Showing posts from September, 2004

Overland 176 launch, with David Marr

Wednesday night was the launch of the latest edition of Overland at Trades Hall and the guest speaker was Media Watch host David Marr launching a salvo in the media wars. Marr is hoping to strike a blow for the left (sorry, that should be the Left) in its struggle against the conservative right (I mean Right)-wing narrative that he believes is dominating coverage of the big issues. In his mind, Tampa, refugees and all that surrounds it is fundamentally about race, or more specifically racism, and the media have been too gutless to call it that. The conservatives are controlling the agenda, cries Marr, and the frank and free debate that existed before the days of Howard have been stopped. A bit too much paranoid whinging, to my mind. There are plenty of progressive media outlets constantly carping about the evils of Howard, Bush and all things conservative. The ABC and Fairfax seem to operate on the premise that we are all evil, nasty people who need to be enlightened by their

Asia Trip: Visas and more

For those of you who are the least bit interested in the progress of my epic Asian adventure planned for the end of the year, a quick update. I'm at what is known as the Boring Bureaucracy Stage of planning. Have a pile of Visa applications to sort through for six of the nine countries I'll be visiting, each of them with their own quirks and bizarre formatting. I'm also starting to realise the enormity of the land travel I am planning in the early part of the trip. Based on Bangkok, I hope to visit Rangoon, Phnom Penh, Vientienne and Hanoi all within 5 weeks. Already I've found out that Rangoon cannot be accessed via land (whatever happened to that Thai-Burma railway that was built?!!) and the others are going to be rather torurous. True, that is part of the fun of travelling, but it looks like it will be crammed with cattle - possibly literally - on a truck, a bus or a train. No sarcasm intended, I can't wait.

Melbourne Fringe: 400 Columns, Trades Hall

The Age's resident dag Danny Katz is one of the funniest men in print. His weekly columns mix nerdy Jewish humour, a deceptively good understanding of the power of language, savage self-deprecation and a damn good understanding on what makes people laugh. To translate these columns - 400 Columns , that is - into a stage play was always going to be a difficult task, primarily because so much of the humour comes from who the columnist is and the egocentric nature of the stuff that he writes. If it was to be anyone else writing it, they'd be dismissed as a nutter, but because it's Katz it is instead considered schoolboy charm. CONTINUES IN COMMENTS

That'll put the wind up 'em

Oh the irony, but it seems the Greens are engaging in a bit of astro-turfing (creating the illusion of grass roots support for your cause). Glossy full-colour postcards have started appearing, published by "Friends All for Renewable Technologies" (FART... groan). The postcard tells voters: John Howard's recent energy policy has snubbed the use of clean, renewable sources like wind and solar energy. ... At this election Vote One for the Environment, and put the Liberals last. It's the bit after that that is most interesting: Authorised by Adrian Whitehead, 43 Osbourne Rd Warrandyte, Vic 3113. That wouldn't be the same Adrian Whitehead who is State Convenor for the Greens in Victoria and is authorising all the Victorian Greens election material ? If you like being taken as a sucker, then why not check out the FART web site . UPDATE (30/9, 2:10am): After poking around a bit on the FART website - - have come across a few interesting s

Not OK

Just what this country needs - another trashy tabloid magazine. As if our collective intelligences hadn't already been insulted enough with the braindead moronic dross that airs nightly on television and the glossy eyecandy that occupies space next to the Tic-Tacs at the supermarket, we are about to be subjected to the Australian launch of UK gutter rag OK! It's worthy being highly suspicious of any publication that includes silly punctuation in the title. It's a dog-whistle technique, used to scare off thinking people and attract the types who need something exciting at the end of every story, every sentence, and in this case, every word. It's not even the sort of word that it worthy of an exclamation mark, and certainly not one that is worthy of having a publication named after it. I wouldn't go and read Whatever! or Alright! or even I'll be there in a minute! Another worrying part is that OK! have made public the fact that they are willing to

Melbourne Ports battle: from East to West (Bank)

