The Daily Briefing 13/10/05
Your round-up from today's newspapers plus the best writing, analysis, critical thinking and humour from around the world.
In today's email:1 Brief message, no link, see below2 Alastair Nicholson says terrorism laws take away freedom/Age (5 links below)3 Irwin Stelzer updates the US and global economies/Weekly Standard4 Jonathan Freeland on Ariel Sharon's Middle East plan/Guardian5 Cécile Raimbeau on the rise of workers co-operatives in Argentina/Le Monde6 Erwin James on the prisoner who won the right to vote/Guardian7 IN THE PAPERS: National, Opinion, Business round-up
|THURSDAY 13TH OCTOBER 2005 <> >
1 Update and feedbackFeedback
"I am a learned smart-arse on world issues and the things that matter due in a large part to TDB!" - subscriber, Tom McL.
For reasons, outlined below, I've been slow to share some of the wonderful, challenging and interesting feedback that has come in of late and to update you on the business side of TDB. But, I had to pause to share the one above and will get around to posting the rest shortly.
It has been a long year. That's the best excuse on offer at the moment, so I'll stick with it. Putting one of these together every working day, more or less on your own, keeps you honest, off the streets and out of mischief. To complicate matters, the website where TDB is produced has experienced some odd gremlins in recent days, slowing production in the morning. (And then there is the gorgeous 17-month-old in my life, Eamon, who has needed more fatherly attention than normal these past couple of mornings.)
Each day I've intended to write an update on the collaboration that TDB has entered into, but have needed to focus on getting a reasonably strong edition out at a reasonable time. It can't be delayed any longer, even though there is not time now for a full description of what it all entails. So for now, the news in brief is that TDB will now be published every day on Margo Kingston's new, independent version of Webdiary. (Margo has gone solo having split with Fairfax.) In the not too distance future, The Daily Blog, long promised, will also be published on that site, and I hope to be getting back to some more traditional journalism by writing a few stories, rather than just telling you what other people are writing. I also need to get around to writing an "opening statement" over at Webdiary, and that will also give more details.
The short answer for what it means to subscribers to TDB is nothing, or at least nothing much, particularly in the short term since Margo and I have agreed to have a trial period to see how it goes. The most important thing is that editorial control over all aspects of TDB will stay with me, and since I am dealing with a person of her word, you need have no concerns about that. But as I say, more information to follow, and I look forward to having a discussion about it, rather than just telling you how it will be.
Wayne Sanderson. THE DAILY BRIEFING
2 Judges speak out on liberty and the lawWhy do they hate our way of life, they being fear-driven politicians and certain commentators, is a question TDB has posed a number of times, once suggesting that the chances of an Australian being killed here in a terrorist attack was comparable to the chances of being kicked to death by a kangaroo - real but not so likely or unusal a threat in its nature as to require drastic changes to our laws. In a speech last night, former chief justice of the Family Court Alastair Nicholson (link below) said: "Our liberties and our democracy are under a more serious threat than that posed by terrorists as a direct result of the reaction of our leaders, the media and, in turn, the public, to that threat."
Nicolson's comments come as Britain's new chief justice, Lord Phillips, warned the Blair Government not to browbeat judges over its new anti-terrorism laws (The Guardian).
On Monday, The Independent published an interview with recently retired judge Lord Steyn who accused Tony Blair of mounting measures to tackle terrorism that will fall foul of human rights laws, and launched a damning attack on his record of human rights. (While still on the bench, Steyn described Guantanamo Bay as an abomination for which the US would one day have to apologise.)
The Guardian reports that the Blair Government has published the new legislation allowing detention for 90 days without charge; and it looks at how the new laws compare internationally (Australia gets a mention).
