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Showing posts from July, 2004

I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date

Last month it was the easy task of dismissing potential election dates, as the media and commentators collectively convinced themselves that it was all the way with August 7.  Unfortunately, being the wild, unpredictable character that he is, Howard failed to deliver.  Except to those in the commentariat, this was no surprise.  See earlier ranting for a comprehensive explanation on why August 7 was never the date in Howard's head.

Recent speculation has turned to September 18, with Howard visiting the GG just as parliament rises after a two week sitting in August.  Again, this appears to be a bit of premature excitement on behalf of the Press Gallery crowd, who are apparently oblivious to the fact that the campaign would need to run through the Olympics, footy finals and the start of school holidays.  This a good boy does not Johnny make.

However, now comes the tougher task of arguing in favour of a date.  After much musing, a good glance at The Poll Bludger's excellent Electi…

Sudan - Time to Move

The situation in Sudan is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.  Much as a post-Iraq (well, actaully post-end-of-formal-hostilities-in-Iraq, but you get my drift) world is reluctant to get involved in yet another conflict, at this stage it doesn't have much choice.

The numerous reports from courageous correspondents on the Chad-Sudan border (and this heartbreaking report carried in The Oz from Darfur itself) suggest that the trickle of refugees out of the Darfur region is turning into a flood.  The Janjaweed (not, apparently, a variety of Jamaican dope) militia are acting ruthlessly to expel their African country-folk and reclaim it as an Arab territory.

It is surely only a matter of days before Israel, the United States or capitalism is blamed, and western self-criticism festers.

Strong and decisive action is needed from the rest of the world, and it will cost plenty of blood and dollars.  Hopefully a broad coalition, predominatly African and Arab, but much broader a…

Happy Birthday, John

Sorry, blogville, about the monumental, gaping time between posts.  I've been busy enjoying John Howard's 65th.

WHAT A PARTY!!

It was a fancy dress party at the Lodge, and gosh it was good.  John Anderson and Mark Vaile were dressed as the top and bottom half of a cow, in true National Party (ooops, that should be The Nationals) spirit.  All was going well until late in the night when Bronwyn Bishop got hold of something underneath and tried to milk it.  Senator Bill Heffernan was there dressed as a High Court judge, wig and all, but perhaps took his act a tad too far when he tried to pick up Christopher Pyne, describing him as the best young talent in the room, whatever that means.

Janette was a real show-stopper as well, when she burst out of the cake to sing "Happy Birthday Mr Prime Minister", although it was a bit of a mess when she jumped out too early before John had had a chance to blow out the candles, and her hair caught fire and she needed to pour some o…

Norf- -ked Island

Anyone brave enough to come for a holiday to Norfolk Island - Beautiful one day, homicidal the next.

Monday night on the box

Yep, it's a supreme example of blogging laziness, but here goes.  Monday night was compelling viewing on the ABC, well three parts were at least.

There was a great piece on Four Corners (Forkers for those in the know, and F... C... for those who wanna be smartarses) exposing some of the truth behind half of the Australian delegation to Guantanamo Bay, Mamdouh Habib.  Apparently, far from being the angelic, innocent no hoper caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, Habib has quite a history of religious extremism and threatening behaviour.  'I'd rather kill my children than change my place of worship' explained Habib in a letter to his local member.  Then the former cleaner-cum-coffee-shop-owner headed off to Afghanistan, and boasted of his meeting with Osama.  He was looking for an appropriate religious school for his children, you see.  Always the family man.  Cynicism aside, the man should be charged and tried rather than kept indefinately.  To argue that Habib …

Fahrenheit 9/11

Is Michael Moore really a documentary maker?  That's a crucial question that needs to be resolved before trying to understand Fahrenheit 9/11.  A documentary maker is one who asks a question, considers the evidence, and presents their honest conclusions.  Moore does not.  Moore knows his conclusion before he's started making the film, and instead selects the evidence which supports his proposition.  It is an insult to true documentary makers for Moore to be considered in that way - instead he should be put in the category of great propagandists, along with Stalin, Kim Jong-il and Senator Eric Abetz.  What Moore produces is propaganda - and damn fine propaganda at that - but a documentry it aint.

