Showing posts from June, 2005

10 of the worst

If a week is a long time in football, then ten years is an epoch when it comes to politics. As John Howard creeps up (and creep being the operative word) on his tenth anniversary as Prime Minister, it's worth thinking about the ministers who have served under him. Sure, there are the old faithful ones, like Downer, Ruddock, Vanstone and the Eternal Bridesmaid Costello. But what about the less significant ones? The ministers who, for reasons of laziness, incompetence or the circumstances of the time, had no impact in the job, or worse. So to remember those lesser-lights of Howard ministries over the years, here's my top 10 list - in order of chronology - of the worst ministers in the Howard years (thanks to Malcolm at AustralianPolitics and the Parliamentary Library for the trip down memory lane): 1. Senator Jim Short (1996-1996), Assistant Treasurer. Costello's first Assistant Treasurer, and one who got caught up in the application of Howard's Ministerial Code

What a difference an assassin's bullet would make

As the world turns to Africa as part of Bono's "Live Aid" warm-inner-glow-sing-a-song-or-a-dark-kiddie-dies-of-AIDS extravaganza, it's worth looking at a part of Africa that has taken giant strides backwards in the past couple of years. I speak of Zimbabwe, a country that at one time not so long ago seemed to have effectively removed the yoke of colonialism and was headed to a bright, and presumably yoke-free future. Nowadays, though, it's governed by a racist thug who seems to have a deep disdain for everyone but himself. Robert Mugabe is a deeply troubling figure. For a few years now, he was nasty, but predictably nasty. The world knew of his hatred for colonialism, and his country's white population served as an effective proxy for the big C. Policies such as his land redistribution policy, whilst incredibly destructive to both the rule of law and economy, made sense when seen through the prism of reflexive anti-white racism. In more recent times, hi

Little John stands down

The fact that Ando's days as National Party leader were nearing their end was perhaps one of the worst kept secrets in Canberra, but it was still a bit of a shock when it all become official : After carefully weighing the interests of my party, my family, and my health, I have decided that the time has arrived for me to step down as Leader of the Nationals, and return to the backbench after the winter break. So after nearly six years as National's leaders and Deputy PM, what will his legacy be? For starters, Anderson will be remembered as a nice bloke, who brought some level of civility and decency to political exchanges. He had the permanent look of a young dad, constantly trying to do the honourable and decent thing with all of his kids watching. Anderson never seemed entirely comfortable with the adversarial nature of party politics. Watching Anderson in Question Time, it's hard not to sense that he doesn't quite feel like he belongs - whilst Costello, Abbott,

Beazley telegraphs his punches: ABC still waiting for smoke signal

Beazley has finally got around to reshuffling his frontbench, including liberating Laurie Ferguson from the burden of the Shadow Ministry. In a doorstop interview on Tuesday , there was this exchange: JOURNALIST: Will you be giving any thought to improving that front bench line-up over the six week break? BEAZLEY: There are always things you can do to improve a situation, but I've made comments on this in the past and I'll just simply refer you to them. To anyone schooled in the basics of spin, this is a sure sign that a reshuffle is on the cards - as indeed it was. Strangely, though,this is how Stephanie Kennedy reported it on PM that night: STEPHANIE KENNEDY: Mr Beazley insists Mr Ferguson retains his full confidence, and the Labor leader has said he'll maintain this frontbench up until the 2007 election. Huh? Where did that come from? Beazley made no such assertion, and his actions today show that this was clearly not the sentiment coming from Beazley's o

Political Compass

Last week I rather flippantly described my personal ideology like this: Though I started off as a lefty a few years back, since leaving the near-extinct Democrats in 2003 I've been sitting firmly on the left-right fence, with the pickets occasionally doing damage to my sensitive regions. On economic and foreign policy, I'm on the right with the free marketeers and the less nutty neo-cons. On social policy, I'm lining up with the vegetarian gay whales in defending their right to euthenise their IVF babies in privacy. After bringing up this Big Question, the comments section quickly led to a discussion of the Political Compass , a useful online tool which uses a series of simple moral, social and economic questions to determine one's political ideology - both on an economic scale from left to right, and a social scale ranging from authoritarian to libertarian. So here, for the first time since I last did it, is my result: Economic Left/Right: 4.00 Social Libertarian/A