In the SMH, Michael Pelly reports that retiring High Court justice Michael McHugh has said Australia's reputation as a human rights champion had been so tarnished in recent years that it could be called a wolf in sheep's clothing. In his last speech as a member of the High Court, to Sydney University law students, McHugh urged the adoption of a bill of rights and said the lack of one had forced him to hand down decisions with which he did not personally agree (there has to be a great book exploring the tensions between judicial duty and his personal beliefs). ALASTAIR NICHOLSON/THE AGE
3 Greenspan's juggling actA somewhat more pessimistic Irwin Stelzer this time around. For those who came in late, TDB has more or less set up a debate between the conservative Irwin Stelzer (sometimes described as Rupert Murdoch's global ambassador) and liberal Princeton economics professor and NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman as they make their educated guesses about the US and global economies. Of late, Krugman has deserted the field to do what he enjoys most, belting up on George Bush hard and often. Stelzer tends to be a sunny side of the street man, while Krugman sees grey clouds, most of them the result of Bush's failings. This time around Stelzer is, comparatively, more critical than ever about Bush (isn't everyone these days?) and thinks he is relying on Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to shore him up. "Greenspan is known to be upset by the fiscal deficit, which he feels is contributing to the global imbalances that must sooner or later result in a decline in the dollar, rising interest rates, higher inflation, and pressure on the Fed to tighten even if the economy softens. So he might well accompany reassurances to Congress about the direction of Chinese trade policy with a blast at the White House and the Congress for failing to get America's fiscal house in order. Already under pressure because of his delayed reaction to Katrina, a variety of potential scandals, and now from his conservative supporters because of his refusal to appoint a distinguished, conservative constitutional lawyer to join the estimable John Roberts on the Supreme Court, the last thing the president needs is a public dressing down by Greenspan." IRWIN STELZER/THE WEEKLY STANDARD
4 Sharon's Middle East masterplanAn update on developments in the Middle East from Jonathan Freedland who says the Palestinians are being out-manoeuvered by Israel's Ariel Sharon into a situation that will see them get much less than they refused to accept under negotiations brokered by Bill Clinton in 2000. "That's not how it is any more. Yes, Gazans are relieved to be shot of the Israelis at last. And yes, Israelis - despite some persistent violence, with Palestinian rockets fired across the new "border" - still believe the pullout was the right move. But that does not mean the two sides are about to reach across the divide and touch each other. Instead they are looking inward." JONATHAN FREELAND/THE GUARDIAN
5 The workers, unitedWorkers co-operatives, a rare beast outside Mondragon in Spain, are said to be rising from the ruin of Argentina's economic crisis in 2001. Cécile Raimbeau says many workers who lost their jobs have occupied their workplaces and successfully resumed production without their former bosses, and now want legislative reforms to support them. "Unemployed workers who choose to take this path inevitably come up against employers, the legal system and the police. When that happens, they need all the support and loyalty they can get from their families and colleagues. The shared experience of revolt creates new forms of cooperation and friendship, and also leads to the emergence of a process of democratic decision-making: the assembly, where every worker has a voice." CéCILE RAIMBEAU/LE MONDE
6 I fought the law and I wonAs chance would have it, British prisoners last week won the right to vote, at the very time the Federal Government here is considering taking away that right from Australian prisoners. The UK case was brought by a prisoner John Hirst, who taught himself the law while serving time for manslaughter. This article is a profile of Hirst, not an exploration of the case itself, and is written by Erwin James, another former prisoner who became a journalist after The Guardian chose him to write a column by an inmate on prisoner life. "Hirst proved to be the most prolific prisoner litigant of modern times - and, he says, like Perry Mason and Rumpole of the Bailey, he never lost a case against the Prison Service. He won the right of prisoners on segregation punishment to keep their beds in their cells during the day, and overturned the blanket ban on prisoners communicating with the media. He also, after he was kept locked in solitary for 28 days without a break, successfully sued a prison governor for "malfeasance in public office"." ERWIN JAMES/THE GUARDIAN
|7 IN THE PAPERS: National, Opinion, Business round-up
IN THE BROADSHEETS
"The Immigration Department received a funding bonus from the Howard Government for every illegal entrant detained and deported before the 2001 election." - The Australian. This could have been written: Public servants, paid by the taxpayers to act on our behalf, have been turned into vigilantes but no Minister has been held accountable for the failed culture in the Immigration Department.