It was toe to toe, head to head, Scopus graduate against Scopus graduate as the two main candidates in Melbourne Ports faced off against each other on Sunday night in an election debate sponsored by the Australian Jewish News. Michael Danby and David Southwick presented themselves for scrutiny by a predominantly Jewish audience, and the contest was fierce. Danby was noticeably more polished and confident in his presentation, and looked every bit the seasoned competitor compared to the young(er) and inexperienced Southwick. Danby presented his message exceptionally well to an initially reluctant audience. He turned many of the ALP's weaknesses into strengths, and showed a keen eye for the prejudices of the crowd. He dealt with the anti-Israeli sentiments in the left faction of the ALP with a disciplined message that the leadership of the party were supporters of Israel and that the views of fringe-dwellers were irrelevant. As the issue continued to reoccur through the evening

ALP can't stop scratching

The ALP used Grand Final weekend to launch a new ad in that other epic battle that will probably be decided by Queenslanders (lame, I know). The 'scratchie ad' was put to air, and puts the focus right back on to Howard, Costello and the plans for succession. For those who were too busy praying or breathing in fresh air rather than watching the footy, the ad features a scratchie card with Howard's face in view, and through the ad the face is scratched away to reveal Costello lurking underneath. A clip from Abbott from earlier this year then spells out that if the Liberals a returned, power would inevitably transfer from Howard to Costello. Accepting that the premise of this commerical is correct and Howard will not sit out the full term - sounds perfectly reasonable from here - the crux of the ad is that Costello as Prime Minister is bad news. The ALP have presumably done their research and realise that Costello is just not popular; he's smarmy; an economic r

Film: The Corporation

If a corporation was a human being, would we consider it a psychopath? After all, it’s completely selfish, shows little concern for others, and seems to break the law with reckless abandon. At least that’s the conclusion of the film-makers behind The Corporation , a new (well, kinda new at least) Canadian documentary in the tradition of Bowling for Columbine and Supersize Me . Unlike its predecessors, the film makes an effort to achieve balance. Apart from it’s final 20 minutes, with its comrades’ call to arms, the film is not a simple propaganda flick with a spirited film-maker in the pulpit. Instead it states its case and accepts challenges from a variety of perspectives, some of them successful, some of them not. Credit should go to any film that can include both Milton Friedman (living legend and Nobel prize winning economist) and Noam Chomsky (Che Guevera in a pullover knitted by his mother). The critique of corporations starts narrowly and then grows. It’s an interest

It's a referendum, but on what?

It was a brilliant piece of politicking by Latham yesterday as he launched the party's policy on public hospitals. It was Latham at his strongest, targetting a human services issue, keeping the message simple and effective, and looking every inch the caring leader. The policy itself is strong, and a stark contrast to the approach of the Liberals, which is essentially to pay the private sector to do the same thing. The best part of Latham's message on Wednesday was his assertion that this election would be a referendum on Medicare. Brilliant. Clever. Effective. The statement (surely a deliberate remark rather than one of Latham's throwaways) works well for two reasons. Firstly, it gives the campaign a central theme which has thus been lacking; 1993 and 1998 were on the GST, 1996 was on Keating's vision, 2001 was on Tampa, but what was 2004 going to be? Latham has just had a good stab at framing the election, something that neither leader had been able to effec

Bartlett the Blogger

It's always flattering to receive a kind word on someone else's blog, and especially flattering when that "someone else" is someone you greatly admire: Check this out from Andrew Bartlett Online on 22/9: For people who like looking around blogs on social issues, you could also try this one - . I know this guy a bit. Nice enough and used to be a Democrat. Having just gone there, I note he's said I’m the only person who could look bored bungy jumping. Also a comment from someone who says they can't vote for me cos I'm too weird for wearing purple all the time. I'd be happy if "nice enough" appeared on my epitaph. Thanks Andrew.

Regime change in Indonesia

Congratulations to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is not only the newly-elected President of Indonesia , but is also a tongue-twister given to Javanese school children, who in order to pass primary school must say the name without either laughing or doing the gun-trigger action when saying the Bambang bit. Anyhow, Yudhoyono seems like a major step forward after the ineffective and clumsy rule of Megawati Sukarnoputri. Megawati seemed unable to properly combine the need for concensus with the need for action, and was painfully bogged down in petty politics and saw the nation slide backwards under her rule. It's no surprise that Indonesians voted her out of office after a single term. Yudhoyono seems like a doer as well as a thinker, and given the challenges facing the archapelago, this is a positive step. As well as tackling terrorism in his midst, SBY (yep, that's what they call him) needs to reignite a fragile Indonesian economy and continue with many of the reforms th

