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Showing posts from October, 2004

Blog your way to happiness

It seems there is a blogwar which is keeping the student politician population of Melbourne amused. Launching the opening salvo was a man from the left, leading to vigourous reponses from those on the right, toonumeroustomention. New blogs emerging everywhere - clearly blog is the new black.

Love to have a beer with Duncan (and Marcus)

It's been a wild couple of days in the Supreme Court as the hearing into the liquidation of the Melbourne University Student Union (MUSU) revealed some juicy insights into the ethical, legal and financial depths that MUSU sunk to in its final years. It now emerges that the grossly incompetent mismanagement which had already been well documented was in fact the tip of the iceberg, with a much greater iceberg lurking just beneath the surface as the HMAS MUSU cruised headlong into the waters of a painfully overstretched metaphor.

Strangely the Melbourne media ignored it, and it was up to Louise Perry at The Australian to share the juicy tidbits:

TWO former presidents of the failed Melbourne University Student Union are accused of setting up companies and creating false identities to win lucrative business contracts from the union.

A Melbourne court was told that Darren Kenneth Ray, president of the union in 2002, and Benjamin Cass, president in 2000, had used the names "Marcus …

Gaza Stripped Bare

It was a gutsy move by Ariel Sharon to put the removal of settlements in Gaza up for a vote in the Knesset. Thankfully, he won. It is shameful to see Sharon's opponents within the Likud using the settlers issue as one to try and undermine Sharon, and presumably try and take over the leadership. Political warhorses like Bibi Netanyahu should know better than to play politics on this issue. All sides of Israeli politics have known for years and years that this moment would come - the settlements are unsustainable, costly and politically undesirable if Israel is to demonstrate its commitment to a Palestinian state - and it does no good to make the withdrawl any harder than it has to be.

There is talk that this issue might create an existential crisis for Likud, the party which founded and vehemently supported the settlers, and now look like they will cut off the life line. The argument is that the issue will create two irreconcilable factions, pro and anti settler. This is a sh…

Dinner with friends

Hmmm, any guesses which soon-to-be longest ever serving Australian Foreign Minister was dining at Pelligrinis last night, and ended up sharing a table (you know, the one in the kitchen) with a precocious smart arse blogging ex-Democrat and his two dining buddies?

One big happy continent

The past week has seen an interesting string of events in some of the destinations for Ariontheroad 2004/05 tour:

- THAILAND has shown the painful excesses of military might. In the south 78 Muslim protesters suffocated due to heavy-handed tactics in trying to break up a riot. It is hard to believe that police could so monumentally misjudge the effect of their actions as to allow 78 to die, without there being some malicious intent. Violence in the south has become disturbingly common and Thailand wrestles with a large Muslim minority.

- SOUTH KOREA has gone onto a frenzied military alert after a holes was found in the wire fence at the DMZ border with the north. The fear? North Korean agents entering the country, seeking information, assassination, or possibly even a filling meal. It is a sign of the heightened tension and paranoia that exists between the two sides that such a fairly innocuous event can put the country on edge. Still, with Colin Powell in town and NK having so…

Whose Family?

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An excellent observation from the brilliant mind of a friend of mine, Mikey:

I was reading through Family First's enlightening policy on the (heterosexual) Family yesterday. As I was doing so it dawned on me that the logo on their web site reminded me more of a stylised crucifix sitting atop a bishop's mitre than what I presume we're supposed to believe is the Southern Cross sitting atop a map of Australia.

It may be artistic license but, with reference to the attached Australian Flag diagram, the epsilon star (the little one) on the Southern Cross is generally positioned closer to the delta star (the rightmost one) than, as the way they have depicted is, at the crux (centre) of the constellation. To me this makes it look deceptively more like a crucifix than the Southern Cross.

I'm at a loss as to explain why the map might be designed to look like a mitre but it looks more like that to me than the map of Australia.

Hope I'm not reading too much into it.

