Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Non-Core Promise That Just Will Not Go Away

Howard Says We're Entitled To Believe What He Tells Us To Believe

The story goes that in the lead-up to the 2004 federal election, treasurer Peter Costello and a number of key advisors warned John Howard not to push the claim that his government would keep interest rates at "record lows" and "30 year lows" or even just "low".

It was a con, a bold-faced lie and everyone in Howard's inner circle knew it. Interest rates would go up as surely as they would go back down again, then up again. Don't do it, they supposedly told Howard, it will come back to haunt you. But Howard ignored them all. He went out there and pumped his "keeping interest rates low" promise like a speed-addled evangelical podium pounder granting all who believed him access to Low Interest Rates Heaven.

Howard then rubbed Costello's face in it by leaving it to him to launch the "keeping interest at record lows" ads, which he did, with a very grim face indeed.

Now that interest rates have done nothing but climbed since 2004, and are expected to go up again before election day, Howard is being put on the rack by nearly every journalist who interviews him. It should be excruciating for Howard. It sure is excruciating to watch, and hear. But he doesn't care. He's got a new promise to sell. Under his government, interest rates will be lower than they will be under a Labor government.

Liar, deceiver, prophet.

A few examples from the past week alone.

Radio 3AW :

JOHN HOWARD:…I mean interest rates will always go up and down and I’ve never guaranteed that interest rates would never go up.

NEIL MITCHELL: Well yeah, but your advertising did.

JOHN HOWARD: Well, well the advertising just very briefly in the early part of the campaign and then that was…

MITCHELL: It said, ‘keep interest rates at record lows’. Well that promise is broken isn’t it?

JOHN HOWARD: Yeah well, that particular advertisement lasted two nights and then it disappeared. And you didn’t get out of my mouth…

MITCHELL: No I didn’t but that promise was broken from that advertising wasn’t it?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, interest rates are not at record lows now. I understand that.

MITCHELL: And your advertising promised that.

JOHN HOWARD: Well the advertising did refer to that for two nights. I accept that.

MITCHELL: So it’s a two night promise then Prime Minister?

JOHN HOWARD: No, no well look you’re asking me the question…

MITCHELL: Well you know Labor's going after you on the basis of broken promise...

JOHN HOWARD: Yes I understand that.

MITCHELL: And the advertising was, does now, look dishonest.

JOHN HOWARD: Yes well, look I acknowledge what was said. I acknowledge that. But can I just say to you and to your listeners, that what really matters now is which side of politics is better able to manage an increasingly hostile financial environment. Isn’t that what matters?

MITCHELL: Well I guess it is. But you can’t promise to keep interest lows?

JOHN HOWARD: I'm not doing that

MITCHELL: What are you saying? Same as last time. You’ll be better than Labor, eh?

JOHN HOWARD: Yes I am. I am saying that. …
From the 7.30 Report :
KERRY O'BRIEN : You did say it as a fact, interest rates are now 2.25 per cent higher, as a fact, than when you made that promise. You were not able to keep that promise. Do you simply acknowledge that you weren't able to keep that promise?

JOHN HOWARD: Look, I say again Kerry, people will make a judgment on what I said against what has occurred. But the big question they've got to ask themselves, whatever happened in the past, let's put that aside...it's the future that matters.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But you see, Mr Howard, you want us to put aside the past in relation to your comments, but not with regard to Labor. That is incredibly selective.

JOHN HOWARD: No, I'm perfectly happy to compare past performance as distinct from commentary.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Or past promises.

JOHN HOWARD: Look, leaving ... whatever you like. Look at what happened, look at where we are now...
The Sunday program :
LAURIE OAKES: Wasn't it a mistake to say that you would keep interest rates at 30-year lows?

JOHN HOWARD: Laurie, what I said out of my own mouth...what I said was that they would always be lower under us than under Labor.

LAURIE OAKES: But didn't you actually say you would keep them low.

JOHN HOWARD: Laurie, what matters is precisely what happens in the future.

LAURIE OAKES: But people were, if you like, fooled into voting for you maybe, by what you said, about keeping interest rates at 30-year lows.

JOHN HOWARD: Laurie, the impression that people took from that campaign was that we believed and they believed it that we would do a better job in keeping interest rates down than the Labor Party.

LAURIE OAKES: ...on October 7, 2004...you said 'we don't assume the economy will continue at its own momentum, it will only continue if we continue to do the right things, keeping the budget in surplus, keeping interest rates low, keeping them at 30-year lows.' It did come out of your mouth, Prime Minister.

JOHN HOWARD: Well Laurie, if you look at the average interest rates under the last government, you look at them under us, they're four to five percent lower than what they were.

LAURIE OAKES: We're talking about whether people will believe you this time because you misled them last time.

JOHN HOWARD: You're asking me what I believe they took out of the last campaign and that is that we would do a better job on interest rates. And they'll make up their minds about that.

LAURIE OAKES: They're entitled to believe you or Liberal Party ads last time.

JOHN HOWARD: They're entitled to conclude as they should now that we'll do a far better job of keeping interest rates lower than Labor.

LAURIE OAKES: It's got nothing to do with what you promised at the last election?

JOHN HOWARD: But what matters is what occurs.

LAURIE OAKES: But in an election campaign what matters is whether people believe and can remember what you say.

JOHN HOWARD: But do you know what they believed out of the last election? They believed they should vote for us because we would keep interest rates lower than Labor, and they were right, and the evidence supports that. And the same applies in relation

LAURIE OAKES: Even though you said you would keep them at 30-year lows, they weren't supposed to believe that?

JOHN HOWARD: Laurie, they were entitled to believe that we would do a better job at keeping interest rates down than what the Labor Party would do, and they did. And they were right. And the same will apply in the future.
Activate 'Absolutely No Shame' mode, Mr Howard.

I particularly like the way he repeatedly tells people to forget about what he said last time around, like it doesn't matter a dolt, and to look to the future instead, and then tells voters they are "entitled" to believe what he tells them to believe.

Howard has probably, quite effectively, reduced the election day impact of another rise in interest rates by riddling the subject with a such a strong foundation of boredom, tedium. The more journos raise the issue now, the more likely the punters will switch off, even if it means more dollars out of their wallets.

Monday, October 29, 2007

'Violent' Pro-Howard Blog Gets Blocked By Government's Web Filters

Is Tim Blair's blog really too dangerous to be viewed by children?

Does it contain adult content? Offensive content? If you visit Blair's blog, will you come across 'High Impact Material' that falls under an X-rated classification as determined by the Howard government censors?

A reader e-mailed Blair recently to let him know that the Howard government's "Won't Someone Please Think Of The Children?" free internet censorship program rates Blair's blog as "violent" and blocks access.

The Howard government recently unfurled an $80 million-plus NetAlert program to provide free content filtering software to all Australian families.

The filtering software responsible for the virtual banning of Blair's blog in tens of thousands of Australian households is called Intergard, which also blocks all peer-to-peer file sharing, and appears to allow third parties (outside the home) to access web surfing histories, without the computer's users being aware.

Such outside access to temporary or hard drive computer files, via free programs like 'net nanny' content filters, are known in intelligence circles as a "backdoor" and are usually accessible through the use of auto-updates, as the Howard government's own content filtering Q & A page admits :
These updates are automatically added each time you connect to the internet.

A government that could get their hands on records of the web surfing habits of possibly hundreds of thousands of Australian children and teenagers, through the sharing of information derived from content filtering programs, would be a very well informed government indeed. How many kids are visiting, say, the Kevin07 site, and for how long? What information are they downloading from that site? How many times are they viewing Kevin07 videos?

