim that on the scale of truth matches his reporting of climate science.

Translated, the scientist Carter is no better than a propagandist for disputing the methods and findings of those other scientists whose opinions Hamilton finds more to his alarmist liking. Further, Carter is  accused, and accused blatantly, of being the low sort of person who would lie ("a claim on the scale of truth") in return for petty cash. Then add misrepresentation to the mix -- Carter is not paid by Heartland for "research", but as a source of expert opinion --  and what has just been published on the Drum amounts to an invitation for readers to hold Carter in contempt.

If Carter has not heard from lawyers already, it is a fair bet they will be in touch very soon.

UPDATE: While Hamilton demands the IPA reveal its donors, he was less keen on naming those who supported his own Australia Foundation. From the Silly in 2003:
"We don't schmooze and we don't lobby," he says. "We are not politically well-connected and we prefer it that way. We sometimes take up policy issues - such as private health insurance, the US-Australia free trade agreement, climate change and tax policy - but increasingly we inquire into social change."
Hamilton, too, is coy about benefactors but claims they do not attach strings to funding. He says the institute has a mixed group of board members whose opinions do not necessarily tally with research findings.
The Silly then goes on to list known Hamiliton backers -- "NSW Environmental Protection Agency, BP, AGL, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and Greenpeace". Whether Hamilton revealed these names or if they were uncovered by the reporter is not made clear.

Perthaps Hamilton would like to explain why those donors do not call his own credibility into question, especially the money handed over by the warmists at ACF and Greenpeace.

UPDATE II: Sinclair Davidson also has noticed Hamilton's reticence to discuss those who paid his foundation's bills.

A Day For Fertiliser

ALL THIS rain and lovely climate we've been having here in Melbourne, well the garden has gone berserk, so when connectivity went all wobbly in the late morning there was no excuse for leaving the wheelbarrow in the shed one more day. The place now looks quite spiffy, all mulched and trimmed, and just to cap off a day of exertion, five loads of laundry wait to be folded. Underpants will very soon be back in fashion at the Billabong.

As for others' laundry, let's just say some fresh, clean sets of smalls would seem to be called for.

At Fairfax, it was news of a massive profit slump which must have prompted immediate incontinence. That, and  the sotto voce announcement, largely unheard amidst the analysts' laments for a dying business, that the Age will no longer be distributed to "remote" areas. As the newspaper's comfort zone apparently runs no further than Elwood to Northcote, anyone in Preston or beyond will now be forced to settle for the daily edition of El Bairak.

Expect the Age's new distribution map to be finalised shortly, just as soon as executives decide if it should include Altona, Point Cook and Lara, where one of the fourteen full-time reporters covering all the good things about wind turbines once had a flat tyre. When rescued, she reported observing people who spoke English and might enjoy gravalax, but management remains unconvinced, according to sources inside Media House. The tentative plan allows a boutique delivery of Melbourne's journal of record only to the Werribee electorate office of the current prime minister, the one person in that suburb deemed sufficiently evolved to share the paper's perspective on things.

And while fresh Cottontails are being broken out, the big girls at News Ltd could certainly use some. Last year it was Glenn Milne's ouster for daring to wonder if a 35-year-old lawyer really should have figured out she was sleeping with a shakedown artist, the distraction of all those pretty, free frocks from Town Mode notwithstanding.  Before that, the lacklustre handling of Andrew Bolt's defence, followed by the shameful decison not to appeal Judge Mordy's abomination of a ruling. News is spending millions to defend or settle cases arising from the News of the World scandal. Could it not have found some small change to fight for free speech?

And today, well there was a fresh pong of compliant fecklessness about News when the Australian published the apology of a reporter who regretted being verbally aggressive with our PM. Is News Ltd getting twitchy about the Media Inquiry's upcoming report and recommendations? One would hope not, but there is a developing pattern of bahaviour -- and that is why all who care about free speech and the open contest of ideas should feel their own bowels begin to creep.

