Archive for February, 2014

Gareth Evans gives Julie Bishop a diplomatic serve over Cambodia

February 28th, 2014 Comments off

It is hard to get present day Labor politicians to lift their interest in matters of foreign policy past comments about the damage that asylum seeker policy is doing to relations with Indonesia. Even the remarkable flirtation Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had with her Cambodian counterpart over his country taking some of the Australia bound regimes could not stir an interest.

So enter Gareth Evans, Foreign Minister under Hawke and Keating, to remind us that the Labor Party once had principles. “Cambodia’s government has been getting away with murder,” wrote Evans ,who is now Chancellor of the Australian National University, in an article published in today’s Phnom Penh Post and available on the Project Syndicate website. “For far too long, Hun Sen and his colleagues have been getting away with violence, human-rights abuses, corruption, and media and electoral manipulation without serious internal or external challenge.”

And the man who played a major role in the Cambodian peace process devoted a paragraph or three to Julie Bishop:

But the tone of too many of these statements has been muted. Australia’s statements have been typical – falling over backward to avoid giving offense, and too anxious to balance criticism with praise. Officials are “concerned” about “recent disproportionate violence against protesters” but “welcome the Government’s stated commitment to undertake electoral reforms.”

Australia’s new foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has talked, as foreign ministers often do, of the need to avoid unproductive “megaphone diplomacy” and to “engage, not enrage” her counterparts. But, it seems that no robust critique was delivered when she met privately with Hun Sen in Phnom Penh on February 22 – even though Australia’s high standing in Cambodia (not least owing to its historical role in the peace process) means that its voice certainly would have been listened to.

There is a place for quiet diplomacy that relies on genuine engagement to encourage significant behavioral change. But when states behave badly enough for long enough, loud megaphones can also be in order.

I know Hun Sen and worked well with him in the past. I have resisted strong public criticism until now, because I thought there was hope for both him and his government. But their behavior has now moved beyond the civilized pale. It is time for Cambodia’s political leaders to be named, shamed, investigated, and sanctioned by the international community.

Categories: International politics Tags:

How Qantas is losing to oil money and penny pinchers and other news and views for Friday 28 February

February 28th, 2014 Comments off
  •  Qantas and its ilk are losing the Asian skies to oil money and penny pinchers – ‘The “Flying Kangaroo,” as Qantas Airlines is known, has announced its largest cutbacks in 20 years, including laying off 5,000 staff and a six-month loss of $226 million. CEO Alan Joyce is asking the Australian government for state aid due to “some of the toughest conditions Qantas has ever seen.” Specifically, Qantas is getting killed by competition from Virgin Australia, a fast-growing, money-losing budget airline controlled by three other so-called flag carriers—Air New Zealand, Etihad Airways of the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore Airlines. Qantas’s fate is being echoed across Asia and around the world, as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad expand into new territories, and low-cost carriers (LCCs) like Air Asia, Southwest, Easyjet, and Ryanair fight aggressive fare wars against their older rivals.”
  • Asia budget airlines: no flying profits – “Competition escalates as more airlines enter the fray.”
  • Climate Change: Evidence and Causes -“It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, accompanied by sealevel rise, a strong decline in Arctic sea ice, and other climate-related changes



Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

The Daily Telegraph’s page 17 sense of humour

February 28th, 2014 Comments off

James Ashby can consider himself a bit hard done by this morning. Last year after a federal court judge ruled he had launched a sexual harassment claim to destroy his former boss Peter Slipper and the claim was thrown out, Ashby was treated by many as a no-good figure of fun. Not by Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, though. The Tele, which had featured the original accusation against the one-time Speaker of the House of Representatives Slipper prominently on its early news pages, consigned a report on Ashby’s case being thrown out to page 17.

With a wonderful sense of timing the full bench of the Federal Court chose yesterday to rule on an appeal that overturned the previous ruling and the Ashby case against Slipper can now proceed. The decision just happened to follow the publication that morning of a tut-tutting finding by the Press Council that the Tele was quite unfair in consigning the story on Ashby’s loss in court to page 17.


So what to do with the news of the man’s vindication by the full bench? Why, put in on page 17 of course.

2014-02-28_page17Humorous but perhaps a bit unfair and not just on James Ashby. Journalist Steve Lewis, now retired from the News stable, saw his reputation sullied a little in the original judgment. The last par of the Tele’s report this morning thus deserves a wider circulation than page 17 provides:

The court was also complimentary of former Daily Telegraph journalist Steve Lewis, rejecting the trial judge’s conclusion he “was lying” in his evidence and saying it was wrong to assume a “We will get him” text message Lewis sent Mr Ashby referred to the harassment claims, because Lewis had been investigating Mr Slipper’s travel entitlements for some time.


Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Constructing new mines going down but actual mining production on the rise

February 27th, 2014 Comments off

The signs that the inevitable decline in investment in new mining projects is well and truly underway was shown today when the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its survey of Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure for December. The ABS found that the trend estimate for Mining fell 0.6% in the December quarter 2013. Equipment, plant and machinery fell 12.4% while buildings and structures rose 0.8%. The seasonally adjusted estimate for Mining fell 5.5% in the December quarter 2013. Buildings and structures fell 4.2% and equipment, plant and machinery fell 16.0% in seasonally adjusted terms.


The decline in mining investment was a major component in the trend volume estimate for total new capital expenditure in industries overall falling 0.7% in the December quarter 2013 while the seasonally adjusted estimate fell 5.2%.

2014-02-27_totalcapitalexpenditureIt was not the reported actual falls that seem to have spooked many economists but the ABS estimates of future capital expenditure. Estimate 1 for 2014-15 at $124,880m is 17.4% lower than Estimate 1 for 2013-14. The main contributor to the decrease was Mining (-25.2%).

Before getting too despondent it is worth remembering that the figure for next financial year is but an estimate. In 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 the first estimate – made five to six months before the financial year begins – understated what finally happened.

Whatever happens on the total and mining investment front, the mining “boom” in actual volume of production is still a long way from its peak as the graph below taken from the Minerals Council of Australia’s brief for members of the new parliament illustrates:


What that rise in production volume will mean in a dollar contribution to GDP is difficult to judge given the volatility of the Australian dollar exchange rate but there must be a good chance of increased export income softening the blow caused by declining capital investment. On the downside, however, is the effect on employment with actual mining requiring far less labour than the initial construction work.



Categories: Economic matters Tags:

Creating three parent babies? A new ethical debate

February 27th, 2014 Comments off

An advisory committee of the US Food and Drug Administration has just concluded two days of meetings to consider whether to make legal a proposal that scientists be allowed to try to make babies using eggs that have been genetically altered to include DNA from another woman. The committee decided not to vote to determine a recommendation to the FDA after some panellists worried that not enough research has been done to know whether the experiments would be safe. “I think there was a sense of the committee that at this particular point in time, there was probably not enough data either in animals or in vitro to conclusively move on to human trials . . . without answering a few additional questions,” Dr. Evan Snyder of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., who chaired the 25-member committee, told National Public Radio.

During the hearing, the panel heard from researchers at the New York Stem Cell Foundation, the Oregon Health & Science University and Newcastle University in England who have conducted prelminary research in animals and want to try the procedure in humans.

They argue it would help women with diseases caused by problems with a type of DNA known as mitochondrial DNA to have healthy babies. These conditions can be devastating, even sometimes fatal. The approach could also be used to help treat women suffering from infertility.

“We have developed a technique that would allow a woman to have a child that is not affected by this disease, and yet the child would be related to her genetically,” Dieter Egli of the New York Stem Cell Foundation told NPR in October.

Several critics of the proposal told the panel that they feared the technique could introduce errors into the human gene pool, or even open the door to creating “designer babies” by letting parents to pick the traits of their babies.

At the end of the hearing, the FDA panel outlined what steps researchers might have to go through before they could do a clinical trial. That would include making sure the process was safe, ethical and would produce useful results. The FDA has not said when the agency might make a decision.


In a New York Times report earlier this week the attempt to produce genetically modified human beings was  called “a dangerous step.”  The techniques would change every cell in the bodies of children born as a result of their use, and these alterations would be passed down to future generations.

The F.D.A. calls them mitochondrial manipulation technologies. The procedures involve removing the nuclear material either from the egg or embryo of a woman with inheritable mitochondrial disease and inserting it into a healthy egg or embryo of a donor whose own nuclear material has been discarded. Any offspring would carry genetic material from three people — the nuclear DNA of the mother and father, and the mitochondrial DNA of the donor.

If the subject interests you there is a wealth of further information about Inheritable Genetic Modification on the website of the Center for Genetics and Society.

Categories: Sexual politics Tags:

Relations between Australia and the Indonesian military have never been better?

February 27th, 2014 Comments off

The Jakarta Post this morning publishes an interesting theory on Australian-Indonesian relations – relations might be tense between Jakarta and Canberra, but between Canberra and the Indonesian Military (TNI), things have never been better.

The commentary, written from Perth by Lauren Gumbs, described as a writer who holds a Masters in communications from Griffith University in Queensland a Masters in human rights student at Curtin University, appears on the paper’s main op-ed page under the headling “Australian government bypasses Jakarta, builds ties with military”.

Indonesian officials are in disbelief that special life rafts carrying undocumented migrants were given by Australian authorities for the purpose of sending back migrants but concede that there might be a special agreement between Australian and Indonesian defense force chiefs.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa remains steadfast in opposing the coalition’s boat U-turns despite six reported incidents where boat people have been pushed back or even sent back on new lifeboats purchased solely for that task.

And President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, deeply concerned about impositions on sovereignty as well as public ire, is still smarting after the phone-tapping furor and recent accidental maritime incursions.

The TNI however, previously told to beef up maritime border protection and point its radar Australia’s way, has been largely silent on rhetoric about threats to Indonesia’s sovereignty from Australia and somehow missed two giant orange life rafts being chaperoned around the sea for several days before finally being nudged back toward Indonesia.

The article speculates on the role of TNI commander Gen. Moeldoko in dealing with Australia’s policy of returning boat people.

27-02-2014 bypassThe article concludes:

Indonesian lawmakers are angry at this latest Australian “provocation”, however Singaporean fighter planes crossed into Indonesian airspace this week, demonstrating that threats to Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty can come from other directions, and extenuating the way that the TNI has reasserted itself into the political debate.

With such sovereign and domestic threats featuring on the horizon, and the endless corruption scandals biting chunks out of democratic legitimacy, some fear that Indonesian voters may turn towards the strong leadership offered by presidential candidates with a military background. Indeed, Prabowo Subianto, a former general, is second in line to the throne after Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo (so far an unofficial candidate).

The presence of conservatively nationalist military actors in the political sphere signals retrograde forces at play in Indonesia’s still vulnerable democratization.

In Indonesia politics can be a largely patrimonial game, so if Australia enjoys special cooperation on a controversial humanitarian issue now it may one day have to return the favor.

Categories: International politics Tags:

A right for businesses to deny service to gays and lesbians

February 26th, 2014 Comments off

It is front page news in Arizona but a bill passed by the state’s legislature that would allow business owners in the state to deny service to gays and lesbians is arousing controversy throughout the United States. Arizona’s Republican Governor Jan Brewer is being pressured to veto the bill under which to deny service, the business owner has to have sincerely held religious beliefs.



National Public Radio reports that the legislation’s wording has become so controversial that even some lawmakers who voted for it are now regretting it.

Jay Michaelson, who studies religious freedom for the progressive Political Research Associates told NPR a number of other states considered and rejected laws similar to Arizona’s. The Arizona law would allow business owners to refuse service to gays and lesbians if the owner’s religion says homosexuality is wrong. But Jay Michaelson says the bill could affect virtually anyone who deals with a business owner claiming religious protection.

MICHAELSON: And, in fact, this law was so broad that it could cover anybody. So if I’m a fundamentalist Christian who holds Jews responsible for the death of Jesus Christ, I could put a sign saying no Jews allowed in my hotel or my restaurant or my sports stadium for that matter.

Doug Napier of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is trying to get similar bills passed across the country, sees things quite differently.

DOUG NAPIER: This is a human dignity bill. It’s a human rights bill. It’s an anti-discrimination bill, so people of faith have a safe place in Arizona. That’s all it is.

The inspiration for the Arizona bill was a court decision in neighboring New Mexico last year. That state’s Supreme Court ruled that an Albuquerque photographer could not refuse to take pictures of a gay couple. The Arizona law was intended to protect business owners from similar lawsuits but what may have begun as a religious rights issue has quickly become a civil rights issue. Both U.S. senators from Arizona, John McCain and Jeff Flake, have come out against the new bill. “This is going to hurt the state of Arizona’s economy and frankly our image,” Sen. McCain told CNN.

Significant drop in obesity among two to five year old children and other news and views for 26 February

February 26th, 2014 Comments off

Some news and views noted along the way

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

Banking ethics Credit Suisse style

February 26th, 2014 Comments off

Credit Suisse ‘helped US tax evaders’ –

Credit Suisse made false claims in US visa applications, conducted business with clients in secret elevators and shredded documents to help more than 22,000 American customers avoid US taxes, according to a scathing report by a US congressional committee.

Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

An Oscars election contest

February 26th, 2014 Comments off

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

For the Daily Telegraph “prick” must be a new dirty word

February 26th, 2014 Comments off

2014-02-26_singosprayAlmost a new category – journalists writing about proprietors slanging off at proprietors. The Daily Terror this morning:

IT would have to go down as the spray of the year: Sydney radio tsar John Singleton unleashed yesterday on his onetime would-be business partners at Fairfax Media, calling its chairman a “pompous pr..k” and the CEO an “idiot”…

SINGLETON ON CORBETT – “He’s only got a year to go and then he can be president of the Avoca bowling club or Rotary or something, some self-important, pompous, puffed up job for him.”

SINGLETON ON HYWOOD – “(He is) obviously an idiot.”

FAIRFAX ON SINGLETON – “Anyone who had the misfortune of hearing John Singleton’s deluded and self-indulgent sprays … can only feel sorry for the man.”

