Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Who Do You Trust?

I suppose all those Australians who voted for Howard in 2004 - because he was the one that they “Trusted to Manage the Economy” will not want to read this.

It’s a painful thing to realise that you have been conned.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fairy Tales at The Australian

Rupert’s “The Australian” used to have a reputation as a quality newspaper – one that positioned itself as being beyond the antics of the Murdoch tabloids that masquerade as newspapers across most of Australia’s capital cities.

In Australia as the rest of the world, weekday newspaper circulations are in decline. For the decade to 2005, there was a 6 per cent overall decrease in Monday to Friday national metropolitan circulation. Over the same period, online news and commentary has increased significantly. This has caused a rethink at News Corp where significant effort has been expended on protecting it's traditional media businesses.

News Corp has also invested heavily in new media – for example MySpace, those on-line assets that are expected to grow the eyeballs that view News Corp content with particular emphasis on appealing to young people.

And it has changed the presentation and content of it’s newspapers with more commentary and less reporting. This brings me back to my opening paragraph.

There has been a distinct shift in content at “The Australian” over the last year or so. Where once there was an emphasis on the facts and what can be called reporting. Today there has been a shift to commentary by a small group of right wing cultural and political warriors.

Some of this can be explained by Murdoch's political leanings but more likely it exposes an unhealthy alliance between the Murdoch media and the current Howard government. Almost all of these new “opinion” pieces are favourable to the Howard team. My guess is that one of the key objectives of this government is to buy loyalty via it’s media and advertising spend. If that is the case then the advertising blitz will continue – not just to convince voters – but to keep the media barons onside.

Fortunately, this September 22nd article by Christopher Pearson is comprehensively discredited at the Possum Pollytics blog. Perhaps “The Australian” thinks that this type of extreme and biased commentary will increase it’s circulation – I don’t know. But I do know that it serves to trash it's reputation.

It’s ironic that Murdoch has reverted to Fairy Tales to protect his circulation in the face of an assault by new media and yet it’s those same new media that are now able to expose and discredit those Fairy Tales. Catch 22 – sure looks like it?

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Australia Institute and Clive Hamilton

Some of you will know about the Australia Institute. This is an organisation, led by Clive Hamilton that is not afraid to shine the spotlight on the shady antics of our Liberal government. Clive is a prolific writer - having produced "Growth Fetish", "Silencing Dissent" and "Scorcher". Each is a ripping read.

But I had no idea that our Federal government is in the business of funding 'reality' TV programs. Here is an extract from the September 2007 issue of the Australia Institute newsletter.

"After John Howard's success in the 2001 election campaign demonising asylum seekers, the government wanted to portray itself as running a firm but fair immigration policy. Instead of an extensive advertising campaign or courting journalists, three federal government agencies teamed up with a commercial television network to launch Border Security, a 'reality' TV program. One provision in the contract negotiated with the agencies is that they have the power of veto over material to be aired".

No doubt everyone else knows about this - obviously I wasn't paying attention. It's a joke right?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

We're Great Economic Managers

Is it just me or do others get the sense that the "We're Great Economic Managers" story pushed by the Libs and their cheer squad in the mainstream media is really just froth and bubble?

Or perhaps even wishful thinking engineered by their spin doctors and PR hacks - because they have run out of credible ideas.

The only reason that I ask is because I have been trying to understand the facts around Mal Brough's Indigenous intervention and frankly his story just doesn't add up. This article at "the road to surfdom" is a good summary of where things are.

Is anyone in the mainstream media even remotely interested in the answers?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Daily Brain Food

Here are a couple of Australians who help to cut through the FUD of our politicians and their spin doctors and cheer squads in the mainstream media.

John Quiggin is one of those rare folks with a very good understanding of both the climate change issue and Australia’s compromised political response. John is also not afraid to present the facts and speak his mind – a quality that would surely enhance the standing and reputation of Australia’s media. If only.

Ken Lovell produces some outstanding articles at Tim Dunlop’s blog – roadtosurfdom. This morning’s piece is typical of his efforts. Ken has a particular style that cuts to the chase and exposes the manipulation of the various “players” – it’s always a great read.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hurry up and Wait in Adelaide...

I wonder why the people of Adelaide would want to re-elect Michael Harbison as their Mayor when he seems to be steering the city of Adelaide toward the “Clayton’s” solution to global warming.

Of course we all know about the “Clayton’s” solution – “the one that you have when you don’t have a solution”. This is the one that John Howard has attempted to impose on the nation. It might look and feel OK from a distance but it is mostly irrelevant – a diversion that will keep the rest of us occupied while his big business mates continue to rape and pillage.

Now I only mention this because Michael has been Mayor of Adelaide for six years and a city councillor since 1998 – nearly ten years.

His re-election web-site tells the glorious story of his achievements as councillor and mayor with a lot of emphasis on his “environmental” credentials. Check it out and read his articles on “A Green City” and his personal commitment to the environment and riding a bike.

