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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Monday, 29 December 2008
Rudd regime killing Tawny Frogmouths and other natives by the thousands, say environmentalists
Mood:  sharp
Topic: aust govt

Bernard Keane as resident press gallery commentator at crikey.com.au says 'good people do bad things'. He was referring to 'holy' Kevin Rudd, PM of Australia.

The trouble with this analysis of the Rudd personality is that it's stupid. It's not too far conceptually from the 'I was just following orders' kind of morality. Or the 'spirit is willing but the flesh is weak'.

And coming from a journalist like Keane it's a bit pathetic. It's not the serious media's job to pre-emptively buckle on moral judgements about who is good or not good: 'By their actions you shall know them' should be the dictum of a journalist. If they do good they are good, and vice versa.

So what about this story of 'holy' Kevin saving a Tawny Frogmouth chick that fell from a nest near Kirribilli? It ran on Sunday 28th December 2008. Keep that date in mind because the Rudd regime are playing with it.


Well the fact that Get Up (as above) were running an advert in the tv coverage of the cricket attacking Rudd the very same day 28th December 2008 with satire over his Emissions Trading Scheme pathetic 5% target might have something to do with the timing? You think? Of course it was. The News Corp story in the Sunday Telegraph was all about running PR interference on Rudd's environmental credentials.

But the truth is here for so called 'follow the science on forest' Rudd. These videos from community activists show logging in East Gippsland in late 2008. The trees are easily 300+ years old.

Tree trunks as wide as terrace houses. Hollows for Tawny Frogmouths, Yellow bellied Gliders, Ringtail possums, and understorey for endangered Eastern Spotted Quoll. But the 300 years plus age doesn't quite describe the significance. This wet old growth is the climax stage of say a 1000-1,500 year process of grassland to dry sclerophyl to majestic wet cathedral like forest. And in this location that climax stage has dominated since the last ice age. In a sense that makes this forest about 10,000 years old. The home of Tawny Frogmouths for 10,000 years.

It just happens to be about the best forest on the mainland of Australia - anywhere from WA to the world heritage listed wet tropics.

And under the joint federal state government National Forest Policy and Regional Forest 'Agreements" between the Commonwealth, NSW and Victoria these forest giants were logged in November and December 2008 mostly for woodchips and transported to the export facility over the state border at Eden. i??For the innocent Japanese consumer to wipe their backside on or read cartoon books. The influential Forestry Union with Michael O'Connor on the ALP national executive would be gratified. It was O'Connor's colleagues in the logging industry responsible for this in 2000 in Victoria (below right), and NSW in 2005 (below left). O'Connor the ex boyfriend of Acting PM Julia Gillard, nice bloke. The friend of ex PM John Howard in Hobart Town Hall in 2004:


Most fair minded Australians would think this was wrong. A few million of us would probably even say it was evil. So we say judge PM Kevin Rudd by what he does. And that includes what he and his state premiers like John Brumby below fail to do.

Here's another saying for Bernard Keane at crikey.com.au and the big media - evil flourishes when good people do nothing. This newsletter was published in by Environment Victoria, a non government group 8 years ago:


Posted by editor at 9:32 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 4 January 2009 11:11 AM EADT
Green MP scolds Rees ALP Govt over bicycle unfriendly budgeting
Topic: nsw govt

Ironic given Premier Rees is a well known bicycle man in his younger years and doesn't own a car licence apparently. Perhaps Nathan thinks we should all just float above the traffic like a certain mythical guy? And notice the manic eyes of the reindeer - go thee forth and shop!

Media release follows:

29 December 2008

NSW cyclists get the cold shoulder as Rees govt breaks promise on
infrastructure spending

Cycling is booming but new figures obtained by the Greens on the types
of cycleway infrastructure in NSW show bike riders continue to be the
big road losers, Greens MP and transport spokesperson Lee Rhiannon
said. (Sydney Morning Herald, 29/12/08, page 2)

Recent RTA data released in questions put to Roads Minister Michael
Daley reveal that purpose built, on-road bike only lanes make up a
mere 1.8 percent of the 4,100km of cycleways across NSW. In stark
contrast, 65.5 percent of existing facilities have cyclists relegated
to road shoulders ? the small gutter area next to the vehicle lane
that is shared with parked cars.

"These road shoulder lanes are cheaper and easier to construct, but
far more dangerous than bike only lanes," Ms Rhiannon said.

"This government's failure to deliver world class cycling
infrastructure, with a focus on separated cycleways, is a lost
opportunity for congestion, public health and the environment.

