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The Daily Briefing 13/12/05

By Wayne Sanderson
Created 14/12/2005 - 01:55

National, Opinion, Business round-up

IN THE BROADSHEETS

The curious part of reading this morning's coverage of the Cronulla race riots was watching various right-wing commentators discovering grievance. In the past there was "no excuse for that sort of behaviour", as in the case of the Redfern riots and disturbances inside detention centres, and certainly they had no time for those wondering about "the root causes of terrorism". Ah, but when the "ugly mob" are Aussie boofheads, well, those simmering resentments are worth hearing about. Try Piers Akerman [1] for example, as he feels "the painfully deep-seated resentment" arising out of "the failed multicultural policies foisted on an unsuspecting nation decades back". At this rate Piers will feel the pain of the white experiment foisted on an unsuspecting indigenous nation some time back. Or perhaps not. (And there is more of that to be found in the opinion pages, as most of the usual suspects take up their usual positions in the dreary cultural wars - no wonder people stop reading newspapers when they show such little genuine curiosity about the way things are, and absolutely no hope that they could be better.)

But the good news is that Australia is not a racist country [2], according to John Howard, even though John Huxley in the SMH [3] and David King in The Oz [4] highlight the involvement of far-right racist groups, and the Cronulla mob were waving flags and chanting "no Lebs", and worse. (Apart from not forcing racists to confront their own racism - which infects us all to some greater or lesser extent - doesn't the PM's statement run the risk of being heard by some as a dog-whistle message that they were to some extent justified?) David Marr [5] looks at the role of talk-back radio, Alan Jones in particular. All the papers lead on the second night of violence, with The Australian reporting ("race warfare divides city") that Sydney exploded into a second night of race warfare [6] as tensions between rival ethnic gangs escalated into a series of late-night revenge attacks on white Australian males across the south and west of the city. The report includes photos of text messages urging violence, and The Age reports that new text messages, including one declaring war between Sydney's Middle Eastern youths and Australians [7], are being circulated.

Coverage in The Guardian can be found here [8]; and the NYTimes here [9].

In other news, The Australian reports that the resources boom is gathering a new head of steam [10], with higher prices for most of Australia's minerals expected to deliver an extra $22 billion in exports to the nation's miners this financial year; that Senator Steve Fielding was promised tax breaks for families [11] as an incentive to vote for the Government's controversial voluntary student union bill; that tens of thousands of women considering an abortion will be able to claim the cost of counselling [12] on Medicare from early next year; and that evidence considered commercially sensitive or confidential, such as Iraqi wheat contracts, may be excluded from the federal Government's inquiry [13] into the corrupt UN oil-for-food scandal.

The Age reports that Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks will be granted British citizenship [14] by the UK High Court today, his Australian lawyer expects, only to have it taken off him by the British Government; that police investigating an alleged Melbourne terror cell logged 4392 hours of covert surveillance of their suspects [15] and have identified 237 secretly recorded conversations that could form part of the case against the men; and that Victorian Treasurer John Brumby set out a plan for taking control of more than $700 million [16] administered by the Supreme Court on behalf of 5100 injured children and disabled people in May, a letter obtained by The Age reveals.

The Herald reports that three urban planning and environmental experts have been appointed to determine whether Sydney Water properly considers community concerns over the Kurnell desalination plant [17], even though the State Government will ignore critics who oppose its construction; that the Federal Government has pledged to spare unfair dismissal claims awaiting hearing [18] in state jurisdictions after it conceded their immediate cessation was an unintended consequence of its overhaul of workplace relations legislation; that Sydney's house price slump is choking off the home renovation [19] boom; and that the Prime Minister has intervened in an end Liberal versus National wrestling [20] in Queensland before the stoush seriously infects the Coalition in Canberra.

You might also be interested in a study into the wombat's lovemaking repertoire [21]; and burglars broke  into Charlie Owen's St Kilda home on Saturday and stole two rare guitars [22].

OPINION

The Age: Tim Colebatch [23] previews the inaugural East Asia Summit, says Australia has been largely sidelined, and that it is difficult to see it "matching the rhetoric and inspiration of its founders"; Garry Woodward [24] says "Australia has a clear moral obligation, reinforced by post-World War II history, to stand shoulder to shoulder with the ASEAN parliamentarians" putting pressure on the Burmese junta; Tony Parkinson [25] says the problems that led to the Cronulla riot have been simmering for years, with some blame going to police and the media, but most of it to ruthless Lebanese gangs; and Salam Zreika [26] acknowledges the problems in the Lebanese community, but says it is difficult to get her message across that she is a dinky-di Aussie if no-one gives her the time of day.

The Australian: Steve Lewis [27] says clamping down on tax avoidance by the rich, mainly through discretionary trusts, should take priority over tax reform, and reports that Malcolm Turnbull is about to make another speech on the subject, this time pushing a simpler tax system; Phillip Adams [28] looks at the history of terrorism in the 20th century and says it "attracts damaged and deluded people who dignify their madness by attaching an ideological label"; Paul Comrie-Thompson [29] blames multiculturalism for the Cronulla race riots, saying that the rule of laws should apply equally to everyone (but doesn't give examples of where it doesn't, merely offers examples of where cultural excuses have been put forwarded by some individuals); Tim Priest [30], never one to miss an opportunity, says the race riots are the result of lack of policing and "the multitude of racist attacks on young Australian men and women during the past decade, which have now manifested into full-blown racial retaliation"; and Arti Sharma [31] (Centre for Independent Studies) says the changes to the child support system are fair, but that it is unfair for "custodial parents to expect to receive full child support when their former partner is sharing the parenting".