What a wonderful world

On Thursday night, my aunt Deb and uncle Peter gave birth (well, she did at least) to two beautiful baby girls, who are - as those of you with a modest understanding of familial relations will attest - my cousins. Seeing these two newborns living and breathing on their own was a magical experience. Whilst not one to get sentimental about babies, it was hard not to become gooey and emotional at the site of these two tiny creatures. Their facial features are so incredibly finely crafted, with distinctive curves, dainty eyes, and a scalp that is so thin and delicate that the veins can be seen running across the top. They might be just three days old, but already they've completed one incredible journey. So here are B1 and B2 Ernest (first names pending): Click here for more photos of these two. UPDATE, 21/6 1:24am: We now have names for these two bundles o' joy. Twin one (top photo) is Netani Amana Ernest, and twin two (bottom photo) is Sasha Alessandra Ernest. Not l

Thanks, Petro

I'm a Petro fan. For a long time I've admired Petro Georgiou as a diligent intellect, someone who was rational in his world view, but was never afraid to show compassion or a respect for the social fabric that turns Australia from a functional economy to a functional society. Georgiou has a strong understanding not just of pragmatic politics (where his credentials were unquestionably demonstrated in masterminding Kennett's 1992 "Guilty Party" campaign) but also of principle and the need to stand by a set of values regardless of whether they accorded perfectly with party policy. Georgiou has paid a significant price for his principled approach to politics. When the coalition came to office, Georgiou was a rising star and was expected to play a senior role in government. However, he and Howard come from fundamentally different perspectives in their support for the Liberal cause. Georgiou is a liberal in the classic sense - one who believes in the autonomy of


The flame of the Marieke Hardy kinda-sorta-a-bit conflict of interest story from last week was down to a few dying embers, although Ben Butler at Inpress (and repeated here on The Music ) has decided to stoke those embers with a big stick like a bright-eyed kid on school camp: LAST CONFLICT OF INTEREST STANDING It may not be rating very well, but Seven's new Australian drama Last Man Standing is causing aggro anyway. Last week, right-wing blogger Ari Sharp pointed out that an Age profile of the show's writer, Marieke Hardy, failed to disclose that she appears in subscriber ads for the paper. "Surely something like this - that Hardy has a commercial relationship with the newspaper - was worthy of a mention at the end of the profile," Sharp wrote. But The Age isn't on its lonesome when it comes to being conflicted over Last Man Standing. Also last week, the Herald Sun's Sally Morrell wrote an opinion piece attacking the show's "gratuitous" nudit

Jackson Jury's a Joke

Michael Jackson gets off. (Alleged) Gangland (Alleged) thug Mick Gatto gets off. Schapelle Corby gets 20 years. Completely unrelated cases in different jurisdictions, but all three undermine any lingering faith I had in the justice system. I've long held the view that the jury system is a flawed system and should be abolished, and seeing the juries acquit Jackson and Gatto is a good demonstration of why. To get selected for a jury, you must demonstate that you have no preconcieved notions of the case, little knowledge of the people involved, no strong views, and last had an original thought some time during the Nixon administration. Then, after demonstrating that they are the poster-children of ordinariness, jurors are expected to critically evaluate vast quantities of technical and legal evidence, balance competing claims on the truth, and reach a reasoned and careful judgement. Why do we persist with such an absurd system. If we trust judges to oversee the trial and ap