"In 2005 the NSW government slashed bike and pedestrian funding by
nearly two-thirds of what it was. The current government allocation
for cycling infrastructure, education and promotion is only $7.6

"This represents $1.20 per capita on "bicycle-specific programs". This
compares with $3.16 per capita in Queensland, $4.93 in Western
Australia and $3.89 in Victoria

"It is disappointing that Roads Minister Michael Daley has said that
it will take 5 to 10 years for Sydney to catch up with other
Australian states in terms of expanded cycling facilities.

"For too long the RTA has marginalised bike riders by concentrating on
shoddy shoulder lanes which risk lives and foster road rage.

"The current high number of bike lanes squeezed between parked cars
and traffic lanes increase the risk of 'door death', as there is often
minimal or inadequate clearance between riders and parked cars and
drivers must cross the bike path to park.

"Accident statistics reveal the dangers of shoulder bike lanes.

"Hospital data from the Austroads report AP-R157 identifies dooring as
the cause of 40.7% of cyclist injuries in Sydney CBD and 17.6% in the
rest of the City," Ms Rhiannon said.

Posted by editor at 8:37 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 December 2008 2:32 PM EADT
Rudd's new finance 'champ' Mr John Pierce, out of the NSW ALP machine, cost $200K on USA sabbatical?
Topic: nsw govt

New job...Robyn Kruk, said to be dissatisfied with Joe Tripodi (left)...Resources role, John Pierce, the former state Treasury (right).

Picture via SMH: New job...Robyn Kruk, said to be dissatisfied with Joe Tripodi (left)...Resources role, John Pierce, the former state Treasury (right).

Environmentalist and community activist Lynda Newnam has revealed this interesting $200K plus sojourn of a NSW Govt finance supremo in the USA lasting some 6 months in 2004-5, all at taxpayer expense.

Interesting because John Pierce is apparently now with the new Rudd regime as per a scarce Boxing Day edition of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Pierce is a big wheel in NSW ALP governance as per this 2006 briefing note by Hawker Britton (ALP aligned lobbyists).

This sort of corroborates the attack of the Opposition today with new treasury spokesperson Mike Baird in harness, which is a fairly energetic start to the new political year.

Sent: Saturday, December 27, 2008 11:54 AM
Subject: Rudd needs new blood
Hi All
If we could single out any one person for delivering the Port Expansion I think it would be John Pierce. I sent this letter off yesterday. Seems the appointment of Pierce will pass without a murmur and the media will continue to focus on Carr and Iemma as the bad boys. I wouldn't be surprised if Pierce had been advising Rudd before coming into the job and had a hand in lowering the targets in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The appointment of Kruk to head Peter Garrett's department is also disturbing.
The following is from the 2004-05 Annual Report of NSW TREASURY - in that year the annual salary for John Pierce was $412,280 - from August 2004-January 2005 (the month that Egan resigned) Pierce was in the USA - from page 99: http://www.treasury.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/2609/04-05_annreport.pdf

United States of America

The Secretary, John Pierce was on assignment in the United States of America from August 2004 to January 2005. He was commissioned by the then Treasurer, Michael Egan,to explore policy options to respond to long term budget pressures from an ageing population and trends in expenditure growth. Mr Pierce was based at the Boston University where he accessed research on long-term fiscal policy. He also investigated research by the Kennedy School of Government on productivity and performance. Mr Pierce consulted Federal and State officials on the United States. experience and International Monetary Fund staff. The results of Mr Pierce.s research will be used in a coordinated effort by Commonwealth, State and Territory Treasuries in formulating a response to the challenges confronting all governments due to an ageing population and expenditure growth.

So for over $200,000 plus all the travel and accommodation expenses and the cost of an acting Treasury secretary, Egan sends Pierce for a trip around the USA in the last six months of his tenure as Treasurer. Surely the State could have got more for the 'research dollars'. This sounds more like a parting 'gift'.

Cheers, Lynda

----- Original Message -----
From: Lynda Newnam
To:Letters to editor
Sent: Friday, December 26, 2008 3:46 PM
Subject: Rudd needs new blood
John Pierce, Financial Supremo for NSW from 1997 to November 2008 has been appointed to head up the Federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. (Herald 26/12/08 "Rudd picks senior officials who quit NSW bureaucracy") During the years that Pierce was Treasury Chief the NSW government squandered opportunities to invest in public infrastructure, entered into Public Private Partnerships which strongly favoured the private over the public, and stifled development in key regions of NSW while fostering congestive growth in Sydney. Captain Rudd is not going 'to turn the Queen Mary around' if he appoints 'business as usual' crew.

