Friday, February 20, 2004

The Condensed Andrew Bolt

(It's like the Shorter Henderson, but slightly more noxious).

In today's column, "PM's riot rescue", respected journalist and commentator Andrew Bolt reflects on the underlying causes of the Redfern riot and the generally crappy state of Aboriginal politics in Australia. Bolt suggests that the Duck of Steel has been given a perfect opportunity to repeat his statesmanlike performance during the Tampa incident:

It took the Tampa to save John Howard from what seemed certain defeat at the last election.

Now again facing defeat, Howard may be miraculously saved by his second
Tampa - the Redfern race riot.

Bolt eventually reaches the conclusion that it's time for somebody to play the race card, so long as it's done with enough finesse to avoid the appearance of racism. John Howard may not be up to this, but someone else might be:

... perhaps Redfern isn't Howard's new Tampa, after all. Perhaps it is Peter Costello's instead.

The Ten Whiniest Songs in the History of Pop Music

(In no particular order)

Sylvia's Mother - Doctor Hook

Living Next Door to Alice - Smokie

A Good Heart - Feargal Sharkey

Nothing Compares to You - Sinead O'Connor

Ruby - Don't Take Your Love To Town - Jimmy Dean/Kenny Rogers

Mrs Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter - Herman's Hermits

Arkansas Grass - Brian Cadd & Don Mudie

To Love Somebody - The Bee Gees

Nights in White Satin - The Moody Blues

Mandy - Barry Manilow

Britain 5, Denmark 1, Australia Nil

There are plenty of news reports on the release of five Brits from Guantanamo Bay; such as this report from The Independent.

The five freed British detainees at Camp Delta in Cuba will be flown home in the next few weeks after the Government admitted they posed no terror threat. To minimise the humiliation of its closest military ally, the White House allowed the Foreign Secretary to announce the news first.

Mr Straw said that police would consider whether they should face questioning under the Terrorism Act 2000. But within minutes of his statement, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, said that "no one who is returned ... will actually be a threat to the security of the British people".

The Foreign Secretary said that discussions were continuing with the US authorities over the other four Britons
[still in custody] but the Government still believed they "should be tried in accordance with international standards or returned to the UK".

Meanwhile, here in Australia:

Australian terror suspects David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib would remain in Guantanamo Bay despite the decision to release five Britons from detention, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said today.

Mr Ruddock said the British developments made no difference to Hicks and Habib as Australia would not be able to charge them if they were returned to their home country.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw today announced that five of the nine Britons being held at the United States's base in Cuba would be returned to the UK, where they face arrest under the Terrorism Act.

But Mr Ruddock said the same situation would not apply if Hicks and Habib returned to Australia because terrorism offences did not exist under Australian law at the time they were believed to be associated with terrorist groups.

"Being associated with terrorist bodies was an offence created after September 11, (2001)," Mr Ruddock told Sky News.

"At the time that these people as alleged were involved with al-Qaeda ... those offences were not offences under Australian law.

"So if Hicks and Habib were returned to Australia we would not be able charge them with terrorist related offences."


Mr Ruddock said the men had been the subject of extensive examination by the American military and were regarded as being involved in terrorism at a senior level.

So the government's highly principled position on Hicks and Habib isn't going to change; because they're in the embarassing position of having no laws which would allow us to put Hicks and Habib on trial in Australia, they'll continue to accede to their detention. Whenever the government is questioned on whether it might have some responsibilities to Hicks and Habib as Australian citizens, we'll be reminded that these men are regarded as terrorists. No evidence need be produced for this assertion - the word of the American military was good enough for Dazza and it's good enough for Phil. The fact that neither Hicks nor Habib has yet been tried or convicted is irrelevant; it might matter to lawyers, judges and the occasional legal academic, but it hasn't mattered to Federal Attorneys-General for the best part of two years.
Paperback Writer is no more. Dan at Tubagooba has the details.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Talent Spotting

A highly competent manager or a visionary thinker would almost certainly be taking a huge pay cut already to serve in politics – and they'd naturally ask themselves if that sacrifice was really fair on their children.
Colostomy Lugs in The Hun

... the changes that will be wrought under the Latham-inspired, Howard-executed plan will more than halve the total remuneration of MPs in many instances.

A change of that dimension can only make Parliament a far less attractive proposition for high-quality people who, by dint of their talent, are blessed with alternative career options.

Gregory Hywood in The Age

The Federal Magistrates Court has dismissed an appeal by high-profile businessman John Elliott against a bankruptcy notice.

It is related to the failure of the company Water Wheel Holdings, of which Elliott was a director.