Imagine, and it is not hard, that Fairfax goes to the wall. What are we left with? A company that runs scared when government scowls. God help us if that is the case. Fairfax does not deserve to be preserved on the strength of recent achievements, which are negligible, but for its potential to once again hold our leaders' feet to the fire. Who knows, that approach might even sell a few copies in those "remote" areas the paper no longer sees as being worth its while.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

That Figures

AT ABOUT the 1.30 mark in this Fairfax video, the Silly's Phil Coorey is presented as explaining what is going on in Canberra.

WARNING: Do not take him seriously. It is not a credible video. If that were the case he would be wearing the Official  Fairfax Thinking Cap. It is visible on the shelf to his rear.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

To An Election. Now.

IT’S whatever time it was, getting on for six o’clock or so, and the young lady bringing drinks announces that Rudd has quit. Well the reaction amongst those present is universal, and it isn’t an immediate siding with one or other of the case studies in abnormal psychology wishing to lead the nation.

“Election would be better,”  said the Lorikeet, whose son had joined us for a drink. He stopped talking about the day at work to read some headlines from his mobile. The Professor raised a toast.

“To an election. Now!”

The members at the adjoining knot of chairs and table hear the call and do not need to be invited. One mutters something about "scum" -- no worse a description than Labor's leaders are flinging at each other -- and they raise their glasses too.

An election. Now. It's the only remedy.

Atomic Mass

IN SYDNEY, where it appears to have stopped raining, those who care deeply about the planet vowed a "mass demonstration" against the NSW's decision to allow uranium mining. Via Twitter, here is a picture of the gathering.

Not too many by "mass demonstration" standards, but it is still cause for concern. How many people can be left at Fairfax World Headquarters to produce tomorrow's Silly?

The Front Man For Incoherence

A BIT like admitting to favouring Collingwood as your second team, a residual affection for Peter Garrett is one of those things it is best not to mention too loudly. The Minister For Something To Do With Schools has precious few admirers or defenders on the left, which is hardly surprising, as it is very difficult to determine exactly what he is meant to be doing, there being a veritable tribe of cabinet members with some or other responsibility for the alleged promotion of education. If Gillard could only find one or two more scholars’ advocate she would have the appropriate half-dozen – six being the traditional number for carrying a coffin. With Garrett no longer allowed anywhere near the Environment portfolio, he could draw some relief for the thwarted green urge by insisting on burying old-fashioned, rigorous and fact-based educational standards in one of those organic, worm-welcoming cardboard coffins in which his sometime friend, Helen Caldicott, plans to be laid to rest.

On the right, Garrett gets even less respect, regarded as the roof-burning, apprentice-electrocuting incompetent whose guidance of the pink-batts fiasco continues to cost taxpayers dear.

All of the above is true, but at the Billabong memories of Garrett’s days with Midnight Oil still grant a little indulgence.  Yes, with the exception of those few who believe a Craig Thomson impersonator borrowed the brothel-creeper’s credit card, licence and signature, there is probably no bigger dill in Canberra.  But to have caught the show the Oils put on one night in the late Seventies at Paddington Town Hall, well let’s just say memories count for a lot. The Saints and Matt Taylor, at that point still hot for flying saucers, were on the same bill, and it was a memorable evening.  If Radio Birdman had marched up the road from the Oxford Hotel – this was before it went gay, gay, gay and Rob Younger went bald, bald, bald – to join the show it would have been a perfect night.