F9/11 is a cinematic, dogmatic critique of Bush's time in the White House.  He starts off by rehashing some of the Florida election conspiracy theory nonsense unleashed on the world in Stupid White Men. (No one should mention that Moore was a big part of Green Ralph Nader's ca…

The reshuffle: same deck, different order

One of the more conservative aspects of the incumbant conservative Howard government is the reluctance to reward young ambition and penalise poor performance within the Ministerial team. The latest Howard reshuffle was the sort of things that should have happened not long after the last election, rather than just a few months out from the next one. The reshuffle saw Senator Ian Campbell take over the Environment portfolio from Kemp, Helen Coonan take over from deadwood Williams in the Communications portfolio, and, courtesy of the ABC website, the other changes are...

Mal Brough becomes Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, replacing Senator Noonan; (That'd be Coonan, aunty.)
Jim Lloyd takes over as Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads, replacing Senator Campbell;
Fran Bailey is named Minister for Employment Services and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence;
Teresa Gambaro becomes parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Defence;
Bruce Billson i…

This World - Access to Evil

Twas indeed a rare thing screened on SBS on Tuesday night. And I'm not talking about the truly bizzare programme on a tad after 1am, which is a Turkish version of The Nanny. I shit you not.

Nope, instead I'm referring to footage of life in North Korea, courtesy of a fine BBC documentary from This World journalist Olenka Frenkiel. Part-travellogue, part-investigative journalism, part-propaganda-karaoke (Q - to a NK school kid: Would you like to send a message to President Bush? A: I want to tell him to get out of South Korea and stop slaughtering South Korean children.), this was engrossing television.

As well as the obligatory shots of the million strong NK army and some of the 35,000 KI-S portraits, the doco did well to demonstrate the major electricity crisis in Korea as well as some indication of the famine that has ravaged the country. Most startling was the examples of torture which is taking place in the gulags scattered through the northern part of the country, and r…

Seat Watch - Parramatta

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Most Liberals love Ross Cameron. It's not just because of his strong conservative streak or steely glare, but the fact that he's a Liberal member in what should be Labor heartland - and has been since 1996. When the swing against Keating was on in that year, no Labor seat, no matter how safe, was under threat. What is unusual about Parramatta, and credit must surely go to Cameron, is that it stayed that way through 98, 01, and now, seemingly 2004. Or maybe not.

Parramatta is a slice of working class suburbia that abandoned the big-picture middle class small-l liberal elite vision of Keating and Beazley and were instead sucking on the bosom of Howard's white-picket-fence conservative Anglo wet dream. These were Howard's version of Menzies' 'Forgotten people' and Howard couldn't do a lot more to sure he remembered them, short of tattooing Parramatta across his bushy brow.

But these are also Latham's people. For the first time in a long time, the…

Ministers Overboard!

Hmmmm, back in early 2001 it was John Moore, John Fahey, Michael Wooldridge and Peter Reith all jumping ship when things looked glum for the Government. This time round it's Daryl Williams, Richard Alston, and now David Kemp. Just what are Daryl, Dick and Dave worried about?

Oranges and Lemons

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It's marching season again in Belfast, and the Orangemen are out in force. Although it would be a lot more fun if it was as agricultural as it sounded, the reality is a lot less juicy (groan!). Marching season is serious business, and each year the path and atmosphere of the Protestant parade through the streets of Belfast arouses plenty of passion. (Check out The Belfast Telegraph to get a feel for it).

There's no doubt that everyone has the right to freedom of association and freedom of movement, but the Orange marches reinforce the sentiments that I sensed when I was in the city last year - that the Protestants, whilst having a rightful case, have a chip on their shoulder which makes productive dialogue difficult. Whilst the sentiment amongst Catholics was that the bitterness of the struggle could be put aside and that life was to be lived, the Protestant attitude seemed to be more hardnosed.

To get a feel for the difference, check out these two murals:





On top, rekindli…

Defence and da Fence

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Sitting down to write about the International Court of Justice ruling on the Anti-terror fence/Apartheid Wall (depending on your personal bias), it was tempting to blast away at the absurdity of a court ruling against a basic self-defence measure, and talk about the success of limited entry and exit from the Gaza Strip, which has slowed the flow of suicide-bombers from there to a mere trickle.