Valuable information for a government. Particularly if they happened to be in the middle of an extremely grim election campaign.

But back to Blair and his X-rated "violent" blog.

Exactly how does the Howard government's NetAlert content filtering programs go about determining which sites should be blocked, or are deemed to contain prohibited content?

Some info from the NetAlert site :
Internet content filters can be used to help filter offensive web pages.

Some internet content filters use a variety of techniques to detect unwelcome content. One of the most common are ‘black’ or ‘exclusion’ lists to block access to content. These ‘black’ or ‘exclusion’ lists contain websites or website pages that have been deemed to carry inappropriate content...

If the user types in an internet address or click on a link to content which is on a black list, they will be blocked from viewing that content.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) regularly update a list of prohibited content. These websites, or web pages, are blocked by the free internet content filters being provided by the Australian Government’s NetAlert – Protecting Australian Families Online initiative.

Prohibited content is determined according to classification guidelines under the National Classification Scheme.

The Australian Government has implemented an online content regulatory scheme which allows the Australian Communications and Media Authority to require websites hosted in Australia to ‘take down’ prohibited material.

Prohibited content is internet content within the classifications RC (‘refused classification') or X 18+.

Certain kinds of extreme content are refused classification...

The RC classification includes content that contains: child pornography; bestiality; excessive violence or sexual violence; detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use.

A third category of strong content is also regulated. Content classified R 18+ includes content that depicts high level violence, implied or simulated sexual activity or other high impact material.

High impact material.

How's that for a loose and open-to-personal interpretation definition of what can or should be censored?

What is particularly interesting about the above definitions is that you would presume it refers strictly to violent or pornographic images or photographs or videos. Not so.

As Blair has discovered, simply writing about certain subjects, or allowing your commenters to call for the violent deaths of journalists and celebrities (even if they're supposedly 'joking') may be enough to get your site blocked by Howard government online censors.

Or maybe it was Blair's publication of the infamous 'MoToons' that got his site on the blocked list.

Whatever the reason, this is extremely disturbing news.

How will young Australians learn about Evil Lefties, the Great Global Warming Conspiracy, Al Gore's bizarre cold-weather attraction, President Bush's non-plastic turkey, unhinged columnists for the Melbourne Age and David Marr's clearly absurd claims that the Howard government is restricting debate and censoring free speech (oh, right) if they can't get the scoop from Tim 'High Impact Material' Blair?

I'm sure Communications Minister Helen Coonan will move very fast indeed to have Blair's site removed from the blocked list, possibly within a day or two.

The Howard government needs every supportive blogger it can get.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Now That's Rock : Nick Cave Inducts Ignored Bandmates Into ARIA Hall Of Fame

When Nick Cave was asked last week for his thoughts on being inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame, joining legendary Australian rockers like AC/DC, Skyhooks And Rose Tattoo, he said he would turn up to collect his award, but he'd walk in the front door, walk out the back door and go get a kebab.

Fortunately Cave stuck around to give a short acceptance speech.

He railed against the ARIA organisation for refusing his request to induct his band The Bad Seeds along with himself into the Hall Of Fame. They refused his request because the Bad Seeds had a couple of "foreigners" amongst its ranks.

Likewise, Nick Cave's first band, the legendary and extremely influential The Birthday Party were also denied 'access' to the Hall Of Fame.

So Nick Cave, being the true gentleman and collaborator that he is, took it upon himself to induct the members of The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds into the ARIA Hal Of Fame.

True class from Cave, and definitely the most rock moment of the night.

It was also great to see Silverchair pick up a fleet of awards. Australia has produced, and continues to produce, the best rock bands in the world. The new generation learns from and is vastly inspired by those who have gone before, which is exactly the point Nick Cave was trying to make. The members of The Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds belong in the ARIA Hall Of Fame along with Nick Cave, because he couldn't have done what he has done, and made the music he has made, without them.

Nick Cave on his hero, Johnny Cash :
I was in Los Angeles (in 2003) and got another call from Rick Rubin saying Johnny Cash was recording and did I want to come and record with him. I said: "Of course." I had a couple of hours the next day before I had to leave. I chose a Hank Williams song - I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. I got to the studio and was a bit early, and was waiting for Johnny Cash to arrive and wondering how I would be able to sing, to hold my own with this incredible voice.

He arrived, and this man with such extraordinary generosity, such an immense spirit made me feel so much at ease.

I suggested this song, and he said: "Hey yeah, Nick, I know that one. Let's do it." And the band started up and we just did it.

It was funny because I sang the song and then at the end Rick Rubin said: "I'm sorry we're going to have to do it again." I said: "I'm flat, right?" And Rick Rubin said: "No, Johnny's flat." He said: "Yeah, I guess I was little off there." And we did it again.

When Johnny first came down those stairs into the studio he looked really frail and sick, but once he started singing he was really brought back to life. It was an incredible thing to see.

For me it's a very sad thing that he's died, because there goes another one of these great voices. As far as I can see there aren't the people around to replace these people. That's the really sad thing about this.

Rudd's 'Waxgate' Incident Becomes International News

Image from the London Times homepage

The YouTube video of Kevin Rudd supposedly snacking down on some of his own ear food is making international news. First the pole dancers during a drunken night out in New York, now 'Waxgate'. The next time Rudd makes international headlines will be on November 25 when he wins the election.

From the London Times :

Britons whose knowledge of Australian dining habits is based largely on the bush tucker trial sections of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! will be appalled to learn that this is yet another deception foisted on the public...

Australians, if the latest hit video on Youtube is to be believed, are shunning locusts and witchetty grubs in favour of something altogether more familiar: ear wax.

Britons making fun of the snacking habits of Australians, right. Anyone for a deep fried Mars Bars? How about some blood-soaked offal stuffed into a sheep's stomach? Anyone?
Afghanistan : Australian Troops Refused To Join Fight Against Taliban That Left Some 70 Civilians Dead

According to this story, Australian troops refused to take part in one of the biggest battles against the Taliban in the history of the current Afghanistan war.

Australian troops were involved in the planning of the June battle in the Chora Valley, which saw NATO forces taking on an estimated 500 Taliban fighters, but reportedly pulled out when they realized their rules of engagement would restrict their ability to defend themselves.

More on this here :

Most of the 60 to 70 civilians killed when Dutch forces repelled a 500-strong Taliban assault in the Chora Valley, 30 kilometres from the Australian and Dutch base at Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan province, died as a result of bombing and artillery fire, human rights investigators have found.

In the days after the battle, the Australian Defence Force issued two statements stressing Australian troops were not involved in the fighting. In the carefully worded statements, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson and senior military officers expressed concern about civilian casualties in the battle.

The chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy, last week reiterated Australia's commitment to avoiding civilian deaths wherever possible. "Nothing undermines the credibility of our efforts more than the unintended killing of civilians," he said.

Particularly controversial is the use of Dutch artillery, which fired high explosive shells into the Chora Valley from Tarin Kowt, 30 kilometres away.

In the case of the fighting in the Chora Valley from June 16 to 19, The Sunday Age believes a key issue for the Australians was the inability to discriminate between civilians and the Taliban, who had occupied local houses.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the Dutch decision to fire from such a distance was bound to claim civilian lives.

In his speech last Wednesday, General Leahy said: "In complex urban terrain there is a constant risk of striking innocent civilians." But the army had learnt that "unless we can provide pervasive security without inflicting collateral damage on the … population, our supposed strengths can be turned into glaring weaknesses".

An Australian SAS soldier, Sergeant Mathew Locke, was killed on Thursday by Taliban fighters, during the first day of a new offensive in the Chora Valley.