And in passing we should note the latest example of hostilities between the Tele’s senior stablemate The Australian and the ABC which made page one again today.


Don’t you just love it when an organ of the Murdoch press takes up the cudgels for ethical journalism?



The tough life of the freelance journalist

February 26th, 2014 Comments off

It’s a tough life being a freelance journalist and don’t I know it. My sympathies, therefore, go to Asher Wolf who at least got a moment of fame via The Oz yesterday.

2014-02-26_freelancersSee more of journalists writing about journalists


Beheading Hindus and other things worth reading from around the web

February 25th, 2014 Comments off
  • The withdrawal of ‘The Hindus’ – The Times Literary Supplement reports on how Penguin India’s decision to withdraw and pulp all remaining copies of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An alternative history has provoked outcry in the literary world. The TLS has also revived its original review by placing it on its website. The opening paragraph of the review :

24-02-2014 reviewingthehindus

Keep reading the review HERE.

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

A Phnom Penh view on Australia sending refugees to Cambodia

February 24th, 2014 Comments off

No wonder Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is keeping publicly silent on her suggestion to Cambodia when visiting at the weekend that it help out by taking some of our surplus refugees. Despite what the Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said at a press briefing on Saturday – that it was a proposal that the government was taking “very seriously” – politicians in his country are opposed to the idea.

The Phnom Penh Post reports today that the  Cambodian government clarified yesterday that it is not keen on taking in refugees fleeing political persecution who might seek to use the Kingdom as a “springboard” for political activities, raising questions about what protection Cambodia would actually offer to those that Australia wishes to send.

“[Australia] wants to hand over its moral responsibility to Cambodia, I don’t think that’s acceptable,” Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua said yesterday.

“Australia has to settle its own moral responsibility as a nation that we consider a democracy that respects human rights, [and] as a nation that is well developed and has in the past been very generous with refugees [including from Cambodia].” …

Government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday said that Cambodia wished to help Australia “as a friend of humanity” but would, however, require assistance from the international community to help successfully resettle refugees.

“We don’t want the world to see Cambodia as a springboard for political refugees. We support and try to preserve our neutrality,” he said.

But Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak said this position was one reason why Cambodia had a “horrible” refugee rights record.

“We don’t have the financial capacity but we also don’t have the political will [for] refugees who need protection, especially when most refugees are of a political nature,” he said.

Categories: International politics Tags:

The verdict so far on the Abbott coalition government – what the market says

February 24th, 2014 Comments off

The Owl is a believer in the wisdom of crowds being superior to  pundits like himself when it come to predicting future political events. Hence he uses the assessment of the market to compile his election indicators and this is the early appraisal of the Coalition government:

2014-02-24_AUSTNFEDINDICATORYou will find other indicators HERE.


Categories: Political indicators Tags:

A close run thing for control of the US Senate in November

February 24th, 2014 Comments off

There’s a lengthy analysis on the Real Clear Politics site at the moment on How Likely Are Democrats to Lose the Senate? at the US mid-term Congressional elections in November that suggests the conventional wisdom of the pundits is that they are more likely to do so than retain their current majority. The problem the Democrats have, the analysis suggests, is the low approval rating of President Barack Obama,


Using what has happened at past elections RCP’s Sean Trend compiled this summary of  what the Democrat losses in the Senate would be for various Obama approval ratings:



This is a grim picture for Senate Democrats, suggesting that the president would have to get his approval above 50 percent by Election Day before they would be favored to hold the chamber. This is also consistent with what we’ve seen in polling, which shows the seven “red state” Democrats in truly severe states of distress, while Democrats in Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire and Colorado are exhibiting surprising weakness.  If these 11 seats are showing similar signs of weakness in November, Democrats will have an extremely difficult time holding the chamber.  At Obama’s current 44 percent approval rating, we’d expect Democrats to lose somewhere between nine and 13 seats.

Well that’s one view of the prospects in November but the Owl is more inclined to stick with the wisdom of the crowds and look at how his Congressional Election Indicator assesses things. This is the market assessment for contol of both the House of Representatives and the Senate:

2014-02-24_congressionalkindicatorsYou will find the Owl’s Indicators for other events HERE.



Categories: Political indicators, US Election Tags:

Out of my post-Intrade sulk – investing on a Scottish “No” vote

February 24th, 2014 Comments off

When the Irish based market trading website Intrade went through the hoop last year I lost enthusiasm for betting on politics. While it ended the most interesting of the political markets the need for financial sustenance has induced me to return even if that means tackling the odds of orthodox bookmakers on events where Betfair is not operating.
My first dabble for nearly 10 months is to back the “No” vote in the Scottish referendum to be held on 18 September at Betfair’s $1.23 – $123 on for a potential win of $23.
For details of this and other current (some of those taken before the temporary retirement are yet to run) bets, along with the Owl’s historical record, see The Portfolio page at The political speculator’s diary.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

No official interest rate change likely in March

February 24th, 2014 Comments off

The Owl’s interest rate indicator suggests that the Reserve Bank board will make no change to official rates at its meeting on the first Tuesday in March.


The “No” vote gains support in Scotland’s referendum election

February 24th, 2014 Comments off

The latest poll published in Scotland on Sunday shows sup0port for a “No” vote increasing.

2014-02-24_scotlandpollThe Owl’s referendum indicator shows a similar strengthening in support for the “No” vote.



Categories: Political indicators, UK polls Tags:

Modern farming – making animals akin to diesel engines and filing the canine teeth of piglets to prevent cannibalism

February 23rd, 2014 Comments off

Digital Dairy: Robotic Milk Production Takes Over – By Jonathan Stock and Takis Würger in Der Spiegel

Thank goodness I don’t drink milk. This story in Der Spiegel is turning me off dairy products and reinforcing my commitment to buying free range poultry and pork.

Free-roaming dairy herds are becoming a thing of the past; meadows full of black-and-white Holsteins a rarity. Instead, there is cheap milk.

Becoming outraged at the situation is hardly helpful. The foodstuffs sector has become so perfected that animals in the industry have become comparable to machines or raw materials in other sectors. Some 50 million male chicks are destroyed each year in Germany because they are unable to lay eggs. The canine teeth of piglets are filed down so as to prevent cannibalism in giant farms. Animals have become akin to diesel engines. …

The cow of the future in Europe will live in a digital world, milked by robots and fed by machines. In the Canadian province of Québec, some 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) away from Nielsen and Westrup, this future is already reality.

There, David Landry stands in his stall and watches as robots do his work for him. A round one, roughly as broad as a hula-hoop, moves between the paddocks shoving the hay closer to the cows. Another machine, the so-called Creeper, crawls through the stalls pushing manure out. In the middle of the stall is the milking robot.

Categories: Animal welfare Tags:

Marijuana goes mainstream

February 23rd, 2014 Comments off


Where the United States leads Australia often follows. And legalisation of marijuana is now receiving sympathetic treatment on the front page of that conservative organ The Washington Post. So get ready for politicians here to start advocating an alternative to the still predominant John Howard policy of zero-tolerance to all illegal drugs.23-02-2014 wpmarijuanamoment

Since the 1960s, the United States has traveled on a herkyjerky trip from hippies and head shops to grass-roots backlash by suburban parents, from enthusiastic funding of the war on drugs to a gathering consensus that the war had little effect on marijuana use. Now, for the first time, marijuana legalization is winning majority support in public opinion polls and a drug used by about 6 percent of Americans— and one-third of the nation’s high school seniors — is starting to shake off its counterculture reputation. It is winning acceptance even from some police, prosecutors and politicians.

For an alternative drugs policy see Alternatives to prohibition: Illicit drugs: How we can stop killing and criminalising young Australians published by Australia21 although be warned – Miranda Devine will not be impressed. From her Sunday Telegraph column this morning:

23-02-2014 miranda


Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Regression to the mean takes time

February 23rd, 2014 Comments off

Your Ancestors, Your Fate –

To a striking extent, your overall life chances can be predicted not just from your parents’ status but also from your great-great-great-grandparents’. The recent study suggests that 10 percent of variation in income can be predicted based on your parents’ earnings. In contrast, my colleagues and I estimate that 50 to 60 percent of variation in overall status is determined by your lineage. The fortunes of high-status families inexorably fall, and those of low-status families rise, toward the average — what social scientists call “regression to the mean” — but the process can take 10 to 15 generations (300 to 450 years), much longer than most social scientists have estimated in the past.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

On trying to ghost an autobiography of Julian Assange

February 23rd, 2014 Comments off

Ghosting by Andrew O’Hagan – London Review of Books

Julian is an actor who believes all the lines in the play are there to feed his lines; that none of the other lives is substantial in itself. People have inferred from this kind of thing that he has Asperger’s syndrome and they could be right. He sees every idea as a mere spark from a fire in his own mind. That way madness lies, of course, and the extent of Julian’s lying convinced me that he is probably a little mad, sad and bad, for all the glory of WikiLeaks as a project.

This tale – all 26,390 words of it – of a ghost writer employed to write an autobiography of the Wikileaks founder gives a fascinating insight into Julian Assange. One of Andrew O’Hagan’s conclusions:

Those of us who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, especially in the United Kingdom under Thatcher and Blair, those of us who lived through the Troubles and the Falklands War, the miners’ strike, the deregulation of the City, and Iraq, believed that exposing secret deals and covert operations would prove a godsend. When WikiLeaks began this process in 2010, it felt, to me anyhow, but also to many others that this might turn out to be the greatest contribution to democracy since the end of the Cold War. A new kind of openness suddenly looked possible: technology might allow people to watch their watchers, at last, and to inspect the secrets being kept, supposedly in our name, and to expose fraud and exploitation wherever it was encountered in the new media age. It wasn’t a subtle plan but it smacked of the kind of idealism that many of us hadn’t felt for a while in British life, where big moral programmes on the left are thin on the ground. Assange looked like a counter-warrior and a man not made for the deathly compromises of party politics. And he seemed deeply connected to the web’s powers of surveillance and counter-surveillance. What happened, though, is that big government opposition to WikiLeaks’s work – which continues – became confused, not least in Assange’s mind, with the rape accusations against him. It has been a fatal conflation.

Categories: Media Tags:

Labor’s policy timidity keeps the Greens in the political game

February 23rd, 2014 Comments off

That the pundits are even idly speculating down in Hobart that the Greens might end up with more seats than Labor at the forthcoming Tasmanian state election tells us something about the changing nature of left of centre politics. Labor has devoted so much effort chasing Liberals to the right that the only real opposition to conservative thought these days comes from the Greens.

Down south it might be environmental issues where Labor most noticeably has deserted its progressive principles but federally it is asylum seeker policy. How pathetic it is to observe the embarrassing silence with which Labor reacts to the horrors of Manus island. Having been the architect of this inhumane offshore detention policy the party is incapable of being a critic. What a depressing legacy Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard left behind them in their searches to survive as Prime Ministers.

Dennis Altman, a long ago fellow student at the University of Tasmania and now Professorial Fellow in Human Security at La Trobe University, has written  at Inside Story on how “Labor seeks to be a progressive party while running away from any policies that might actually challenge the orthodoxy of the conservative press.”

Labor has yet to find a convincing definition of progressive politics that is more than a wishlist of discrete policies. Any serious questioning of the mantra of growth and consumption is regarded as electoral suicide. The party is trapped in the legacy of economic rationalism, which leads to the contradictory position of its current leaders, who simultaneously talk about the need to focus on climate change while also increasing economic growth.

That analysis seems spot on to me. As does his assessment that Labor will never again win a majority in its own right. Altman’s analysis is well worth the reading.

Categories: Political snippets Tags:

The criticism of the ABC returns to The Australian and Gerard has a shot at Crikey

February 22nd, 2014 Comments off

The hostilities have resumed. The Oz returned to attacking the ABC with this editorial comment on Friday:


Fair enough to point out that Ms Bolkan’s was not giving an eye-witness account but more likely that she actually spoke to an eye-witness than did the anonymous author of the editorial.

This morning it was Gerard Henderson’s turn as he returned to a favourite theme.

22-02-2014 gerardJust for the record here are some recent examples, courtesy of Media Matters for America, of Fox’s plurality of views.

22-02-2014 erickerickson8_205

Fox’s Erickson: Businesses Serving Gay Couples Are “Aiding And Abetting” Sin

22-02-2014 seanhannity45

Hannity’s Financial Ties To Tea Party Worse Than You Think

22-02-2014 girlscouts

Bill O’Reilly Is Worried About “Homosexual Overtones” In The Girl Scouts

22-02-2014 RyanMauro

Meet Fox’s New Anti-Muslim “National Security Analyst”

22-02-2014 usasukraine

Fox Guest Warns That U.S. Could Become Ukraine Without Social Security Cuts

I’ll leave it to Gerard to give some examples of Fox’s left wing commentary in his Media Watch Dog blog next Friday.

In the meantime the current issue is worth a glance as a reminder of what an entertaining writer P.P.McGuiness used to be. The Media Watch Dog has resurrected one of Paddy’s columns from 2006 about the appointment of Mark Scott to run the ABC. Gerard summarises it thus but an abbreviation does not do it justice.

Paddy McGuinness’ 2006 piece was remarkably perceptive. He looked back at Mark Scott’s career at Fairfax Media where he had protected John Howard haters in the Sydney Morning Herald and presided over a situation where The Age became “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”. And P.P. McGuinness predicted that Nice Mr Scott would allow the various leftist cliques embedded in the ABC to continue to run the organisation. This has led to a situation where the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has not one conservative presenter or producer or editor for any of its prominent television or radio or online outlets some eight years after Nice Mr Scott’s appointment. Not one.

P.P. McGuinness also predicted that Mark Scott would push the ABC into growth for the sake of growth into numerous new television and radio and online outlets while failing to run the organisation as an editor-in-chief should.

The late P.P. McGuinness – Five Paws – plus a belated Perpetual Indulgence.