But to do that would be futile.

Instead, it'd be more worthwhile to discuss whether a legalistic international approach to this problem is the right one. My hunch is that this dispute is most likely to be 'resolved' by playing down the stakes and reducing the number of participants. The more well-meaning-but-ultimately-counterproductive international bodies get involved, the more clogged the situation becomes. Besides, both parties tend to dig their heels in, accusing various international bodies of bias, running their own agenda, or just generally getting in the way, rather than …

I never saw that in MASH

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Another clue about life in North Korea has emerged. In what will no doubt make a fasincating telemovie, Charles Jenkins was an American GI who.... ah bugger it, here's CNN to tell you the bits you need to know:

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- A former U.S. soldier who Washington says deserted to North Korea in 1965 has been reunited with the Japanese woman he met and married after she was abducted to the reclusive Stalinist state.

It's a cute yarn, and one does just a bit to challenge the impression of North Korea as opaque and impregnable. Jenkins and Hitomi Soga married in DPRK after Soga was taken captive while shopping in Japan in 1978 and have lived most of their adult lives there. Both have emerged happy and healthy, with two children, and seem to be in fear more of an American military court than the wrath of the North Korean government. Just what someone who grew up surrounded by muddled talk of the wonders of "Juche" and Kim il-Sung will make of the outside …

A State Funeral 'over my dead body': Hutton

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Ariontheweb is all in favour of tasteless jokes and comments, though I wasn't aware that the Queensland branch of the Greens felt the same way. It was a particularly tasteless streak is Senate wannabe Drew Hutton that lead him to speculate about the funeral of Sir Joh well before Sir Joh moves on to the great Sunshine Coast in the sky.

"This is a government which for 20 years was characterised by corruption, by authoritarianism and by environmental vandalism," Mr Hutton told the ABC.

"State funerals are supposed to be for people who have the respect of the community, and the admiration and affection of the community."

Sir Joh, 93, is suffering from advanced Parkinson's disease and requires round-the-clock nursing care.

The Greens have obviously conceded they're not going to win the nonagenarian vote.

Is there no accounting for human stupidity?

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Politics.... it's a dirty game

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Politics is a dirty game, Mark Latham, and you are one of the dirtiest players. It is breathtaking hypocracy for someone who has spent so much of his political career heaping vitriol and hatred upon his political opponents to whinge when it comes back to bite. Have a chat to Tony Staley and Tony Abbott and see how much sympathy they have for Latham's dilemma. Those two have both been on the receiving end of Latham's bile.



Latham is on slightly stronger ground when he objects to political 'dirt units' whose sole purpose is to muckrake. They are a blight on our political system and lower the standard of public debate. The weakness of Latham's argument is that they are not the exclusive domain of the Liberals, but are a bipartisan feature, used by both parties as required. Who was doing the digging on Trish Draper, I wonder?

Supersize Me

It was with a great deal of cynicism that I went to watch Supersize Me (which, it was pointed out to me, should really be read as Supersize ME, rather than SuperSIZE Me, which has become prevalent, but I digress). After sitting through 90 minutes of a rather silly human experiment, I was still just as cynical, about the film maker as much as the corporation he denegrates. It was notable that McDonalds have taken a very proactive PR response to the film, with a trailer beforehand featuring McD's Australian head-honcho Guy Russo pointing on the flaws in the film's methodology.

I don't like McDonalds. I think their food is bland, their service irritating and their decor retina-breaking. That's why I don't eat there. I don't feel the need to trash the place, nor to badmouth it to everyone, nor to get upset about it. I just exercise my right as a sovereign consumer, and stay the hell out of there. No one compels me to go in there, or puts a gun to my head and…

August 7 it aint

Hillary, a true Christian

Well done to Crikey and "Hillary Bray" for the touching and poigniant outing of Hillary in The Sunday Age. There is much to admire about Hillary, and all he has done to expose the political process and all the factors that come into play. So much that was previously strictly behind closed Canberrian doors is now in the open, and Australian democracy is all the richer for it.

The truth is out, and Hillary is in fact Christian Kerr. Well done to Tim Blair, who rightly punted on Kerr as Bray back in March, 2003:

Kerr – who might have been, at least prior to January, Crikey political pundit Hillary Bray...