The Herald is excited about a Senate committee report, due out today, which it says is expected to recommend that capital gains tax and negative gearing rules should be altered to discourage speculative investment in rental properties and help reduce Australia's chronic debt burden. (But what would be the chances of either major party acting to stop the human need for shelter being treated as a Monoply game? Three-fifths of five-eighths of bugger all.) The paper also reports that legislation abolishing compulsory student unionism at Australian universities remained on track for this year and would not be diluted to accommodate Barnaby Joyce; and Mike Seccombe does a nice job telling the tale of how the Government was outmanoeuvred in the Senate when Barnaby crossed the floor on competition policy. It also reports that Sydney motorists are about to get a toll road that makes the Cross City Tunnel look like a bargain (and the Tele is keeping up its campaign on the tunnel, see below); that people attending new mandatory relationship counselling sessions are at risk of being advised by staff lacking professional qualifications and experience; and that the Opposition has called for the immediate introduction of guidelines to govern post-ministerial employment following an announcement that the former premier Bob Carr would be a consultant to Macquarie Bank, the biggest private funder of public infrastructure in NSW (as oppositions do, and then do nothing about it when in government and behave the same way themselves. Why are people so cynical about politicians?).
The Australian reports that former acting commissioner of a corruption watchdog Moira Rayner could be jailed for up to seven years for tipping off a public servant and friend that he was under investigation for stealing (of course there is the small matters of a trial and sentencing before that unlikely outcome is reached); that Health Minister Tony Abbott and his parliamentary secretary Christopher Pyne, both outspoken pro-life MPs, are coming under pressure from colleagues to overturn a federal Government ban on the controversial abortion pill RU-486; and that powerbrokers in Sydney's Anglican diocese want to change the church's constitution to enable a split from the Church of England in England if its attitude to the ordination of gay clergy and same-sex unions remains unresolved.
The Age has an "exclusive" it wants you to know, reporting that Victorian women who want a late-term abortion for reasons other than a foetal abnormality will have to first see a counsellor and go through a mandatory 48-hour cooling-off period. It also reports that John Howard appears to have misled Australians by claiming Christmas Day, Anzac Day and other public holidays would not be negotiable under the Government's proposed workplace changes; that a senior police officer faces disciplinary action after 7000 pages of confidential police files were mistakenly released to a corrections officer in Victoria's most embarrassing privacy breach; and that private school fees will break the $18,000 barrier next year, as some leading independent schools increase their charges by more than $1000.
The way we live now - a trend towards living alone and the replacement of traditional paper-based communication with email slashed $57 million from Australia Post's profits in 2004-05; if voting were not compulsory, only about half of Australia's dot-net generation would bother showing up at the ballot box; and pay television may be about to make a profit after 10 years.
Frank Galbally has died and The Age does him justice.
The nominations for journalism's Walkley Awards have been announced.
The Age: Paul Keating says the proposed industrial relations changes will strip away the egalitarian part of the wage system, leaving those without sufficient bargaining power vulnerable, notably women and the young, and says the economic outcomes of the past 15 years show they are not necessary; Kenneth Davidson says under the changes, "lower real wages will be imposed by strengthening the management prerogative by destroying the arbitration system based on fairness criteria and reducing the social wage to make room for income tax cuts for the rich"; Barry Jones shares his experience with glaucoma and says that 75 per cent of sight problems are preventable with early action (today is World Sight Day); and Alastair Nicholson see above.
The Australian: Simon Banks makes the case for an independent institute of fiscal studies to promote research and debate on key fiscal issues and to monitor and advise on the Government's fiscal statements (an idea whose time has come - similar bodies exist in similar countries); Mike Steketee says the industrial relations changes will increase the earnings gap between workers and cut union power, giving employers the upper-hand; Greg Sheridan reckons Indonesia is fighting the good fight against terrorism and that Australia needs to be careful with its criticisms because a failed state there would be bad news here; Michael Yabsley urges Brendan Nelson to "stick to his guns" and abolish student unionism; and Ross Fitzgerald gives thanks for the Salvos and suggests an Inebriates Act that could force alcoholics into long-term, life-saving treatment.
The SMH: Paul McGeough says there is a real danger that the war in Iraq could spread across the Middle East (although he doesn't explain how that would play out); Robert Shilkin thinks Barnaby Joyce's vote to block competition law changes is dumb law, dumb economics and dumb politics; Miranda Devine gives John Doyle a belt as she endorses the ideas of Johan Norberg, who was on The Australian's opinion page yesterday after a speech to the Centre for Independent Studies, to argue that globilisation is great and that technology will make things even better; Paul Keating, see Age above.
