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The Daily Briefing 1/12/05

By Wayne Sanderson
Created 02/12/2005 - 00:42
link here [1])from Drew Hutton about yesterday's American Prospect article by Michel Gelobter on the orgins of the environmental movement.

IN THE PAPERS: National, Opinion, Business round-up


Peter Costell is not out of the political woods that have grown up around his appointment of "true blue" Liberal Robert Gerard to the Reserve Bank, with The Australian in particular adding to his woes this morning. The paper's lead reports that Gerard struck an insurance deal in a Caribbean tax haven [2] that lacked any legal or financial credibility, a damning report by an eminent reinsurance expert prepared for the Australian Tax Office found. With that out of the way, it's a print pile-on as the editorial questions [3] Costello's "instinct for ethical issues, political judgement and commitment to the job in hand required from any aspiring prime minister"; Matt Price [4] thinks Costello's observation that we are all "entitled to funnel our pay through a Caribbean tax haven will come as enormous comfort next time auditors arrive demanding receipts"; although Dennis Shanahan [5] sees a glimmer of hope, observing that while "Costello still has a problem over his appointment of Robert Gerard to the Reserve Bank board but Labor's political momentum against the Liberal leadership aspirant is stalling". By comparison, the Fairfax papers all but run dead on the issue (a little odd given that the Fin broke the story), although The Age reports that Gerard had his family’s business assets frozen by the corporate regulator [6] six months after his appointment to the Reserve Bank board, bringing into question the Treasurer's claim that his tax dispute was resolved at the time. The paper's editorial [7] is headed "Costello's blunder spoils his own good work".

The Australian reports that the sedition laws will contain a new "public interest" defence [8] to reflect the concerns of media outlets and Coalition MPs that the provisions could harm free speech; that Britain asked the Australian embassy in Jakarta not to press the Indonesian Government [9] about the fate of five Australian-based journalists killed by invading Indonesian troops in East Timor in 1975, according to newly released diplomatic cables; and that a test case in the Victorian Supreme Court threatens to drive non-lawyer conveyancers out of business [10] and restore the monopoly the state's solicitors once enjoyed over property transactions.

The Age is excited about a story that had a run in The Australian yesterday, reporting that Australia has by far the most overvalued houses in the Western world [11], with prices 52 per cent higher than justified by rental values, the OECD says. It also reports that Nguyen Tuong Van is ready to die a good death [12]; that Australia risks promoting, rather than reducing, terrorism [13] if increased police powers and security measures are seen as directed exclusively against Islamic groups, research shows; and that scientists are investigating the mysterious deaths of about 400 ducks [14] in a wetland area on Melbourne's western fringe.

The Herald reports that the Federal Government has agreed to a number of amendments to its tough new anti-terrorism laws [15] under heavy pressure from its back bench, including softening its contentious sedition provisions; that Federal Government backbencher has implored her colleagues to vote against proposed welfare changes [16], saying society will be poorer if cuts to welfare payments are passed; that despite the focus on an ageing population, the number of children in Australia has been on the rise [17], an official report shows, raising questions about the potential to shift expenditure from the young to the old; and that Australia is likely to meet a target for greenhouse gas emissions [18], but only because significant reductions in the rate of land clearing are masking increases in emissions.

You may also be interested to know that a psychiatrist says electromagnetic "smog" from mobile phone networks and whitegoods could affect mood and behaviour [19]; that former Neighbours star Shane Connor has been awarded almost $200,000 after a judge found that the veteran performer and self-confessed drug user had been wrongfully sacked from the long-running soap opera [20]; and that limbo, the resting place for the souls of unbaptised children, is being written out of Catholic tradition [21] (see Opinion below).


The Age: Scott Burchill [22] believes the only option for the US in Iraq is the imperial one - it will have to maintain control of this strategically important country; Nicola Roxon [23] explains why she is joining Parliamentarians for an Australian Head of State, to be launched today; Kenneth Davidson [24] looks at some of the town planning issues faced by Melbourne (including climate change); and Alan Attwood [25] explains the interest in the recently auctioned Burke and Wills water bottle.

The Australian: Mike Steketee [26] analyses the welfare to work and workplace legislation and finds some inherent contradictions (he is also bemused to discover that John Howard has become a de facto recruiting officer for trade unions); Geoffrey Wheatcroft [27] explains why the Tories are less than excited by the prospects of Jeffrey Archer rejoining their ranks; P. P. McGuinness [28] shows some discomfort for democracy in action, as he rails against the trend for more independents to be elected to Parliament, something he describes as the triumph of nimbyism over the national interest (guess we are all meant to vote for either tweedledum or tweedledee - and be happy about it!); Peter Curson [29] (as if we don't already have enough things to be fearful of) explains how dastardly pandemics can be, hints at the risk of bio-terrorists spreading diseases, and says health must play a role in national security; and Sean Parnell [30] thinks Peter Beattie should listen to the findings of the Davies Report in Dr Death, and sack former Health Minister Gordon Nuttall.