It is sad, very sad, to see Garrett now doing his best to alienate another body of opinion. That would be parents who, thanks to the former rocker’s low profile, had no idea he exerts an influence on shaping their nippers’ little minds. But then, earlier this week, he ruined his reputation on that score as well by voicing the Gillard government’s reaction to the Gonski report. It wasn’t what Garrett said, and he said rather a lot, it was that none of it made the slightest sense. Here’s a sample:
PETER GARRETT: We're not talking about more talking now; we're actually talking about real action on the basis of the recommendations that Mr Gonski brought forward. And I ...
CHRIS UHLMANN: And what do you define as real action?
PETER GARRETT: Well I'll tell you. I expect the senior officials working group of federal and state senior education officials to look immediately at what we think are the necessary funding principles we need to agree as we consider Mr Gonski's model…
Perhaps it was all those years spent standing too close to huge banks of speakers which rattled something loose upstairs. Maybe climate change has fried the central cortex, or perhaps he drank from one of Craig Thomson’s unwashed cups and rampaging spirochetes are now wreaking their havoc. Whatever the reason, anyone who believes “not talking about more talking” means additional rounds of chinwagging to determine what “we need to agree” is quite clearly a suitable case for treatment.

Poor Peter, he should have stuck with the rock business.  

Vodaf***ked II

THE Professor brought the meat so the Rufous Bird could demonstrate her range last night, when the corkscrew was also put to good use. The consequence this morning has been a late and head-sore start, which would have been even later if not for Double Bogey Daddy’s call to inquire why a tardy Bunyip was not on the first tee, as promised. Apologies were mumbled, the foursome became a threesome and the quest for restored wellbeing, which began on a hopeful note with a double dose of Berocca, soon took a bleak turn when the computer was fired up.

What is this? Yet another note from Vodafone, the latest in an ongoing series of monthly demands for payment of oversize and incorrect bills. Get on the phone. Wait. Waste 20 minutes attempting to make sense of what some thickly accented wretch in Bangalore is saying. This incoherence prompts a demand to speak with her supervisor, whose accent is even thicker. No, he swears, this is the plan Bunyip Sahib is on – a line he refuses to abandon even after being quoted the contract number. As to Vodafone’s appalling service, the dropped calls,  stalled emails and digitised gibberish which so often interrupts conversations, the supervisor’s suggested solution is that the Professor switch to an even more expensive plan.

At the very point when Australia’s reputation amongst Indians for harsh words, anger and intolerance was about to be considerably expanded, the line went dead. Stone cold, motherless dead.

It was then that Vodafone’s evil genius became apparent: The mobile phone company deliberately refuses to improve its service in order to foil anyone who uses it to contact the billing department. It can be the only explanation for the company’s policy of elevating incompetence to a virtue.

It used to be Telstra which brought the world to the Professor’s ear. After today’s episode, at least the sixth exercise in frustration, it soon will be again

If none of the above is enough to dissuade potential customers from signing up with Vodafone, consider another of the company's idiocies: It supports the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dear Age.....

WHEN THE Irish Lion* declined a subscription to the Age, he left the circulation department in no doubt about his reasons. He has copied his missive to the Billabong and it is reproduced below.

Any readers with an email address for Fairfax Chairman Roger Corbbett or CEO Greg Hywood might care to pass along a link to this post. It could help those at the top to understand why their company is in so much trouble.

To whom it may concern,
You can imagine my excitement when I received the attached flyer promising 100% independent journalism at 60% off the newsstand price. “You beauty” I thought, “a chance to subscribe to The Australian(1)”.

My sense of elation quickly soured when I found that the offer emanated from your august journal. Let me be frank. It will be a cold day in hell before I part with my hard-earned cash to help finance the third-rate tripe served up by your publication. And, according to your jaundiced Environmental correspondent, Ben Cubby, there will be no cold days in hell (or anywhere) anytime soon, so don’t hold your breath. Incidentally, it is unhealthy to hold your breath so I wouldn’t heed Ben’s warnings about exhaling CO2 - it is OK to let go.

Now, it hasn’t always been this way. I subscribed to the Age for about 25 years but ceased my subscription last year and, judging by the latest circulation figures, I am not alone. Whilst I am sure Mr Cubby must be ecstatic at the ever-decreasing numbers of pinus-radiata being felled to feed the presses at Fewfacts Media, it must be of concern to those of you in the Circulation Department as you dust the cob-webs off those silent telephones. Let me articulate some of the reasons for me dropping my Age subscription:-

* The back half General News is filled with reviews of avant-garde theatre productions whose run is over before the ink dries on the review, and increasing numbers of obituaries for recently deceased people of little consequence (cheap stocking-filler ‘citizen’s journalism’ best consigned to a dim corner of your on-line edition).