Something of a "media morning" with the fortunes of Channel 10 leading all the papers and Rupert Murdoch responding to legal action over News Ltd's "poison pill". The Herald reporting that the Ten Network's reputation as the market favourite in the television industry is under threat because of a lacklustre outlook for advertising and a declining appetite for reality TV. Both Fairfax papers report that Murdoch has told journalists at a press conference in Rome that News Corp's extension of its controversial "poison pill" scheme without seeking shareholder approval was "totally legal". And Bryan Frith risks being seen as a mouthpiece for his boss by explaining why the action of a group of institutional investors, local and overseas, in initiating legal proceedings against News Corporation seeking to prevent the company from extending its "poison pill" without obtaining shareholder approval is well-intentioned, but it's also ill-considered.
The Age reports that interest rates appear set to remain on hold — and the next move could even be down — as the petrol price surges, and anxiety about terrorism and weakness in share prices dramatically undermined consumer confidence, sending it to a 2½-year low; that households continue to be wary about taking on new debt with personal lending up slightly for the month, but down in annual terms for the 14th consecutive month; and that cutting back red tape slowing down economic growth will be the major objective of the newly formed Government taskforce into regulatory reform.
The Herald reports there were rumblings of a new round of consolidation in Australasian telecommunications yesterday after Telecom Corp of New Zealand confirmed it has been in discussions about the potential sale of its struggling Australian business, AAPT; and that Inco has agreed to buy rival mining company Falconbridge for as much as $C12.8 billion ($14.4 billion) to create the world's largest producer of nickel and one of the biggest of copper.
The Australian reports that Seven Network owner Kerry Stokes did not make notes or tell his lawyers about an explosive meeting with James Packer for more than two years, even though he was "seriously considering" legal action at the time of the confrontation in his Sydney mansion, the Federal Court heard yesterday; and that the internet is proving to be a boon for the Holy Grail of banking: selling multiple products to a single customer.
The Daily Telegraph: Taxpayers will be forced to pay millions of dollars for the ventilation of the Cross City Tunnel as part of the contract signed by the Government; Muslim and Pakistani groups have reacted with anger to an appeal court argument by a gang rapist that his cultural background contributed to his committing the brutal crime.
The Herald-Sun: Two million dollars will be offered today as reward for solving the murders of Jennifer Tanner and Adele Bailey; A mammoth campaign to sell remaining tickets to the Commonwealth Games will start on Saturday.
The Courier-Mail: Schapelle Corby's hopes of being freed from her 20-year jail sentence have been wrecked although the Bali appeals court has sliced five years from her sentence; A ferocious hailstorm battered the Gold Coast yesterday, causing widespread damage.
The Advertiser: Liberal leader Rob Kerin's position is safe until next year's State Election - but that's all; The Liberals face a post-election leadership showdown next year between Iain Evans and Vickie Chapman - a political version of Family Feud.
The West Australian: Geoff Gallop was under mounting pressure last night to sack Seniors Minister Bob Kucera after the Opposition revealed his wife held Alinta shares when Cabinet agreed to a deal which saved the gas company and its partners $88 million; Fruit and vegetable imports are not adequately tested in WA and could be contaminated with raw sewage and dangerous chemicals such as DDT, it has been claimed.
The Mercury: A Supreme Court judge has slammed parts of Tasmania's controversial family violence laws, saying they caused a man to suffer great injustice; A 60-something widow from New South Wales has found herself an unlikely retirement project -- the dormant Ida Bay Railway in Tasmania's far south.
Aerial skier Alisa Camplin is so desperate to defend her Olympic gold medal she is having surgery today to have a dead person's tendon and knee bone grafted onto her injured knee; Shane Warne believes Muttiah Muralitharan and Daniel Vettori have the potential to bowl the Rest of the World to victory in the Super Series Test from Friday, but says it will depend on the all-star side's pacemen rising to the challenge against Australia; Mark Philippoussis will seek wildcard entries to all local tournaments in the lead-up to next year's Australian Open.
THE DAILY BRIEFING