More than 1500 British, Dutch, Afghan and Australian troops are believed to now be fighting in this offensive.

Three Australian servicemen have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001, with at least two dozen wounded or suffering crippling PTSD.

Military experts are downplaying Prime Minister Howard's claims that the Taliban are directly targeting Australian troops, particularly the SAS, as the Taliban rarely engage in direct confrontations, knowing they will be flogged by the superior firepower, experience and training.

The SAS Association is now urging the government to increase compensation for war casualties.

PM claims Australian Troops Are Being Targeted By Taliban
Australia Pledges 'Absolute Commitment' To Israel

Downer Offers To Send Troops To West Bank To Fight Hamas

Foreign Minister Alexander has taken it upon himself to pledge Australia's 'absolute commitment' to Israel, regardless of what kind of collective punishment it unleashes on the Palestinians, and he has also offered to send Australian troops into the West Bank to stop a predicted takeover attempt by Hamas, the democratically elected government of the Palestinian territories.

Downer made these commitments as the Howard government faces defeat at the national elections on November 24.

Downer claims an international 'buffer force' will be necessary in the West Bank in the event of a withdrawal by Israel to stop Hamas from attempting to take back control of the area from Fatah.

Downer told a Sydney audience of Jewish leaders, including 20 rabbis, that he didn't believe most Palestinians would support a deal peace between Israel and the leaders of the West Bank.

"If the Israeli defence forces withdrew from the West Bank, Hamas will just take over," Mr Downer said.

"In the end, there has to be some international force to prop up a Palestinian State. If the international community was looking for troops to support a peace agreement which provided for the security of Israel and a Palestinian state, we would be prepared to send some troops to help," he said.

Mr Downer gave his speech to a gathering of the top echelon of Sydney's Jewish community, including 20 rabbis. He was invited by Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is trying to woo the large Jewish community in his marginal seat of Wentworth in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Downer yesterday engaged in a whirlwind lobbying exercise of Jewish institutions in the electorate.

The pair visited the Orthodox Jewish Moriah College, where Mr Downer addressed students, proclaiming his Government's absolute commitment to Israel.

Later, he held an interview with the influential Australian Jewish News before moving to the elite venue of the Royal Motor Yacht Club to deliver his address last night to a rapturous audience.

Both Mr Turnbull and Mr Downer sought to draw a distinction between what Mr Turnbull called the Coalition's "rock solid" backing of the Jewish state and what they presented as Labor's more ambivalent position.

'Ambivalent position' presumably translates as not pledging a "rock solid" 'absolute commitment' to Israel, regardless of future events, or actions taken by the Olmert government that could be deemed illegal by the UN Security Council.

But then Downer is no fan of the United Nations, what with its petty demands for recognition of international borders and its opposition to torture, collective punishment, the illegal seizure of land and territory and its calls for Israel's army to exercise restraint and to stop its acts of random violence in Palestine and the killing of Palestinian women and children.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Howard Legacy - A Nation Of Vengeful Dobbers

140,000 Turn In Bosses, Neighbours, Former Lovers To Tax Department

A short, but disturbing, piece from Ruth Ostrow on how, in only a few short years, Australians have utterly betrayed their anti-authoritarian centuries old history of not 'dobbing'.

Confidential phone-in lines for water wasters, minor tax cheats, neighbourhood speeders and illegal parkers have transformed Australians in just a few years into a nation of people who can't wait to get revenge on their fellow Australians by turning them into the authorities, for even the most minimal of crimes or discrepancies.

More on this here :

....at what cost to our national psyche and sense of fair play? Yes, we catch the cleaner or fruit-shop owner who tried to sneak a few quid under the counter. But what does dobbing do to our national identity?

...it seems we are turning into a culture of vengeful, envious people. We’re becoming authoritarian, which is out of keeping with the free-spirited, laconic, larrikin element of the Australian way of life. We came here as convicts, dobbed in no doubt, and have remained anti-dobbing thus far, in a country built on trusting thy neighbour. We like sorting out our own issues.

I think dobbing is tragic. It belongs to fascist regimes like Stalinism. Governments that encourage vengeance or the betraying of trust may recoup a tiny percentage of money or power, but ultimately they lose far more. If you ask me, it’s bloody unAustralian.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Australian Treasurer Warns Of Global Financial "Tsunami"

Is Costello Planning To Undermine The Australian Economy And Stock Market In A Last Ditch Effort To Stay In Power?

Treasurer Peter Costello knows that if his government loses the coming federal election, he can kiss goodbye his dream of one day becoming prime minister. But that's not all he will lose. Come the day after the election, if Costello is no longer the treasurer for the next three to four years, he will have disappointed his many local and international masters.

As we count down to election day, and the Howard government faces near certain defeat, Costello is getting grimly desperate. He is now lashing out out at the banks, the Reserve Bank in particular, the Labor Party in general but now also the global financial system.

The Australian economy, and the global economy in general, is weak and fragile he now tells us.
If his government loses the election, recession will descend. Few economists agree with Costello, but that won't shut him up.

Costello wants Australians to be terrified of daring to vote Labor. Think of your mortgage, think of your stock portfolio. His verbal terror campaign will grow only more shrill, and dangerous, as the election draws closer.

Labor will destroy, or at minimum thoroughly damage, the Australian economy, claims Costello. He may as well be standing on a street corner, with dried vomit on his shoes, a wine cask under his arm shouting, "You're all doomed! Doomed I tells ya!"

story continues after...

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story continues...

But even all that cheap talk fear-mongering doesn't fully explain Costello's incredible statement on how the world markets are now facing a global financial "tsunami". It's his first missile in a coming volley, and he will inform us in coming days how the "tsunami" will affect the Australian economy, and in turn, the pockets of every Australian.

Mr Costello predicted the US economy would weaken in the wake of its subprime mortgage meltdown, and said the breakneck pace of Chinese growth could not continue.

At some stage, likely to coincide with a move to a floating exchange rate, the Chinese economy would unleash even greater instability on global markets than the US had.

"That will be a wild ride when that happens," he said. "That will set off a huge tsunami that will go through world financial markets."

Figures released yesterday show the Chinese economy grew at an annual rate of 11.5 per cent. Inflation has run above 6 per cent.

China's fixed exchange rate, widely seen as undervalued, has been blamed for the growing trade imbalance with the US, because it keeps the price of Chinese products artificially low.

"All flows of capital they have been sending to the US might reverse, and you will get a major realignment on major currency markets," Mr Costello said. "China is very strong but you can't just grow an economy in double figures on a long-term basis."

So Costello is saying that if China wanted to, they could utterly devastate the already staggering American economy. Is he admitting the American economy, and the world economy in general, is now at the mercy of China?

China now holds more than $1.3 trillion in US debt, that is the "flows of capital" Costello is talking about. Americans, on average, spend more than they earn and rely on Asian financial giants, like China, to buy up their debts. But China has been showing signs of preparing to dump some of that American debt, even if it means massive losses. American debt, in the form of Treasury bonds, are quickly becoming next to worthless on world markets, and China won't let itself be left holding that much in dead money. Also, more and more countries are now choosing to dump the American dollar as the international trading currency of choice, and the US dollar is losing its standing as the 'oil currency' on world markets. The Euro is now starting to take its place, for Iran, for Russia and, soon enough, probably for Japan as well.

Local, and international markets, play close attention to the words of the Australian treasurer. Costello is going to have to be very careful with his claims between now and election day.

Unless, of course, Costello's plan is to try and start stock market brush fires in the next month, in the hope that a fast storm of bad economic news, and plunging local share markets, will frighten Australians into voting the Howard government back into office.

