NEWS AND VIEWS
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
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Getting good at this
One step forward and two steps back. The Labor Government is getting good at this business of retreating from tough decisions. Agriculture Minister Tony Burke has put on hold the passage of legislation to get the horse industry to pay its share of dealing with emergency disease outbreaks in the same way as cattle, sheep, pig, poultry and other major animal industries. When the idea of partial user pays was introduced under the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement back in 2002, the Horse Industry Council, which took part in the talks with other industry bodies along with state and federal governments, was, in the words of the bureaucrats, “unable to secure a suitable mechanism to raise funds to cover potential liabilities.” Talks went on and the horse industry finally decided to join the agreement with the former Coalition Government beginning the process of drafting the legislation well before the recent equine influenza outbreak. It was left to the incoming Labor lot to actually introduce the bill. As Minister Burke explains, until this legislation is passed, the horse industry is unable to join the agreement, meaning there could be a slower, more costly and less effective response to a future disease outbreak. Some of the horsey set, however, are suspicious that there is a trap in all this legislation business somewhere and that they will be faced with a hefty bill to cover the cost of the equine influenza outbreak. Now Mr Burke, who maintains the “intention was always to set a levy at zero and to only consider the appropriateness of a levy to cover industry's share of the response to the current outbreak after the Callinan Inquiry reported”, has agreed to postpone debate on the legislation altogether until after the Callinan Inquiry reports.
Find another Peter Rae
Now is probably not the right time for an inquiry into the excesses of the financial system that are daily being exposed. The circumstances are too fragile for that. Full knowledge of the madness of financial engineering and the risky behaviour of the nation's banks could well just increase the panic. But the day will come soon enough when Australia will need to reform the system to make sure that the same mistakes are not made again. Treasurer Wayne Swan would be wise to be thinking now about the form the necessary investigation into what went wrong should take and he could do worse than going back and looking at the work which Peter Rae did as a Liberal Senator reviewing the last great series of scandals in the 1960s. The Rae Senate inquiry led to considerable reform of corporate law and probably the Senate would be as good a body as any to tackle the task again.
Ending merger madness
It seems that Brendan Nelson has seen the error of his ways and has abandoned the naïve notion that it would somehow be possible to combine the Liberal and National Parfies into one happy little party. After bravely promising to put his leadership on the line over the need for amalgamation, Dr Nelson is now wisely being more circumspect. He has listened to his Liberal State Parliamentary colleagues who have told him in no uncertain fashion that joining the two non-Labor forces together is just not on. All that would be achieved is for one, or perhaps more, breakaway groupings. Dr Nelson momentarily forgot that the Liberal Party is already a somewhat unholy combination of liberal and conservative thinkers who really have little in common now that there is no longer the greater evil of socialism to combine to combat. Add in that weird lot of social reactionaries and agrarian socialists from the bush and the new look Liberal Party would be just too odd a beast.
Danes with a sense of humour
There is something amusing about those Danes. Here they are today complaining about the cruelty of a little bit of skin cutting on the bum of a sheep while at the same time campaigning for the right to kill whales after torturing them with harpoons. The world is a strange place but for the Australian wool industry this is no laughing matter. The animal rights movement is beginning to have an impact with 10 Danish retailers joining in the boycott of woolen fabrics while ever mulesing (the removal of skin from a sheep's backside to stop the bums being eaten by maggots after a blow fly attack) continues. The instinct of government is to side with the wool growers as Agriculture Minister Tony Burke did in a statement this week but there are dangers in that approach. The animal rights brigade is growing in strength not weakening with the British animal welfare organisation Viva! launching a Europe-wide campaign to save the Belconnen kangaroos we wrote about in Crikey last week Viva, with Sir Paul Macartney among its backers, is actively supporting the Save the Kangaroos group and there will soon be court action to try and stop the Defence Department from its planned kangaroo cull.
The Holy grail of politicians
Politicians are no different from many workers who like a refreshing ale after their day is done and the Holy Grail in Kingston is the watering hole of choice. The little establishment has been the scene of many amusing scenes over the years but methinks it is fast becoming a dangerous place for MPs to gather. The anti-binge drinking campaign of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will surely put the behaviour of our representatives under greater scrutiny as the press cannot resist stories illustrating hypocrisy. Democrat Senator Lyn Allison was the first to blow the whistle yesterday when she told her Senate colleagues they would stop getting drunk at the popular bar if they were serious about tackling binge drinking. "Let's start with The Holy Grail, not staying there until the early hours of the morning and see how we go," Senator Allison said. The Canberra Times reports this morning that the Democrats will push today for a comprehensive inquiry into alcohol their third bid in six years to secure upper house support for the probe.
The Daily Reality Check
Perhaps there's a difference between the readership of the broadloid internet sites and the tabloids after all. At The Age and Sydney Melbourne Herald sites, along with those of the one real broadsheet The Australian, the gallivanting of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was the must read story. Over at the real tabloids an American politician and a call girl did not make the top five with proper animal stories preferred as in Kitten saved from python's jaws and Girl's party leaves dog in coma .
The Pick of this Morning's Political Coverage
It is a moment that deserves recording: politics has made the splash in the Northern Territory News. But before you reach the conclusion that the Australian paper most in touch with what its readers are actually interested in has made a mistake, it should be explained that this is not your normal political story but a rattling good yarn. There's a former attorney general stabbed in the leg with a sharpened nulla nulla, good aborigines being exploited, nasty capitalists importing Chinese made didgeridoos, virtual slavery and professional thugs.
Art mafia 'ordered' minister's bashing – Nigel Adlam, Northern Territory News
ACTU's $26 pay rise target to light fuse - Misha Schubert, Melbourne Age
Caring Rudd's budget backflip – Matthew Franklin, The Australian
Savings setback is bank robbery - Andrew Carswell and Malcolm Farr, Sydney Daily Telegraph
Call for MPs to raise the bar - Danielle Cronin, Canberra Times