[Let’s hope it’s redeemable for atheists/agnostics. – Ed]

And whatever your view might be of Gerard Henderson you would surely agree he has a way of spotting pretentious nonsense as in this commentary on one of the women columnists who the editor chose to replace me with at Crikey:


MWD just loves the angst of Jane Caro – the leading female public intellectual of the left-wing Crikey newsletter. Ms Caro describes herself as a “novelist, author and social commentator”. She used to work in advertising.

Jane Caro’s Crikey column, titled “Caro’s Flotsam & Jetsam”, is a must read in Nancy’s kennel every week – since it gives a wonderful insight into the leftist mindset. Last Wednesday, for example, Jane Caro told her readers that they should not worry too much about the apparent resurgence of right-of-centre parties the world over – since lefties like her were more intelligent than their political opponents. How frightfully reassuring, in a morally superior kind of way.

This is what Crikey’s leading female public intellectual had to say, under the title “The left and the stupid”:

It’s a bit of a dark time for those on the Left of politics these days, and given how far the rest of the world has moved to the Right, being even slightly Left of centre has never been easier. Anyway, those of us on the distaff side of things have to take our comfort where we can find it, particularly in the face of an apparent recovery by the federal government in the polls.

To my astonishment, I found my bit of comfort this week in the Daily Mail of all unlikely places, with this rather delightful bit of research concluding that left-wingers are smarter than those on the Right. Whether it’s better than most of the junk research we see in the media nowadays, I have no idea, but hey, it made me feel a little better for a nanosecond or two. As did this tweet from editor-in-chief Joan Walsh:

22-02-2014 joanwalsh

It’s a phenomenon I have noticed myself, and if the Daily Mail story is anything to go by, perhaps it is genetic.

So there you have it. Jane Caro reckons that she and her leftist mates are “smarter than those on the right”. And she has joined forces with Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of the leftist Salon online magazine, in maintaining that right-of-centre types confuse “you’re” and “your”. [Your kidding. What a brilliant insight from you’re Crikey female public intellectual – Ed].

So, according to Jane Caro, there is a genetic link between bad spelling and right-wing political beliefs – a phenomenon identified by their left-wing opponents. Can you bear it? [Perhaps you should have written – “Can you bare it?” – Ed].

The mysterious spy book eraser

February 21st, 2014 Comments off

Writing The Snowden Files: ‘The paragraph began to self-delete’ – Was it the NSA? GCHQ? A Russian hacker? Who was secretly reading his book on Snowden while he wrote it, wonders Luke Harding in The Guardian

A fascinating insight into the strange world of spies this morning. Luke Harding, author of the recently published book The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man, writes of the day the paragraph he was writing started to self delete.


Worth reading the full piece but here’s the flavour:

“By September the book was going well – 30,000 words done. A Christmas deadline loomed. I was writing a chapter on the NSA’s close, and largely hidden, relationship with Silicon Valley. I wrote that Snowden’s revelations had damaged US tech companies and their bottom line. Something odd happened. The paragraph I had just written began to self-delete. The cursor moved rapidly from the left, gobbling text. I watched my words vanish. When I tried to close my OpenOffice file the keyboard began flashing and bleeping.

“Over the next few weeks these incidents of remote deletion happened several times. There was no fixed pattern but it tended to occur when I wrote disparagingly of the NSA. All authors expect criticism. But criticismbefore publication by an anonymous, divine third party is something novel. I began to leave notes for my secret reader. I tried to be polite, but irritation crept in. Once I wrote: “Good morning. I don’t mind you reading my manuscript – you’re doing so already – but I’d be grateful if you don’t delete it. Thank you.” There was no reply.”

Understanding the consequences of the WA Senate election – thanks to Antony Green

February 20th, 2014 Comments off

I give thanks to the ABC’s election analyst Antony Green for guiding me through the permutations and combinations thrown up by the need to have a new election to fill the West Australian Senate seats after 1 July. You will find the full Green analysis on his blog but this is the summary:

On the Federal election results, from 1 July the Coalition will have 33 seats, Labor 25, the Greens 10, with eight cross-bench members holding the balance of power. The cross bench Senators represent Palmer United two Senators and one each from the Nick Xenophon Group, the DLP, Liberal Democrats, Family First, Motoring Enthusiasts Party and the Sports Party.

Assuming the first four seats in WA will split two to the right for the Liberal Party and two to the left for either Labor or the Greens, the question is how the final two seats will split.

If a third seat is won by the Liberal Party, then it is likely the final seat will be won by a minor party, maybe Palmer United, from a seat normally won by the left. This would be a status quo result compared to last September’s election.

Another possibility is that as well as a minor party winning a seat from the left, one could also be lost by the right. The Liberal Party would hate to lose its third seat to the National Party for instance, but might find that a better prospect than some other party.

But if the left in Labor plus the Greens won back their traditional third seat, and a minor party won the third Coalition seat, the Senate balance of power would be changed.

A Labor or Green gain would give 36 seats to the left in the Senate, meaning only two votes from the cross bench would be needed to block government legislation. That is only a minor change from the three seats required in the Senate that had been due to take its place on 1 July, but could be an important influence on certain types of legislation.


The switch to antibiotic free chickens

February 20th, 2014 Comments off

Americans Want Antibiotic-Free Chicken, And The Industry Is Listening : The Salt : NPR.

Indeed, while antibiotic-free chicken is still a relatively small fraction of the market — accounting for about 9 percent of the $9 billion to $10 billion spent on fresh chicken in 2013 — it’s a “fast-growing sector,” says Joe Kolano with IRI/FreshLook, which tracks retail sales of perishable groceries. Driving that growth is concern about the risks associated with routine use of antibiotics in farm animals, says Bob Martin, director of food systems at the Center for Sustainable Living at Johns Hopkins.

Categories: Eating Tags:

Repetitive nonsense about Murdoch surely bores Guardian readers

February 20th, 2014 Comments off

When stuck for a column item, write about Rupert. So here I am with my latest journalists writing about journalists effort.

Thank goodness for the reminder on The Guardian website that comment is free. You would feel cheated if you had paid to read this repetitive nonsense:

2014-02-20_commentisfreeBy all means give a commentary on the Australian tax laws that allow companies to claim deductions and suggest that the laws are wrong. But surely it is going too far to suggest that the Tax Office is crook and the country’s courts are corrupt.

Did this author really believe this amazing conspiracy theory was worth repeating?



Ukraine daily reduced to symbolism

February 20th, 2014 Comments off

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20-02-2014 prophecy

Categories: European media, Media Tags:

The journalists writing and talking about journalists space is getting very crowded

February 19th, 2014 Comments off

Crikey is in on the act today with its version (free) of the newspaper editors at war that follows my own earlier effort on the same subject – Editors editorialising about editorsThen for those that pay there’s Bernard Keane showing how he can be wiser after the event than other journalists were before it when it comes to that federal proceeds of crime legislation that had the thumpers at the 7 Network yesterday.

Crikey touches as well on the competition that the ABC’s Tony Barry will have as a media watcher too -competition that The Australian trumpets on its website as well:

NEWS Corp Australia columnist Andrew Bolt is being given more airtime with his Network Ten show to double in length to one hour when it returns on March 2. The new-look The Bolt Report will include a new segment, called News Watch, which promises “to put the media under genuine scrutiny”… Bolt said: “I will continue to talk to Australians about the things that matter to them, cutting through the spin without fear or favour. This new format lets me cut through the spin of so much of the media, too.”

As the new and extended Bolt program is to go for an hour perhaps there will be time for Julian Clarke to make regular appearances. Bolt’s boss showed a good grasp of tabloid type language when he emerged to give Tony Barry a spray in the Herald Sun and its interstate counterparts.


Somewhat strangely the serve at the ABC did not seem to be in The Oz although I might just have missed it. Maybe the truce is continuing.

Things are getting stranger and stranger.

No doubt there will soon be room for a blog where a reviewer passes comments on journalists watching journalists writing about journalists


The forecasting power of Eric Abetz – completely wrong about wages

February 19th, 2014 Comments off

It was less than a month ago – on 29 January – that Employment Minister Eric Abetz took to the rostrum to warn that Australia risks a wages explosion that could push thousands of Australians out of work. This morning the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that “the growth in wages over the last year of 2.6 per cent, seasonally adjusted, was the smallest through the year rise since the series commenced in 1997.”


Categories: Economic matters Tags:

Editors editorialising about editors

February 19th, 2014 Comments off

A variation this morning on the journalists writing about journalists theme that we keep intermittent track of in this blog. Now we have an editor taking to an editorial to castigate one of his peers who was once editor of his own paper.

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It really is a lot of fun – especially this reference in The Australian’s editorial to the Financial Review’s Michael Stutchbury for publishing an article by Neil Chenoweth suggesting there was something wrong with an $882 million tax refund paid to the Murdoch controlled 21st Century Fox:

Stutchbury, who was considered incompetent by staff of this newspaper before his removal as editor, and his senior editors should be held to account for publishing Chenoweth’s blatantly dishonest reporting. It does the AFR no credit when routine business events are dressed up as criminal conspiracies.

One thing the Oz’s editorial did not comment on was the competence of the editor-in-chief who had once made Stutchbury editor.


Australia leads the Indonesian paper again

February 19th, 2014 Comments off

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Categories: Asian media, Media Tags:

The Russian alternative to tapas

February 18th, 2014 Comments off

Drink Vodka, Eat Pickles, Repeat: Mastering The Zakuski Spread – NPR’s the salt

Zakuski are often described as Russia’s answer to tapas — a little bite to have with your drink. …

They can be as simple as salted herring, or as rich as blini and caviar. …

And the dishes on the zakuski table don’t just provide a delicious snack. In a sense, they tell the story of Russia. There are pickles of all sorts — green tomatoes, apples, mushrooms, cabbage — a nod to the food preservation that kept produce available during the long Russian winters.

The zakuski table also expanded during the Soviet Era — as new republics entered the Soviet Union, new flavors arose. There was the bright cuisine of the more temperate Caucasus — full of walnut sauce and fresh herbs for those with enough connections to secure them — and the Baltics, from which canned sprats are now a fixture on many zakuskitables.

The Soviet Era was also the era of mayonnaise, which brought several mayo-blanketed salads to the zakuski table, as the state promoted this new industrial product — salads like the appealingly named “Herring Under a Fur Coat,” or Salat Olivier.

Categories: Eating Tags:

ABC ignores a denial in main Manus Island “unrest” story

February 18th, 2014 Comments off

I would have thought by now that the ABC newsmen would be going to great lengths to ensure that when there are two versions of what happened in an incident involving asylum seekers that both version were reported. Despite the criticisms from government over the burned hands allegations that was not the case this morning on the ABC News website.

Here is what that website reported in part:

Refugee advocate says there were ‘savage attacks’ on asylum seekers

The Refugee Action Coalition’s Ian Rintoul says the latest incident began with locals breaking into the centre.

“The perimeter fences were breached by locals, the centre had already been evacuated and PNG police and locals carried out systematic attacks, savage attacks on the asylum seekers last night,” he told ABC News Breakfast.

“If there are asylum seekers outside the perimeter fence it’s because they’ve fled for their lives late last night from those attacks.”

He says up to 50 people have been injured inside the compound.

“Bashings, cuts from machetes, with sticks, gunshots were heard overnight,” he said.

“I don’t know of anyone being shot but people – one person we were told – was actually thrown off the first floor of one of the buildings.”

The ABC has been unable to verify Mr Rintoul’s claims.

Note that there is no report of Mr Rintoul’s source for his comments. Presumably he was not present to observe things himself. Note also that “the ABC has been unable to verify Mr Rintoul’s claims.”

Yet down at the end of the story itself, but not mentioned in the story, is a copy of a press statement from the company that runs the Manus Island facility. Presumably that statement is based on the observations of people who were present and it gives a rather different version of events.


Now sitting here in Canberra I am unable to verify anyone’s version of who did what to whom when but because of that I believe the right thing to do as a journalist is to record them both. The ABC should have done likewise.


Jakarta Post splashes attack on Australian spying

February 18th, 2014 Comments off

18-02-2014 jakartapostFrom this morning’s paper:

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa slammed Australia over another surveillance revelation on Indonesia, conducted this time in cooperation with the United States government, calling it “excessive”.

Marty blasted the Australian government for going too far in a joint spying operation on Indonesia during a trade dispute with the US and offering to share back room information with the US, as revealed by the International New York Times on Sunday.

In the Times piece, based on a top-secret 2013 document provided by former US National Security Agency (NSA) system analyst Edward Snowden, the Australian Signals Directorate assisted the surveillance of trade disputes between the US and Indonesia over exports of clove cigarettes and shrimp in recent years.

Marty said that he was not sure how snooping on a trade spat could relate to security.

“I have come across statements that Australia collects intelligence to save Australian lives, the lives of other people and to promote Australian values,” Marty said.

“Those are well understood as a general outlook, but I must say I find it mind-boggling: How can I reconcile discussions about shrimp and the impact on Australian security.”

… “Neighbors like Indonesia and Australia should be looking out for each other, not turning against each other,” Marty said.

“We should be listening to one another — not listening in on one another. And I think that it is very important to find the distinction between the two,” he said.

A freezing North America not helping the Arctic ice

February 17th, 2014 Comments off


There might be extra snow and ice in the United States but go north and this winter is shaping up as being one where the area covered by the Arctic ice cap is at another of its low points.

From the Snow and Ice Data Center:



Categories: Environment Tags:

The murky cowboy world of bank traders

February 17th, 2014 Comments off

Forex in the spotlight –

It just goes on and on doesn’t it – the complete lack of ethics involved in modern banking? From the FT comes this episode:

The annual Prime Finance get-together in The Hague is a rather arid affair, with a coterie of academics, lawyers and the odd banker gathering to discuss the finer points of jurisprudence in the international markets.

But at last month’s event a trader spiced things up. “We’ll figure out ways around any rules, so why do you think anything you’re doing is going to make a difference?” the trader asked, according to an attendee.