The bankruptcy notice was taken out by the administrator of Water Wheel Holdings. It attempts to recover $1.4 million in compensation for the company's 200 creditors.

Administrator Nick Brooke says Mr Elliott must pay him by midnight, or he will institute bankruptcy proceedings in the Federal Court.

It looks like there are still visionary businessmen out there who might be attracted to a parliamentary career after all; it's just a matter of knowing where to look.
Gareth Parker has salvaged an intemperate Bunyip moment from the memory hole. In the words of the immortal Stan Lee, 'nuff said.

Santoro Watch

With so much informed comment decrying Howard the Duck's recent, and potentially crippling, backflip on federal MP's sauperannuation entitlements, I thought it time to take another close look at one of the government's star committee performers, Queensland Senator Santo Santoro. It's a sobering thought that the recent superannuation changes mean that people of the calibre of Senator Santoro will no longer find federal politics an attractive alternative to highly paid sinecures positions in corporate management.

Senator Santoro was in fine form on Monday when he confronted his old adversary Mr Russell Balding, Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Commission during another session of the Senate Estimates Committee on Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (PDF File). Senator Santoro began his interrogation of Mr Balding with this clear warning that, although he had been hampered by being given only 30 minutes for questions, his forensic intelligence would not be deterred from pursuing the truth about the ABC:

Senator SANTORO — I have a great number of questions—about 80 or so—which I am not going to be able to get through in half an hour. I intend to place some of them on notice. Mr Balding, I am very grateful for some of the answers that you have provided to questions that I have placed on notice. There are some questions which I am going to refer back to in some of my oral questions, and I will be putting some further questions on notice because I was not satisfied with the answers and, in one or two cases, lack of answers. I mention too that, if I am not satisfied with the documents or answers provided in the future, I will be using the FOI mechanism to seek out further responses and further documents. It is something I do not want to do, but I intend to pursue matters under FOI provisions if I think it is necessary.

Mr Balding — The ABC takes its accountability to parliament very seriously, particularly in respect of coming here and in the amount of time and effort we put into answering the questions on notice, not just from the government senators but from the opposition. I want to assure the committee that ABC resources do go to a lot of trouble in researching and providing as comprehensive answers to the questions on notice as possible.

Well, he would say that, wouldn't he. But Senator Santoro wasn't having any of this evasive nonsense:

Senator SANTORO — Thank you. As I said, I am generally satisfied, but there are some areas which I might pursue further. Mr Balding, would you be in a position to provide to the committee, for each member of the board who made an overseas trip over the past 10 years—that is, February 1994 to February 2004—details as follows: the member of the board who took the trip; the purpose of the trip; whether the board member was accompanied on the trip by a family member, relative, friend or other person; the cost to the ABC, if applicable, of this person's travel, accommodation and any other charges incurred that were met by the ABC; the date and duration of each trip; destination or destinations visited; hotels and/or other paid accommodation; the cost to the ABC overall of each trip; and a copy of the report on the trip by the board member? Within the briefing material that you or your officers have with you today are you able to provide that detail?

Mr Balding — Definitely not over the last 10 years—that is a fair amount of time and a lot of detail. We would have to go back into our archival records and that would take a fair degree of effort to pull out. I am quite happy to take that on notice, but 10 years is a long time to go back.

Senator SANTORO — Would you take that on notice and undertake to provide the information?

Mr Balding — Yes.

Game and set to Senator Santoro; whatever finanicial skeletons the ABC has been hiding in its archives are finally going to be dragged out into the light of day. With Russell Balding committed to providing a proper accounting of ABC board members travel over tha past ten years, it was time for Senator Santoro to move on to present misuses of ABC funds:

Senator SANTORO — I would be grateful if I could have a look at that. Mr Balding, is it true that the following ABC personnel accompanied federal opposition leader, Mark Latham, on his recent east coast bus tour: a current affairs journalist, a radio journalist, a TV journalist and two crew? Can you tell the committee how many ABC staff members are employed by ABC offices in localities on the route travelled by Mr Latham and his entourage?

Mr Balding — I am aware of a number of journalists accompanying the Leader of the Opposition. I have not got the detail in respect of that with me, but I can provide that.

Again, the Senator shows his determination to get to the truth in the face of an obviously evasive answer:

Senator SANTORO — Would you be able to give me an opinion—if not now then certainly as a considered opinion as a question on notice—about whether the investment in the travelling party outlined above represented good value for money when in situ staff might have covered the Latham trip on its news value?