Posted by editor at 8:05 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 29 December 2008 8:22 AM EADT
Friday, 26 December 2008
Roisin Murphy from Eire shows Kylie how?
Topic: culture

Posted by editor at 9:05 PM EADT
Marrickville ALP apparatchiks consolidate grip on 'largest community centre' in Australia?
Topic: nsw govt

SAM publishes below a a revealing email string numbered in chronological order relating to our local Addison Road Community Centre. But first context, context, context.  We don't know the sender either by name or otherwise. We do have patchy 'sources' at the Addison Rd Centre, but the significance of this correspondent is we have no idea who they are, where they fit in, any ulterior motives, party affiliations or whatever.  Rather they seek to air a grievance about their community centre but are too fearful to speak up in person.

The source claims that a $62,500 job has been given to the husband of ALP figure Yvette Andrews who is General Manager at ARC, co author with ex ALP MP Meredith Burgmann and former political staffer. Here is a picture of the workplace with curator Terry Cutcliffe. (The two giant recycled pots shown were made from old water filters by SAM's editor, and this spot now has an awning again part constructed by the writer as paid work in 2007.) Cutcliffe's friend Burgmann recently failed spectacularly in her bid for the Mayoralty of the Sydney CBD with the ALP left a rump of 1.

Back at Addison Rd is it a legitimate job selection for the Indigenous Arts Officer spouse? Maybe it is? It sure is a coincidence. Here is local Indigenous MP Linda Burney at a function in 2007 at the ARC gallery. Burney's seat of Canterbury neighbours ex premier Morris Iemma..

We have published stories about the ARC and we should declare that we quit our job there in late 2007 due to harrassment and failure to implement their own grievance procedure, as well as (we say) breach of directors duties under the companies code which does apply to non profit incorporations to some degree. True we were just a humble part time gardener and web site builder but then it's surprising how many people you consult in both those roles with our education and skills base. Here are some related SAM links to the ALP performance in this part of the city:

Monday, 20 October 2008 Questions with notice for Addison Rd Community Centre AGM 5 Nov 08
Mood:  chatty
Topic: local news
Tuesday, 8 July 2008Burgmann's mate in job sinecure at closed shop Addison Rd Centre
Mood:  sharp
Topic: nsw govt

Thursday, 3 April 2008 Addison Road Community Centre board minutes leak out, suggesting more ructions?
Mood: quizzical
Topic: local news

Over to your deep throat and the email string here:

#1 ----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 12:06 PM
Subject: ARC
You have missed the main story.


#2 Sent: Tuesday, 23 December, 2008 5:53:16 PM
Subject: ? Re: ARC

what is the main story?


#3 Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 6:06 PM
Subject: Re: ? Re: ARC

Who has been given the $62,500 job as the indigenous arts officer without the job advertised. Have a look at the publicity for the latest exhibition.


i??#4 Sent: Tuesday, 23 December, 2008 6:59:36 PM
Subject: ? Re: ? Re: ARC

Okay, who has I wonder. Yvette's husband? Terry Cutcliffe? Natalie McCarthy?

The latest show is not on the web as best I can tell, probably a card in envelope PR approach.
There is no doubt the governance at ARC is riddled with irregularities. Absolutely nothing would surprise me. All it needs is a good dose of transparency.
If you can give me some more verifiable details then as per convention I will respect your source as confidential, as you please. ...
Yours truly
Tom McLoughlin, editor/lawyer


# 5 Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 12:11 AM
Subject: Re: ? Re: ? Re: ARC
Due process has not been followed for any of the jobs at ARC for over a year. That includes the appointment of the two community board reps. The council rep is the labor mayor. Yvette just appointed her husband to the new position she created and the board must know about it. I know there was no ad for it, or her job, or the admin job.


# 6 Sent: Wednesday, 24 December, 2008 2:29:43 PM
Subject: legal structure relevant here Re: ? Re: ? Re: ARC

I do agree the indigenous arts officer position should be advertised for open employment good policy.

However I can advise what I think will happen with this concern, complaint or grievance:
1. I will send preliminary questions to Andrews as GM, Cutcliffe as curator of gallery, and Mayor as rep to ARC board copy to loyal opposition councillors, MP or two. The questions will raise the issue(s) of

- was it advertised?,

- who got the job?,

- was there competitive selection process?,

- who was on the panel?,

- was any conflict of interest declared re relations with Andrews?,

- was notice of irregularity of GM appointment with no competitive job selection also constructive notice to get it right for this position? etc

2. There will be stony silence.

3. I will publish it .. in the public interest. Those who hate the ALP will be pleased. Those who love the ALP will hate it. I will be further marginalised. Oh well already out here. ..... The Big Media will similarly ignore it as either too small or too compromised themselves. It will be corruption of a lower order that will continue on until something truly scandalous blows the whole place open - perhaps by way of critical mass - say loss of lower house seat to the Greens state or federal - in many years to come.