The SMH: Gerard Henderson [32] says Australia is a tolerant society , except when it's not tolerant, is careful to point out the failings of some Lebanese Australians who were not really refugees, and says multiculturalism and the media should not be blamed for the actions of an aggressive few (Henderson use the phrase "we are tolerant" numerous times, as if he is trying to convince someone, perhaps himself?); Nadia Jamal [33] nominates some problems within the Lebanese community, and also discusses the scapegoating that has followed the gang rapes and terrorism; Bronwyn Winter [34] makes comparison with the Paris riots and says the underlying problem is a culture of machismo in Cronulla and in gangs; and Clifton Evers [35] says part of the problem is the unwritten rules that apply on beaches, and the sense of ownership that local surfers feel.

BUSINESS

"I lied, says News chief counsel". The Age leads, with the SMH not far behind, on News Ltd chief general counsel Ian Philip's evidence to the Federal Court yesterday that he had lied to Telstra, "possibly" defrauded it, and destroyed documents [36] he feared could be used against himself or News in a court case. And, The Australian does a reasonable job of reporting on its own man, although you have to read down into the story to get to the lying, defrauding and destroying bit: A News Limited senior executive told a federal judge yesterday he misled pay-TV partner Telstra [37] so it would contribute up to $14 million a year extra for National Rugby League football rights, saving the media giant from digging further into its pockets.

The Age reports that five consortiums have been shortlisted for the second round of bidding in the battle for the Myer department stores [38] ahead of tomorrow's financial briefings; and that investment group Babcock & Brown Infrastructure is set to snare Britain's second-biggest ports group [39], PD Ports plc, for $805 million.

The Herald reports that the chief executive of National Australia Bank, John Stewart, yesterday agreed to stay on at the bank indefinitely [40] and signed a contract worth as much as $8.375 million a year; that Macquarie--controlled Sydney Airport has refused to concede defeat [41] in its three-year battle with Virgin Blue over landing fees; and that a global shortage of enormous digger tyres, costing $US20,000 ($26,000) each and taking a day to make, is helping to keep the keep the cost of metals and minerals artificially high [42], according to miners and tyre makers.

The Australian reports that Toll Holdings has made last-minute concessions to the competition regulator [43] in an attempt to win approval for its hostile $4 billion-plus takeover bid for Patrick as its offer price continues to lag the market; that Lion Nathan has conceded that shareholders in Coopers Brewery will probably vote to remove its rights to buy shares [44] in the company tomorrow, but has vowed to fight on with its hostile $420 million takeover bid; and that while Australia is basking in the midst of a commodity price boom, the country's manufacturing sector has warned that it is gradually being driven into the ground [45] by a rising Aussie dollar and cheap Asian imports, especially from China.

John Siddons [46] says that in the midst of soaring foreign debt levels, quotas are the key to protecting what's left of Australian manufacturing; and Bryan Frith [47] thinks that unless Toll has badly misread the smoke signals, it has now ensured that the ACCC won't oppose its $5 billion takeover bid for Patrick Corp, which means the issue should now come down to price.

STATE ROUND-UP

The Daily Telegraph [48]: A second night of violence erupted across Sydney last night, as two police officers described saving young men from being murdered during the Cronulla riot; An urgent anti-terrorist security upgrade in the most vulnerable spots in Sydney will be carried out before New Year's Eve.

The Herald-Sun [49]: Simmering racial tensions exploded in Sydney again last night as police traced chilling new text messages inciting further violence; Top gold medal swimming hopes for the Commonwealth Games have taken part in a military-style exercise involving a mock execution of two teammates.

The Courier-Mail [50]: Racial tensions in the Sydney suburb of Cronulla exploded again last night when groups of men descended on the suburb seeking revenge for Sunday's attacks; A Brisbane police officer has allegedly bribed a teenager to have s*x with him in return for dropping a traffic charge.

The Advertiser [51]: Conroy Smallgoods was told last Friday to start withholding its ready-to-eat meats, but the public was only told yesterday of a possible link to the deadly listeria outbreak; South Australia's mental health system is so degraded that police officers have become the "primary carers" of the mentally ill and health care workers are hampered by a "siege mentality", a parliamentary committee has heard.

The West Australian [52]: A new survey has revealed that more than four in five West Australians believe State-of-origin food labelling should be compulsory, contradicting claims by State Agriculture Minister Kim Chance that consumers do not want such laws; WA motorists have been ripped off by the five major petrol retailers which bumped up price margins by as much as 100 per cent in the months leading up to Christmas, says Consumer Protection Commissioner Patrick Walker.

The Mercury [53]: In a last-gasp bid to save the state's rail system, the Federal Government has offered Tasmania a $78million rescue package; A Tasmanian cherry grower has done the equivalent of selling ice to eskimos by selling Japanese cherries to Japan.

SPORT

It was a bridge too far for Sydney FC, who have missed out on a dream date with Liverpool after a courageous 1-0 loss to Deportivo Saprissa [54] in the quarter-finals of the Club World Championship in frigid conditions near Nagoya; A report highly critical of binge drinking on the Kangaroos tour [55] led to the appointment yesterday of Roosters coach Ricky Stuart as the new boss of the national team; Anthony Mundine has called on his fans [56] to leave it to him to deal with Danny Green when the pair finally go head to head next April, and not to treat the 32-year-old West Australian with the same hostility he was shown in Sunday night's double header at Challenge Stadium; Cricket Australia has defended the right of its players to voice opinions [57] about the opposition and engage in colourful pre-match banter after the International Cricket Council took the unusual step of warning players, and even retired players, to tone down their inflammatory remarks in the lead-up to the series against South Africa.

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