Balding responds with this pathetic excuse:

Mr Balding — I believe it would be of good value. The accompanying of prime ministers and leaders of the opposition is a very important news and current affairs issue. It is also important to have consistency in respect of that travel. I think it would be disjointed if we had different journalists coming in at different stages of the actual trip. I think the Australian public would want consistent reporting of trips such as that. But I am more than happy to take those questions on notice and give a detailed response.

Balding's reply misses the obvious difference between accompanying a prime minister on tripa undertaken in the performance of their office and trips taken by opposition leaders purely for the sake of electioneering. While this distinction is obviously not lost on Senator Santoro, it is lost on Labor's Senator Sue Mackay, who later in the session attempted to pull Balding's fat out of the fire with this question:

Senator MACKAY — I have one last question, before we break, to follow-up from Senator Santoro. Can you take on notice which journalists, of whatever medium, accompanied the Prime Minister on his recent trip to Western Australia, as well as the cost to the ABC of that involvement?

Mr Balding — Yes, we can provide that.

As I said, that came later. Let's return to Senator Santoro's questioning; in the next exchange, the Senator's penetrating intelligence comes to the fore, demonstrating how little Balding knows about the organisation he purports to manage:

Senator SANTORO — Thank you, Mr Balding. Are you aware of a new IPA backgrounder just published by the Institute of Public Affairs that is entitled Anti-American bias collective: your ABC and the Iraq war, written by journalists Tim Blair and James Morrow?

Mr Balding — No, I am not.

Senator SANTORO — It is quite a major publication and quite a major backgrounder.

Mr Balding — When was it published?

Senator SANTORO — About a month ago.

Mr Balding — I can research that.

A patently inadequate response; Balding is clearly unaware of the contents of a major report critical of his organisation. Senator Santoro spares Balding nothing as he continues to probe this obvious failure:

Senator SANTORO — Within that analysis it finds examples of fairness in the face of what it terms the ABC culture. It notes these were often presented by reporters in the field who found facts at odds with what apparently their presenters wanted to hear and to broadcast. It found in the main the ABC's coverage of the war was negative, defeatist, anti-American and skewed heavily against the Australian government. Would the ABC be prepared to provide the committee with a copy of any assessment that has been made of the IPA backgrounder's contents and assertions?

Mr Balding — We would.

Senator SANTORO — Would you or your officers be able to confirm if any assessment or scrutiny has been made of that IPA backgrounder?

Mr Balding — I am not aware of any at this stage. No, we are not aware of any at this stage.

Senator SANTORO — Would you undertake to review that paper and then provide the committee with your considered response to that paper?

Mr Balding — Yes.

After pursuing Balding throught this string of terse evasions, Senator Santoro nails him on the subject of the ABC's biased reporting from pre-war Iraq. In the end, Balding is reduced to a very rude interruption of the ever polite Senator:

Senator SANTORO — I am grateful for that. One of the more interesting things identified in that IPA backgrounder was the ABC's failure to locate in prewar Iraq any significant number of citizens opposed to the regime of Saddam Hussein, and a general failure to indicate why people living in a dictatorship might be disinclined to speak out publicly against a murderous dictator. That was one of the findings of that particular paper. Given the Saddam regime's rule of fear and network of informers, do you think the prewar reluctance of Iraqis to publicly express an antiregime view was perfectly natural caution on their part? Do you think that ABC journalists sent to Iraq to report the crisis and subsequent conflict should have been awake to the possibility that individual Iraqis they approached for vox pops might not want to risk committing suicide just to get on the ABC?

Mr Balding — We will take all that on notice, and we will have to give a very considered response to that.

Senator SANTORO — But assuming that that—

Mr Balding — I am not aware of the report and I have not read the report and I do not know whether those are the findings of the report or someone else's views and opinions and I do not know what the status of the credibility of the report is. Those are things I need to look at in a more considered way, and I am more than happy to do that.

The committee took a break from 10:03 am to 10:16 am. This gave Balding enough time to get onto the Internet and come up with this ridiculous excuse for his ignorance of the IPA report and its contents:

Mr Balding — Following up on an earlier question from Senator Santoro, who referred to the IPA report and asked whether we had read it and what our views on it are, I am advised that that report has not as yet been published. I just put that on the record.

CHAIR (Senator Alan Eggleston, Liberal) — The IPA being the Institute of Public Affairs?

Mr Balding — Yes. We would not be in a position to respond to that question on notice at this stage because the report has not been published.

CHAIR — Does that report have a name or is it just as Senator Santoro referred to it?

Mr Balding — It is as Senator Santoro referred to it. Apparently on their web site it says that it will be published shortly.

CHAIR — I have not received it yet, and I am a subscriber to the IPA, so I can confirm that it has not yet been published. We will now proceed.