4. The employment of the Indigenous Arts Officer may well turn on the legal structure of the gallery - it's an incorporated non profit association. It's also a closed shop controlled by the ALP. We have written before:
Our advice is that the "Addison Road Gallery Arts Association Inc" no. 9888276 was registered on 15/10/2007 at the height of the scandal and just before the last AGM for the centre and the public officer for this Gallery body is one Rebecca Kaiser, former ALP Deputy Mayor of Marrickville. How unsurprising: [in]
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
Chances are the grant will be going through this ARGAA Inc with its closed shop governance, closed membership etc - even more so than ARC proper is now. The grant will be coming via ALP ministers state or federal. It will be devilish hard to find out who is administering the grant in order to properly ground a complaint of failure to follow grant guidelines of competitive open job selection process to the non profit, ie free of nepotism etc.
5. I need to say that as a lawyer I am bound to report your information to the authorities (ICAC maybe, Ombudsman more like it, local councillors, Dept of Local Govt maybe) but without compromising you as the source which should remain confidential.
Who are you by the way? Where do you fit in?
Yours truly, Tom McLoughlin, editor/lawyer
tel. 0410 558838


# 7 Sent: Thursday, December 25, 2008 12:25 AM
Subject: Re: legal structure relevant here Re: ? Re: ? Re: ARC

My interest is that I would like to see the place become a "community Centre" again. That is all. Confidential.


# 8 Sent: Friday, December 26, 2008 6:35 AM
Subject: time to publish in edited form I think Re: legal structure relevant here Re: ? Re: ? Re: ARC
ah yairs, but you see it IS a community centre, just not an honest or equal access one, and ANYONE can be involved as long as you tug the forelock and accept ALP hegemony as a subtext. Probably just like Sydenham or Newtown Neighourhood Centre. None of this is about good governance or fairness, it's about monopolising power on the left side of politics. If one buys into those games rather than say build one's own equity and influence then it becomes a negative corrosive dynamic.
As I say what the ARC needs is a good dose of transparency for all concerned and then the place will reach a healthy natural equilibrium.
By the by, on reflection my guess is that the grant application for the indigenous arts position may well have been based on the particular namedi??individual being appointed to the position with particular skills and expertise? Even so I think it's selling the Indigenous community short that they don't get a competitive job selection process as well.
I've decided to publish this string, rather than waste time getting no answer to a string of questions, with 20K readers per month with name of the source deleted for confidentiality. But given I don't know you or where you fit in to the ARC food chain it's just as much a mystery to me as to the general reader. The protagaonists can answer either in the comments section or by email as they please, or indeed legally if they are foolish enough to waste their money suppressing news and debate on a public interest matter of public land and community assets.
Yours truly, Tom editor/lawyer

.........................................................[End of email string]

Posted by editor at 6:50 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 26 December 2008 9:02 AM EADT
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Margaret Simons' blog breaks new editor story at Fairfax flagship
Topic: independent media

Is it in the newspaper today?

Marg broke the story here as far as I can tell:

Peter Fray to Edit the Sydney Morning Herald

Following Alan Oakley around is getting to be a habit for Peter Fray, who is to be the new editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, replacing Alan Oakley who walked a few weeks ago.

Fray, 46, will start in his new job mid-January. Before editing the Canberra Times - a post he has held for only 10 months - he edited the Sunday Age for two years, succeeding - Alan Oakley.

An email to staff from Lloyd Whish-Wilson, Fairfax Media?s chief executive and publisher, NSW & ACT Metropolitan Publishing, confirmed the appointment today.

The other candidate mentioned in dispatches was Mark Baker, who was Fray?s predecessor as editor of the Canberra Times. Baker was interviewed.

It is not an easy time to be a newspaper editor, and a Fairfax editor in particular.

More on what it means tomorrow.

Posted by editor at 2:30 PM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2008 3:08 PM EADT
Bloggers unhappy with Santa Conroy's Christmas present of net filter plan
Topic: independent media

Would this image of arguable child abuse be filtered by the proposed Australian internet filter? Presumably the intention would be not to. Or maybe it would? It was sent to us by an activist/artist woman in our networks.