*  A fair proportion of the rest of the back section is filled with bleating letters and op-ed pieces penned by the usual suspects which are so predictable one only has to read the author’s name on the by-line to know what is being said (repeated) in the ensuing paragraphs.

*  And it doesn’t improve in the front half of the paper.  Michelle Grattan and Tony Wright lazily top-and-tailing the latest ALP press releases along with a revolving montage of Fairfax hobby-horse subjects - climate change, the evil (but, sadly, ever-expanding) Murdoch empire, the need for a tax on carbon/mining/forestry, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Hamburger, whatever.

*  Those looking for relief in the Age Business Section will also be disappointed. Seriously, can you please send a news-flash to Ross Gittins and Kenneth Davidson, telling them the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. It’s over. If these guys lose their back catalogue of Pravda, which seems to be the inspiration for their scribblings, they will be stuffed.

*  And it is a mistake to think the sports section or Epicure would provide any respite from the narrow view of the world expressed in the rest of the paper. It seems that Larrissa Dubecki suffers nose-bleeds if she ventures anywhere outside a 5 Km radius of Fitzroy Town Hall. And, please, if I see another article by either of the Flanagans either berating ‘oafish racist/sexist white sports players or administrators’ or lauding the latest ‘noble savage/poor refugee’ to make the big time I will have to increase my reflux medication.

In summary, if it wasn’t for the (alleged) illegal hacking into the Victorian ALP data-base, one could be forgiven for thinking the Age was completely bereft of imagination and initiative. The only comfort I can offer is that you are not the worst newspaper in the country. The Sydney Morning Herald is in the Gold Medal position there.

I am enjoying two small pleasures at the moment. Firstly, my recently acquired subscription to the on-line edition of The Australian. Check it out …. you could do worse (and, in fact, you do). Secondly, is the thought that the echoing coffers of Fewfacts Media are paying for the Reply Paid envelope carrying this missive

Perhaps I slightly overstated the case when I indicated that Satan would be issuing the parkas in Hades before I purchased another copy of your sad, narrowly focussed rag again. There is still hope. I may renew the subscription if Gina gets a seat on the board and runs the chainsaw(2) through the copious amounts of dead-wood within Spencer St.

Until then …… au revoir.
1 :- The Australian. The last remaining quality Australian newspaper. True value for money. I recently signed up for their on-line edition after a three month free trial. 
2 :-  The reference to chainsaws is purely rhetorical. I mean, I don’t think I want any ‘journalists’ actually dismembered. OK …. maybe you can lop off Ben’s typing finger …. but that’s it.

*Not related, so far as is known, to the Irish Ape who has placed himself between the Professor and commenter Lizzie.

The Flatware Revolution

OF ALL the milestones in the rise of Western civilisation the most overlooked is the arrival of the fork. Until those Medici fashionplates took up the implement, dinner in Italian households must have been very messy affairs, what with all that pasta and sauce. From Italy forks spread to France and thereafter to England, but not in time to save Henry VIII from his reputation for oafishness at the table. Where forks were adopted, the pattern never varied: progress accelerated, democracy gained ground, free speech and property rights prospered. The blessings of the fork are obvious. While various monarchs have put away their queens, none since the implement’s adoption has resolved a vexatious marriage with the assistance of an axe.

Today in Australia we would do well to contemplate the noble fork, especially its relevance to scraping clean the squalor laid upon the nation’s plate by this appalling government and the habitual liar who, for the moment, leads it. Those Italians of old found that forks kept their tunics clean and so they might do something similar for us.

Stick a fork in ‘em, we sometimes say, they’re done – and Gillard’s lot are most definitely overcooked. Or think of a larger tool, the brandished pitchfork of the peasant in revolt.