It says very little for the competence of the ABC's journalistic staff that they were unable to obtain an as yet unpublished IPA report, when Senator Santoro could get hold of a copy. Perhaps the Senator might be persuaded to provide ABC staff with some remedial training in the art of cultivating contacts during the next parliamentary recess.

Update: David Tiley has raised the issue of the cost to the taxpayer of Senator Santoro's inquisition into the ABC. This question was raised in the committee too:

Senator MACKAY — Out of curiosity, Mr Balding, how much has it cost the ABC to date to answer Senator Santoro’s questions on notice to date? Have you ballparked it?

Mr Balding — We have not done that detailed analysis for questions on notice but, as I said, the ABC take very seriously our accountability to parliament and we do apply a lot of time and effort on the answers. I am aware there is a question from Senator Cherry, I think, asking for information on some follow-up questions from Senator Santoro on freedom of information. We are in the process of providing that information back to the parliament.

Senator MACKAY — Is that via an FOI request from Senator Cherry?

Mr Balding — No, I think it was a question that Senator Cherry asked in the Senate.

Senator MACKAY — It was a breakdown, was it?

Mr Balding — Correct.

Senator MACKAY — Irony intended: can you take my question on notice?

Mr Balding — Yes.

Senator SANTORO — I would be very interested in that answer myself. I will give an opinion as to
whether I am getting value for money too.

Senator Kemp — If we are going to look at the costs of questions that Senator Santoro is asking the ABC, perhaps we had better do it for other senators as well.

Senator SANTORO — I made a mental note to make that an additional question on notice for you, Mr Balding.

Senator MACKAY — That is absolutely fair enough.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Our Religious Correspondent Reports ...

Millenarian Andrew Bolt, author of the new catechism Veritas de Mendacia has come in for a bit more attention over the past few days than some people might think he deserves. At Sedgewick's place Colostomy Lugs ties with Comical Ali for the 2004 Ari Fleischer award. And at Crikey, Iain Lygo says:

When the Sydney Institute gets Andrew Bolt to speak about truth in journalism, their last tiny shred of credibility has surely evaporated into thin air.

Lygo goes on to examine Bolt's own record of truthfulness in journalism in some detail. There's some interesting E-Mail feedback from the Lugs himself after Lygo's article. Bolt's initial retort to Lygo provides food for thought:

But going through the rest of his crud would be a waste of time, given that the only people who could possibly be convinced by what he says are those who are impervious to reason and evidence.

With that in mind I might take the rest of the week off.

(Thanks to Chris Sheil for the links).

Update: In the first of today's Bulls, Erogatio Superciliens, the Southbank Savonarola has finally nailed his colours to the mast - almost:

Among the politicians, Treasurer Peter Costello was one of the few, along with Health Minister Tony Abbott, who dared to attack Latham's populist prancing over this – that is, until Howard, the man they both hope to replace, started prancing, too.


And now, with even the lure of the super gone, the danger is clear. Soon the only people who will think the pain, frustration, effort, abuse, humiliation, uncertainty and loneliness of federal politics is worth that $102,000 will be the obsessives – or mediocrities who couldn't find easier money elsewhere.

I'm talking about people who couldn't even get [a] job as a researcher, or middle manager at a transport outfit.

And when that happens, we really will have an excuse to despise our politicians – as well as the leaders who did so much to keep our brightest people out of politics and the running of this great country.

That's a very clear and unequivocal statement of where Andrew stands on the future leadership of this country - he's firmly in the "Anybody but Howard or Latham" camp. It's equally clear that he won't be putting himself up for Judith Troeth's spot on the Liberal Party Senate ticket at the next election.

In today's second Bull, Bolt presents his catechism on the Redfern riots:

WHO'S to blame for the Redfern riots? Drunken thugs and guilt-ridden whites who have poured money into the hands of Aboriginal agitators.

He concludes:

Who gives a f... about white society any more?

"White" society? No, it's civilisation that's at stake - a civilisation that offers more hope to Aborigines than any Lyall Munro.

And I do give a care. The question is: do enough others now care, too?

That's actually helpful; now I know the polite way to ask a right-wing sheila if she'll let me into her pants.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004


The modern democratic system is not based on power but, rather, on authority. It is misguided to regard the likes of George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard as wielding power in the normally accepted meaning of the term - if only because what they can do is constrained by various legislative and judicial procedures.

Rather, Messrs Bush, Blair and Howard exercise authority. Elected leaders govern, in between elections, on the basis of the legitimacy which comes from election. Consequently, attacks on politicians as a profession are essentially assaults on the political system itself - because they challenge the very legitimacy on which, in democratic societies, authority is based.