Did you laugh? It's a pretty awful series of pics maybe by anti Christmas types. Or anti Coca Cola given Santa used to be in green. Or defiant DINKs? Or just people with a rich sense of humour? On one level the image is a very witty comment on a silly tradition in western society that is seen as harmless and innocent - the cute baby pic of child on Saint Nicholas's knee. Inevitably taken in shopping centres. All part of the Coca Cola consumerist indoctrination from the earliest age one presumes. What could be more western and mainstream than that?

The thought of net censorship crossed our mind given a controversial case of a guy in the news recently who uploaded a borderline bad taste video of roughhouse 'play' with a child. We really don't approve of that unless like they are world class acrobats or something. It's bound to end in kids getting hurt.

Which brings us to the big serious argument over the management of the web in a civilised society: Here's a good roundup by Glenn Milne of News Corp

Too many holes in Rudd Government internet filter | The Daily ...23 Nov 2008

Received yesterday:

Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 8:36 PM
Subject: The Internet Filter - A Bad Idea.
Hi everyone,

Normally we do not allow political topics here on the forums as people tend to take sides and it can end in arguments. However on this occasion I think we can *all* agree that the plan to filter the internet is a very bad idea.

If this filter is implemented, it may change the internet as we know it. It may change blogging as we know it. Asher Moses reported - Entire user-generated content sites, such as YouTube and Wikipedia, could be censored over a single suspect posting - this means sites like Blogger and Wordpress.com could also be censored.

There will be no way for people to opt out of the filter, it will slow down the internet significantly, and recently Senator Stephen Conroy has admitted in a blog post that the government intends to use the filter to filter peer to peer and bit torrent traffic as well.

We have a post on the forums with more information and things you can do to express your thoughts and feelings on this subject to politicians. We also suggest writing a blog post to inform your readers about the proposed plans.

As I say, normally we do not get political but this is a serious issue that may affect us all, and we feel it is important to inform our forum members of the latest developments, provide a thread where you can discuss it, and provide ways you can take action if you feel as strongly as we do on this topic. The thread can be found here -



The Aussie Bloggers Forum Team.



Postscript 29th Jan 2008

Up until now SAM hasn't got too exercised about the net filtering plan. We are equally concerned about child safety. And perhaps because there is a critical mass of concern being democratically expressed so we can coast on the issue.

SAM has a longer term concern. Two way cameras as a compulsory installation on home computers or networked through private homes. Just like Orwell's 1984. Interesting to note bus drivers in the last Sunday press reacting industrially to 'spy' cameras on them in their driver's seat as oppressive intrusions, that interferes in their concentration on the road. Mmm. A taste of civil liberties battle to come? Similarly Police reacting to being filmed in high stress raid situations. With reaction to that concern by citizen journalists. It's a very fluid area of public policy with the shadow of prescient George Orwell's 1984. What a man he was. If only medical science had been up to nurturing away from an early death.

Posted by editor at 1:02 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 29 December 2008 9:09 AM EADT
How to beat big oil, big govt and big auto ..... with a bicycle trailer and exercise
Topic: ecology

It's a bicycle kind of holiday break. We are onto our 3rd new bike project in as many weeks as well as a somewhat oversized bike trailer cut down from old sign board assembly. See picture above. No rego, no petrol, no parking fees. Quite alot of exercise and careful navigation and load management.

With bike trailers 'it's all about articulation". That is where the trailer pivots on the bicycle to steer safely, and sufficiently low centre of gravity to avoid bouncing. This big trailer is surprisingly versatile with small turning circle. This is our third model in 12 months and a serious beast. Children are amused and curious especially with furniture on board. It's a great conversation starter - did you make it (not really it's a conversion), is it heavy (not bad with gears, just take it slow), you could fit a fridge on that etc.

We've made two serious trips from Marrickville to Bondi Junction and back with 'stuff', and the last load was a whopping 46 kg in weight not including the trailer itself. Yes we were tired due to both the heat and weight despite the very low gears making it all doable. On the other hand our fitness is bouncing back after a day or two as well. Also our 5 plus years experience in Sydney delivery driving work has added alot of value - to track the back streets and ridgelines that one ignores in a van but become your life and soul on a bicycle with a heavy load.

We were shocked one early morning with big trailer in tow to find we arrived in Bondi Junction from Marrickville in only an hour with plenty of energy in 'the tank' which is actually quite comparable with car travel time but no petrol costs.

Ideally our trailer would be a foot narrower at the side of the road. Currently it is not at all suitable on main roads with fast traffic. Luckily we are sufficiently knowledgeable of secondary roads, lanes and Centennial Park bike circuit etc to still navigate safely. Since taking the picture above we have added a rear mirror ($3 bargain from The Bower) to the right hand side handle bars which is perfect for managing rear approaching traffic. We have also removed the heavy wire cage replaced with light weight plastic bread trays and milk crates.