Liberals lampoon Latham's Liverpool legacy

Sunday morning the Liberals launched a new TV ad, which presumably will be followed by print and potentially billboards, focussing on Latham's inexperience and implying that he'll have his 'L Plates' on when he gets into Government. The ad piles on some of the evidence from his time on Liverpool council, but the fear in the ad runs deeper than that; it implies that Latham is not a safe pair of hands. For now the message simply focussed on economic management, but it is not exactly a chasmic leap to imagine the message will spread to national security and refugees (remember them?) as areas where Latham is a dangerous choice. It's a clever strategy from the Liberals, and one that many suspected. Howard is old, boring and stuffy... or wise, experienced and reliable, depending on your viewpoint. The way that the strategy works is that on the surface it may be a straight-out attack ad, but in reality it is designed to highlight Latham's weaknesses in areas

How low can you go?

The Age's man in London Peter Fray wrote an interesting piece in Saturday's paper about a story that has been buzzing around London for a while: The political excesses of the British press are a wonder - or horror - to behold, but there is one story that for several months not even the most lurid paper has dared to touch. It concerns an alleged crisis within Prime Minister Tony Blair's family and is widely considered to be behind this week's disclosure that Mr Blair nearly quit this year. So just what could this story be? Ariontheweb values the ability to sleep at night, and so doesn't want to get his hands too dirty on this one, so you can do your own digging...

Get over it

Painful as it is to say it, the non-Victorian Grand Final next week is definately GFF (Good For Football). The league is a national CLUB league, meaning that players are lining up for their teams, not their states. It is irrelevant whether they are from Fremantle or Footscray - they're the other blokes, on the other team. Those whingers and moaners who are pissed off that there is no Victorian side in the game need to ask themselves if they are genuinely fans of a national league, or are they simply parochial supporters who see the AFL as just the VFL after the renovators got to it. Economies-of-scale mean it is a national league or bust (well, national league or WAFL, which is much the same) and we should celebrate it rather than mourn it. Carn the mighty (Pordadelaide) Magpies!!!!

Freeway fun and games

Transport is the big issue that will decide the eastern suburbs of Melbourne this campaign. Forget terror, national security and war in Iraq, it'll be a big stretch of bitumen from Frankston to Mitcham that will be the major vote-grabber, particularly the question of who's going to pay for the thing. The State Government Bracksflipped soon after the last state election, deciding on a toll road, and the Federal Government are playing hardball, denying Federal funds unless the state stick to its original promise and make it toll free. It does seem like a rather arrogant move by the Federal Government to decide to be the enforcer of the State Government's electoral promises, but cynical politics prevails. Okay, so on the ground, how does each party respond? The Liberals are unashamedly selling themselves as the motorists best friend, promising a big fat long and FREE road. The ALP will put pressure on the State Government to forget the tolls, and will direct federal ro

Greens back Bungy Stunt - No Strings Attached

Andrew Bartlett has proven himself the only pollie in Canberra who could look bored during a stunt like this:

Tumultuous Thursday

Just as footballers around the country celebrated Mad Monday a fortnight ago, drinking plenty, singing karaoke and just generally making a nuisance of themselves once the season was ancient history, political parties have a similar version, except this one is Tumultuous Thursday (yep, okay, it sounds a little desperate, but work with me). Midday Thursday (16 September, this time around) is the close of nomination for every seat around the country, and more crucially in the Senate. This is the latest that anyone can nominate themselves, and is usually the time that a few surprises emerge; did anyone mention Pauline? MORE IN COMMENTS

The broad Liberal Church

Howard at a door-stop in Perth, today: "As I've often said in the past, the Liberal Party is a broad church. If I can sort of, you know, push out the boundaries of the ecclesiastical allusions, it is a broad church and it emcompasses people who are Christian believers and there are various gradients of that too. There are traditional Protestants, traditional Catholics, born-again Christians, and people, perhaps, of a more reformist Catholic tradition and we have non-believers and I think it's a party for all of the talents and all of the beliefs and all of the non-beliefs as well." Gee, John, that's all the colours of the rainbow.

Senator Hanson?