The SMH: Paul Collins [31] writes about the theological history of limbo, a place the Catholic Church is moving to abolish; Miranda Devine [32] thinks she is on to a plot between greenies and the RTA that will see the Pacific Highway save snails but endanger humans near Byron Bay (trouble is, Miranda admits that the documents which might prove this dastardly conspiracy have not yet been made available); Julia Baird [33] enters the world of Harry Potter, and a literary debate about magical tales involving A.S. Byatt, to explain why these stories enchant us; and Ian Caterson [34] looks at options for tackling the obesity crisis, but is not convinced that mandatory fitness testing for school children is a good idea.


Let's start with the big picture first. The lead in The Age reports that the OECD has forecast a modest quickening of economic activity in Australia and globally [35], as the first data from the September quarter showed construction at a record. The paper also reports that somewhere in Prime Minister John Howard's busy inbox is rumoured to be a draft bill on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing [36] that businesses have been waiting more than two years to see; and that Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo has sent a second personal letter to shareholders, seeking support in its battle with the Government and the ACCC over the regulations it says threaten to strangle it [37].

The Herald leads on the Packers, reporting that Consolidated Press Holding's latest results, filed with the corporate regulator earlier this month, show the company reported a solid 12 per cent increase in net profit to $111 million [38] for the year to June 30. It also reports that retailer Strathfield Group might have added some credibility in the form of a new chairman, former Supreme and Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld, but there are signs the old problems linger not far from the surface [39]; and that transport group Toll Holdings will push ahead with its efforts to buy P&O's Australian stevedoring operations [40] in case its $4.6 billion bid for Patrick Corporation fails.

The Australian reports that innovative super fund Industry Funds Management last night emerged as a major player in the wave of consolidation sweeping Britain's ports after it announced a pound stg. 320 million ($737million) recommended bid for PD Ports [41] in partnership with Challenger and British private equity group 3i; that long-suffering Allstate Exploration shareholders may face an even longer wait to see the company move out of administration as gold at its joint venture Beaconsfield Gold Mine stalls [42]; and that gold fever is sweeping through institutional investors, and fund managers are pressuring miners not to hedge their production output - signalling their belief that the price of the metal has much further to go [43].

Stephen Bartholomeusz [44] says Virgin Blue has, for the first time, publicly articulated its revised strategy, which, while unlikely to set off any alarms at Qantas, does provide an insight to how Virgin Blue plans to broaden the tussle for market share and yield, and its own view of its competitive advantages; Elizabeth Knight [45] thinks this is the week New Zealand's richest man Graeme Hart will get a real feel for whether he made the right decision to re-float Goodman Fielder or whether he should have taken the money offered to him by venture capitalists - a route that was cleaner and easier but potentially less profitable; and Bryan Frith [46] says Rio Tinto's $400 million sale of its 14.5 per cent shareholding in Papua New Guinea's Lihir Gold confirms that the "blind date" process for handling large block sales is here to stay.


The Daily Telegraph [47]: The mother of condemned Australian Nguyen Tuong Van says she is "drawing strength" from her doomed son as she steels herself to say her final goodbye; Naked army officers posed for photographs wearing head dress and brandishing firearms in the latest shameful episode to rock the defence forces.

The Herald-Sun [48]: Nguyen Tuong Van's fate was sealed yesterday when Singapore's hardline leader ruled out a last-minute reprieve from the gallows; A farmer's wife swore at convicted killer Peter Dupas to leave her alone as he tried to attack her at Fawkner Cemetery, she told an inquest yesterday.

The Courier-Mail [49]: Queensland's health system has been exposed as Australia's worst because of a long-running culture of government secrecy and an obsession with saving money; A culture of secrecy fostered by the Beattie Government and the previous coalition government has been declared a primary cause of unsafe care in the health system and the disaster at Bundaberg Base Hospital.

The Advertiser [50]: Adelaide Airport operators hope the polluted fuel system of the new terminal could be given the all-clear as early as tomorrow; Scrapping late night sittings, abolishing the Upper House and stopping personal attacks on MPs - these are some of the reforms the state's outgoing Liberal MPs believe are needed.

The West Australian [51]: The Federal Government will announce it is considering a national roll-out of a controversial no-school, no-welfare scheme for remote Aboriginal communities when it reveals today that it will reinstate the highly successful program in Halls Creek; The State Government has turned its back on key recommendations of WA's first independent review of urban water pricing.

The Mercury [52]: A Tasmanian cousin by marriage of Princess Mary was behind bars last night after being found guilty of three sex charges; Overloaded logging trucks would be caught and fined, State Resources Minister Bryan Green insisted yesterday in response to earlier allegations in Parliament of systematic rorting of the logging transport system.


Ricky Ponting has hinted Michael Clarke could return to the Test team [53] as soon as this month's first match against South Africa, but has urged the young batsman to stay patient in his return to the national team for the Chappell-Hadlee one-day series; Wayne Bennett is certain to be reappointed [54] Australian coach for next year and confirmation could come as early as the ARL's next board meeting on December 12; Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is hoping his striker Harry Kewell responds [55] to Australia's qualification for the World Cup finals by making up for lost time in his contributions at club level.

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