We are becoming surprisingly proficient in stripping and rebuilding bikes, learning via the web a shrader (car) versus a presta (high pressure) tyre valve. Also we are becoming quite religious about vitamin E cream on the hands making degreaser and soap that much more effective after every workshop session.

And speaking of workshops there is this great community social capital venue here which we will be checking out in January 2009 called The Bike Club. Their congregating times are Monday evenings apparently with more details here showing their old location in Forbes Ave Newtown and now 1 Phillip St Waterloo:

Header image

Nunnery Bike Workshop - Fix, Build, Hang out, or Talk about Bikes at our Workshop!

Take your pick!The Nunnery Community Bike Workshop, at 1 Phillip St, Waterloo, collects abandoned bikes and parts to create working bikes to put back into the community. This bikes are put together by you, the community, with help from others who come. It is also a place to fix up your bikes with the tools and parts available. Come and learn to fix bikes, show us how to fix bikes, fix your bike or a friend?s, or just come and have some tea and coffee. Everyone is welcome!

To see the latest happenings and news at the workshop, go to our Discussions and Events page.

Here are some other successful bike trailer models we've seen around the place. And we understand you can even buy them at K-mart these days. Now that's a surprise.

Posted by editor at 10:56 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2008 12:02 PM EADT
Rudd Govt choreography on Dr Haneef case post Mumbai, echoes Howard govt hard line at APEC 2007?
Topic: aust govt

Picture: Silent vigil outside Sydney Supreme Court 5th Sept 2007 for civil liberties case to rally against W Bush prior to internationally significant Asia Pacific Economic Forum with world leaders attending, and just prior to November 07 federal election in Australia. The politics of terrorism, security and civil liberties were very high during this phase of national politics in parallel with the Dr Haneef Case which hit the news from July 2007.


Where is our celebrity PM Kevin Rudd, who couldn't keep his hands off the climate change white paper to the detriment of Minister Wong? Who gazumped his minister with a pre booked launch at the National Press Club?

In one word Mumbai. That is, Rudd is not there, but it is the terrorist slaughter only weeks ago by Islamist fanatics in India that explains why Rudd is ducking this high profile case of "wrongful arrest" of Indian doctor Haneef to quote Peter Faris QC in the news today. Or was that wrongfully charged (more like it in our view).

In reality despite the large scale of this controversy and the full engagement of relevant Green MP Senator Scott Ludlum on the civil rights aspects, and broadsheet press today, and ABC in all forms, what we are really seeing is a 'take out the trash' form of media management.

Picture: 8th Sept 2007 rally, David Marr journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald front of the paper again today on the Haneef civil liberties case.

This is a phrase borrowed from the West Wing TV series (with link to episode profile to follow asap).

1-13 (13) "Take out the Trash Day" Aaron Sorkin Ken Olin January 26, 2000


The title refers to the Friday press briefing wherein the White House releases information about several sensitive stories, thereby preventing discussion and reducing any probable impact in the media.

Donna: What's take out the trash day?
Josh: Friday.
Donna: I mean, what is it?
Josh: Any stories we have to give the press that we're not wild about, we give all in a lump on Friday.
Donna: Why do you do it in a lump?
Josh: Instead of one at a time?
Donna: I'd think you'd want to spread them out.
Josh: They've got X column inches to fill, right? They're going to fill them no matter what.
Donna: Yes.
Josh: So if we give them one story, that story's X column inches.
Donna: And if we give them five stories ...
Josh: They're a fifth the size.
Donna: Why do you do it on Friday?
Josh: Because no one reads the paper on Saturday.
Donna: You guys are real populists, aren't you?

A clue is found in the high circulation tabloid Sydney Daily Telegraph or rather absence of the story at all. Their front page is a child in a polka dot dress for Christmas. It's the holiday season folks. No one cares. They should but they don't.

Picture: Witty protester asserting right to protest against W Bush 8th Sept 07 rally during APEC, Sydney CBD.

The federal ALP Govt know that people have gone into holiday mode. As do the news savvy tabloid editor. As if to rub salt into the wound of this civil liberties agenda Sydney CBD had a well publicised public safety drill yesterday with an emergency siren around midday amongst festive shopping crowd. The subtext was Mumbai of course. Choreographed by the state arm of the same federal ALP machine in power nationally the day the Haneef report was released.