The trader’s words capture the cowboy mentality of some working in the murkier areas of the trading world, such as foreign exchange and commodities. But for all the bravado, it may be the mindset of a dying breed.

Over recent months, a fast-expanding global investigation into alleged collusion and manipulation among foreign exchange traders has rocked the forex units of more than a dozen large banks, raising fundamental questions about the way they operate.The trader’s words capture the cowboy mentality of some working in the murkier areas of the trading world, such as foreign exchange and commodities. But for all the bravado, it may be the mindset of a dying breed.

Over recent months, a fast-expanding global investigation into alleged collusion and manipulation among foreign exchange traders has rocked the forex units of more than a dozen large banks, raising fundamental questions about the way they operate.

You will find other examples of banking ethics in my Ticket Clipping section HERE.



Categories: Ticket clippers Tags:

An Adelaide Advertiser Labor election launch yawn

February 17th, 2014 Comments off

It is going to be a hard battle for South Australian Labor to get its message across if today’s Advertiser is anything to go by. The party’s big set piece policy launch on Sunday barely made it on to page one.

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Categories: Elections, SA election Tags:

My goodness, now the Oz is saying nice things about the ABC news!

February 17th, 2014 Comments off

What has happened at The Australian? This morning there is even a kind of praise for the ABC and not a word of criticism of the national broadcaster. From the Media section:

17-02-2014 ozonabcSee also Almost an ABC-knocking free week at the Oz from 15 February


Something to watch for in the penalty rates debate – bogus think-tanks

February 16th, 2014 Comments off

The push to remove penalty rates for things like late night and weekend work is under way again in Australia. The argument of employers that seems to have the support of the Coalition government is that the extra dollars put into the pockets of workers are destroying job opportunities for others.

On National Public Radio in the US this weekend there was an interview with New York Times investigative reporter Eric Lipton that gives a warning of something to look out for as the debate continues.

INTERVIEWER TERRY GROSS: You cover lobbying for the New York Times, but if I were to give your beat a name, judging from what you’ve been writing lately, the beat would be the secret corporate influence on American policy and public opinion. Does that work for you?

ERIC LIPTON: Yeah, I mean I sort of think of it as self-interested parties trying to influence the system to their own benefit. And that’s sort of like what I’m looking for when I think about what’s an interesting story.

GROSS: So one of the things you’ve been investigating is how corporate lobby groups are funding research that will influence both lawmakers and popular opinion. And one of the ways they’re doing that is by funding think-tanks. And give us an example of a think-tank that is funded by a lobby group, although you wouldn’t know that if you were reading the research that the think-tank turned out.

LIPTON: Well, there’s – for example, there’s a group called the Employment Policies Institute, which puts out reports that examines what would happen if we raise the minimum wage, what impact will it have on unemployment and on poverty in the United States. And if you look at the reports, they’re very academic-looking, and they say they’re, you know, a nonpartisan research organization.

But in fact, as you learn more about the group, you find out that one of their main supporters financially is the restaurant industry and that when you look at the reports…

GROSS: And the restaurant industry opposes raising the minimum wage.

LIPTON: Right. They find that it would be sort of hurtful to their bottom line and perhaps would reduce employment. So they’re actively lobbying Congress to try to avoid legislation that would increase the minimum wage. And the thing is, when you look at their reports, there’s just this consistency to them that they again and again are putting out reports that make a similar point.

And then their reports turn up on the National Restaurant Association website, which then uses their reports to kind of reinforce their opposition to the legislative proposal. So it becomes this sort of Washington echo chamber where the think-tank makes an argument, then the organization that is trying to block the legislation then points to the think-tank as an authoritative source, and it buttresses its argument and tries to, you know, modestly change public opinion and perhaps modestly impact some of the moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats whose votes are still potentially up in the air.

GROSS: So the lobby group funds the think-tank, the think-tank turns out research that supports the lobby group’s point of view. The lobby group quotes the think-tank as being impartial.


GROSS: Now, in the Employment Policies Institute, the group that you mentioned that turns out research that opposes raising the minimum wage, they’re actually directly connected to a PR firm led by somebody named Richard Berman. The PR firm is called Berman and Company. And this is an interesting group because they actually have created several, you know, think-tanks and, you know, consumer groups that are created because they’re funded by a special interest.

LIPTON: For the most part. I mean there’s, you know, the Center for Consumer Freedom. You know, there’s There’s, Teachers Union Facts, Employment Freedom Org, There’s, you know, more than a dozen websites or nonprofit groups that Berman and Company has set up that then typically have had some industry funding and then make arguments that are opposing sort of what you would consider, you know, consumer groups, and they become a part of the public debate.

Categories: Lobbying and PR Tags:

Book banning – freedom of speech in India

February 16th, 2014 Comments off

Author Of Book Yanked In India Says Move Has Backfired : The Two-Way : NPR.

The book in question is Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History. The Shiksha Bachao Aandolan [Save Education Movement], a small Hindu group, claimed in its lawsuit that the book’s focus was sexual and “denigrated Hindus and show[s] their religion in poor light.” …

In a statement, Doniger said she did not blame Penguin Books, India, for yanking her book. She said the publisher had defended it in courts for four years. She added:

“They were finally defeated by the true villain of this piece—the Indian law that makes it a criminal rather than civil offense to publish a book that offends any Hindu, a law that jeopardizes the physical safety of any publisher, no matter how ludicrous the accusation brought against a book.”

The author also told NPR’s Robert Siegel on Friday that while she thinks the law should be changed, she is gratified by the reaction to the withdrawal of the book.”If the purpose of these gentlemen was to keep people from buying my book and reading it, it has backfired quite wonderfully,” she told Robert.

“The book is much more popular than it ever would have been before. … Copies are circulating in India and Kindle is available in India.”There’s just all sorts of ways that one can get a book. It’s not like the bad, old days when you had to smuggle a copy of Ulysses from Paris. One can read this book in all sorts of ways.”
Categories: International politics, Media Tags:

A century breaking vote for Labor in Tasmania?

February 16th, 2014 Comments off

Grim news for the Labor Party in Tasmania as the state election approaches. A poll in Saturday’s Hobart Mercury puts the Labor share of the statewide vote at just 24.6%. 16-02-2014 Taspoll If that happens it will be the worst result since the 10.6% recorded in 1903 when candidates stood under the Labor banner for the first time. 16-02-2014 laborvote

Minimum alcohol pricing – how the poor pay and gain most

February 15th, 2014 Comments off

Australia is one of several countries where health officials are considering a minimum price policy for alcohol* with major argument of opponents being a lack of evidence of effectiveness and the potential effect on responsible drinkers plus concerns around the possibility of large effects on individuals with low incomes. This week a group of academics headed by Dr John Holmes of the UK’s Sheffield University published in The Lancet research aiming to assess the effect of a £0·45 (83 Australian cents) minimum unit price (1 unit is 8 g/10 mL ethanol) in England across the income and socioeconomic distributions.

Their interpretation of the findings was that, irrespective of income, moderate drinkers were little affected by a minimum unit price of £0·45 in their model, with the greatest effects noted for harmful drinkers. Because harmful drinkers on low incomes purchase more alcohol at less than the minimum unit price threshold compared with other groups, they would be affected most by this policy. Large reductions in consumption in this group would however coincide with substantial health gains in terms of morbidity and mortality related to reduced alcohol consumption.

Overall, a minimum unit price of £0·45 led to an immediate reduction in consumption of 1·6% (−11·7 units per drinker per year) in our model. Moderate drinkers were least affected in terms of consumption (−3·8 units per drinker per year for the lowest income quintile vs 0·8 units increase for the highest income quintile) and spending (increase in spending of £0·04 vs £1·86 per year). The greatest behavioural changes occurred in harmful drinkers (change in consumption of −3·7% or −138·2 units per drinker per year, with a decrease in spending of £4·01), especially in the lowest income quintile (−7·6% or −299·8 units per drinker per year, with a decrease in spending of £34·63) compared with the highest income quintile (−1·0% or −34·3 units, with an increase in spending of £16·35). Estimated health benefits from the policy were also unequally distributed. Individuals in the lowest socioeconomic group (living in routine or manual worker households and comprising 41·7% of the sample population) would accrue 81·8% of reductions in premature deaths and 87·1% of gains in terms of quality-adjusted life-years.


*See: Australian National Preventive Health Agency. Exploring the public interest case for a minimum (floor) price for alcohol: draft report.;

Department of Health. Steering group report on a national substance misuse strategy.,

Canadian Public Health Association. Too high a cost: a public health approach to alcohol policy in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Public Health Association, 2013.

Categories: Drinking Tags:

Does the Fiona Nash disappearing web page trail lead to Peter Dutton

February 15th, 2014 Comments off

Senator Fiona Nash has one very big thing going for her as she struggles to keep her job in the Coalition Ministry. She is a member of the National Party and thus is largely insulated from dictatorial direction by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his disciplinarian in chief Peta Credlin. If there is to be any action taken against the Assistant Minister for Health and Deputy National Party Leader in the Senate then it is Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minister The Hon Warren Truss MP who must take it. In matters like this the Nationals tend to be made of sterner stuff than their Liberal Party partners. They better know how to ignore media driven outrage. Mr Truss has shown no interest so far in dismissing his colleague.

And perhaps there is a good reason why Prime Minister Abbott will not try to force him to for there is a risk that peripheral damage over this affair of the disappearing web page would be extended to ensnare the senior Health Minister and Liberal Peter Dutton.

The Sydney Morning Herald gives some of the background to the political problem in its page one story this morning that appears based on briefings out of a PM’s office desperate to absolve itself from blame over the appointment as Senator Nash’s chief of staff of Alastair Furnival who resigned yesterday over his shareholding in a lobbying company.

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What that “inner circle” did not explain to the Herald was whose idea was it in the first place to appoint Mr Furnival? Could it have been a Minister Dutton determined to have someone he knew and trusted ensconced is his junior’s office?

An insightful piece by Bernard Keane in Crikey yesterday (HERE but behind a paywall) points in that direction. Of Furnival he wrote:

He was chief of staff to Queensland Liberal Santo Santoro in the latter’s mercifully brief stint as John Howard’s minister for ageing in 2007, which was ended after Santoro was revealed to have been less than forthcoming about his shareholdings, not merely to voters but to Howard, which was a hanging offence.

Add to that that Peter Dutton hails from the Queensland party’s right and was a protege of former party kingpin Santo Santoro and there are the makings at least of a little conspiracy theory.

Categories: Lobbying and PR, Political snippets Tags:

Almost an ABC-knocking free week at the Oz

February 15th, 2014 Comments off

A definite change of pace at The Australian this week. It was virtually an ABC free week on the news pages after Monday’s media section effort about the blacklisting of Piers Akerman.

Only this morning did a little of the familiar knocking reappear but then only in passing in Cut and Paste:

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Fairfax in NZ shows how to responsibly treat an opinion poll

February 15th, 2014 Comments off

Sometime between now and 24 January next year, but probably no later than 6 December, New Zealand will go to the polls so the country is entering the peak opinion poll season. But not yet, on the latest evidence, to the ridiculous level at which the Australian media covers surveys of how the public would vote even in the non-election years like this one.

This morning the Fairfax owned Christchurch paper The Press publishes a new Fairfax Media – Ipsos poll that shows the National government well in front of its Labor opponent. On page one there is a pointer to the findings but none of the hysterical analysis that would accompany such a finding in the Fairfax Australian tabloids.

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Details of the poll findings are consigned to page seven where the analysis treats them with sensible caution.

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Categories: Media, NZ election, NZ polls, Opinion polls Tags:

Using lottery wins to prove money makes people conservative and inegalitarian

February 14th, 2014 Comments off

It won’t surprise you to know that rich people typically lean right politically. But why is it so? Are they motivated by deeply moral views or self-interest? Well, Andrew J Oswald, Professor of Economics at the UK’s Warwick University set out to find if it was just the money makes you right-wing. He did so by studying lottery winners in the UK and found that the winners are more likely to switch their allegiance from left to right.

Prof. Oswald writes that the scientific roots of people’s political views are poorly understood.

One possibility (View 1) is that individuals’ attitudes to politics and redistribution are motivated by deeply moral views. Another possibility (View 2) – and this is perhaps some economists’ presumption — is that voting choices are made out of self-interest and then come to be embroidered in the mind with a form of moral rhetoric. Testing between these two alternative theories is important intellectually. It is also inherently difficult. That is because so many of our attitudes as humans could stem from early in life and are close to being, in the eyes of the researcher, a ‘person fixed-effect’.

In a search for the answer Prof. Oswald hit upon the idea of looking at what happens to lottery winners who suddenly come upon their money. He argues that looking at lottery winners through time, provides longitudinal evidence consistent with the second, and some might argue more jaundiced, view, namely the View 2 of human beings. He and his research colleague thus analysed a panel data set in which people’s political attitudes were recorded annually.

n our data set, many hundreds of individuals serendipitously receive significant lottery windfalls. We find that the larger is their lottery win, the greater is that person’s subsequent tendency, after controlling for other influences, to switch their political views from left to right. We also provide evidence that lottery winners are more sympathetic to the belief that ordinary people ‘already get a fair share of society’s wealth’.

We are able to observe people before and after a win. Access to longitudinal information gives us advantages denied to most previous researchers on this topic. One reason this is important is because it seems plausible that personality might determine both the number of lottery tickets bought and the political attitudes of the person, and this might thereby lead to a possible spurious association between winning and right-leaning views. We provide, among other kinds of evidence, a simple graphical demonstration that winners disproportionately lean to the right having previously not been right-wing supporters.

The formal study draws upon a nationally representative sample from the British population. In our regression equations we focus particularly upon a sub-sample of people (a fairly large proportion, given the lottery’s popularity in the UK) who have ever had a lottery win. Within this group, we are especially interested in the observed longitudinal changes in political allegiance of the bigger winners compared to the smaller winners. Our key information stems from 541 observations on lottery wins larger than £500 and up to approximately £200,000.



Categories: Political snippets Tags:

What does a 30% off wine prices ad actually tell you?