As we've said before, there are many powerful, very wealthy people in this country, and internationally, who will suffer if the Howard government loses office, as they most surely will if things don't change dramatically in the next few weeks.

The Australian corporate elite have probably never had a cosier relationship with an Australian government in history, and that relationship will go through a process of transformation under Labor. To a point, anyway. But it's the kind of change the poisonously greedy don't want to undergo. They don't want to renegotiate, with a new government. They want the cosy relationship to stay the same.

The Australian people are not the only masters Costello serves. You shouldn't put any act of desperation beyond the reach of these people, or Costello himself, between now and election day.

They have so much to lose if the Howard government is swept from power.

We are unlikely to see a calm, and orderly, change of government.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Howard's Pledge To Keep Interest Rates At "Record Lows" Has Cost Mortgage Payers $3000 Since Last Election

Not being a part of the Canberra press gallery, I'm not too sure how widespread this rumour was, but it goes like this : It was John Howard who insisted on pushing the 'Keeping Interest Rates Low' and 'Keeping Interest Rates At Record Lows' mantras during the 2004 federal election. Treasurer Peter Costello objected, loudly, knowing it was a lie that would probably come back to burn them, but Howard would hear no dissent on the subject.

And how those two lines are coming back to burn the Howard government now.

For the first time in history, interest rates will be raised in the middle of a federal election campaign. This will be the sixth straight rise since that election, and every newspaper, radio station and television news program in the country, is reminding Howard of his pledge to 'keep interest rates at record lows.'

Howard, and Costello, first tried to claim that interest rates were still low, when the fourth and fifth rate rise hit. But that argument is dead now. People are hurting.The estimates of hundreds of thousands of families being pummeled by rising mortgage payments is the news story of the day :
Another rate rise - which would be announced on November 7, just 17 days before the election - would be the sixth straight rate rise since the Coalition was re-elected in 2004, after promising to keep interest rates at "record lows".

The increase in mortgage rates since then would add more than $3000 to the annual cost of servicing a $250,000 mortgage.

Labor treasury spokesman, Wayne Swan said that over the past five years, food costs had risen 50 per cent faster than the overall cost of living, which was up 21.4 per cent. Health costs had risen by 30 per cent while education costs were up by 40 per cent.
Food costs are likely to rise even further, as the effects of a worldwide grain shortage takes hold, leading to larger increases in the price of bread and milk, for starters.

So desperate is Peter Costello to get the focus off him and the PM and their dodgy promises about interest rates, he's now claiming that a Labor government would lead the country in a recession.

So this golden economy that Howard and Costello never stop trying to take total credit for is that weak and fragile, is it?

It's a tactic unlikely to work. Rudd got in early and warned the Australian people that Howard & Company would use The Fear in their campaigning.

But that won't stop them trying. What else have they got now?

Two weeks out from the election, Howard and Costello will be so desperate they'll probably run ads with old footage from the Great Depression of the 1930s, of soup kitchens and lines of unemployed workers and dirty-faced children picking through garbage bins. 'If you want to go back to this, vote for Kevin Rudd.'

Now that would be a fear campaign.

And there's also this - more good news for the government : financial markets are reportedly betting on two interest rate rises by the end of the year.
Barmaid Who Crushes Beer Cans With Her Breasts Hauled Into Court, Fined, By Fun Police

Okay, some city dwellers may be shocked by the news that a barmaid publicly exposed her breasts in a pub and then used her breasts to crush beer cans. Some city dwellers may also be shocked to hear that off-duty barmaid at the same pub entertained a crowd by hanging spoons off another woman's nipples.

But these 'offences' didn't occur in a city pub. The apparently illegal action went down at the Premier Hotel in Pinjarra, south of Perth.

Put it this way, if you've ever spent a few hours in the Premier Hotel in Pinjarra, and you've had a few drinks with the wirey locals, you'd know why this sort of activity is not viewed as offensive, or even mildly outrageous.

But tell that to the Fun Police.

A 31 year old barmaid was hauled into court for entertaining the locals with her beer can-crushing talents and she was fined $1000, along with the hotel manager.

The off-duty barmaid who was apparently busted hanging spoons off another woman's nipples was fined $500.

Utilizing breasts to crush beer cans and making use of nipples to hang spoons are breaches of hotel licensing laws in Western Australia :

"It sends a clear message to all licensees in Peel that we will not tolerate this type of behaviour in our licensed premises," local police superintendent David Parkinson said.

It sends a clear message that the Fun Police have invaded outback WA and are making right arseholes of themselves with the locals.

What sort of shithead fines a barmaid one thousand dollars?

We'll hazard a guess here and say that the police action DID NOT come as a result of complaints by the regular drinkers at the Premier Hotel.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Great Rudd Command Your Vote

I think we have a winner for the best YouTube joke clip of the 2007 federal election. Thus far anyway.

A simply brilliant piece of 'propaganda', with great lines scattered throughout the 'Rejected Labor Party Advertising' clip.

I won't spoil it for you. Just watch it :

If the clip doesn't load here, go to the YouTube page here.

Nobody said it was subtle. But it is funny.
"Australia Doesn't Owe Us Anything, We Owe Australia"

Legendary mobile phone entrepreneur John Ilhan died yesterday, at only 42. He allegedly suffered a heart attack during a fitness walk, close to his home. Ilhan came to Australia when he was three years old, immigrating from Turkey with his parents. In less than 16 years, he turned a small mobile phone shop into a nationwide chain, he gave generously to charity, and tried to forge a new path for Australian Muslims, with noticeable success.

Here's some highlights from an inspiring piece he wrote earlier this year to mark Australia Day:
Australia has given me everything.

I met an Australian girl from Hawthorn who became my wife and now we are a loving family of six following the recent proud birth of our son.

No matter what our background, we are Australians.

The loyalty first and foremost to Australia should also be remembered by some religious leaders, including some radical Muslim leaders in Australia, who pretend to speak for the faith, but instead promote intolerance and hatred.

These, thankfully, are in the minority, but they should respect Australian laws and not preach division and fear.

If they cannot respect Australian law then they should have their citizenship revoked or not be allowed back in the country if they are living overseas.

My Muslim faith qualifies me to strongly denounce any racist and inflammatory comments made by any Muslim leaders because they perpetuate a stereotype that is unhelpful and dangerous.

I am the proud son of Turkish parents.

Most people came to this country to build a better life. They should be thankful and grateful to be here. Therefore, immigrants must learn the Australian way of life, culture and learn the English language.

I would die for this country. I love Australia for what it stands for. It embraces opportunity, inclusion and, most important of all, mateship.

What Australia taught me is that if you give something - like the hand of friendship or provide a service that fulfils a need - you will be repaid many times.

They say that America is the "land of opportunity", but I say Australia is.

Australia doesn't owe us anything. We owe Australia.
Howard & Cheney's Intervention In US Military Commission Trial Saw Terror Suspect's Charges Drop From Attempted Murder Of American Soldiers To Merely 'Aiding Terrorism'

February 2007 : Howard Says He Can Get David Hicks Set Free Anytime He Wants

By Darryl Mason

Only weeks before prime minister John Howard met with US vice president Dick Cheney in Sydney, back in March, he publicly boasted that he could get Australian terror suspect David Hicks set free from Guantanamo Bay any time he wanted to. Hicks had, by then, had spent more than five years in Guantanamo Bay, detained without charge, subjected to torture and intense interrogations.

In early February, public anger, and animosity within Howard's own party, over the alleged torture and abuse of David Hicks at the hands of Americans in Gitmo, was reaching fever pitch.