What we have dear reader is a Haneef report the federal government sat on for a month and released along with a raft of other policies (Education, Homeless, Infrastructure, Afghanistan) all in the wake of the Emissions Trading Scheme White Paper which really did crank public anxiety and will continue to do so.

Picture: A particularly impressive banner at the anti Bush rally 8th Sept 2007 sought to be prevented by NSW security agencies as a potential terrorist threat.

In real politik terms we have the security authorities here doing what appears to all the world as racial and religous profiling of Dr Haneef. Add to that a loose familial or social relation of the hapless Indian to fanatics in Scotland, one of whom died of self inflicted burns in a thankfully incompetent terrorism attempt and you may well have reasonable grounds for arrest or questioning.

And remember all the conventional security agency 'wisdom' about guilt laden middle class Muslim professionals, especially medical folks, over the death rate of 'their people' in various war torn places across the world 'caused by the West'. Not least the 2IC of Al Qaeda, qualified surgeon Dr. Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri. All egged on by a federal govt led by ex PM John Howard desperate to win an election just as he did with the infamous racialised 'children thrown over board' lie on their record back in 2001.

Picture: Another example of state security arguably going over the top from Sept 2007.

In the innocent Dr Haneef case there is the ongoing detention and charges which were eventually dropped for lack of evidence. Even so in the wake of the slaughter in Mumbai the civil liberties lobby have been overtaken by circumstances. This writer has no doubt Haneef was positioned by the former federal govt in mid 2007 in a racialised white supremacist type appeal to the electorate in the highly politicised lead up to the federal election. A replay of the Tampa/children overboard affair if you like. Dog whistling to the swinging 5% 'One Nation' voter demographic that almost lost PM Howard the election in 1998.

PM Rudd and NSW ALP are also mindful of the same redneck swinging vote too. The Haneef stuff up in power politik terms is not really about ABC listeners and watchers, or broadsheet audience generally of a moderate thoughtful disposition. It's all about the politik of terrorism after Mumbai and 'taking out the trash' at Christmas time - no one is to be held responsible career wise for the Dr Haneef farce in any severe way. No apology, rather compo lawyers at 20 paces for damaged reputation. It's also a big win for federal police commissioner Mick Keelty dodging 'a bullet' (metaphorically speaking) to his career.

Barrister Keim has been busy saying in the quality media something like 'its a very bad report for Keelty and the Australian Federal Police'. This may well be true, but it's also a wet lettuce.

Picture: Different Police Force, same story? Here it is NSW not Federal Police, caught deliberately breaching their own rules by failing to wear identity tags, at anti Bush rally APEC 8 Sept 07. A symptom arguably of the same problems of cowboy mismanagement of state power in issues of public safety and perceived terrorism threat.

Posted by editor at 8:20 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2008 11:40 AM EADT
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
New tenancy protection for renters in a falling market is probably redundant
Topic: aust govt

We notice the letters page in today's Sydney Daily Telegraph building on coverage as per their sister paper here:

Rudd plan makes evictions harder | The Australian 22 Dec 2008

LANDLORDS could find it harder to evict tenants under a Rudd Government plan to combat homelessness.

The Government's $7.3 billion package to halve homelessness by 2020 also includes a brokerage fund to provide mortgage top-ups and extra security for victims of domestic violence.

The joint Commonwealth-state Road Home white paper, released yesterday by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, sets ambitious legislative reforms and interim targets to 2013.

It aims to reduce the rate of homelessness in 2013 from 53 to 40 per 10,000; more services and specialist workers.

"A country like this should not have this problem. As a nation we can do a lot better than that," Mr Rudd said.

About $6.1 billion of funding was previously announced but Mr Rudd and the states yesterday pledged an extra $1.2 billion over four years - which the Government said would help create up to 10,000 jobs.

A key plank is keeping people connected to family networks and in their homes.

The Government will review the impact of without-grounds termination clauses on homelessness in state legislation and the lack of legislative protection for boarders and lodgers.

Legislation in many states allows landlords to evict tenants even if they have not breached their agreement, which lobby groups argue enables retaliation and discrimination.

"Most state and territory tenancy legislation permits without-grounds termination of a tenancy agreement by a landlord," the white paper said.

"As a result, a tenant may be legally given notice and forced to leave their rented home through no fault of their own.

"In such a circumstance, people become homeless if they are unable to find other housing that is suitable or affordable."

The review has been welcomed by Tenants' Union of Queensland co-ordinator Penny Carr, who said without-grounds evictions would remain in new Queensland legislation to be enacted next year.

"We think the introduction of just-cause evictions would be a major step forward," Ms Carr said.