Michael.…

First Tuesday in November a close race

It's just a week away until the electoral circus sets up tent in the US of A. It's remarkable to think about how much this campaign has been transformed since people first turned their minds to it in mid-2002. In the wake of somethingarather in September the previous year, there was a groundswell of pride and patriotism which Bush had successfully transformed into support for his candidacy. To be anti-Bush was to be un-American, and it was a deathzone for potential Democrats. The mid-term elections in November 2002 was akin to the general progression of lambs - or should that be donkeys? - toward the abbertoir of democracy.

By the time names of potential Democratic candidates were being considered, challenging Bush for the White House was seen as a lost cause. Hillary Clinton, depsite launching her book in the midst of it all, ruled herself out. Perhaps she liked the ring of Hillary 08? Then the winner of the popular vote from 2000, Al Gore, ruled himself out, presumabl…

Vaccinations and Vacations (not to the Vatican)

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On Friday morning I headed in to the city to visit Dr Charlie, a doctor with a particularly strong interest in travel vaccinations, and stabbing people in the arm with large needles, which is a useful combination.

Started off by running through the intinerary, so we could establish which items on the menu of diseases I might be unfortunate enough to sample. It turns out that my itinerary is not nearly as risky as first thought. Equally important as the countries visited is the places within those countries that will be visited. So whilst there might be risk of disease in places such as Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, the risk is largely confined to areas outside the major cities, and to those travellers who will be engaged in risky activity, such as biking trips. During much of my sojourn, travel will be in the major cities with only the occassional trip to somewhere remote and probably unpronouncable.

Nonetheless, by the end of the consultation, I had a needle jabbed into each of my …

Team Howard

The past two days have given a good indication of the shape of politics for the fourth term of the Howard reign (or the first part of it, till Cossie gets impatient and reaches for the cutlery drawer). The Coalition have announced their post-election line up, with a few interesting absenses. On the Labor side, it'll take the best blood-stain remover that Chopper Read can provide before the shadow Cabinet room would pass an OH&S inspection.

For now, a few snippets on the Liberals, with Labor to follow once the dust has settled:

- It's farewell to Danna Vale from the ministry, who is expelled from the Ministry, and will be no great loss. A mumbling, stumbling faux pas on legs.

- And a much less voluntary farewell from Larry Anthony (the former member for Richmond), Ross Cameron (former MP for Parramatta, and ex-Parly Sec for somethingarather) and Trish Worth (Adelaide, and another ex-Parly Sec).

- Chris Pearce has continued his brisk climb up the political ladder, being a…

Election season rolls on

It's election time at Melbourne Uni, and despite the chaos of the last two years, the campaign is surprisingly vibrant. There is a definate attempt to 'move on' by all sides, who are desperately keen to put the disasterous past couple of years behind them, even if it means burying some live bodies to do so.

Two days in, and the campaign seems refreshingly clean. No feeder tickets running around, no universal voting to win over the lazy sods, no food vouchers to entice commerce students, no campaigning inside the intimate confines of Union House. Just a clean bit of fun with the emphasis on campaign ideas and policy development.

A few quick snippets:

- The Right have got themselves organised in a super-tight outfit (that's the organising, not the t-shirts, which are a touch on the daggy side) under the branding of Empower. Onboard the good ship Empower is the Labor Right, Liberals and AUJS. No doubt the Rogets was working overtime to come up with something, given t…

"No talking in the back row..."

It's only 11 days into Howard's fourth term of government, and already the ALP are in a mess. Despite the predictable calls on election night to take a calm and considered approach to the election outcome, and the need for collective responsibility, it seems that exactly the opposite has occured.

Tuesday it was Lindsay Tanner's turn to spit the dummy and head for the backbench. He'll have some good company to whisper smart-arse remarks to during question time, with former front benchers Kim Beazley, Bob McMullin, Craig Emerson, whilst over on the red leather back benches, John Falkner will be filing his nails and writing his memoirs. Why? What is to be gained by relegating oneself to the backbench, other than to show your inability to play a team game. If you've got the talent to be a frontbencher, then you owe it to your colleagues to stay there (unless your name is Dana Vaile or Geoff Prosser - remember him? - then you are the exception to the rule).