The unofficial election campaign, that is now expected to culminate with Howard losing the office or prime minister, had just begun to unroll, and Howard was under intense pressure from his party colleagues to get the extremely controversial issue of David Hicks out of media headlines.

On February 6, Howard boasted that he could secure the release of Hicks, whenever he liked, but he claimed that would have been "wrong" because Hicks was a terror suspect and had to face trial for the attempted murder of US soldiers in Afghanistan, shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In March, Howard met with Dick Cheney and is believed to have asked the American vice president to do what he could to get Hicks in front of the military commission as soon as possible, and back home to Australia.

Howard wanted to make Hicks a non-issue and Cheney was willing to help out his vital ally in the War On Iraq.

Within weeks, a former staffer of Cheney had pushed aside the US military prosecutor, who had been seen all over the Australian news claiming that Hicks would be in jail for decades to come, and allowed lawyers for David Hicks to cut a plea deal.

Instead of facing charges of the attempted murder of American soldiers, Hicks was allowed to plead guilty to the incredibly weak charge, by comparison, of 'aiding terrorism'. He was sentenced to seven years, but the sentence was immediately suspended.

More On All This Here

Howard is now claiming that he did not intervene in the David Hicks trial and that justice was done.

Howard needs to stop lying about this. He needs to come clean immediately. The story is already making international headlines, as any stories involving Cheney and corruption always do.

The last thing Howard needs is for this fresh scandal to become a major election issue, as it is now likely to become, with the opposition set to use the scandal as a way to attack Howard's credibility and his high poll numbers on matters of national security.

The Howard-Cheney deal to get Hicks off attempted murder charges, so he would get through the military commission quicker, is sleazy, grubby and Howard looks like he has put his own political career before some of the most important goals of the 'War on Terror', one of which is supposed to be rounding up and prosecuting to the hilt any members and supporters of Al Qaeda, as Hicks has confessed himself to be.

Hicks Confesses To Fighting In The Taliban...For Two Hours

David Hicks Was Gitmo's Longest Serving Prisoner - Tortured And Broken

Insights Into How David Hicks Spent His Five Years In Gitmo

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cheney, Howard Cut Deal For The Release Of David Hicks

Howard Wanted The Hicks Issue Dealt With Before Election Began, BushCo. Were Happy To Help Out Their 'Man Of Steel' Down Under

UPDATE : How The Cheney & Howard Intervention In US Military Commission Saw Terror Suspect Charges Drop From Attempted Murder Of US Soldiers To Merely 'Supporting Terrorism'

If David Hicks was still being held in Guantanamo Bay, it would be just one more political nightmare for John Howard as he faces an uphill battle to win the federal election.

That Hicks was electoral poison for Howard was widely discussed in the media in late 2006, and many speculated that Howard was pushing his White House friends to get the issue off table, and out of the media, before he began his 11 month long election campaign.

Howard didn't want Hicks released, at first, he wanted him to face the military commission at Gitmo. Howard himself admitted that he could get David Hicks released from Gitmo whenever he wanted to, but he wasn't going to do that.

But by the time US Vice President, Dick Cheney, arrived in Australia for a controversial visit,
marred by 'Free David Hicks' protests, Howard knew he couldn't wait a month or two more. Hicks had to be brought home, and locked away somewhere, with no access to the media until after the election was over.

According to this story, Dick Cheney was more than happy to grant Howard's request :

US Vice-President Dick Cheney and Australian Prime Minister John Howard cut a deal to release Australian inmate David Hicks from Guantanamo Bay, according to a report published in the US today.

The report quotes a US military officer.

"One of our staffers was present when Vice-President Cheney interfered directly to get Hicks' plea bargain deal," the unnamed officer told today's edition of Harper's magazine.

"He did it, apparently, as part of a deal cut with Howard. I kept thinking: this is the sort of thing that used to go on behind the Iron Curtain, not in America. And then it struck me how much this entire process had disintegrated into a political charade."

story continues after...

Bird Flu Can Now Pass From Human To Human - Go To The Bird Flu Blog For More

Go Here To Read Darryl Mason's Online Novel About Life After A Bird Flu Pandemic

story continues...

Hicks is set to be released from an Adelaide prison in December. He agreed to a plea deal in March, where he would take nine months in jail, back home in Australia, in exchange for pleading guilty to the extremely weak charge of 'providing material support for terrorism'.

For years we were told Hicks was an extremely dangerous terrorist, a "murderer" according to President Bush, and "the worst of the worst" according to some of Howard's senior ministers. We were told he would be charged with being a member of Al Qaeda, attempted murder of Australian and/or American soldiers and being involved in the plotting of terrorist attacks. Such a range of charges could have taken months to get through the military commission system. But a plea deal on the greatly reduced charges saw Hicks in and out of the commission in a matter of days.

In the timeline of events, Hicks became a fresh political nightmare for Howard in December, when claims of torture and mistreatment hit the headlines. The pressure on Howard to do something about the David Hicks problem increased through January, with the media filled with past prime ministers, members of Howard's own party and headline grabbing celebrities asking why we were allowing Americans, our allies in the 'War on Terror', to torture an Australian citizen.

When Cheney visited Australian in February, Howard was ready to cut a deal with the vice president to get the Hicks problem dealt with as soon as possible. Cheney returned home to the US in late February and kicked the process of getting Hicks before a military commission, on vastly reduced charges, into gear.

Within a month, Hicks was in front of a military commission, his plea deal was quickly cut and he was heading back to Australia.

The plea deal caused controversy within the legal ranks of the American military because it was negotiated by the military commission's convening authority, Susan J. Crawford, instead of the chief prosecutor, US Colonel Morris Davis, who had previously expressed great confidence that Hicks would go down for his crimes and not surface for decades.

No great surprise that Susan J. Crawford turns out to have once been a senior official in Cheney's Defence Department, when he was secretary of defence during the reign of President George HW Bush, the current president's father.

Howard furiously denied he was involved in a plea bargain for Hicks, or that he had asked Cheney to do him a favour, to get the Hicks issue out of the way before the federal election campaigning really began.

Howard said the idea that Hicks being cut a plea deal and sent home to face an almost token prison sentence (with the all important proviso that he not be allowed to talk to the media) had anything to do with the coming election was just plain "absurd."

But he didn't outright deny that he asked Cheney to get the Hicks issue rushed through.

March 2007 : Hicks Admits To 'Backing' 9/11 Attacks In Plea Deal, Is Given Suspended Sentence

February 2007 : Howard Says He Can Get BushCo. To Release Hicks Whenever He Wants Them To

December 2006 : David Hicks After Five Years In Gitmo : Unconvicted, Tortured, Broken

Dick Cheney Down Under : Inside The "Violent" Protests
The Slim Chance

How do you know when you've scored a link on Tim Blair's blog?

You start getting comments like this :
Anonymous said...

you, sir, are a verbose f..kwit c.nt

But without the '..' of course.

Short attention spans are a curse when you're faced with more than a paragraph, or two.

Tim Blair appears to have a problem with this claim from a recent post :
This blog pulls anything from 1800 to 5000 individual readers per day, with about 80% of the readers coming from inside Australia.

Blair claims :
Of course, there’s always the slim chance Darryl is making things up.
The "slim chance" is Blair's idea of sarcasm. This is the sort of slimy wording you use when you want to put forward an accusation but have no proof to back it up.