Now I don’t want to get between a mayor trying to be re-elected and his constituents but what about the big issues facing the city of Adelaide? Does he even know what they are?

I don’t pretend to be an expert on Adelaide matters but I do know what frustrates me enormously there. Last week I wrote Michael an email asking him what his plans are for the Adelaide traffic system – here is what I said.

Hi Michael,

It is good to see that you have a website and are prepared to talk about your achievements and invite commentary and questions from the people of Adelaide.

Many years ago when I was a conscript we had a saying about the mission of the Australian Army - it was “Hurry up and wait”. That seemed to be the single thing that drove the place and which all conscripts could identify with - we had to rush to get somewhere and then we had to wait.

Well it seems that Adelaide has adopted the theme.

The local traffic management system was obviously designed to keep people waiting in the city. It’s a stop start system that seems intent on wasting time and money. Progress through Adelaide is a series of small steps from intersection to intersection - each followed by an excruciating wait for the signals to change to green so we can continue to the next - only to approach and confront the dreaded red light.

Some think it was designed like this - but did anyone calculate the impact in terms of fuel and pollution cost and wasted time?

A simple calculation will show that the cost in wasted time, fuel and pollution is enormous. The cost of fixing the system is probably large but using smart technology, it is likely to be significantly less than the cost of doing nothing. The environmental savings alone would justify urgent action.

The benefit/cost ratio is likely to be compelling – so why won’t the city council and the state government fix it?



Michael’s response was.

Roger, well spotted I think you are right.
We have recently joined our traffic light coordination to the states to
achieve metro wide synchronisation, but Waiting for the benefits does
now seem to be the operative word.
I will keep trying

How long do we wait I wonder? Clearly the city council worked out that this was a big risk and a liability and so they offloaded responsibility to the State Government.

Many questions exist around the “process” that the council and the state went through to pass this issue across, especially the liability that seems to have moved between the council and the state. Does anyone understand the implications?

The truth is that the Adelaide city council has ignored important issues associated with the Adelaide traffic system over an extended period of time. The people of Adelaide have been subjected to a stop-start system that not only wastes time but also imposes enormous additional fuel and environmental costs.

How can the Mayor pretend to have a green agenda when for 30 years his council has ignored the largest environmental impact in the city? What is his real vision? Does he even have one?

When are we going to get a council and council politicians who understand and reflect the needs of the community with respect to the environment?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Mining in South Australia

The South Australian Government has often spoken about how the mining industry will be the saviour of the state as the manufacturing industry declines. There has been a lot of coverage about this in the local newspaper but many people are still confused - due mainly to the scarcity of facts.

There is a good paper which analyses the situation and has attempted to quantify the employment implications (2006 -> 2014) at the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies.

It's well worth a read - here are a couple of relevant quotes from the paper.

"For 2006, the Centre projects an average of 5,090 mining-related jobs in this State. It should be noted that this is only a small component of the overall State labour market – just under 1 per cent of total full-time employment in South Australia. Mining is not a labour-intensive industry."

"Direct employment resulting from the ‘mining boom’ is estimated by the Centre to average 4,000 persons over the period 2005 to 2014. This is not a large number in context of the overall State labour market, currently generating over half a million full-time jobs. The significance of this labour requirement is that the majority of these positions involve trade, professional, or para-professional skills that are already in short supply. Furthermore, this labour demand may have a significant positive impact on regional areas where unemployment has historically often been very high."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Steve Jobs is Smart

Steve Jobs is demonstrating his smarts with the latest iPhone and iPod announcements at Apple. This guy is a good example of how to run a tech company in the 21st century - here is the story.

Mr Haneef and Mr Andrews

Today, the Federal Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Mr Andrews announced that the Federal Government would appeal the decision of Justice Spender's findings that Mr Andrews had acted in excess of his powers in cancelling Mr Haneef's visa. Here is today's ABC News story. And here is the judgement of the Federal Court.

Check out Julian Burnside QC's website

A Conversation with the People

The main problem that I have with Australia's current Prime Minister is that he has not once chosen to have a deep and meaningful conversation with the Australian people.

Not once over the past 11+ years has he thought a matter to be of enough significance that he ought raise it and discuss it with us. Of course he has dealt with many significant issues over that time and the people have collectively had opinions on most of them. But unfortunately, he has not bothered to engage with us on any of them.

There are dozens – perhaps hundred of matters of significance where he has pursued his own self-interested agenda or that of his friend George Bush. Never once has he developed his argument, made and presented his case or listened to an opposing view. His approach has always been to push his own extreme view. No discussion, no dialog, no alternative, no argument. Take it or leave it, like it or lump it.

Well I don’t like it and I won’t lump it and it appears that a majority of my fellow countrymen agree – and that is why he and his colleagues are destined to learn a little history lesson.