February 14th, 2014 Comments off

If you needed proof that Woolworths slug consumers with huge profit margins when you buy a single bottle of wine at one of its BWS stores have a look at this morning’s full page newspaper advertisement.

14-02-2014 wineprices30% off the single bottle price when you buy any six!

You can be certain that with 30% off that Woolies liquor is still doing nicely, thank you.

The sooner the drinking restraint lobby in this country gets on to the UK campaign of stopping quantity discounts for alcohol sales the better.


Categories: Drinking Tags:

The wonderful world of lobbying – sugar versus corn syrup

February 13th, 2014 Comments off

A wonderful example of the ways of lobbying in the Washington Post this morning.


Categories: Lobbying and PR Tags:

The perils of economic predictions proved again

February 13th, 2014 Comments off

You have to wonder why Australian banks continue to employ economic spokespeople to make fools directly of themselves and indirectly of their employer. Just what is the benefit to anyone of the succession of misleading prognostications? And why does the media think it necessary to report the nonsense?

Take this example this morning just an hour or two before the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its official figures.

Unemployment expected to hold steady on rising business confidence

By finance reporter Elysse Morgan

Today’s official employment data is widely expected to show unemployment remained at 5.8 per cent last month.

Economists believe 15,000 jobs will have been added, which would only make up for some of the 22,500 thousand jobs that the ABS currently estimates were lost from the economy in December.

December’s figures were the biggest loss in full-time jobs in two-and-a-half years.

The Reserve Bank believes the jobless rate will continue to rise over the coming months to reach 6 per cent, but some economists believe a pick-up in business confidence and conditions will flow through to hiring.

HSBC Australia chief economist Paul Bloxham is one of those who believes the report will show a pickup in employment.

“Part of this reflects that we saw such a weak result in December that we’re expecting bit of a bounce back in January, but also we are broadly optimistic that the labour market is going to start to show some signs of improvement soon because growth in the economy looks like it was rebalancing in the fourth quarter of last year,” he said.

Mr Bloxham says he believes the unemployment rate is unlikely to rise much higher.

“Look we think growth is already rebalancing, we’ve seen a pickup already in the housing sector, a pickup in residential construction, we think that’s flowing through to business confidence and business conditions, and very soon we think firms will start to hire to meet that rising demand,” he added.

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans says a positive reading is needed to turn around rising concerns about job security, which are affecting consumer confidence and spending.

“We have to go back a long way before we can see people feeling as concerned about the outlook for unemployment, so we need to settle that down, they need to feel more confident about job security,” he explained.

And so to those official ABS figures.

  • Employment decreased 3,700 to 11,459,500. Full-time employment decreased 7,100 to 7,953,000 and part-time employment increased 3,400 to 3,506,500.
  • Unemployment increased 16,600 (2.3%) to 728,600. The number of unemployed persons looking for full-time work increased 20,700 to 547,200 and the number of unemployed persons looking for part-time work decreased 4,100 to 181,400.
  • The unemployment rate increased 0.1 pts to 6.0%, based on unrounded estimates.
  • Participation rate unchanged at 64.5%.
  • Aggregate monthly hours worked increased 20.5 million hours to 1,635.8 million hours.



A sign that the unemployment position is worse than shown by these seasonally adjusted figures is shown in this plot of the employment to population ration of 15 to 64 year olds that takes out the influence of the ageing population on the declining participation rte.




Categories: Economic matters, Media Tags:

Food star system wonderful fodder for Senate estimates hearings and one up the bracket for Coalition ministerial staff selection process

February 13th, 2014 Comments off

The Coalition took a long time to settle the appointment of ministerial staffers with ministers grumbling about the role of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Peta Credlin in checking the credentials of applicants. The grumblings were deemed worthy of bearing by PM Tony Abbott because of the benefits that would flow from stopping silly appointments by ministers not conscious of the future damage that conflicts of interest can cause. Alas, it seems, the highly centralised appointments system failed. Having a food industry lobbyist on the staff of a health minister – albeit a junior one but the one with responsibility for food matters – was risky enough. But not ensuring that there was a complete break from the lobbying business was downright stupid. Thus the Abbott government is now going through its first little conflict of interest kerfuffle for breaching its own statement of standards for ministerial staff. Those rules insist that ministers and their staff must disclose any real or apparent conflict of interest and divest themselves of any interests in private companies involved in the area of their ministerial responsibilities.

Alastair Furnival, the adviser who intervened to have the Department of Health take down a new healthy food star rating website, retains his shares in the lobbying business, now run by his wife Tracey Cain, that used to act for companies in the soft drink and confectionery industries. The assurance by Ms Cain that she had not made any representations on behalf of food industry clients since September helps mitigate the political damage but does not remove the suspicion that the Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash has acted in a way favourable to the junk food industry.

The Senate estimates committee dealing with health will find this a fertile area for enquiry when next it meets with particular interest in the initial claim that the healthy food star rating system website was put up by accident rather than design. The reallocation of responsibility within the Health Department for the now deferred ratings system makes that seem a most unlikely occurrence. On the Fairfax websites this morning, Amy Corderoy, Health Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, reported that the senior government bureaucrat in charge of the new healthy food star ratings has been stripped of responsibility for the program.

In an email obtained by Fairfax Media, Kathy Dennis, the assistant secretary in the Healthy Living and Food Policy branch of the Department of Health, said she would no longer be in charge of the healthy star ratings, which is a system for food manufacturers to voluntarily label their product packaging with easy-to-understand health information.

“I am writing to provide you with updated information about arrangements for the Front-of-Pack Labelling Secretariat, following a restructure within the Department of Health,” Ms Dennis writes. She states that she will continue to be in charge of all other food matters beside the healthy food ratings, which she has worked on for the past two years.

“I look forward to continuing to work with you on all other food matters,” she says.

Categories: Political snippets, Public service Tags:

Putting a probability on economic forecasts – the Bank of England shows how

February 12th, 2014 Comments off

The Bank of England has a sensible way of illustrating the uncertainty that is naturally involved when making predictions about the economy. In its February inflation report issued overnight it illustrates the probability of what it predicts actually occurring.

12-02-2014 gdpprojection12-02-2014 bofeunemployment12-02-2014 bofeinflation


Categories: Economic matters Tags:

Sound familiar? Chrysler asks governments for $700 million

February 12th, 2014 Comments off

Canada is having troubles keeping its car industry too. Chrysler has asked the federal and Ontario governments to come up with $700 million to keep its plants operating.

The Globe and Mail reports:

12-02-2014 canafamotors

When the Abbott second front meets the receding hairline

February 12th, 2014 Comments off

I have to say that in all the years since I’ve been at Yale, the most important thing that I have to say today-is that hair matters. This is a life lesson my family did not teach me, Wellesley and Yale failed to instill on me: the importance of your hair. Your hair will send very important messages to those around you. It will tell people who you are and what you stand for. What hopes and dreams you have for the world…and especially what hopes and dreams you have for your hair. Likewise, your shoes. But really, more your hair. So, to sum up. Pay attention to your hair. Because everyone else will.

Commencement address at Yale by Hillary Clinton, May 2001

Wise words from the former US Secretary of State and front runner to be the next Democrat presidential candidate. And the task for Tony Abbott’s trusty coiffeurist at the Wentworth Hotel is getting more and more difficult as these recent examples show:

2014-02-12_abbott'ssecond front


Categories: Political snippets Tags:

Canada ending immigrant investor program

February 11th, 2014 Comments off

Canada’s Conservative government is scrapping the country’s 28-year-old immigrant investor program in its budget to be introduced this week. The Globe and Post reports that the decision ends a path to citizenship that has been criticized for allowing foreigners to buy their way into the country without generating sufficient long-term benefit.

11-02-2014 investmentmigrationAustralia continues to have a similar program.


Categories: International politics Tags:

Schapelle Corby unveiled at Woman’s Day – now you see her, now you don’t

February 11th, 2014 Comments off

The Age is running hard on these journalists commenting on journalist stories. Following this afternoon’s special effort on the media scrum in Bali comes this commentary on a Woman’s Day disappearing photo scoop.

2014-02-11_agewomensdayThe other once serious Fairfax paper The Sydney Morning Herald is also doing its bit of filling out its news space with news about other people’s news space.

2014-02-11_smhon72014-02-11_kochiewilllbewrong(If you missed he Kochie comment the Owl recorded it HERE and I wonder, just in passing, if Mike will help Schapelle find God? We’ll probably read about that somewhere tomorrow).2014-02-11_commentonpayments

And good to see the national broadcaster leading its website tonight with a really important story for a change.

2014-02-11_abcandcorbystoriesAfter apparently been outbid for the main event interview with the released convicted drug smuggler, the Nine Network went in for a little spoiling of its own with this effort:




Will UKIP top the European election poll?

February 11th, 2014 Comments off

The Liberal Democrats, it seems, are awakening to the possibility that UKIP nay be the highest polling party in the forthcoming election of British members of the European Parliament. Writing in The Independent this morning, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg declares his party will go head-to-head with Ukip at the May elections. He will contrast the Liberal Democrats’ unashamedly pro-European stance as “the party of ‘in’” with Ukip’s policy of leaving the EU.

His aim is to deny Ukip its “breakthrough moment” by mobilising pro-European voters. Nigel Farage’s party has been widely tipped to come top in the Euro polls, which are fought under proportional representation, with Labour forecast to come second and the Conservatives third.

The Owl’s election indicator currently has the UKIP the party most likely to get the highest vote.


Categories: Elections, European election Tags:

Life in the Corby media scrum – an excellent example of media writing about media (with an apposite Mike Carlton comment)

February 11th, 2014 Comments off

The examples just keep coming but this is surely of award winning status.


And an appropriate comment:

2014-02-11_mikecarltonOther journalists talking and writing about journalists HERE.


A Helen Razer sub-section – journalists writing about journalists writing about journalists

February 11th, 2014 Comments off

My thanks to Helen Razer in  Crikey today for taking my “journalists writing about journalists” survey to a new level. Thanks to her we now have a “journalists writing about journalists writing about journalists” sub-section.

For other examples see my archive section

Journalists talking about each other

Composite leading indicators continue to point to an improving economic outlook in most advanced economies

February 11th, 2014 Comments off

A hopeful pointer this morning from the OECD’s Composite leading indicators (CLIs). The indicators, designed to anticipate turning points in economic activity relative to trend, continue to show signs of an improving economic outlook in most advanced economies.


The CLIs continue to point to economic growth firming in the United States and the United Kingdom and to growth above trend in Japan.

In the Euro Area as a whole, and in France and Italy, the CLIs continue to indicate a positive change in momentum. In Germany, the CLI shows signs of firming growth.

In the emerging economies, the CLIs point to growth around trend in China, Brazil and Russia, and to growth below trend in India.


The above graphs show country specific composite leading indicators (CLIs). Turning points of CLIs tend to precede turning points in economic activity relative to trend by approximately six months. The horizontal line at 100 represents the trend of economic activity. Shaded triangles mark confirmed turning-points of the CLI. Blank triangles mark provisional turning-points that may be reversed.

Categories: Economic matters Tags:

Koch on Corby and 7 network ethics – journalists talking about each other update

February 11th, 2014 Comments off

This morning “the other” was “our own” when David Koch broke ranks on Sunrise to criticise his own 7 Network that media reports said this morning was paying Michelle Corby to tell her story. Said Kochie:

 “I reckon we should have nothing to do with her as a network. I totally disagree with paying a convicted drug smuggler $2 million. I know Indonesia is corrupt and all that sort of stuff, but she is convicted.”

Insiders without Piers is like a Pantomime without a villain

February 10th, 2014 Comments off

There was no one to hiss and boo yesterday. The ABC’s Insiders has sacked the star of the show – the one the audience loves to hate. So what a bland and boring performance it was. Lenore Taylor does not make it as a principal boy although Barrie Cassidy comes close to being a Panto Dame. But where were the comic leads repeating “Oh no it isn’t” so we in the audience at home could reply “Oh yes it is”?

Please bring Piers back. The Sunday pantomime needs him.

At least this terrible ABC programming decision gave the media section of the Oz something to carp about.


News and views for Saturday 8 February

February 8th, 2014 Comments off

Keep talking and we’ll beat them! Just use the mobile instead of the land line. From this morning’s Los Angeles Times:

8-02-2014 intelligence

Interesting bits and pieces noted along the way

Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

A sensible role for My Kitchen Rules?

February 8th, 2014 Comments off

Climate Change Cuisine: It’s What’s for Dinner – Climate Central

Is this the future of eating?

Living in Ames, Iowa, Steven Cannon is no stranger to the Midwestern potluck. Instead of a potato-chip-capped casserole, however, Cannon serves up “potato beans” fried in duck fat or simmered in south Indian spices. Either way, he says the smooth-textured starch, hinting of boiled peanut flavor, is always a hit.

8-02-2014 orphanspecies

The potato bean, also called groundnut, is one of 20,000 wild legumes that go uncultivated. ..

Currently, only 30 crops provide 95 percent of calories consumed worldwide, yet some 7,000 plant species have been used as food crops throughout history. Variously called orphan, neglected or underutilized species, these potential crops have an added bonus — they are often climate hardy.

“In addition to breeding more robust varieties of corn, soybean and wheat, we should also domesticate species already adapted for extremes,” Cannon told a crowd at the International Plant and Animal Genome conference in San Diego in January.

The Climate Central article argues that the effect chefs have on popular food culture is immense and that they are the ones who will create a demand for new foods and an incentive for farmers to plant them.

Maybe a sensible role for My Kitchen Rules?

Categories: Eating Tags:

An insight into how pharmaceutical lobbyists work

February 8th, 2014 Comments off

Big pharma in the dock over patent law plot in South Africa : The Lancet.