In the …

Visaaaaaa Laos Vegas

It's getting painfully close to my departure date for my three month trip through Asia. 27 November is the date that I'm on my way, jetsetting to Sydney, then Bangkok and beyond, and there's plenty to do before leaving.

Last week was spent gathering all the information needed for visa applications. Dealing with government bureacracy is frustating at the best of times, but when dealing with six bureaucracies, where English is not the first language and the government of the day operates with a high degree of paranoia, the challenge is just about insurmountable.

In a strange way, though, the process is a bit of fun. Filling in the various forms is a bit like filling in a cryptic crossword, except that the answers aren't published in the paper the next day. The visa applications start with a familiar pattern, asking all the usual questions. Then they get a little personal - "What date will you be arriving in the country?", "Where will you be staying du…

Ari as an electoral Nostradamus

It's time for a bit of housekeeping, closing off the strands of the election coverage. During the length of it, plenty of predictions were made in 10 crucial seats around the country, as well as a couple of more general predictions on election eve. No matter how wrong I happen to be (and remember, I did predict that the Liberals might win the 2002 Victorian state election) I know I'll never be quite as wrong as Roy Morgan:

Final Morgan Poll - ALP Ahead, Too Close to Call - Possible Hung Parliament

------------------------------------------------------------
Finding No. 3795 - October 09, 2004

Anyhow, in no particular order, my predictions for the marginals, and how they ended up:

- Solomon, NT: "The verdict - a probable gain to the ALP." Do'h, a bad start to the predictions. The CLP's Dave Tollner managed to hold on to his super-slender marginal, and in fact increase his margin.

- Dobell, NSW: "Prediction - Ticehurst to hold it for the Libs." …

Labor win election

For the second time in two weeks, voters have chosen to give decisive control of parliament to the government of the day. Last week it was the swing toward the government in the Senate which will see it take an extraordinarily commanding position, whilst this week it was the ALP which have conquered all before it in the ACT elections.

17 seats were up for grabs in three, multimember electorates, and the results look likely to end up like this:

ALP 10
Liberals 6
Greens 1

It is telling that the movement toward minor parties and independents seems to have subsided. Instead, voters have rushed toward the ALP government and decided to trust it not only to govern, but to have the balance of power in the parliament. Perhaps voters are tiring of the endless negotiation and finessing which a shared balance of power requires, and are embracing a Jeff-Kennett style decisive government. John Stanhope is the man in the ACT, and he looks moderate enough to use his power carefully, but looks can…

The excitement never stops

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It's been a busy few days, with snippets that are better 'shown' than 'told'.

Saturday was birthday number 22, and there was a family celebration on Friday. Here's me getting the sequence completely wrong in the blow-out-the-candle-then-eat-the-cake routine:



And here's one of the last ever 69 trams, seen here running down Glenferrie Road about about 9 o'clock on Saturday night. Farewell, green limousine of the night. In the morning comes a brave new era of the 16. Yep, I am taking this far too seriously:

A glimmer of hope in Zimbabwe

Thankfully there is some sanity and reason left in the new Zimbabwe. The leader of the Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai was accused of treason due to the suggestion that he was conspiring to murder President Mugabe, the man who puts the 'dick' back into dictator. Thankfully Tsvangirai was acuqitted, although it seems the government may appeal the decision. If the mere fact that the accusation was made doesn't show to the world that Mubage is grossly unfit to lead his nation then nothing will. He is in a state of extreme paranoia and is desperately seeking to crush all opposition, since he knows how futile his political future would be if he were subject to even a hint of democracy.

In an interesting exercise in propaganda as news, check out this piece by The Zimbabwe Herald, a daily paper extremely friendly to the Mugabe regime.