As for my subtle hinting...

Crikey's Gr... I mean Hillary Bray has posted a rather fiesty response

...well, um, I guess I was off the mark with Greg Barns.

What next, the truth behind JFK?

Seat Watch - Hindmarsh

What's the point in being in government if you can't tinker with the redistrubution in your favour? That's certainly a question SA Liberals must be asking after the 1.9% margin in Hindmarsh was almost halved to 1%, putting the seat in serious danger of falling to the ALP. This is especially so given the retirement of likeably, affable, and largely innoffensive (she was a former Women's Weekly journalist) Chris Gallus. Gallus no doubt saw that her ministerial potential was falling, and that it was time to move on. Notably, this is the oldest electorate in the country (according to Mumble) and so at the sprightly young age of 61, Gallus could certainly have continued for a while yet.

Stepping up to the plate for the Liberals is Simon Birmingham, whilst the ALP challenger will be serial candidate Steve Georganas. Not a lot to be said about those two (even the Buddha of election info, Antony Green, is reduced to describing them as "wine executive" and "…

Working in advertising

I'm not usually one for taking too much notice of advertising, but the one that seems to keep coming up as a banner across the top of my hotmail is just too painfully flawed to miss.

Flogging the benefits of finding a job through Seek.com.au, a deliriously happy looking Simon Richardson exclaims:

Twice in a row. What can I say?

You've found me two dream jobs! You all rock!!
Clearly the first 'dream job' was so good, that a second one was needed. Good work, lads.

Seat Watch - Brisbane

The most marginal seat in the country held by the ALP is Brisbane, centring on the city of, um, Brisbane by a margin of 1%. The sitting member is Arch Bevis, who has the remarkable achievement of being a member of parliament for 14 years but having almost no name recognition beyond members of his own family and Labor apparatchiks. In the past, the seat has been a strong one for the ALP, with healthy margins up until the 1996 landslide. Still, Bevis has done well to keep the seat in ALP hands, and the redistribution has shaved several percent off the 2001 result.

The Liberal candidate is former Queensland AMA head-honcho Ingrid Tall. The Liberal Party website tells us nothing about Ingrid, but a Google search is quite useful. One link that seemed worthy of note was from the Sydney Star Observer, a Sydney GLBTI magazine:

Openly lesbian, former Queensland AMA president Ingrid Tall has shocked colleagues by becoming a Liberal party candidate.

Hmmmm, the plot thickens a little. Demog…

Asia trip update - books, camera, action!

They say that planning is half the fun of travel (who 'they' are, I'm not sure, but they're probably picking up a healthy travel agents commission). It is in that spirit that I set out in earnest this week to turn my travel ideas into reality.

It started on Wednesday, when I ventured out to Myer on Lonsdale Street to take advantage of the stocktake sales. I bought a couple of Lonely Planet guides for some of my destinations. Since travelling with a well-thumbed Lonely Planet guide last year in Europe, I am completely and utterly convinced that they are the best guide around, most in tune with the sort of trip I am after. Hence, they are an essential part of travelling cheaply and successfully. I snapped up their Shoestring guide to South East Asia, as well as picking up their latest guide to Korea (both RoK and DPRK), which was released only a few months ago. The next essential purchase was a digital camera, largely lacking the bells and whistles that confuse the…

Now we know why it's the "entertainment complex"

10 years into its existance, and finally the media are exposing the dark underbelly of Melbourne's Crown Casino. For too long, the media have been under the commercial daze of Crown and it's high-profile owners and failed to ask the tough questions. The Casino is a massive advertiser, has a big impact on the city, and for the first half of its life was the embodiment of all things Jeff.

Still, much as we liked to deceive ourselves that it was all glitz, glammer, and the occassional suicide in the Yarra, a more shady side has emerged. Kudos to the Herald Sun, for so long the most obedient of PR firms for the Casino, for exposing the prevalance of prostitution in the Casino and the shadiness of the indulgence of those in attendance. Of course, nothing illegal about prostitution, but the Victorian Gaming and Casino Authority are having a good look into it.

The Age took a different tact to mark the milestone, looking at the intimate relationship between Melbourne's underwo…