A heated row between the South African Government and the country’s umbrella organisation for drug companies over a proposed publicity campaign to fight draft patent reforms has gained momentum with Danish company Novo Nordisk quitting the group in protest…

Novo Nordisk resigned from IPASA with company spokeswoman Shelley Harris writing in an email that the decision to leave followed “a disagreement on a public relations campaign proposed by IPASA, which we felt did not serve our or the industry’s interests”…

The IPASA email came to light after a nine-page document was leaked to the media detailing a plan prepared for IPASA by Washington-based firm Public Affairs Engagement (PAE), urging pharmaceutical companies to campaign against the Proposed Draft National Intellectual Property Policy in South Africa.
The document suggests that PAE intends to run a persuasive campaign in Africa and in Europe, which includes setting up a South African organisation to lobby against the policy that would seem to be a local movement but would be operated from the USA.
The Lancet report notes that a consortium of noon-governmental organisations formed the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to promote a Fix The Patent Laws initiative, which is rallying to amend South Africa’s Patents Act 57 of 1978 to reduce the cost of medicines in the country. As well as antiretroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS, the NGO campaign targets expensive therapies for cancer and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis for which there are no current alternatives in the country.
The TPC submission to the SA government from October last year:

Civil society open letter to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) regarding the Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property (IP) of South Africa, 2013

This is a joint letter from academics, experts, civil society and advocacy organisations working on intellectual property issues to improve access to affordable medicines and advance global health. We are writing in support of a number of proposed reforms to South Africa’s intellectual property law as it relates to access to medicines, and to offer specific recommendations to further improve the recently published Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property (DNPIP), 2013 (Government Gazette Vol. 579 No. 36816).

South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has expressed its intention that reform of the intellectual property system will balance patients’ rights with those of patent-holders. Given South Africa’s high burden for both communicable and non-communicable diseases, this is a positive step towards addressing the current imbalance in the system in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, the protection of public health, and the transfer and dissemination of technology, especially in sectors of vital importance to socio-economic and technological development. The DNPIP proposes several reforms that would make use of pro-public health flexibilities allowable under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). Many other countries, including India and Argentina, have already incorporated TRIPS flexibilities into their national laws, and others, like Brazil, are initiating comparable pro-health patent law reforms. These countries and others have also implemented TRIPS-compliant flexibilities to procure more affordable medicines and to strengthen domestic pharmaceutical capacity. We think that intellectual property law reforms are essential for South Africa to meet its human rights obligations, including the right to health and the right of access to medicines.

Below we outline several recommendations to ensure the proposed IP reforms will positively impact access to medicines by preventing excessive patenting and other barriers to generic entry in order to allow competitive price reductions on medicines and medical technologies (including diagnostic tools). Where valid patents do exist that price medicines out of reach, we provide recommendations for improving measures to mitigate this.


1. Patentable Subject Matter Exclusions and Patentability Criteria:Chapter 2 of the DNPIP notes that South African legislation should enact stricter criteria for granting a patent, and exclude from patentability “diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods…including new uses of known products.” We support these principles, but recommend that additional criteria also be put in place in South Africa, to exclude from patentability or to clarify lack of inventive step with respect to new forms of known medicines or their components (salts, polymorphs, esters and other derivatives), new dosages and formulations, and new combinations of known medicines or components. These exclusions from patentability or clarifications of inventive step are all compliant with Article 27.1 of TRIPS, and countries such as India, Argentina and the Philippines have already put such criteria in place. Strict subject matter exclusions and patentability criteria prevents originator pharmaceutical companies from obtaining multiple patents on the same drug—a practice known as “patent evergreening,” which keeps medicine prices high by preventing the entrance of generic competitors. Additionally, a high standard of innovation should incentivise investment in true innovations—new molecular entities and new classes of medicines. Given that the majority of the most important pipeline antiretrovirals are derivatives of known compounds,[1] we believe that implementing stricter patentability criteria is critical in ensuring more affordable access. Both DNA and cDNA sequences should also be explicitly excluded from patentability, as they are products of nature[2]—cDNA sequences in particular are relevant to developing therapeutic products. Adopting this exclusion is essential if South Africa is to develop a rich biotechnology/biosimilars sector. In addition the DNPIP must reject the introduction of utility model patents in South Africa in regard to pharmaceutical products, which grant exclusive rights to pharmaceutical companies for incremental changes to products, undermining innovation and blocking access to generic equivalents.

2. Patent Examination System: In order for subject matter exclusions and stricter patentability criteria to be applied effectively, it is essential that South Africa examines pharmaceutical patent applications to determine whether they meet these requirements. Chapter 1 of the DNPIP recommends the use of a substantive search and examination system to determine whether applications, especially in the pharmaceutical sector, are valid or not. We strongly support this system, as it would effectively prevent multiple patents being filed on minor variations to known compounds. However we note that in the long run this should be a single system, not approached in conjunction with the current depository registration system as suggested in the DNPIP. If a phased-in approach is deemed necessary, it is essential that pharmaceuticals be among the first product areas to be examined. The cost effectiveness of establishing a substantive patent examination system can be offset with filing, application and renewal fees that can meet the one time cost of upgrading infrastructure and the ongoing human resources needed to administer such a system as seen in the case of the Indian Patent Office which has consistently generated a revenue surplus since inception[3].

3. Pre- and Post-Grant Patent Opposition: Chapter 1 of the DNPIP notes that South Africa should provide for a pre- and post-grant opposition mechanism within national law to enable third parties to oppose weaker patents that fail to meet patentability standards. This is an important additional check to ensure that only true innovation is rewarded with patent protection. In India a third party (including generic manufacturers, researchers, civil society organisations, and other interested persons and entities) can oppose a patent while the application is pending, and for one year after it is granted. This is done by submitting evidence to the patents office detailing why the patent should not be granted. We support the implemention of an opposition procedure system in South Africa which would simplify the process for challenging patents and allow the patent office to benefit from the inputs of various stakeholders. In addition, we believe that South Africa should adopt an extended time-period for post-grant opposition with respect to pharmaceutical patents adopted during the non-examination period. South Africa has granted a much higher rate of pharmaceutical patents than other countries, including the United States and European countries.

4. Access to Patent Information: In addition, it is essential for South Africa to improve the transparency surrounding patent applications in order to support a patent opposition mechanism (as well as compulsory licensing provisions). All applicants must be required to disclose the International Nonproprietary Name (INN) of the pharmaceutical subject matter applied for, either at the time of filing or subsequent to it becoming available, to prevent applicants from obfuscating the subject matter being applied for. This practice is commonplace and increases the difficulty in identifying patents and patent applications that relate to a specific medicine. As well as complicating the opposition procedure, lack of clarity with respect to patents covering medicines also adds significant transaction costs for generic companies attempting to make a freedom to operate decision that will ultimately be borne by the procurer. In addition all patent and filing information must be made publicly accessible through a user-friendly mechanism. This is essential to ensure the success of a patent opposition mechanism that relies on third parties using this information to challenge weak patents.

5. Improved Access Flexibilities:  Chapter 1 and 2 of the DNPIP acknowledges the need to modify existing legislation and regulations to address the difficulties in utilising both compulsory licensing and parallel importation measures which have resulted in neither provision being successfully used to date on a pharmaceutical product. We support these amendments and recommend additional criteria to support their effective use:

i. Compulsory Licensing: Compulsory licenses must be authorised in cases where: medicine prices prohibit access, supply is inadequate to need, there is a need for multiple suppliers to avoid stock-outs and shortages, the patent holder has refused to grant a voluntary license on reasonable terms, the medicine is an “essential facility,” there is a need for a novel fixed dose combination medicine comprising ingredients patented by multiple rights holders, or the medicine is not being adequately worked in South Africa. In addition to these grounds, there should be specific allowance of compulsory licensing to remedy anti-competitive behaviour, as authorised by TRIPS Article 31(k), and a more general “public interest” ground for compulsory licenses. On top of this, South Africa should set up a simple, expeditious administrative procedure for hearing applications for compulsory licenses, clarify and regulate royalty rates and specify time periods for negotiations. The DNPIP must also clearly differentiate between compulsory licensing and public non-commercial use (or government use) and emergency or urgent need licenses, which do not require prior notification or negotiation with the patent holder (though notification and payment of adequate compensation is required after-the-fact) and can be used by governments to provide medicines in the public sector or be granted in the case of a public health emergency.

ii. Parallel Importation: Legislation must be qualified by the principle of international exhaustion to allow for the importation of medicines into South Africa if the medicines have been placed on the market anywhere in the world by the patent owner, or by any party authorised to use the invention. Such amendments should allow the parallel importation of both branded and legitimately produced generic medicines, as in the case of Kenya and the Philippines. Moreover it is essential that South Africa revise its regulatory framework to rectify the overly narrow grounds for parallel importation and to streamline procedures so as to eliminate the need for a full registration procedure.

6. IP Enforcement: Chapter 9 of the DNPIP discusses the seizure of generic medicines by customs agents. We recommend that the difference between generic medicines, counterfeit medicines that misuse a properly registered trademark, and unregistered, unsafe, and substandard medicines that mislabel their ingredients or do not meet applicable safety, efficacy and quality standards be recognized and that these categories of medicine be treated differently and appropriately to help mitigate any improper seizures or destruction of generic drugs and to counteract counterfeit drugs and redress true threats to public health.

7. Competition Policy: Chapter 5 of the DNPIP discusses the relationship between IP and competition law. The DNPIP acknowledges that competition law may be used to counteract the potentially negative effects of patent protection on public health. Under TRIPS countries are able to regulate practices they consider to be anti-competitive, including—but not limited to—anti-competitive licensing practices. South Africa should explore greater regulation of voluntary licenses in the pharmaceutical sector to avoid this. Furthermore South Africa must make use of a range of remedies to address anti-competitive practices, including compulsory licensing. As TRIPS does not define anti-competitive practices, South Africa has significant flexibility to determine for itself what conduct in relation to exclusive rights in IP is to be considered anti-competitive for the purposes of the Competition Act. We strongly recommend that references to compulsory licensing as an exception to an exclusive right be removed from the text as compulsory licensing is an integral part of the principle of balance that lies at the heart of patent protection.

8. Patent Exceptions: South Africa must adopt into national law broader limited exceptions to patent rights for the purposes of commercial and non-commercial research and education. Such exceptions are fully authorised by TRIPS Article 30 and have been previously implemented by countries such as Brazil.

9. Data Exclusivity: Chapter 1 of the DNPIP refers to data exclusivity as a hindrance to generic competition, but we recommend that data exclusivity be removed completely from the text. TRIPS Article 39.3 refers to undisclosed test or other data that is submitted to governments for the purpose of obtaining marketing approval and that it takes considerable effort to originate, and requires protection against “unfair commercial use” of such data.[4] This is distinguishable from data, marketing or regulatory exclusivity such as that granted in the United States and Europe, which prevents medicines regulatory authorities from referring to or relying on test data submitted by the rights holder (for a specified period of time) in order to register their generic equivalents. Data exclusivity serves no purpose other than to provide firms with de facto market exclusivity when they are unable to legitimately obtain a patent. It prevents generics from entering the market and allows firms to set monopoly pricing on medicines that do not meet patentability standards. TRIPS Article 39.3 does not require data exclusivity, which is now widely accepted as a TRIPS-plus measure that negatively impacts on access to medicines. Data exclusivity goes beyond data protection into the realm of pseudo-monopoly and should be avoided.

We urge the Department of Trade and Industry to take on board our recommendations to improve the proposed reforms of the Draft National Policy on IP. Despite expected opposition from the US, EU and the pharmaceutical industry, these reforms must be rapidly adopted through the legislative process in order to enable improved access to quality and affordable medicines. By pursuing the reforms discussed in the DNPIP, South Africa is exercising its lawful right to use TRIPS-compliant flexibilities to fulfill its constitutional obligations and protect the right to health of its people.

Yours sincerely,

Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa
SECTION27, South Africa
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) South Africa
Budget Expenditure Monitoring Forum (BEMF), South Africa
AIDS & Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), Southern Africa
World AIDS Campaign, South Africa and Kenya
Centre for Civil Society, University KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
HIV Clinicians Society, South Africa
The Stop Stock Outs Project, South Africa
Ndifuna Ukwazi (Dare to Know), South Africa
People’s Health Movement, South Africa
Global TB Community Advisory Board (TB CAB), South Africa
Oxfam, South Africa
Pan-African Treatment Access Movement (PATAM), Africa
The African Community Advisory Board (AFROCAB), Africa
AIDS Law Project (ALP), Kenya
National Empowerment Network of People living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya, Kenya
Global Coalition of Women Against AIDS in Uganda, Uganda
Positive-Generation, Cameroon
Coalition 15%, Cameroon
Treatment Access Watch, Cameroon
Cameroon TB Group, Cameroon
Ghana AIDS Treatment Access Group (GATAG), Ghana
Omega Project Management Foundation, Ghana
Lawyers Collective, India
Delhi Network of People Living with HIV (DNP+), India
Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV (APN+)
Positive Malaysian Treatment Access & Advocacy Group (MTAAG+), Malaysia
East Europe & Central Asia Union of People Living With HIV
The Latin America & Caribbean – Global Alliance for Access to Medicines
RedLAM- Red Latinoamericana por el Acceso a Medicamentos, Latin America
Health Action International – AIS Latin America and the Caribbean
LACCASO – Latin American and the Caribbean Council of AIDS Organizations
Health Action International – AIS Ecuador
Health Action International – AIS Nicaragua
Colombian Medical Federation, Colombia
IFARMA Foundation, Colombia
Misión Salud Veeduría Ciudadana, Colombia
Health Action International – AIS Colombia
Políticas Farmacéuticas, Chile
Red Peruana Por Una Globalización Con Equidad RedGE, Peru
Health Action International – AIS Peru
GTPI/Rebrip (Working Group on Intellectual Property from the Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples)
Working Group on Intellectual Property (GTPI) Brazil
ABIA – Associação Brasileira Interdisciplinar de AIDS (Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association), Brazil
Conectas Direitos Humanos (Conectas Human Rights), Brazil
FENAFAR – Federação Nacional dos Farmacêuticos (National Federation of Pharmacists), Brazil
GAPA/SP – Grupo de Apoio à Prevenção à AIDS de São Paulo (Support Group for AIDS Prevention in São Paulo), Brazil
GAPA/RS – Grupo de Apoio à Prevenção à AIDS do Rio Grande do Sul (Support Group for AIDS Prevention in Rio Grande do Sul), Brazil
GESTOS – Soropositividade, Comunicação e Gênero (GESTOS – HIV+, Communication and Gender), Brazil
GIV – Grupo de Incentivo à Vida (Incentive to Life Group), Brazil
GrupoPela Vidda/SP (Group for Life in São Paulo), Brazil
Grupo Pela Vidda/RJ (Group for Life in Rio de Janeiro), Brazil
GRAB – Grupo de Resistência Asa Branca (Resistance Group Asa Branca), Brazil
IDEC – Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor (Brazilian Institute for Consumers Protection), Brazil
RNP+/MA – Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS Maranhão, Brazil
Fundación GEP, Argentina
Red Argentina de Personas Positivas (REDAR Positiva), Argentina
GEP Foundation, Argentina
Bolivian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (REDBOL), Bolivia
Health Action International – AIS Bolivia
Caribbean-International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) – LATCA, Guatemala
MSF Access Campaign, International
Third World Network, International
Restless Development, International
Knowledge Ecology International
People’s Health Movement, Global
Health Action International Global
Open Society Foundations Public Health Program, USA
Health GAP (Global Access Project), USA, Uganda, Kenya
African Services Committee, USA
Treatment Action Group (TAG), USA
American Medical Students Association (AMSA), USA
Act-Up Philadelphia, USA
Progressive Intellectual Property Institute, Cleveland, USA
I-MAK – Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge, USA
Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY), USA
Public Citizen, USA
Health Action International, Europe
HIV i-Base, UK
Student Stop AIDS Campaign, UK
FoTAC (Friends of the Treatment Action Campaign), UK
Health Poverty Action, UK
Solthis – Solidarité Thérapeutique et Initiatives contre le SIDA, France
Act-Up Paris, France
Coalition Plus, France
Farmamundi, Spain
Act Up-Basel, Switzerland
Action against AIDS Germany
Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), Norway
All-Ukrainian Network of PLWH, Ukraine