Hellfire Pass changes - up close and personal

Earlier this year there was plenty of attention given to the redevelopment of ANZAC Cove at Gallipoli. A road-widening effort being carried out to accommodate the large number of visitors had the apparent effect of making the sight nearly unrecognizable, and certainly very different to how it was on the cold morning of April 25, 1915. Flashing forward a few months, and all the attention is on the Hellfire Pass site in Thailand, where the POW-built Thai-Burma railway passed through. Again there's plenty of controversy over renovations at the sight, with the suggestion being made that the ashes of Edward "Weary" Dunlop are being disturbed with the movement of a short stretch of railway tracks, which was part of the actual railway constructed in 1942 ( from The Age ): The son of Australian war hero Edward "Weary" Dunlop yesterday criticised the "desecration" of his father's ashes at Hellfire Pass in Thailand. Alexander Boyd Dunlop, the elder of

Insight into incitement

And now a word from our spiritual adviser, Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris, in his Friday sermon broadcast on Palestinian Authority TV last month: Allah has tormented us with "the people most hostile to the believers" – the Jews. "Thou shalt find that the people most hostile to the believers to be the Jews and the polytheists." Allah warned His beloved Prophet Muhammad about the Jews, who had killed their prophets, forged their Torah, and sowed corruption throughout their history. With the establishment of the state of Israel, the entire Islamic nation was lost, because Israel is a cancer spreading through the body of the Islamic nation, and because the Jews are a virus resembling AIDS, from which the entire world suffers. .... We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again. The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world – except for the Jews. The Jews w

Are we The Whingers of Oz?

The Schapelle saga has made its way into the UK's The Spectator , under the rather unsettling title The Whingers of Oz . Writen by expat Australian Eric Ellis, the piece paints a rather unflattering portrait of the Wide Brown Land: The reaction is deeply unhinged, and baffling to an Asia that has come to see Australia as a no-nonsense, logical country, one trying to shake off the remains of its ‘White Australia’ policy and engage with their region on its own terms. But that’s not how it is. In many Australian households, Asia is seen as the place where Bad Things Happen. Despite their closeness to the region, many Australians have trouble distinguishing between Asia’s disparate cultures. Where Europeans and North Americans might see an exotic region of boundless economic opportunity, many Australians still regard their backyard with deep suspicion — a threatening, teeming hellhole of unscrupulous religious zealots who have dubious toilet habits, rip you off, speak strange langu

Hug a Chinese blogger

It's easy to get complacent about the freedoms provided by the internet. Whilst most of us in the West freely blog away contendedly, arguing about the trivialities of whatever occupies the space between our ears, things are not so easy in other parts of the world. Reporters Without Borders are campaigning against the archaic restrictions being imposed by the Chinese government: Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm today at the Chinese government's announced intention to close down all China-based websites and blogs that are not officially registered. The plan is all the more worrying as the government has also revealed that it has a new system for monitoring sites in real time and spotting those that fail to comply. A China-based blogger told Reporters Without Borders on condition of anonymity that the Shanghai police recently rendered his website inaccessible because it had not been registered. He then phoned the MII to ask what he had to do in order to register, and wa

Congestion charge in Australian cities

The number of vehicles on the road rises inexorably, as do journey times, as do carbon dioxide emissions. It was Ken Livingstone who led the way with a congestion-charge gamble for London that Tony Blair and his cabinet were frightened of endorsing. Now that it has proved a success, ministers seek to proclaim it as their own, while cities across the UK and further afield prepare to emulate it. That's the leader in this week's New Statesmen , a left-of-centre British magazine. And it is absolutely correct. This is a problem that we are equally afflicted with in Australia. Our major cities are becoming clogged, smokey, avoid-it-if-you can eyesores, and the 'livability' that we used to pride ourselves on is declining. So much of it is due to the car obsession that the western world seems to have. It's about time that Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane seriously considered a London-style congestion charge. The positive effects would be enormous: less congestion leadi