In other parts of the world it has been ribbons and colours that expressed popular movements' disgust with diseased regimes – the Yellow Revolution in the Philippines, orange in the Ukraine and rose in Georgia. But Australia isn’t that sort of place. We are a bit more sedate and rather docile, which is the reason so few speed-trap end up on the wrong end of a shotgun, as they do in the United States, where citizens are less inclined to accept being supervised like children. And there is the other problem of finding just the right translucent shade of Harpic blue, the appropriate agent for flushing this stinking mob and cleaning up its stains.

A dining fork peeking above the breast pocket of a gentleman’s suit jacket, a daintier cake fork for the ladies – what better symbol to represent the need for an election. We should be taping them to car aerials, printing them on T-shirts, displaying their images on posters in front windows.

This is a government of no legitimacy and less goodwill. It is populated by rogues, protected by a compromised Speaker and sees its first priority as protecting a brothel-creeper in the House and, outside it, a young man who might put to rest suspicions of inciting a race riot if only he would come out of hiding. The Gillard gaggle has no moral authority because it lacks both decency and, as the polls continue to demonstrate, the electorate’s trust. Australia needs an election as poison demands an emetic.

So take up your forks, citizens, and drive home the point with a smile: Rudd and Gillard can wave their knives, but it can only be an election that determines who is genuinely fit to lead.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Man's Best Friend

GOOD Heavens!

 The mystery is solved here -- plus a four-legged chicken.

ADVISORY: Double Bogie Daddy swears Altona's Kooringal Golf Club is one of the nicest in the state. Back in the afternoon, when 18 holes will have established the truth (or otherwise) of that assertion.

UPDATE: It's not Victoria's best course, but it is a good one. Well worth playing if you can find a member who will sign you in for a round.

Turnbull's Little Friend

MANY Australians of a conservative bent decided some time ago that Malcolm Turnbull was unfit to lead the Liberal Party, quite rightly concluding a man thought by some to be Labor's best leader-in-waiting would do his party a favour by crossing the floor and staying there. From time to time, one still hears kind words for Turnbull's potential -- usually, it must be noted, from people who would not vote Liberal in a pink fit, even if Karl Marx were to be re-animated and installed beside the dispatch box.

That is why the video below should be compulsory viewing. It's not that Turnbull says anything particularly stupid, just that he is evidently prepared to squander a greasy afternoon shooting the breeze with Andrew Jaspan, the former Phage editor who made the paper what it is today. Jaspan, who now heads The Conversation is "a very distinguished journalist and editor" and "at the cutting edge of something really big", which is an interesting way to describe $6 million worth of suckling at the public teat.

Anyway, if you have a spare few minutes and a strong stomach click the link and observe a refutation of the axiom that two negatives make a positive.

Let us hope Turnbull did not take his interlocutor too seriously. He would not want to waste another day filling sandbags at Luna Park.

Hang on, it's already too late! According to the Jaspan-era Age, the amusement park was washed away some time ago.

Morton's Reliably Unreliable Source

IT'S official.

Tim Flannery is given to "overreach and self-contradiction", according to Phage eco-warrior-in-chief Adam Morton's review of the climate commissioner's new book, which details Bone Man's hairy-chested adventures on sundry Pacific isles.

Mind you, Morton's faith in Flannery remains undiminished:
At the heart of the book is the celebration and demystification of the act of science - the laying of nets and traps, animal wrangling, collection of samples and slow building on the sum of human understanding. In an age when respect for science is diminishing, it is a reminder that knowledge is hard-earned.

That "science" and "understanding"? The cause of "demystification" might be advanced if green publicists masquerading as journalists were a little more sceptical of those given to "overreach and self-contradiction".

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Darren's Dirt

WITH the exception of the lookout on the Titanic, being recognised as the first to raise an alarm has generally been a very sound career move. Consider the sacred geese of ancient Rome, who upstaged the city's sleeping dogs by quacking a warning that barbarians with ladders were clambering up the Capitol's walls. For centuries thereafter the ceremonial first duty of every incoming censor was to budget for the welfare and feeding of those vigilant creatures' descendants.