A Melbourne Uni quicky (or two)

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A couple of things that have caught my eye in the hallowed halls of the University of Melbourne during the week...

The screening of The State of Union, a documentary made about the 2003 Melbourne Uni Student Union (MUSU (at the time not in liquidation)) took place at Union House during the week. For various reasons too boring to mention, I missed the first half-hour, but was engrossed by the remaining hour. It's a spectacular piece of drama that would capture the interest of a viewer even if they knew nothing of the individuals involved, but works on a whole different level with so many familiar faces featuring. The film is obviously partisan in supporting left-wing candidates at the expense of the ultimately-successful right-wingers, but this seems to be a product of the willingness of one side but not the other to participate in the film rather than a deliberate hatchet-job by the film maker.

The film beautifully exposes the dishonesty and crassness inherent in student politi…

Done like a Democrat

It's time to apply the blow torch to the Democrats, who have spectacularly and disappointingly fulfilled the low expectations that most in the commentariat had prior to the election.

A quick analysis of the vote on Saturday reveals a couple of interesting things:
- The 2% Senate premuim that the Democrats used to enjoy over their House of Reps vote has disappeared, although it was on the way out during the 2001 campaign.
- The so-called Democrats heartland in South Australia provided no respite from the drubbing the party received. Anyone who suggests the Dems might still win a seat in South Australia should be issued with a calculator and a ball-point pen, pronto.
- The prediction that the Democrats would fail to achieve 4% in any seat in the country was proven to be too optimistic - the party failed to hit the 3% mark anywhere.

This last point has important financial implications for the party. By not hitting 4% anywhere, it has missed all public funding. Given that the party…

Film review: Somersault

When the sun has gone down and it's still in the mid-20s outside, there's only one place to go - an air condition movie theatre. To see a film set in the snow. Which leaves you feeling kind of cold. The film was a new Australian release "Somersault", which is currently doing the arthouse (or in true Australian spirit "outhouse") circuit, although it would no doubt be a mainstream release if it was "Fred and Kumar do a Somersault" or "This film has frontal nudity".

Somersault is a slow burn of a film, that takes a while to capture the audience's attention. Once it does, it takes the viewer on an long and bumpy ride through desperation and angst and mild depression, which is essentially a visit back to adolesence. The story centres on late-teen Heidi (played with subtly and skill by Abbie Cornish) who runs away from home and heads to the snow in Jindabyne seeking an adventure and her own inpromptu rite-of-passage. The film spends…

Senate: a new voting system

There is clearly a major problem in the system we use to elect the Senate. For the third election in a row it seems that Senators will be elected on the basis of preferences allocated by other parties which would be deeply offensive to the supporters of those parties. In 1998, the openly gay Democrat Brian Greig was elected to the Senate from WA with the preferences of the Christian Democrats. In 2001, the Greens' Kerry Nettle polled just over 4% in NSW but managed to secure a massive flow of preferences. In 2004 Steve Fielding from Family First secured less than 2% of the vote, but managed to get elected with the preferences of a range of parties including the ALP and the Democrats.

What's the problem? The problem is that voters who vote above the line give the party of their choice complete control over where those preferences go. Sometimes they use that power wisely, otherwise they simply use it for political advantage. The only way that voters can control where thei…

Senate rubber stamp

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Kind of cute, I thought, and an eerie reminder of the political power that has been consolidated in the hands of one side of politics. It's worth noting that the Coalition will now have control of the House of Representatives, control of the Senate, have appointed all but one member of the High Court and appointed the entire board of the ABC.

Dear Australia,

Please find attached a copy of the rubber stamp you ordered on 09-Oct-04.

Sincerely,

Australian Electoral Commission.



UPDATE, 13/10, 9:15pm: Credit where credit is due. Thanks to Kent Winzer for the above piece of internet art. Like Kent himself, it's quick, witty and both of them barrack for Richmond except for the rubber stamp.