Here's visitors stats from Adsense for a recent average day for The Orstrahyun :

Perhaps Blair is troubled by the downward trend of visitors to his blog in the past ten months :

Or the fact that 79% of his readership now comes from the United States, while only 3% comes from within Australia (a few hundred most days when Andrew Bolt doesn't send over some traffic) :

UPDATE : It has been pointed out to me that the above pie chart may only represent the Australian readership of Tim Blair at a certain time of the day. Viewing the Sitemeter piechart over several days, at different times, shows Blair's Australian readership swinging wildly about. Sometimes it's 10%, other times as high as 40%.

But Blair's not alone in experiencing a dramatic drop in readership. It's happening all across the blogs that still champion Bush, find no fault in the Iraq War, actually believe that Islamists will find a way to over-run Western democracies and still cling to the belief the NeoCon swamp tide of death is the best thing that's happened to the world since the fall of European communism.

The rightoid blogs that helped Blair to find his large, mostly American readership - Powerline, Michelle Malkin, - have also experienced heavy losses of readership in the past year, as have many other attack blogs of the right, while 'lefty' blogs like Crooks & Liars and Think Progress have been steadily rising.

Blair's readership should, if anything, be growing by the day. He regularly picks up links from Andrew Bolt's blog, hosted by the Herald Sun and News Limited websites, two of the most heavily trafficked sites in Australia. Plus he gets a nice big plug for his blog across his Saturday full page column in Sydney's Daily Telegraph, a newspaper apparently read by more than 100,000 people.

If links from Bolt and a banner 'ad' in the Daily Telegraph won't drive up your readership, what will?

Or maybe Blair is just annoyed that he has been forced to hand around the bowl :
It’s the first selfish fundraiser in this site’s six-year life! Aims: replace the ancient laptop, set up a wireless deal, launch some cash at admin, pay off those damn bookies and get video happening.

Readers of The Orstrahyun should make a contribution if they can. It would be a loss to the Australian blogstream if Blair disappeared, or was unable to include videos of Kevin Rudd enjoying some ear fruit.

Blair continues to make a solid contribution to the growth of blogging in Australia, and remains one of our funniest and most precise bloggers, even if a disturbing number of his regular commenters revel in the untimely deaths of world leaders and celebrities, fixate endlessly on dreamed up 'lefty' conspiracies, have trouble expressing themselves beyond "you are a fuckwit c.nt" and enjoy fantasizing about how certain journalists should die or be killed.

Go Here To Read Darryl Mason's Online Novel ED DAY

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rudd To Howard, Costello : I Can Do You Both

After taking on John Howard in last night's debate, and scoring an obvious victory, Kevin Rudd has announced that he is now ready to take on John Howard and Peter Costello in another debate.

Rudd's reasons for the double challenge are sound - Howard is going to hand over to Costello, supposedly, sometime in the next two years if the Howard government wins the election, so why shouldn't the public see both Howard and Costello debating the wannabe PM?
"So with the debate last night, it's true, you should in reality have Mr Costello there for half the time and Mr Howard there for half the time, because that is what they are saying to the Australian people,'' Mr Rudd said.

"I'll be delighted to have a debate where they shared it 50:50.

"If they want to play it tag team, that's fine by me.''

The debate was a huge ratings winner last night, pulling more than a million viewers to the ABC broadcast, some 1.5 million to Channel Nine and a reasonable 60,000 to cable channel Sky News.

The more that Howard and Costello try and dismiss Rudd as a worthy PM, and try to punch holes in Labor policies, the more pressure there will be for another debate. If they're so concerned about what Rudd as PM would do to the economy of Australia, then surely it is worthwhile for them both to challenge his ideas and policies in a public debate?

And why not? What are Howard and Costello afraid of? Frankly, I think Costello would probably thrash Rudd in a debate, even if he 'tag teams' with Howard, but you're unlikely to see it.

Which means that for the rest of the election campaign, every time Costello, Howard, Abbott and Downer attack Labor policies, Rudd & Co. can fire back with "Well, if that's the way they feel, why not debate us on the issues in a televised debate?"

The more often Howard And Friends try to 'worm' their way out of another debate, now the ABC, Nine and Sky now it will probably be another ratings winner, the more sneaky, controlling and cowardly they will look.
Australian Cities Safe From Rising Sea Levels

We Don't Even Make "Imperiled" List

It's not good news for a half billion or so other Earth dwellers, but a new report reveals that Australian cities will be safe from the allegedly apocalyptic destruction apparently coming from climate change induced sea level rises.

Cities around the world are facing the danger of rising seas and other disasters related to climate change.

They include Dhaka, Bangladesh; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Shanghai and Tianjin in China; Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt; Mumbai and Kolkata in India; Jakarta, Indonesia; Tokyo and Osaka-Kobe in Japan; Lagos, Nigeria; Karachi, Pakistan; Bangkok, Thailand, and New York and Los Angeles in the United States, according to studies by the United Nations and others.

More than one-tenth of the world's population, or 643 million people, live in low-lying areas at risk from climate change, say U.S. and European experts.

Most imperiled, in descending order, are China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam,
Indonesia, Japan, Egypt, the U.S., Thailand and the Philippines
But no Sydney or Melbourne on the list. Not even Adelaide.

I get the feeling, however, that the WorldWatch Institute, who released the details above, might just have a special report coming for Australian cities, seeing as we didn't make the main lists.

They wouldn't want to make us feel left out.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Why Bribe The Rich?

Stop Demanding Praise, Just Shut Up And Do Your Job

John Howard and Peter Costello did a masterful job of appearing not to be at all thrown by Kevin Rudd's announcement of his tax policy. Or should that be, the Howard government's tax policy, but with the big fat bonuses for the richest Australians diverted to many tens of thousands of parents who can't afford to get their kids online and computer literate.

As Glenn Milne makes clear in this column, big fat tax cuts for the rich, a few handfuls of gold coins for the rest, don't win voters over anymore. And they haven't for a while. It's like Rocky VI. Yeah, it might be good to see Balboa bounce back, but does it really matter anymore?

Voters want something more. Money into health, education, infrastructure. Where all those curiously large surpluses are supposed to be spent, before they become curiously large surpluses

It's that simple.

Ruddin Hood taking away tax cuts for the rich was probably expected by Howard and Costello, but even a day or two later they didn't seem to comprehend just how popular Rudd's few-red-lines revision of their tax policy really are.

Here's Milne :

...courtesy of Costello and John Howard's decade plus of economic management, Rudd promises $31 billion of tax cuts for middle and low-income earners.

Then he jettisons the Government's cuts for those earning more than $180,000 a year and commits the savings of $2.3billion to helping families meet the education costs of "breaching the digital divide''.

Winning elections is about having a coherent narrative.

Leaders must construct a story about where they want to take the country that resonates above the rival political noise, sufficient that it carries all the way to the ballot box on polling day.

The danger for John Howard now is that the education rebate threatens to do just that. Rudd has been smart here, if economically disingenuous.

He reaps the same Budget harvest as Howard and Costello, enabling him to promise the same generous tax cuts to the constituencies that count politically, but he overcomes the cynicism that accompanies such tax give-aways by the altruistic "gift'' of the education rebate.

There is another overlay at work as well - voters now show an increasing reluctance, at least in the published opinion polls, to want to appear selfish. So while the Howard/Costello package backs self-interest in the form of tax cuts, the polls consistently show that voters would prefer governments to spend their surpluses on services, such as health, and infrastructure.

What Rudd has done is dual-track his messages: he appeals to self-interest by embracing the Government's tax cuts but he also satisfies the vanity of voters, who at the same time want to regard themselves as selfless, by convincing them Labor's "alternative'' is about the future of their children rather than their own hip pocket.