Barbarians took up residence in Geelong quite some time ago,  so it is far too late to be raising alarms about the social engineers who infested large parts of the city with public housing and social workers ever ready to make excuses for the inhabitants' inclination to stab each other. Still, a goose is a simple-minded creature, and the notion that credit might be wrung from honking predictions of doom would appear to be hard-wired. Look no further than the suddenly talkative Darren Cheeseman, who is both the member for Corangamite and, as of last night, one of the first to go on record with the view that Prime Minister Gillard would do everyone a favour by stepping down. The fact that Cheeseman holds his seat of just 0.3%, one of the slimmest margins in the current House, probably had a little to do with his brave and sudden candour.

Maybe, just maybe, if he can be remembered as the voice of decency, he might, just might, win enough local respect to survive the next election. If that is Cheeseman's hope, a related wish must also be that voters' longer-term memories will prove faulty, as the man now sounding his klaxon about the sleaze, confusion and incompetence that have marked Gillard's leadership has a little dirty dealing of his own he must wish best forgotten.

In what was one of the most obscene efforts since public schoolboys ignored the Head of the River to cop their feels with gals from MLC, Genazano and Ruyton behind the trees beside the Barwon*, Cheeseman left some very nasty smears all over his 2010 Liberal opponent, Sarah Henderson. All the whispers dealt with Henderson's romantic history, and they were peddled with ruthless enthusiasm to anyone who would listen, most often with the advice that Cheeseman, by contrast, was the very picture of the faithful family man. At one point, according to the word in Liberal circles, the only thing that stopped the slurs being re-produced on the front page of a Melbourne newspaper was the pre-emptive threat of a massive defamation action against its editor. The paper backed off, but the slurs continued to circulate, as anyone prepared to do a little googling will quickly ascertain.

Cheeseman went on to take Corangamite by 700-odd votes. How many of those were garnered on the strength of that dirt campaign can never be known, but if Cheeseman is to be recognised for his consistency then his next round of comments about his current leader's inability to lead will also need to mention the musky aroma of Gillard's very own soiled sheets -- from ending the marriage of cabinet colleague Craig Emerson to that $17,000 Town Mode shopping voucher which the ne'er do well Bruce Wilson left on his young and naive doxy's dresser.

If Cheeseman has not been gagged overnight and stomped to a pulp by Gillard's enforcers, expect him to denounce her dubious liaisons. It is, after all, no less than you might expect of a brave, fearless and consistent goose.

UPDATE: Workers fearing for their jobs at Geelong's Ford and Alcoa plants might want to consult  their lopcal member's predictions of the wonderful things his current leader's carbon tax will do for employment. Not only will it save the planet, he says, but "the modelling" establishes that increasing employers' overheads will create more jobs. Tune to the 19.30 mark of the interview (below) to hear that gem of analysis and prediction.


A Journalist Of The Old School

BRINGING TO BEAR the weight of her 137 years in the gallery, Michelle Grattan ruminates on the role of politicians' advisers in the Canberra game, observing that they "are not expected to become players".

At last, a senior journalist addressing the shameful escapades of Tony Hodges and other, as-yet-unknown prime ministerial operatives in prompting a race riot on Australia Day. You beaut, Michelle! It took you a while, but you're finally on the case. That was the reaction at the Billabong, where a prayer was offered to celebrate the CSIRO's pioneering work in developing the fixture that allows a laptop and notebook to be mounted on the top rail of a Zimmer frame.

Alas, jubilation was premature and disappointment extreme. Even though Hodges is about to flee  both country and questions for a new life in England, Grattan's column mentioned him not at all. Rather, her focus was on Tony Abbott's COS Peta Credlin, who was the subject last week of an indirect instruction from the Speaker to stick a sock in it.