Senate silliness

Whilst the numbers are looking increasingly clear in the house, in the Senate the result is still far from clear. Traditionally the process for calculating the Senate result is painfully slow. The AEC wait until every last ballot paper is inputted into its computer - twice, to ensure accuracy - and then pushes the button which calculates quota, preference flows, eliminations, and then the lucky six who will spend the next six years on the red leather. To get a clear idea of who will win what before the button is pushed requires a hard slog with a calculator, a mathematical mind, a pencil (with an eraser, of course) and far too much spare time available.

Fortunately, for much of Sunday I had these very things at my disposal (the ample product of all this is below), and here now is the way I read the Senate results:

Coalition 39 (21 elected this time)
ALP 28 (16)
Greens 4 (2)
Democrats 4 (0)
Family First 1 (1)

And here's how I got there, based on this information here at the AEC …

Election day images

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A few happy snaps from election day. Given that old habits die hard, election day was spent by my travelling through some marginal electorate. Taking samples of how-to-votes, chatting to booth workers, and taking some happy snaps. For those keeping score at home, Ariontheweb visited Kooyong, La Trobe, Aston, Deakin, Chisholm, Melbourne, Wills, Melbourne Ports, Goldstein, Higgins, Hotham (yes, some non-marginals in there, but geography was my enemy).

The ALP seemed to have multiple messages as people entered the polling booths.

There was Medicare:



...and Costello:



and some, but not all electorates, pushed health and education:



For the Liberals, though, the message was clear:

Election night thoughts

Ho hum, just another election victory for Howard to throw on his pile of successes. Now is not the time to get bogged down in the detail and the seat by seat breakdwon (see Antony Green for all those goodies) but there are some generalisations which can be made:

- The Coalition have managed to hold almost all the marginals which were up for grabs. This will be extra frustrating for the ALP, knowing they'd they had a string of seats that were made marginal in 2001, and this year was the one to reach success. It will be tougher to win in 2007 than it was this year given the starting point.

- It seems like it's a farewell to Christian Zahra in McMillan (a sad loss to the parliament), Michelle O'Byrne (who?) in Bass, Sid Sidebottom (best name in parly) in Braddon, Anthony Byrne in (the previously safe seat of) Holt. There is some cause for celebration, however, with Ross Cameron looking like losing Parramatta (he has had plenty of 'polling' problems in the past... …

And the $0.64 question...

Who will Ariontheweb be voting for?

Ultimately, the Democrats. Despite having no great ideological commitment to the party, I do respect and admire the individuals involved, and will be voting for them on that basis - particularly Jess Healy in the Senate. I will be preferencing Labor ahead of the Coalition, both of them ahead of the Greens, and all of them ahead of Family First. In the Senate, like all political nerds, I will be voting below the line, and the toughest choice is not the early couple of preferences, but deciding which of the moronic microparties to put last. The CEC, One Nation, Family First, Socialist Alliance... all dripping with bad ideas and so deserving of the number 65 in their box.

Election predictions

It's just on 2am on election day, and the polls open in just five hours in Tassie (gotta love daylight saving), six hours on the east coast, and sometime next year in WA. It's been a long, tiring election campaign for both leaders, and it seems that the end of it will bring a sigh of relief for campaigners, but more importantly for voters. A few quick predictions on the outcome:

- Coalition to win with a seven seat majority. This represents a slight improvement for the ALP, but not enough to win government. Australian voters are naturally very risk-averse, and will not rush headlong into a change of government. For them to opt for change, they need to believe there is something deeply wrong with the incumbant AND have faith in the challenger. Neither of these is the case this time around.