So Pauline is running for the Senate in Queensland... again. Pauline made her crucial political mistake way back in 1998, when after holding the seat of Oxley for a single term, she chose to run for the House of Reps again, this time in Blair, rather than running for the Senate. Alas, One Nation won that very Senate seat in 1998, with Heather Hill, then Len Harris, flying the flag for the party. Given that Harris' profile makes Andrew Bartlett looks like a pop-star, it was clearly a mistake. Just how different would things have been if Pauline was a Senator for the past six years? Just like in 2001, Pauline will pick up a couple of percent, but do no more than give the Nationals yet another headache.

Tough times in Toorak

There always a dash of excitement that comes with heading down to shops in the 'burbs and finding a copy of the Toorak Metropolitan News stacked invitingly on a park bench. For those not fortunate enough to live in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, the Toorak News is probably best described as one part Andrew Bolt, one part local Rotary club, six parts Yellow Pages, all in full-colour newsprint. There are plenty of reasons to love the Toorak Metropolitan News, and here is a mere 6 of them: - The Name. News from Toorak? Nope. Produced in Toorak? Not if the St Kilda Road address is any guide. Distributed to Toorak? Yes, and 40 other suburbs in a 20km arc south and east of the CBD. Perhaps TMN are a fan of my idea of keeping the property bubble alive by naming every suburb relative to Toorak; Footscray is "Toorak West", Lilydale is "Outer Toorak", Heidelberg is "Toorak Hills"... adds thousands to the value! - The random Capitalisation. Do

Hostages - Forced Iraqi Hospitality?

There was a painful inevitability about it if the suggestion that two Australians have been taken hostage in Iraq proves to be correct. With the nationals of countless other countries being taken hostage, sooner or later it would be Australia's turn. Of course, Australia must stand firm and not let its policy be dictated by terrorist nutters who were obviously neglected as children, in this case the Secret Islamic Army and its northern armed wing, the Horror Brigades (both of whom clearly need to work on their PR strategy, if the names are any guide). The story is still emerging , but if the central premise is correct then it's going to be a painful couple of days ahead.

"Take Me Out" - Richard Greenberg - MTC production

Picture a drunk guy stumbling round a pub near the time of last drinks. He lurches unsteadily in several different directions (often all at once) and picks on people in all corners of the room. He is itching for a fight, wants an opponent to get his fists into, and is happy to take on several at a time. He is indiscriminate, and doesn’t pick his target carefully at all. Even if he might have a chance against one of them, against many he doesn’t stand a chance. “Take Me Out” is a bit like the drunk guy at the pub. It’s not content to take on just one or two taboos in a night, instead it wants to take on a whole army of them, one after the other and often in quick succession, and with weaker impact each successive time. The context for this is the locker room for a baseball team. Initially the taboo of the gay-male-as-sports-star is explored, with some fine dramatic moments and a tight script. Then the play considers the identity of African Americans, and as one character wry

Debate - a good mark for Mark

My gosh, it's amazing, what an incredible thing that no one expected to see in the debate. Michelle Grattan smiled! And even cracked a joke - with Laurie! Oh, how my heart did flutter with joy. Less importantly, the debate went ahead with quiet determination rather than gusto on the part of the participants. Howard and Latham both took a very risk averse approach to the debate, hammering out some preprepared lines and a few clever 'squirrels' of the questions asked just to make sure they got their message through. There was a lack of discipline on behalf of the moderator Laurie (perhaps he was too enamored with Michelle?) who too often would follow one leader's comments by inviting the other to respond, and to then respond to the response, and respond to the response to the response. A bit like dueling banjos after a while. Latham looked surprisingly strong on national security, wisely avoiding a heavy hand on Iraq, and instead emphasising the need for a mor

The not-so-Great Debate

Tonight is the one (and likely to be only) leaders' debate for the election, and like most debates in previous years, it will be watched only by political tragics and masochists, neither of whom are key to deciding the election winner. Still, beyond actually hitting the voters who matter, the debate does have a large amount of momentum value, especially so this time around given that it will be the ice-breaker after three days with almost no campaigning. Howard is naturally more suited than Latham to the debate format. Howard has a sharp intellect, is very verbally dexterous, and loves a good argument with a willing opponent. Latham, however, is more a man-of-the-people (providing the people are not taxi drivers or Presidents of the United States) who prefers interacting with punters to make his point rather than arguing with a political opponent. He isn't as verbal or as sharp as Howard, but has a more casual, conversational approach. It's not wonder than Latham wa