Still, charity urges that Grattan be excused on the grounds of a senior moment, as Hodges was clearly in her mind when those ancient hands began to tickle the keyboard. There is the reference in the first paragraph to the West Wing, for example, which rather suggests her initial thoughts were of those in power, not the opposition. And further down in the story, a reference to Gillard's imported svengali, John McTernan, which might have opened the way for an examination of the PM's riotous spin machine.

But those potential lines of investigation tailed off into nothingness, perhaps due to distraction. If Grattan had not heard the announcement that Bingo was about to begin, she might have retained just enough focus to tap out a few words about a race riot and those who promoted it. She was, after all, a quality journalist.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Just The Ticket For Tony

A COUPLE of days ago, a woman by the name of Cheryl Carter was prohibited from leaving England to start a new life with her family in Perth. Carter was for many years the secretary to Rebekah Brooks, the Murdoch editrix near the centre of the ongoing hacking scandal. The suspicion that Carter was being rewarded for her silence with a comfy job on the other side of the world, far from Scotland Yard’s investigators, was immediate.

Today sees another story of an aspiring traveller’s intention to pursue overseas opportunities. Like Carter, this one might also shed quite a lot of light on some disgraceful carryings-on.  Yes, that person would be the recently unemployed Tony Hodges, the prime ministerial intimate whose phone calls prompted the Australia Day riot. Hodges went to earth after the incident, untroubled in his solitude by reporters camped on his doorstep, which makes him a good deal luckier than Godwin Grech.

Now, according to the Daily Telegraph, he is off to London, where there are rumours of a comfy, feather-bedded job on the staff of ex-Labor minister Bob McMullan, Australia's rep on the European Bank of Reconstruction. Good work if you can get it, although igniting a riot and being fired by a prime minister would hardly seem recomendations. Perhaps McMullan needs someone to fine-tune his speeches -- add a preamble about the Celts, Picts, Scots and Saxons on whose lands he collects his old boy's sinecure today. Given Hodges' demonstrated ability to communicate quickly with natives, especially at an emotional level, that might be the qualification which clinches the deal.

Would it be rude, do you reckon, to call on Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus to confiscate Hodges’ passport until the investigation is complete, as British authorities have done with Cheryl Carter?

No one is suggesting Negus is there to sweep things under the carpet or let prime witnesses slip away, but if Hodges collects his boarding pass without impediment there are sure to be uncharitable souls who will claim as much. Negus could do himself and his force a bit of good by following his English counterparts' example.

UPDATE: While the AFP has interviewed Kim Sattler, there is no indication Hodges has been called in for a chat. Surely investigators would wish to speak with him -- unless, of course, the AFP recruits its investigators from the ranks of press gallery journalists, who with very exceptions have shown no interest at all in finding and quizzing someone widely suspected of promoting a race riot in the name of cheap political advantage.

Emma ♥ Julia

WITH OUR Prime Minister short a spinner now that Riot Boy Hodges is off to England there is a vacancy to be filled. This may explain why Lateline's Emma Alberici was even more enthusiastic about the Gillard government's achievements than ABC hiring guidelines demand.

EMMA ALBERICI: It does beggar belief, doesn't it Dennis Shanahan, that the Government isn't winning the economic argument? What do you put that down to? Given we are the envy of the world?

EMMA ALBERICI: Laura Tingle, it wouldn't be the first time a political promise has been broken, when we talk about the carbon tax. Why is it that Julia Gillard and her party just can't seem to get a win here? ... they've had a win on the legislative front with health reform, they've done some big things, big accomplishments, yet still Tony Abbott seems to be able to land every blow.

EMMA ALBERICI: It's incredible Laura Tingle, isn't it, that in a week where they wound back middle class welfare, classic Labor territory, that they still didn't manage to get that message across

EMMA ALBERICI: ... how much longer can [Abbott] continue to tell the public what he is going to give them before he might actually be held to account and asked to explain how he is going to fund all the promises?

If Alberici can demonstrate even a slight talent for starting riots, she will be sitting on her idol's knee in no time.