- The Nationals to lose three seats. Not to the Labor Party, but to the Liberals who are increasingly their conservative dominance outside the capital cities. Watch for speculation of…

Thursday: Green's Brown and Risstrom

Late on a Thursday, two days out from election day, and David Risstrom (lead Green Senator-wannabe in Victoria) and Saint Bob Brown put in a powerhouse performance at Melbourne Uni. To a packed auditoriam of 500 people, Risstrom acted as the warm up guy, telling some folksy stories about himself and about what the Greens stood for. Risstrom seems to be permanently stuck in the mould of a local councillor. He seems to have a cluttered, disordered mind and jumps erratically from topic to topic. There's no doubt that his heart is in the right place, it's coherence that is presently lacking. Take his utterly mixed messages on how the Greens would act in the Senate - whoever won office, they'd force them to keep their promises... but they'd also force them to take on board Greens policies. And if the government's promises happen to disagree with the Greens policies... well, um, we'll cross that eco-friendly bridge when we get to it.

Once Brown touched down fro…

Wednesday: Foenander Lecture: Sharan Burrow

Wednesday night at Melbourne Uni and ACTU chief comrade Sharan Burrow delived the Foenander Lecture, an annual industrial relations lecture. Burrow played a predictably stright bat given that the event was three days out from an election campaign. My attempt during a question to invite her to comment/criticise the ALP for their 'anti-worker' policy in protecting old growth forests in Tasmania went straight through to Gilchirst behind the stumps, with barely a shot offered.

Burrow seems to be a a progressive, enlightened union leader who could potentially oversee a revitalisation of organised labour. Rather than trying to refight old battles, Burrow has a forward thinking and innovative agenda for the ACTU. At the lecture she outlined an agenda, in which the ACTU is keen to fight the movement toward casualisation of labour, push for flexibility of hours and stand up for maternity leave. Less of a priority is the workers revolution, and the destruction of capitalist pigs. …

Ari's column that never was

This piece was writen about a week ago, with hopes of reaching a wide audience (well, wider than the bunch of loonies who stumble across the blog, anyhow) via the opinion page of one of our nation's newspapers. Alas, after emails to nine - yep, nine - newspapers, and just two responses, both negative, it's time to concede that it's not going to make it to those great heights. Instead, the residents of blogsville can read it for themselves. Now wouldn't this look better in the Herald Sun than Andrew Bolt's ranting?:

Election 2004: First time voters

On Saturday week, 600,000 young people will cast their first ever vote in a federal election. Some will walk into the polling both with great confidence in their step and follow through on a voting intention that they have been waiting years to express. Most, however, will saunter in filled with uncertainty, and cast a ballot with little enthusiasm. It’s not the often tut-tutted youth apathy that is at work, however…

Timmbbbbberrrrrrr

It's been an odd couple of weeks of campaigning, with the elephant in the corner of the room that is logging of old growth forests remaining uncommented upon... until now. Both major parties were keen to wait for the other to go first in the launch of their policy on logging and old growth forests, and it was the ALP which went first with their announcement on Monday. Gut instinct says that the policy is a good one, reasonably balanced between the interests of all stakeholders and in the national interest. Of course, given that it was good POLICY, it was unfornuately poor POLITICS.

Latham copped a battering from all sides over the policy:
- The greenies (small g) were critical that the policy, arguing that it was not absolute and immediate in its ending of the logging of old growth forests.
- The unionists were critical that jobs would be lost and that workers would be the losers. The CFMEU even came out and suggested that its members vote Liberal to protect forestry jobs. Go…

Farewell ol' 69.

What a sad day for Melbourne it will be on the night of Saturday, 16 October. That will be the final day that the Route 69 tram will come trundling down Glenferrie Road bound for Cotham Road or St Kilda, depending on your whim. According to the rather sterile announcement on the tram notice board, Yarra Trams have decided to merge routes 16 and 69 together into a new route 16, which will essentially run from Melbourne University to Kew via St Kilda, ie linking the two together in a marathon, 90 minute tram journey.

Never again will young school boys be able to giggle idiotically at the thought of "Root 69", nor will tourists be forced to keep a straight face when asking how to get the 69. A true Melbourne icon will be lost, even if the change is cosmetic.