Greens in on the ACT

Just what are the Greens on about, talking up their prospects of winning an ACT Senate seat?? Time after time during this campaign, the Greens seem obsessive about promoting their ACT Senate candidate, Kerrie Tucker, often when it would seem more strategic to promote the lead candidates in a number of states where the Senate vote will be in the balance. Take this quote from a press release from Saint Bob during the week: He said that a key to stopping the Coalition turning the Senate into a rubber stamp for Mr Howard is the election of Greens ACT Senate candidate Kerrie Tucker MLA. So Kerrie scores a mention, but there's no sign of David Risstrom, John Kaye or Drew Hutton, all lead Senate candidates in other states, and all much more likely to get themselves elected. For a minor party to get a Senator elected in the ACT or the NT is an epic task. The electoral system means that, with two senators being elected in each territory, the quota in 33% of the total vote. So

Jakarta Bombing

Was it linked to the election campaign? Was it linked to Australia's involvement in Iraq? Was it linked to the complete and utter failure of the Australian government to adopt fundamentalist Shari'a law? Without all the facts being at hand, any speculation would be premature and, well, speculative, which of course has never stopped any previous speculation. Of course any discussion of the attack needs to begin with the usual caveats... 1. Condolences to all the victims and 2. This was an act of terrorists distorting rather than expressing a religious faith. It seems naive to dismiss the possibility that this was timed strategically to influence the result of the Australian, and potentially Indonesian, election results. The bombing may lead voters in both constituencies to doubt the virtue of their national governments, and consider the potential for change. The Madrid scenario may be playing itself out again, with an electorate already discontented with their nationa

Thursday - Richard Woolcott @ IPCS

Just weeks after being dismissed as a "Doddering Dacquari Diplomat" by De-Anne Kelly, that "Looselipped Layabout Lackey" from Queensland, Richard Woolcott has again spoken publicly about his concern with the Government. The forum for Woolcott was the Institute of Postcolonial Studies in Melbourne, and Woolcott maintained his diplomatic air whilst quietly savaging most aspects of the Government's handling of Iraq - before, during and after the war. Criticism from Woolcott should carry plenty of weight - in the fine public service tradition he is apolitical, he has exceptional knowledge of international relations, he is familar with the major players and he offers sound judgement. Woolcott is no 'Usual Suspect', taking a number to attack the Government like it's the deli at Prahran Market. The nub of his presentation has been published in The Age today and Woolcott focuses on 13 myths perpetuated by the Governments of the Coalition of the Willi

Latham, tax, and bouncing babies

Who said blokes can't give birth? In what seemed to resemble giving birth to a watermelon, or a small elephant, or something else that's not supposed to pass through a small hole, the ALP have finally pushed and pushed and pushed and produced their own cute-as-a-button tax policy. The pressure was on for 4 months solid since the budget, and the ALP took a softly-softly approach, telling anyone who'd listen to wait until the election campaign and all would be revealed. Like all new babies, this one is small and a little delicate, and with some rough handling can be in big trouble. $8 a week saving for working families is a pretty ordinary result for such a long awaited document. And it gets worse then that when the reduction in Family Tax benefits is factored in. At least Latham had the targetting right, helping those below the $52k threshold. The size of it just doesn't seem like a real vote swinger, the sort of thing that could win over a family already concer

Go Harvey Go!!

As well as having the most annoying jingle on television, radio, and anywhere else you happen to stumble into its audio-assault range, Harvey Norman have a poor record when it comes to customer service. Last month crikey( revealed the existance of an internal document asking employees to look out for ACCC reps on the prowl, such is the paranoia within HN: "Please enure that should you or any of your staff be suspicious that a customer could be from the ACCC, be sure to take a photo of the person, with a digital camera (no more bold) clearly showing their face - maybe say 'smile customer relations day'." And now the up-and-coming consumer rights site has devoted its top ten list of consumer complaints exclusively to Harvey Norman. Makes great reading, and is probably the a case-study in waiting for marketing students keen to know how not to treat your customers.