Catriona Towriss, Department of Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
Professor Brook K. Baker, School of Law, Northeastern University, US & Honorary Research Fellow, Faculty of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Professor Yousuf Vawda, School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
David. K Levine, EUI and WUSTL, USA
Matthew Kavanagh, University of Pennsylvania, USA
Eduard Grebe, Centre for Social Science Research, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Rory Horner, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, UK
Ellen ‘t Hoen, LLM, The Netherlands
Israel Osanmoh. GcIB, MIB, Founder, BIKON-PEE Trans – Continentals Foundation, Australia
David Kwesi Afreh, Omega Project Management Foundation, Ghana
Lonias Ndlovu, Senior Lecturer, University of Zululand, South Africa
Chikosa Banda, University of Malawi: Chancellor College, Malawi
Matthew Flynn, Georgia Southern University, USA
Dr Phoebe Li, Sussex Law School, University of Sussex, UK
Peter Drahos, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University, Australia
A/ Prof Caroline B Ncube, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Suerie Moon, Harvard University, USA
Professor Joan Rovira, Department of Economics, University of Barcelona, Spain
Juan Carlos Tealdi, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
Patrick Bond (Senior Professor), School of Built Environment & Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Tebello Thabane, School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Holly Cheng, RN, University of South Florida, USA
Professor Michael Davis, member US Patent Bar, Cleveland State University, USA
Michelle Childs, UK/Brazil
Sharon Ekambaram, Head of Dr Neil Aggett Unit, MSF, South Africa
Marlise Richter, International Centre for Reproductive Health, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ghent University, Belgium & School of Public Health & Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Zackie Achmat, South Africa
Ujjwal Kumar, Formerly National Consultant (Trade & Health), MOHFW, Government of India, India
Srividhya Ragavan, Professor of Law, University of Oklahoma College of Law, USA
Gracia Violeta Ross Quiroga, Bolivia
Ian Proudfoot, MSF Southern Africa Medical Unit
Tom Ellman, MSF Southern Africa Medical Unit
Eric Goemaere, MSF Southern Africa Medical Unit
Emmanual Fajardo, MSF Southern Africa Medical Unit
Mwenya Mubanga, MSF Southern Africa Medical Unit
Andrew Mews, Head of Mission, MSF South Africa and Lesotho
Gilles Van Cutsem, Medical Coordinator, MSF South Africa and Lesotho
Els Torreele, OSF, USA

[1] See

[2] See e.g. Association for Molecular Pathology v Myriad Genetics from the most recent term of the U.S. Supreme Court.

[3] See…

[4] See…


Categories: Lobbying and PR Tags:

Journalists writing and talking about each other: the Oz on the ABC

February 8th, 2014 Comments off

I think I’ll make it a new series – journalists writing and talking about each other. And to kick things off what better than a retrospective of recent offerings from The Australian

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And here is a little bit of detail from this morning’s effort:

TONY Abbott faces a push from within his cabinet to call a wideranging inquiry into the ABC’s editorial standards, after his Defence Minister launched an extraordinary attack on the broadcaster for airing unsubstantiated claims that navy personnel physically abused asylum-seekers.

Venting his anger, David Johnston accused the ABC yesterday of having ‘‘maliciously maligned’’ the navy and said he was dissatisfied with ‘‘weasel words of apology’’ from senior management.

The minister’s comments — which follow allegations aired on the ABC’s flagship radio current affairs program AM on January 22 that some passengers were ‘‘forced by the navy to hold on to hot metal’’ on board an asylumseeker boat, causing severe burns and blisters — reflect widespread sentiment in the Abbott government that the ABC’s news and current affairs coverage has a leftwing bias against Coalition policy, and should be reined in.

So much for the page one treatment of the ABC. The detailed analysis is left to the special Media section published every Monday. No surprise to regular readers – yes, I confess to being one – that there was plenty of it.

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8-02-2014 mediadiary

Back on Jakarta’s front page – a calm report on the return of boat people

February 8th, 2014 Comments off

Australia’s policy of turning back the boats has returned to page one coverage in The Jakarta Post.

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The report is free of emotive language language.

The Indonesian Police revealed on Friday that the Australian Navy had turned back 34 undocumented migrants when their boat reached Australian waters near Christmas Island.

On the same day in Canberra, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott claimed his government’s harsh policy against unwanted asylum seekers had drastically reduced the arrival of boat people to Australia.

Pangandaran Water Police Unit chief Adj. Comr. Firman Alamsyah said undocumented migrants found stranded in a lifeboat at Pangandaran Beach in West Java told police they had been driven away from Australian waters.

“This was their [the migrants] story,” he confirmed.

Firman said 21 undocumented migrants were from Iran (three of them below 5 years old), five from Bangladesh, six from Nepal and two others from Pakistan.

They arrived in Christmas Island waters on Jan. 28 by a wooden boat, which was immediately intercepted by the Australian authorities. On the evening of Feb. 5, they were found stranded on Pangandaran Beach.

During the voyage back to Indonesia, the lifeboat was escorted to open sea by an Australian vessel, an aircraft and a high speed inflatable boat. The lifeboat then headed to Cilacap, Central Java and was eventually seized by the police.

From a sign inside the vessel, the fiberglass lifeboat carried registration number “JYB85F”. The lifeboat, with a capacity of around 30 people, was equipped with seats and safety belts. It is currently tied to a police patrol boat and is anchored.

The orange vessel is 8.5 meters long, 3.2 meters wide and 1.1 meters tall, with its top part covered, a small propeller at the back and a side door for entry. Instructions written in Mandarin and English were found inside the cabin, while the words “Lifeboat”, “Battery charger” and “Made in China” could be seen near the steering compartment.

Such a lifeboat is usually standard on large freighters and tankers. In an earlier discovery of a lifeboat in Sukabumi, West Java, the vessel was powered by a diesel motor and could travel at a speed of 3 knots per hour.

On Jan. 16, a similar lifeboat was also found on Palabuhan Ratu beach, West Java, without any passengers onboard.

The Associated Press quoted Abbott as saying that no asylum seekers had reached Australia by boat in 50 days, the longest period since 2008, describing the measures to turn them back as tough but effective.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) reported that the Australian navy had sent 34 asylum seekers back to Java on Wednesday night in a lifeboat.

The report contains no new quotes from senior Indonesian officials but simply reports comments made earlier.

Indonesian government officials oppose Australia’s policies introduced after the Abbott government was elected last September and see them as violating of Indonesian sovereignty.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has spoken of the policy in negative terms. “This kind of policy of transferring people from one boat to another and then directing them back to Indonesia is not really helpful,” he told the ABC.

In a turning back the boats story from the other side of the world, the Greek paper Kathimerini reports this morning that the bodies of four more of the 12 migrants who drowned off Farmakonisi last month were recovered yesterday as a navy oceanographic research vessel helped coast guard divers locate the fishing boat in which the migrants had attempted to reach Greece. Sixteen people were rescued from the boat on January 19 but some survivors alleged that a Greek coast guard patrol vessel attempted to tow the migrants boat back to Turkish waters, causing it to sink. Greek officials deny this and a judicial probe has been ordered.

Griffith by-election prospects

February 7th, 2014 Comments off

Governments normally do not do well at by-elections but then again they normally don’t have the advantage of an opponent with a considerable personal following retiring. It’s the departure of Kevin Rudd that adds some interest to tomorrow’s Griffith poll.

The Owl’s Election Indicator, based on what the market expects, assesses the chances this way:


Categories: Elections, Federal elections Tags:

European newspaper front pages Friday 7 February

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Matignon crée un organisme pour l’égalité et l’intégration – Matignon creates a body for equality and integration


Attention sensitive topic! The government, which has suffered a controversy in December 2013 after the disclosure of disputed reports on integration, has decided to put the work on the loom. Jean-Marc Ayrault was chairing a meeting, Tuesday, February 11, to announce the creation of an organization dedicated to the integration policies of equality and fight against discrimination. This body, which will be entrusted to a senior official, could limit the prerogatives of Manuel Valls. Since the late Sarkozy, the interior ministry has the upper hand on all issues of integration. After many weeks of procrastination, Matignon finally decided Thursday, February 6, to put on the table the issue of integration. The subject was buried mid-December 2013 after the controversy arose from the disclosure of certain proposals of five reports commissioned by the Prime Minister on the subject. A meeting is now scheduled, Tuesday, Feb. 11, at Matignon, with a flagship proposal: the creation of a public organization dedicated to the integration and the fight against discrimination, attached to the Prime Minister.






Terrorangst zum Olympiastart – Terror fear at the start of the Olympic


Today begin the Winter Games in Sochi / German security authorities: No cause for alarmism


Berlin – At the start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the U.S. has warned of bomb attacks on aircraft. There were indications that terrorists could smuggle explosives in toothpaste tubes into the machine and put together in the air bombs U.S. security circles said on Thursday. However, it is unclear whether the U.S. really have their own intelligence insights or only point to an already ever-present danger.




2014-02-07_standardAnd from South Africa:





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Squabbles between neighbours and other Asian newspaper front pages Friday 7 February

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Australian newspaper front pages Friday 7 February

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Toothpaste tube bombers and other American newspaper front pages Thursday 6 February

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2014-02-06_publimetrChilenos deben más de $172 mil millones en multas de tránsito – Chileans owe more than $172 billion in traffic tickets


2014-02-06_shcronicleA landslide, death trap for 7 firefighters and 2 rescuers




Pizzolato é preso na Itália, e Brasil pedirá sua extradição – Pizzolato is arrested in Italy, and Brazil will ask for his extradition

On the run since November last year, Henrique Pizzolato, the former Director of the Bank of Brazil condemned in the mensalão, was arrested yesterday morning in Northern Italy, as anticipated.








Categories: American media, Media Tags:

South Africa’s women’s empowerment and gender equality bill and other news and views for Thursday 6 February

February 6th, 2014 Comments off

What happens when you restrict information. When a government decides to be clever and restrict information and not answer questions it should not be surprised if there is a backlash. That’s what happened with that ABC report on the burnt hands allegations. The journalist might have failed to make it clear that he was reporting allegations rather than some established fact but trying to establish what actually happened is hard when you are confronted by a wall of silence. And any journalist worth his salt would be sceptical about a subsequent blanket denial from a government that was not prepared to even investigate whether the boat people returned to Indonesia might just have been telling at least some of the truth. Thanks therefore for the Fairfax papers for continuing to probe away, The piece on the website “Investigation: ‘burned hands’ on the high seas” by Indonesian correspondent Michael Bachelard raises further matters that deserve more than this government’s assertion that it is somehow unpatriotic to take seriously anything said by a would-be asylum seeker. Read it and judge for yourself.

Care is needed with industry assistance. The difficulty that comes from being in a coalition with the party of rural socialism is about to become apparent for Joe Hockey. The Treasurer might have been the tough guy when refusing further assistance to the motor industry and telling Coca Cola Amatil to get lost with its outrageous attempt to get government help to bail them out from a bad investment at SPC, but how will he treat drought stricken farmers and graziers? The National Party is now buzzing around seeking extra concessions for those affected by a lack of rain but surely droughts are just part of the normal cycle in that kind of business. Why should rural industries not be covered by the Hockey statement today that: “The business sector must shoulder more of the burden.It must restore corporate accountability and rely less on government assistance. It must stand on its own feet and it must pay its fair share of tax.”

A story that probably won’t make the Aussie tabloids. From London’s Daily Mail who pinched the story from Vanity Fair



Click to enlarge to a readable size

Culture Brazilian style. While our Joe is declaring “the age of entitlement is over, the age of personal responsibility has begun” in Brazil the government has come up with a new kind of handout. Not exactly welfare this time but a cultural coupon worth $20 a month for ordinary workers. Reports the Washington Post:


A serious attempt at gender equality. From South Africa’s Business Day

2014-02-06_gender2Other bits and pieces noted along the way.