A new era will dawn as the early tram on Sunday, 17 October rolls down Glenferrie and Balaclava Roads, the number 16 stuck on the front. Bloody globalisation... or something like that.

Family First

It looks like Family First have all but conceded that they're not going to get the gay and lesbian vote after this story broke:

Religious party Family First has disciplined a campaign volunteer for saying lesbians should be burned to death.

Smart campaigning, for sure.

Comic relief aside, it's disappointing the way that yet again the euphemism of the "family" is being used as a softly-softly substitute for the word conservative. There is nothing inherently conservative about the family, yet time after time right-wingers can invoke the family on their crusade against all things progressive. Surely a true "family values" party would support families in all forms, including single parent families and families with gay parents?

No Moore Nader

In fulfilling the 'activist' part of his life as an activist-filmmaker, Michael Moore has pumped out another letter to his huge (and often uncritical) fan base. Moore has decided to unambiguously throw his support behind the Democrats campaign, in particular Kerry for President. True, the thrust of Moore's message is an much anti-Bush as it is pro-Kerry, but the transition that Moore has made from 2000 is stark.

In 2000, Moore's message was that the Democrats and the Republicans were as bad as each other, and that he was largely indifferent between Bush and Gore. Therefore, Moore reasoned, the right choice was the Greens' Ralph Nader. Moore pushed and pushed and pushed for Nader, for whom the magic figure was 5% nationwide, which would ensure public funding the next time around. The Moore/Nader/Green message cam largely unstuck when the election came down to 527 Floridians combined with the realisation that 97,000 had voted Green rather than Democrat. Ouch.

T…

Fringe Festival: Bill Shannon - Spatial Theory

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To describe Bill Shannon as a ‘unique talent’ would be like describing Robin Williams as ‘kinda funny’ or William Shakespeare as a ‘decent writer’. Shannon is brilliant, and he leaves his audience gasping for more, desperate not only for his physical performance, but also for his refreshing outlook on life.

Since the age of five, Shannon has been on crutches. Rather than let this hinder his mobility, Shannon has used it to his advantage and developed a breakdancing technique involving the crutches. Such is his skill and dexterity that the usually-euphemistic term ‘differently-abled’ is in fact genuine, and probably an understatement – Shannon appears to be more agile and mobile than his crutchless peers.



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Medicare Gold and all that

It was an amibitious pitch from Latham for the grey vote at the Labor launch on Wednesday. The central plan - free hospital care for those over 75, and branded as Medicare Gold (presumably Medicare Silver or Medicare Blue-rinse failed in the focus-group stage) - is likely to win support not just for the oldies who will benefit under it, but also their families, carers and those with private insurance who can look forward to their premiums reducing.

It does seem like a gift to the private health insurance sector; the insurers have just seen the 'competition' poach their least profitable and most undesirable customers. For the scheme to work, Latham will need to make sure that the regulator ensures savings are passed onto the consumers, otherwise it will be a great big windfall for the insurers.

Hmmm, so with just 8 days to go, how will Howard respond to Latham's play for his voters?

Time to Knox some heads together

It's refreshing to see that the entire eastern suburbs of Melbourne is not in fact completely the captive of the car and roads lobby. As depressing as it has been recently to see candidates trying to outbid each other to show their dedication to wider, longer, faster, cheaper roads.

Tonight (Thursday) was a public meeting facilitated by the City of Knox, and its focus was putting the Rowville train line on the political agenda. The Rowville train line has been a proposal which has done the rounds for years, but never managed to move beyond being a good idea. Branching off from the Dandenong line at Huntingdale, it would run past Mulgrave, the late Waverley Park, Monash, Rowville and Stud Park, requiring only a couple of kilometres of track to reach a vast swathe of eastern Melbourne. And at a fraction of the cost of the Mitcham-Frankston monolith.

The crux of the problem identified was the question of who would pay for the construction. The Federal Government have run the rat…