Marina Maharthir on Malaysia

Her father might be an anti-Semitic , recalcitrant megalomaniac, but Marina Mahathir makes plenty of good points about the need to shake up religious conservatism in Malaysia, and indeed other parts of the Muslim world: I recall that in the last elections, most of us chose a government that promised us more tolerance, more openness and more freedom. We gave a clear mandate to them to do all that they promised because we wanted to be able to express ourselves more, have more opportunities in life, which necessitates more openness and choices. But we are not getting it. Or at least some of us are getting choked even more while the rest of us are simply ignored. The lovely multiethnic, multicultural Malaysia that is our pride and joy is simply crumbling because, and I have heard some people openly say it, there are people who would like to make it mono-ethnic, monocultural and mono-religious. That’s not the Malaysia I grew up in, not the Malaysia I want my children to live in. Not th

Old Parly House

After a few minor distractions, it's back to last week's Canberra trip... There's something unpretentiously authentically humblingly modestly Australian about Old Parliament House. For 70 years the building served as the hub of democracy in the wide brown land, but now it looks like the Canberra division of God's Waiting Room. Rather than the bustle of important people which once filled the corridors, nowadays it is an army of volunteer guides, most of them superannuated public servents with a fine sense of history and a desire to wear some rather dapper shirts and ties. The occasional squeal is heard in the corridors, and rather than Jim Cairns putting the moves on Junie Morosi, or Hawkie putting them on the lunch lady, it's the sounds from the masses of school children making their pilgrimage to Canberra. The first thing for most visitors to the House next to the House on the Hill is to check out the House of Reps chamber and the Senate. The two are remark

New food blog

The multitalented Linh Tran has launched her new restaurant review blog , poking fun at some of the more affordable eateries around this fair city. As Linh's frequent dining companion, I can vouch for the tenacity of her culinary investigative skills. Whatever the hell that means. Check it out.

Off the artistic role call

She was born with a pedigree for writing, but screenwriter Marieke Hardy - awaiting the start of her new TV series - likes to do it her way. Although she prefers to keep her online identity a secret, Marieke Hardy, the 29-year-old Melbourne screenwriter who wrote and produced Seven's 22-part drama, Last Man Standing, drops some fairly strong clues about it in her own publicity material for the show. Along with her impressive professional credentials in the program notes for the 20-something series are the lines: "Marieke Hardy has a radio show, a political fashion label, a go-go dancing career, a regular DJ gig and a secret contentious life on the internet. It appears that Marieke Hardy/Ms Fits of Reasons You Will Hate Me fame has cracked it for a three page profile in the metro (yep, capital letters are on a ration at Spencer Street due to budget cuts) section of The Age on Monday. The profile , by entertainment writer Wendy Tuohy, is remarkably positive about Hardy, he

QT QTies

The initial purpose of Question Time was to allow the legislature to keep the executive accountable. By the asking of incisive and relevant questions, the logic went, parliamentarians would be able to ensure that the ministers were properly scrutinised. In practice, though QT is far from its initial intention. Questions Without Notice has become a shadow of it's intended purpose. One can't help wonder if it's due to the fact that Question Time is now broadcast - either live or on delay - across the Wide Brown Land, and so the need to perform, rather than simply ask and answer, is heightened. Though many metaphors can be used - and journos like Matt Price have tried just about every one of them - the metaphor I'd use to characterise it is that of a tightrope walker... perhaps a team of tightrope walkers, each walking simultaneously across parallel intellectual tightropes, forgive my acrobatic digression. The objective of the Opposition is to destablise the ministe

Canberra: the Gold Coast for Intellectuals

Alas, I can't claim that cute little description as my own. Peter from Canberra told it to me me, and he admitted that it'd come from someone else. Still, funny is funny. Our national capital really is a lively city if you know where to look. The cliches might be spouted from rev-head Sydneysiders and Melburnians, but Canberra is only boring to boring people. With a bit of imagination, you can find a thriving cafe culture, some fascinating historical sites, and a palpable sense that This Is Somewhere Important. Oh yeah, and bring a suit and tie. You never know when you'll need it. Over the next couple of posts I'll be sharing some details from the trip. Arrived on a Virgin flight early on Tuesday morning. Virgin really does give you the shits after a while. On board they must be the perkiest airline staff in the world, and given that the sun had barely popped up over the horizon, it was a considerable effort. Being aboard a Virgin flight is like being at 80s