Gerard Henderson outlines the minimalist position on democracy in the Sydney Morning Herald (link via Back Pages)

I wonder where Gerard stands on the subject of government ministers who attack the legislative and judicial procedures which constrain their authority and prevent them from indulging in the naked exercise of power.

The Diamond Bigger Than The Ritz

AM reports that astronomers have discovered a 1500 kilometer wide lump of crystalised carbon (a diamond to us plebs), 50 light years from the earth. Now there's something worth going into space for.

Irregular Verb

I had an odd sense of deja-vu while I was listening to the news on the leaks from the confidential parliamentary committee on intelligence and on the hunt for the intelligence official who told The Age that:

Intelligence agencies told the Federal Government in the weeks before the Iraq war that some of the Bush Administration's claims justifying an invasion were exaggerated ...

I'm reminded of one of those Yes Minister irregular verbs:

I give off the record briefings.

You leak.

He is facing proceedings under [section 2A of] the Offical Secrets Act
He is under investigation by the Australian Federal Police (Australian usage).

Libertarian Links

Chris at Crooked Timber links to this Flash presentation which:

[explains] why libertarianism is the most appropriate political philosophy for matchstick people who have swallowed a collection of bizarre objects ...

They look more like dunny-door people to me, but that's a minor quibble. The Flash presentation appears on the site, which promotes The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible:
A Free Market Odyssey
. It's a sharp, Swiftean satire, as this excerpt from Chapter 2 shows:

"Don't be alarmed," the supervisor said gruffly. "She’s under arrest. Forget her and move along, we've got work to do."

"Arrest?" said Jonathan, still huffing. "She didn't look like, uh, like a criminal." Jonathan wondered, if she was guilty, why did she cry so desperately for help? "Pardon me, sir, but what was her crime?"

"Huh?" snorted the man with irritation. "Well, if you must know, she threatened the jobs of everyone working here."

"She threatened people's jobs? How'd she do that?" asked Jonathan.

Glaring down at his ignorant questioner, the supervisor motioned for Jonathan to come over to a tree where workers busily pounded away at the trunk. Proudly, he said, "We are tree workers. We knock down trees for wood by beating them with these sticks. Sometimes a hundred people, working round-the-clock, can knock down a good-sized tree in less than a month." The man pursed his lips and carefully brushed a speck of dirt from the sleeve of his handsomely cut coat.

I think the author might be taking the piss out of the idea of ecologically sustainable development here.

You might also be interested in a couple of libertarian perspectives on Lord of the Rings. In The Free Peoples of Middle Earth, Louis James tells us:

Much has been made of Tolkien's treatment of the subject of power, and rightly so. The Lord of the Rings is a valuable illustration of Lord Acton's observations on how power corrupts. It's also a moving presentation of the libertarian argument (to those from the right and left who would seize power) that not only do the ends not justify the means, but unjust means can only lead to corrupted ends.

And in Tolkien's Message of Liberty, "Hunter" reveals the special message Tolkien had for Americans:

Liberty does not "glitter"; it often appears far less valuable to many than it really is. All too often, the unthinking trade freedom for the seductive illusion of security and stability. Just as Franklin warned us, in the end they are left with neither. Many who seem at first glance to be doing little to defend freedom may just be following their own inner guide. They seem "lost" to the rest of us, but they always understand their purpose and stay their own course. Their seemingly random and aimless wanderings may well mask some deep, hidden mission of vital importance, even if it is "only" self-discovery.

Monday, February 16, 2004

The March Edition of Scientific American is on-line. It includes an article, "Defusing the Global Warming Time Bomb" by James Hansen which looks interesting enought to schedule a trip down to the local library in the next couple of weeks. Especially in the light of the fifth of the twenty theses that Andrew Bolt nailed to the door of the Sydney Institute last Wednesday, viz:

No, man-made global warming is not a proven or "agreed" scientific fact.

Looks like the leftist liars who infest the Australian media have taken over at Scientific American as well. Or at least their American counterparts have.
Children will learn more about atheism and humanism and other non-religious beliefs under planned reforms of religious education.

New national guidelines on the subject currently being drawn up are expected to reflect calls for non-religious views to be taught.


Cranbourne, one of Melbourne's outer eastern suburbs, suffered a plague of cockchafers over the weekend:

Senior Constable Phil Watts said the [cockchafers] were up to seven centimetres deep at the back door of the Cranbourne police station and forced a nearby takeaway to close. "There were millions upon millions of them. They were everywhere," he said.

I'm glad it didn't happen in my neighbourhood; I can't remember where I last left my bicycle clips.