Howard spent a decade social-engineering Australians to dream big, to want more, to spend beyond their earnings, to become mega-consumers. But the bills are piling up, the McMansions are being taken away by the banks and Howard and Costello are still telling us all that we've never had it so good.

And they're still demanding that they be thanked, praised and cheered for what they've done.

You don't need to take a poll to know that what really gets under the skin of so many Australians when it comes to Howard and Costello, and Abbott and Nelson and Downer, is their constant carping and demands for people to praise them for their allegedly excellent economic management.

And when they don't get that praise, as they very rarely do, they act all prissy and sooky.

Don't they get it?

How many Australian workers get told they've done a great job?

How many get told that, over and over again?

How many Australians expect to see people on TV addressing them directly saying, "Mate, you're bloody awesome. Seriously. You rock. You're a deadset legend. This country would absolute ratshit without all that great work you've done."

Few, if any.

Australians do their jobs, they work hard, and they mostly don't ask for praise, recognition or rewards, outside of time with the family, or a weekend free to do what they want to do.

But off the back of another massive Surprise Surplus, and 'tax cuts for all', there's Howard and Costello, yet again, waving frantically for our attention. "Hello? I'm over here! Don't you have something you want to tell me? Yes? How brilliant I am? Well, thank you."

What we expect Howard and Costello to do is to do their bloody jobs. Run the country, keep the economy strong, and spend the money handed over in tax making our health, education and infrastructure the best in the world.

But what we most expect, and are now clearly demanding, is for all those politicians to get on with and shut the hell up and stop demanding praise for doing their jobs properly.

We will expect the same of Rudd and Co. Do your jobs, do them well, don't expect to be praised.

Howard shouldn't be on the ropes going into the Great Debate tonight, but he clearly is. Wife Janette will spend most of Sunday reminding him that she isn't ready to move out of Kirribilli yet, so he can't fuck it up.

Expect to see Howard sweating a bit. Hopefully someone has reminded him that This Is It. His last days, if he doesn't pull off a miracle. Will the pressure be too much? Rudd will probably look and act like he has been slowly drip-fed, all day, a carefully balanced mix of valium and ecstasy.

It's not up to Rudd to blow Howard away. Howard has to forget Rudd completely, and remind the majority of Australians why they voted for him before, and convince them why they must vote for him again. One last time.

This may involve some of that trembling lip, weepy eye 'how can you do this to me?' DeNiro-quality acting that Howard has pulled off so often in the past.

90 minutes of them both selling themselves, and probably their souls, for our votes will probably be 50 minutes too long, but you can hope for some action, some screw ups, some great drama.

He who wins the debate won't necessarily win the election. But all eyes will be on Howard. If he screws it up, if he cracks, if he shudders, faints, or clutches at his chest, you will know we really are in The Last Days Of John Winston Howard.

Let's just hope we get some laughs.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Howard Supporters Attack War Veteran As Street Festival Swamped By Huggers And Haters

PM Forgets Where He Is, Addresses Crowd "Mr Speaker..."

Apples got lips?

It's election season, and just about every single public appearance by prime minister John Howard and contender Kevin Rudd will make the evening news. Many of these appearances will be boring, and dead air-time. Which is why, whenever possible, Howard Huggers and Howard Haters will do whatever they can to give the media something to report. If the Huggers and Haters can grab the media's attention for only a few seconds, they can get their message across, usually within the opening minutes of the news bulletins.

John Howard, and Maxine McKew, the popular challenger for his Bennelong electorate seat, both made appearances today at an apple festival, a community event, and so did the Huggers and Haters.

Hundreds from both camps showed up, chanting, shouting and abusing each other.

One of the more nasty incidents today came when a group of Young Liberals shouted abuse at Ray Osburn, who identified himself as a war veteran. When Obsurn challenged Howard, his Huggers yelled at Osburn to "Get a life!" and to shut up, shouting that he was "an idiot."

While Maxine McKew danced in a Kevin07 t-shirt in front of grinning supporters and locals, Howard plunged into the crowd to press some flesh :

"Ten more years!" supporters called.

"Go home, ya slimy old bastard," opponents responded.

Many of the Eastwood locals seemed taken aback by the venom of the Huggers and Haters, and must have wondered what had happened to their normally subdued annual street festival.

Howard appeared rattled by the vocal critics in the crowd and forgot where he was :

"It's a remarkable, Mr Speaker - 'Mr Speaker!' There you go, I get into these bad habits!" he said.

"Whenever anybody interrupts me I say 'Mr Speaker.'"


Murdoch Media Chief Blasts Howard Government For Its War On Freedom Of Speech

News Limited CEO : "It's A Disgrace", Claims Freedom Of Speech More Restricted Now Than Any Other Time "In Living Memory"

In an extraordinary speech, Rupert Murdoch's key man down under, News Limited CEO John Hartigan, has attacked the Howard government for trying to shut down public debate and curtailing freedom of speech in Australia.

Hartigan said :
"...press freedom - the freedom of speech - is more restricted now than in living memory".

He believed the media enjoyed even less freedom than when, as editor of the Brisbane Sun, Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen tried to jail him.

Attorney General Philip Ruddock was "kidding" with his claim that "Freedom Of Information laws ensured all appropriate material is available to the public", Mr Hartigan said.

He said a current review of laws was so limited in its terms as to be "a disgrace".

"I believe Australians still care about their freedom and the value of great journalism.

"If you do too, fight like hell every inch of the way."

Interesting. When Fairfax reporter David Marr says the Howard government is curtailing freedom of speech in Australia, Murdoch media opinionists like Andrew Bolt go absolutely bonkers, call him hysterical and attack him for exaggeration.

But when his own boss echoes Marr and blasts the Howard government for curtailing freedom of speech?

Not a word from Bolt.

Hartigan's full speech can be read here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tony Abbott : A Dirty, Rotten, Commie, Crypto-Stalinist, Lefty, Strike Making UNION THUG!

Poor old Tony Abbott. He was hoping that it would be Rudd's dark past that would be in the headlines today. No such luck.

Federal health minister, and chief Howard headkicker, Tony Abbott has been exposed as a dirty rotten COMMIE masquerading as an odious annoying little Howard lapdog.

How do we know Abbott is a dirty, rotten, stinking, commie, crypto-Stalinist UNION THUG?

Because the Howard government's own propaganda tells us so.

Tony Abbott was a member and power mover in the journo's union, back when he used to run the photocopier at The Bulletin, and he actively participated in, and even helped to organise, a strike.


Dirty, rotten, Commie, Lefty, Socialist, Maoist UNION THUG Bastard!

The union bosses, and their lackeys are everywhere! Beware!

They're even hiding out in the flaky, wirey shell of the federal health minister.

This is exactly the kind of union thug stealth tactics Howard has been trying to warn us about.

You can't trust them! They'll pretend to be loyal Liberal Party pitbulls. They'll toe the line and lick the toes of the prime minister for years and years, and then, when you least expect it, their shocking, COMMIE, dark and hideous, Red China, Stalinist, Marxo-COMMIE-Lefty-Leninist true self will burst out and seize control of the nation.

Thank God Tony Abbott's finally been exposed. Now that's one less secret unionist who's been treating us like fools, fools dammit, for a decade, pretending to be an anti-union conservative, when he's secretly been working as a double-agent, plotting towards the day when the UNION BOSSES will take over Australia with their ANTI-BUSINESS agenda.

Howard's right, you know he is. Those dirty Commie UNION BOSSES and their secret double-agent STALINIST wannabes like Tony Abbott really are anti-business. They want to destroy Australian businesses. They want to put every Australian business out of business. That is their business. Don't you see that yet?