Seat Watch - Wentworth

Quick quiz - when the voters of Wentworth cast their vote in the '01 Federal election, did they vote for Peter King , or did they vote for the Liberal Party? It's a trick question. Of course it was the Liberal brand they voted for. Most of them had never heard of Peter King. So what would have changed between then and now? The media seem to be getting itself in a collective lather over the prospect of the Liberals losing one of the jewels in the crown. The candidate is millionaire-republican-merchant-banker-Sydney-man-about-town - no it's not Rene Rivkin - Malcolm Turnbull . Reality is that Turnbull's a shoo-in, and nothing will change that. Even assuming a three cornered contest, between Liberals, ALP and Independent King, the seat would still stay with the Libs. King will no doubt preference the Liberals ahead of the ALP, consistant with his claim to be a 'Liberal Independent'. Even if he didn't, voters with the savvy to vote for an in

Hmmmm, what happens next?

Ever get a sense of deja vu around election time? There are plenty of things which repeat themselves each and every time - debates about the debate, accusations of ABC bias, scaremongering on budget defecits... and Green's preferences negotiations. This is one of the lamest, most predictable exercises in politics, but for some reason the major parties get caught up in the environmental bidding war every time. Here's how the stragegy works: the Greens talk themselves up as being the Next Big Thing, with good polling, money to spend, and a wave of support going their way. They make themselves out to be the kingmaker, the ones who won't get into government, but whose preferences will be crucial to deciding who does. Then they play the waiting game, waiting to be wooed by the major parties who give a concession here and a concession there to the environment, desperately keen to pick up the preferences. The Greens then go public and talk about how they are "serious

Try spinning this one into a positive

Just what on earth were they thinking at the Grozny Concerned Citizens Club (or whatever it was) when they decided that instead of protest marches with placards and folk music, the best way to create a free Chechnya would be to take children hostage and kill them ??? Surely they should have had a chat to the guys in Public Relations before they went with that idea.

No-show Nelson

It was fun an games today at Melbourne University as rumour spread of a visit from the education minister, Brendan (half-)Nelson. As if the rumours were of a visit from Elvis himself, there was a ripple of excitement which passed through the student body. Left-wing students put up posters of the minister, urging us to interrupt his plans to address a group on his plans to destroy university education (well he probably wouldn't phrase it that way). By 12:30pm, the protesters were out in force, with ill-fitting t-shirts and a megaphone as the means of persuasion, and even a Channel 10 camera along for the ride. By 12:45pm, however, things were looking a little shakey. Alas, it was revealed, the minister was never scheduled to visit the University, and no one beyond those protesting against it were aware of any planned visit. Do'h. So desperate were the protesters to have not wasted an hour of their life boxing at shadows that a bad bit of street theatre involving a giant

Sparring in their own corners

It's been a very tentative start to the campaign by both major parties. So far the election seems to be taking place in an echo chamber, with no substantive issues actually being discussed, and minor verbal gaffes being blown out of all proportion. The big three so far, not one of which will swing a single voter, is: - Mark Latham on 2GB ruling out a payroll tax, even though the ALP support a 0.1% levy to finance workers entitlements in case of company collapse. - Trish Worth (one of the more refugee-friendly Liberals) making a poorly chosen comparison between quaratine for pets and for asylum seekers. - Senator George Brandis possibly but probably not calling Howard a "lying rodent" whilst in private company. So far nothing of substance is on the table, and the campaign threatens to be an issue-free zone, where both sides are making themselves a small target and there's no engagement. At least it gives the minor parties some space to breath.

Seat Watch - Melbourne Ports

One seat that is being very keenly fought is that of Melbourne Ports, in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. Despite being an affluent seat whose demographics lean toward the Liberals, the seat has stuck thick with the ALP, perhaps due to large pockets of Jewish and gay and lesbian voters, traditional supporters of Labor. This time around, the Liberals can sniff blood, and are going full bore to win the seat. The incumbant is controversial Labor MP Michael Danby , a member of the Unity fanction and perhaps one of the most conservative within the Labor caucus. Danby has made many enemies within the parliament and the media, with MPs on the left - notable Tanya Plibersek and Julia Irwin - being critical of Danby's unstinting support for Israel, and outburst such as this one directed at SMH columnist Alan Ramsey. Danby does, however, know how to get his constituency on side. With 3 in 10 Melbourne Ports voters identifying as Jewish, Danby knows how to use the issue of Israel to hi