Categories: News and views for the day Tags:

How Murdoch’s wife poured out her passion for Tony Blair and other European newspaper front pages Thursday 6 February

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La banque française en guerre contre l’Europe – The French Bank in war against Europe

It is not usual to see Christian Noyer, the Governor of the Bank of France, out of the reserve that confer high an employee and his supervisor function banks. Yet, it has not quite harsh words to attack the draft reform of the public issued banks on 29 January by the European Commissioner responsible for the internal market, the French Michel Barnier. “These ideas are, I weigh my words, irresponsible,” said M. Noyer at the address of a “stunned” Barnier to see a man “also relevant” making such statements. The problem is that one and the other have some reason.

Their conflict focuses first on how to curb the risks in the banking sector. In fine, it is to ensure that public money is put to contribution, as was the case during the banking crisis of 2008.

M. Barnier proposes to prohibit the thirty most large banks to speculate for their own account. He wants to impose to confine a large number of risky market transactions in a solidly capitalized subsidiary. This is what we call the separation of banking activities. M. Noyer considers that such a separation would restrict liquidity in markets and adversely affect the financing of the economy.






Nationalbank-Papier zu Risikoabschätzung: Zusätzlich bis zu acht Milliarden Folgekosten – National Bank paper risk assessment: up to an additional 8 billion costs

The discussion of a bankruptcy of the state Hypo Alpe Adria does not stop. Austrian National Bank (OeNB) and Task Force Hypo warn the government against this variant; imponderable to be its consequences. In a letter to the Ministry of Finance of 19 November, the present standard, the OeNB Governing Board estimates the losses from a “disorderly liquidation” of the Institute with “up to 16 billion euros.”










2014-02-06_tagesErdogan will Internet-Kontrolle – Erdogan wants Internet control

Istanbul – The Turkish government wants to secure extensive rights to control the Internet. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has put forward a bill, according to which the State Internet authority may block unwanted content within a few hours and without a court order. In addition, the surfing habits of users are stored for two years and can be viewed by the Secret Service. Erdogan justified the advance with the protection of individual rights. The opposition called for a further restriction of freedom of expression in Turkey. Parliament is to vote on the law in the next few days.











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Asian newspaper front pages Thursday 6 February

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Australian newspaper front pages Thursday 6 February

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American newspaper front pages Wednesday 5 February

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5-02-2014 spauloApagão atinge 11 Estados, e 6 milhões ficam sem luz – Blackout hits 11 States, and 6 million are without light

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dura crítica de la presidenta a empresarios y gremialistas – harsh criticism of the President to business and labor leaders

With hard tone and epic combative, President Cristina Kirchner launched yesterday strong criticism to employers and trade unionists, in the context of the commitment of the Government to curb inflation shot and contain a wage bid that was enhanced by the devaluation of the peso.

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5-02-2014 latimes

5-02-2014 houston

5-02-2014 vanguardia

5-02-2014 arizona

Categories: American media, Media Tags:

Ticket clippers, disappearing butterflies and other news and views Wednesday 5 February

February 5th, 2014 Comments off

A ticket clipping update. The head of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Martin Wheatley, has told MPs that 10 banks were now helping with its investigation of foreign exchange rate-fixing. “The allegations are every bit as bad as they have been with Libor,” Mr Wheatley told the Treasury Select Committee referring to the interest rate scandal that led to banks paying $6bn in fines. And the investigations of the ways banks and their employees make a billion or so from the unsuspecting public is now going even wider. Mr Wheatley revealed the FCA’s probe had now widened, and “a number of other benchmarks that operate in London” were being investigated “because of concerns that are being raised with us”.

In the United States meanwhile, Morgan Stanley said it would pay $1.25 billion to the U.S. regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to settle a lawsuit related to the sale of mortgage-backed securities.

Not to forget about Australia where a court ruled that the late payment fees the bank charged customers by the ANZ Bank were extravagant, exorbitant and unconscionable.

The disappearing butterfly. The number of monarch butteflies migrating from the north of America to the Oyannel fir forest in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains has dropped this year to a new record low.

World Wildlife Fund Mexico announced onWednesday that just 33.5 million individuals are wintering in Mexico this year – back in 1997, there were over 1 billion.

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An article in Climate Progress notes that although the number of butterflies varies from year to year — the long term average over the past 20 years of record keeping is 350 million — this year’s number is the 9th consecutive yearly measurement below the long term average.

Researchers have identified three major factors that are driving the decline: deforestation in Mexico, agriculture displacing key milkweed habitat in the U.S., and episodes of extreme weather along the migration route.

Our small time boat people problemReports the BBC:

More than 2,000 migrants landed on Italian shores in January, the government says, compared to just 217 in the same month last year. Deputy Interior Minister Filippo Bubbico said Italy was subject to an “incessant and massive influx of migrants” in 2013. He said that a total of 42,925 migrants reached Italy by sea last year, an increase of 325% on 2012. The figures do not include migrants who died making the perilous sea crossing.

Other items noticed along the way

  • OECD ‘debunks myth’ that poor will fail at school – “There is nothing inevitable about the weaker academic performance of poorer pupils, says an analysis of Pisa tests by the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher. Mr Schleicher, who runs the tests, says the high results of deprived pupils in some Asian countries shows what poor pupils in the UK could achieve. The most disadvantaged pupils in Shanghai match the maths test results of wealthy pupils in the UK.Mr Schleicher says it ‘debunks the myth that poverty is destiny’.”
  • New research reveals that unemployment is especially hellish in the U.S. — because unemployed Americans blame themselves for their plight.
  • Miles Kimball on the Extraordinary Inequities of Restrictions on International Migration – “Miles Kimball starts a train of thought that leads to the conclusion that our descendants 500 years in the future–if we have a good future, that is–may well likely to regard our tolerance of our present-day restrictions on global migration from country to country with roughly the same kind of horror that we today regard James Madison’s, Thomas Jefferson’s, and Aristotle’s tolerance of slavery.”
  • Why the Rich Feel Besieged: A Checklist
  • Lessons from the economics of crime – “In many settings, criminal behaviour can be analysed just like any other economic decision-making process, namely – as the outcome of individual choices influenced by perceived consequences. This column explains the advantages of adopting an economic approach to understanding crime. Furthermore, criminal law and crime-prevention programmes can be evaluated using the same normative techniques applied to health, education, and environmental regulation.”

European newspaper front pages Wednesday 5 February

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EU-Parlament zeigt Härte gegen Zinsmanipulationen – EU Parliament shows toughness against interest rate manipulations

Strasbourg – the European Parliament adopted an EU directive on criminal sanctions for insider trading and market manipulation in the financial sector on Tuesday in Strasbourg. It provides for the Member States of the Union from 2016 in national criminal law to provide relatively high penalties for relevant offences. Deliberate manipulation of market prices, as it gave them such as the LIBOR scandal by half a dozen European banks, would threaten prison with at least four years.

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Der da oben, die da unten – The upstairs, the downstairs

Tax fraud is a criminal offence, which undermines confidence in the rule of law and threatens the cohesion of our society. So it stood in the election program of the SPD for 2013, which was decided at a time when Klaus Wowereit of still Deputy Party Chairman was. A fair tax policy and distribution of wealth has always been a core part of social democratic thought. That has figured out a leading SPD man, who comes from small ratios, silently revealed the fraud of a major Advisor and personal friend, this is a serious case of sin for the comrades.

The Berlin SPD leadership could therefore not otherwise act as to urge the, André Schmitz Secretary of State for culture to resign as quickly as possible. Especially since the ruling Mayor was not ready to give up its attitude of refusal, but hiding in the skiing behind a high snowdrift. In the off chance that the storm of media outrage will subside after a few days. A gross misjudgment. Many years, Wowereit has believed to be able to take advantage of his own party as sometimes bulky, but ultimately obedient Assistant for the lonely governance in Berlin. Now the tide turns, as the boss of the Red Town Hall overused the patience and ability to suffer his capital of SPD.

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5-02-2014 jerusalem

5-02-2014 times

5-02-2014 dailymail

5-02-2014 hurriyet

5-02-2014 express

5-02-2014 ukdt

5-02-2014 mirror

5-02-2014 ukstar

5-02-2014 lsun

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Categories: European media, Media Tags:

Where the banks get their money

February 5th, 2014 Comments off

An interesting graph tweeted by Greg Jericho ‏@GrogsGamut 

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Categories: Economic matters Tags:

The SMH still beating the public breast and Eric Bogle still says it best

February 5th, 2014 Comments off

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Natalie Jean Wood is back in the Sydney Morning Herald. And here’s a reprint of something I wrote when Crikey still wanted an old man writing for therm.

Thirty years on and nothing has changed

RICHARD FARMER | JUL 08, 2011 7:57PM | 

Back in 1980 Clare Campbell made the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. Her body had been found in her little cottage having been dead for a year. There was a big pile of letters on the floor. Nothing personal there. Just junk mail. Not even a postcard.

The paper report said Clare Campbell had a son and a daugher in Sydney.

It moved Eric Bogle to write a song “A Reason for it All” that I have been searching for in my CD collection since reading this week’s sad story of an old woman whose lonely death in a Sydney terrace took eight years to discover. I failed but did find a version on You Tube

Eric Bogle introduced his ode to Clare by recalling that Granny Herald beat the public breast for a couple of days.

“Do we care for our old people and all that sort of stuff. Well of course we don’t. We are a capitalist society. That’s not part of our caring.”

The refrain rings as true today as it did back 30 years ago:

Don’t talk to me about lonely souls cryin’
Dark quiet rooms and old people dyin’
I don’t want to hear, don’t want to hear it at all
Tired old people die alone every day
Don’t blame me I didn’t make it that way
That’s just how it is, don’t look for a reason for it all


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Asian newspaper front pages Wednesday 5 February

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5-02-2014 hindu5-02-2014 ectimes

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5-02-2014 jakarta

5-02-2014 star

5-02-2014 china

5-02-2014 korea

5-02-2014 chinapost

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Australian newspaper front pages Wednesday 5 February

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5-02-2014 merc

5-02-2014 age

5-02-2014 advert

5-02-2014 gc

5-02-2014 cairns

5-02-2014 towns5-02-2014 nt5-02-2014 press

Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Australian newspaper front pages Tuesday 4 February

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4-02-2014 cairns4-02-2014 cm

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4-02-2014 geelong

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4-02-2014 mercury

4-02-2014 ntnews

4-02-2014 smh

4-02-2014 townsville

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American newspaper front pages Monday 3 February

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4-02-2014 usatoday

4-02-2014 chictrib4-02-2014 sfchronicle

4-02-2014 lanacion

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3-02-2014 nydn

4-02-2014 washpost4-02-2014 spaulo

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4-02-2014 nypost

4-02-2014 houston

4-02-2014 globeandmail

4-02-2014 arizona

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European newspaper front pages Monday 3 November

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3-02-2014 dm

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3-02-2014 irishtimes

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3-02-2014 dertages

3-02-2014 hurriyet

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Asian newspaper front pages Monday 3 February

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3-02-2014 tofi

3-02-2014 ectimes

3-02-2014 korea

3-02-2014 jakarta

3-02-2014 chinapost

3-02-2014 hijndu

3-02-2014 thrstar

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Australian newspaper front pages Monday 3 February

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3-02-2014 age

3-02-2014 tele

3-02-2014 australian

3-02-2014 cm

3-02-2014 advertiser

3-02-2014 geelong

3-02-2014 mercury

3-02-2014 gc

3-02-2014 cairns

3-02-2014 townsville

3-02-2014 heraldsun

3-02-2014 ntnews

Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

Thatcher drove Scots to drink and other European newspaper front pages Sunday 2 February

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2-02-2014 independent

2-02-2014 ukst

2-02-2014 observer

2-02-2014 express

2-02-2014 sunindep

2-02-2014 sundaymail

2-02-2014 saqst

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Asian newspaper front pages Sunday 2 February

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2-02-2014 jakarta

2-02-2014 asindst

2-02-2014 phil

2-02-2014 chinapost

2-02-2014 sunstar


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Throwing beer cans at cyclists and other Australian newspaper front pages Sunday 2 February

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2-02-2014 suntas

2-02-2014 brisbane

2-02-2014 territorian

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Categories: Australian media, Media Tags:

European newspaper front pages Saturday 1 February

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Ukrainische Armee droht mit Eingreifen – Ukrainian army threatens to intervene

Kiev/Vienna – the Ukrainian military has warned of an escalation in the country on Friday and hinted at a possible intervention. Meanwhile, President Wiktor Janukowitsch signed the controversial amnesty law. Meanwhile, the opposition has raised new torture accusations against the Government.

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Le grand retour de l’Amérique – The comeback of America

America is back. The growth of the United States reached 3.2% annual rate in the last quarter of 2013. The strong rebound of the first economy in the world is therefore confirms. On the year, the growth was 1.9%, but it accelerated sharply in the second half.

The political crisis of the fall, which has led to the closure of federal services (“shutdown”), has had an impact limited to the public sphere. The economy was boosted by consumption and investment, while the trade deficit is strongly reduced.

From San Francisco to New York, high technologies are booming. Thus, the California firm Google saw its turnover and profits increase by 20% last year. Amazon, the American giant of online commerce, resumed with the profits end of 2013, after two quarters in the red. In New York, Silicon Alley has become an unavoidable pole of high-tech: a thousand start-up settled for five years in this space of one square kilometer.

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1-02-2014 kathim

1-02-2014 thetimes

1-02-2014 dertages

1-02-2014 guardian

1-02-2014 independent

1-02-2014 sun

1-02-2014 dailymail

1-02-2014 dailyexpress

1-02-2014 dailystar

1-02-2014 dailymirror

Categories: European media, Media Tags:

Asian newspaper front pages Saturday 1 February

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1-02-2014 economictimes

1-02-2014 tofi

1-02-2014 jakarta

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1-02-2014 chinapost

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An orange lifeboat and other Australian newspaper front pages Saturday 1 February

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