Once all the anti-business unions make sure all the businesses are out of business, then the unions that rely on business to swell their ranks with new workers from growing businesses can finally...oh right.

Forget all that.

Note : SHOUTING really is lots of fun, and so is adding lots of !!!! but we won't make a habit of it. OKAY?!!!

And no, I've only been drinking orange juice and mineral water.
Australia Bans War....Video Game

Australia Now Bans More Video Games Than Any Other Country In The World

You can watch it, but you can't play it.

Australia now leads the world in officially banning video games for having "adult content", even though the average age of gamers in Australia is now 28 years old.

Adult content determined by our enthusiastically draconian censorship board to be unacceptable for adult gamers includes graphic nudity or sex, extreme violence, gore, drug use or imagery depicting prostitution.

Indonesia is a majority Muslim nation, with supposedly restrictive rules on acceptable entertainment, but every single video game banned in Australia in the past three years fill the shelves of gamer shops in Jakarta.

Australia's classification regime has now decided that the forthcoming shooter title, Solider Of Fortune : Pay Back, is too gory and violent for the millions of adult Australians who play video games every evening, instead of tuning into Dancing With The Australia Idols.

The game was refused classification by the Office Of Film and Literature Classification.

The absurdity of the ban is compounded by the fact that the news.com.au website features a collection of YouTube clips showing exactly the kind of graphic violence that led to the game being banned. There is clearly no age restriction to viewing the game's most violent scenes and action. You just can't participate.

Australia is now, the only country in the world to officially, and regularly, ban video games for violence or "adult content". We now ban more video games, through censorship legislation, than any other country on the planet.

Yet the Australian Defence Force now uses very realistic video games to help recruit teenagers into a militaristic way of thinking. The games are specifically designed to begin training teenagers for war, long before they are old enough to sign up for the real thing. Those games, naturally, are not banned. They are, in fact, free.

So is the problem here that Soldier Of Fortune : Pay Back actually shows the kind of injuries, decapitations, amputations and spouting head wounds that are part of every day life in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan where Australia has deployed thousands of troops?

Clearly, it's a dangerous and terrible thing for even adults in Australia to see what happens to the human body when it is hit by high calibre bullets and RPGs. Even in a video game.

Some of the video games now banned in Australia - Blitz: The League, BMX XXX, Manhunt, Reservoir Dogs, 50 Cent: Bullet Proof.

Blitz was banned in January due to the fact it "contains drug use related to incentives or rewards."

More here :

In its board report on Soldier of Fortune: Pay Back, dated October 16, the OFLC said frequent high impact violence made the game unsuitable for those aged under 18 years.

It's animation.

"Successfully shooting an opponent results in the depiction of blood spray," the board said.

It's animation.

"When the enemy is shot from close range, the blood spray is substantial, especially when a high-caliber weapon is used, and blood splatters onto the ground and walls in the environment.

It's animation.

"The player may target various limbs of the opponents and this can result in the limb being dismembered.

It's animation.

"Large amounts of blood spray forth from the stump with the opponent sometimes remaining alive before eventually dying from the wounds."

It's animation.

Australia has no classification to restrict violent video game sales to person over 18 years of age, despite the fact that the average age of players is 28, and the vast majority of all gamers are over legal adults.

You can't legally play the Soldier Of Fortune : Payback video game in Australia. But you can sign up to the Army on your 18th birthday and clock up a tour in Iraq, shooting real guns at real people, by your 20th birthday.

But a video game?

God, no.

Fight in real wars, but ban the fake ones.

You know it makes sense.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

No Media Bias During Elections, Apparently

It's all in your mind. You might think certain newspapers display a clear bias in their election coverage, but according to the Australian Press Council, you're wrong :

Claims of newspaper bias towards one party during elections are perennial but unfounded, according to an Australian Press Council report to be released today.

"Regular readers ... were presented with a comprehensive and generally balanced coverage of issues and policies, parties and personalities," the research report says.

According to the report, both researchers were unequivocal in their conclusion that, in terms of coverage, balance, and fairness, no party was favoured.

But the Press Council report also states there is a "trend" towards focusing on the lead personalities of the political parties contesting elections, moreso than policy or the qualities of various parties as a whole. The Press Council report called this growing focus "presidential-style" coverage.

"What is clear is that personalities, not issues, are now central to the reporting of elections in Australia," the report says.

This had tightened control of information, with policy releases usually limited to the leaders.

"Frequently ministers and their shadows are not made available to explain or respond to questions on the impact of the proposed policies."

The researchers found that rather than being detached observers of the political process, the papers were active participants, generating a great deal of their own material in the form of editorial, analysis and opinion items and placing a heavy emphasis on opinion polls.

Of course. Analysing polls, churning out pages of opinion pieces and cramming front pages with editorials are a much cheaper way of filling all that blank space around the advertisments than actually sending reporters out into the cities and suburbs to do on the spot reporting of peoples' views and circumstances.

It is interesting to note that in the news.com.au coverage of this story, they used a photo of the Piers Akerman, a notoriously pro-Howard government opinionist, who's devoted 14 of of his 15 most recent stories (listed on the Daily Telegraph site) to attacking Kevin Rudd, and repeatedly trying to link Rudd to his now unfounded conspiracy surrounding the rape of a young Aboriginal girl :

No bias from Akerman. God, no. Just a Fox News-style 'fair and balanced' approach, which for Akerman translates into a balanced range of views from 'Why You Shouldn't Vote For Rudd' to 'Why Rudd Doesn't Deserve Your Vote'.
Bush Backs Rudd?

"New Leadership" Refreshes Democracies

Kevin Rudd promises "new leadership". John Howard doesn't like the sound of that. Hell, why would he? The only thing new about Howard is the glowing fake tan and his recent trip to the botox clinic.

We don't need new leadership, says Howard, we need the "right leadership".

But, interestingly, US President Bush is in the Kevin Rudd camp on the need for democratic nations to regularly refresh their leadership. This from only a few days ago :
"...it's time for new blood...there's nothing better for a democracy than to renew itself by elections and new leadership."
It'll be interesting to see if anyone in the Labor Party dares to quote President Bush as a way of endorsing Rudd's "new leadership" mantra.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Students Spend More Time Studying Religion And Sports Than Science

Halfway through a 4th grade religion class in my primary school, the relief teacher stopped in the middle of a reading and sighed loudly, despairingly, before muttering, "This is just bullshit."

Back then, a teacher saying "bullshit" was enough to make the whole class gasp, and the teacher's revelation sparked a tide of dissent amongst the students who had never heard an adult say Bible stories were "bullshit". A dozen or so eight and nine year old atheists were born that day, and were moved to another classroom from then on for an extra science class. Nobody complained as we learned some more about how nature worked in the real world.

A new Howard government study reveals that religion is still regarded as more important than science in Australian schools, and sports far more important than both :

The Federal Government-commissioned study of 160 public and private primary schools found that teachers spent more than half (56 per cent) of their time teaching English and maths.

They spent 4 per cent on school assemblies and 4 per cent on religious education, but 3 per cent on teaching science. Physical education received 11 per cent of teaching time.

Primary schools reported they were finding it virtually impossible to spend enough time on core subjects because their curriculums had become cluttered with an overwhelming number of life-skill subjects including manners and nutrition.

The 'working families' method of rigid social control means that what was once taught in the home - nutrition and manners - is now crammed into the already crowded schedule of alloted studies in the classroom.

But there's nothing like a good grounding in religion and sports to set up a student for solid career prospects.

Many Australians regard sport as the national religion. Maybe they can combine school religious studies with cricket training? Hit a six, receive a blessing from God.