She denied investors would be markedly impacted by changes.

The Commonwealth and states will also jointly sponsor a brokerage fund to keep victims of domestic violence in their homes.

It will help pay for installing deadlocks, screen doors, security lighting and home alarms, plus fund short-term subsidies or mortgage top-ups.

Well the writer is a renter in Sydney for 18 years already. As a result we don't have any negative equity in a house in a falling market. We don't have any property settlement in a divorce (or a divorce for that matter) and we haven't paid one red cent in oppressive interest under the yoke of a lending institution. Though our credit card debt is another question. As one activist with terminal cancer said once - thank God I didn't waste my time with a mortgage. We also have alot of flexibility and freedom with where we live.

But the thing about this latest legislative stroke to calm the concerns of renter voters by the federal government is that it is the market above all that tends to threaten renters. And given the investment market has just hit a wall with alot less motivation to demolish/renovate and jack up rents, or just churn tenants with an increase in rent with every change over. Literally the global financial crisis, crash in the share market, super savings, and reduction in discretionary spending means that there is a seriously depressed property market. As a result renters are alot less at risk - at least that's our impression. There is significant corroboration here:

financial crisis

21 Oct 2008 Is There a Recession Brewing in Our Housing Bubble? | newmatilda.com

The next phase of the economic crisis could be a crash in Australian property prices, writes Ben Eltham

"Auctions fall despite grant boost" read the banner headline of The Sunday Age.

"Melbourne's property market yesterday suffered its worst day in at least four years, despite yesterday being the first auction day when prospective buyers had access to the increased first-home buyers grant," wrote Chris Vedelago and Peter Weekes. The Australian reported much the same thing, although there was an increase in Sydney.

Could this be the beginning of the end of Australia's house price bubble? If it is, we should all be pretty concerned.

Paul Sheehan certainly is. In a breathless article for Fairfax, he quoted BNP Paribas strategist Hans Redeker saying that the Australian current account deficit could "spiral out of control".

It couldn't happen here, could it? Well, yes actually. After all, it's happened before: in 19th Century Melbourne.

1880s Melbourne was a wonder of the world. Driven by a booming mining sector and a white-hot property bubble (sound familiar?), the southern city grew into one of the largest metropolises in the British Empire ? and for a time, one of the richest. For a few years, "Marvellous Melbourne" had the world's tallest office building and some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. This was the famous Land Boom of the 1880s, which culminated in a speculative frenzy amazingly similar to the US subprime mortgage bubble of 2002-2006.

As Michael Cannon wrote in his history of the boom, The Land Boomers, "under the loose banking and company laws of the time, [so-called Land Banks] were able to take savings deposits, issue shares, float loans, discount promissory notes and other commercial paper, and in general perform all the functions of an established bank."

Cheap money flooded in from Britain, land prices soared, while rental yields dropped to 2.5 per cent ? in other words, it would take 40 years of rental earnings to pay for a property.

Economic historians today consider the colonial Australian banking system as a model of free market deregulation. In the words of two historians from Belfast University, "it had few legal barriers to entry, no branching restrictions and ... no credible restrictions on assets, liabilities or bank capital, nor legally established price controls."

Surprise, surprise: it turns out that this was not a good thing. The Australian colonies' unregulated banking system produced a property bust and banking crisis that looks eerily familiar in our own time. As land prices plummeted, borrowers defaulted, taking banks and building societies down with them.

Between 1891 and 1892, 20 major financial institutions failed and investors lost more than L20 billion. Confidence in colonial banks collapsed. After a brief respite, a full-scale banking crisis ensued in 1893 when the Federal Bank collapsed, followed a few months later by the Commercial Bank of Australia and 10 other institutions. Of 65 building societies operating in Victoria in 1885, only three survived by 1893.

With no central bank or national government, Australia had few available policy options. The result was a devastating economic depression: Australian GDP fell 17 per cent and it took nine years for the economy to recover to 1891 levels. Some economists think the 1890s depression may have been worse than that of the 1930s.

Could it happen again? Let's hope not. But drawing on the recent experience of other nations' property sectors, a property bust and ensuing recession is all too likely.

As I have remarked here many times before, Australian house prices are highly over-valued. In 2007, house prices in cities like Sydney and Perth briefly reached an astonishing nine times median incomes ? among the most over-valued in the entire world.

You can do the figures yourself: if you're a young couple on a combined income of say $90,000, even a relatively "cheap" house in a capital city ? say $500,000 ? is still going to set you back five and a half years of your total income. Factor in tax and other living expenses and you can see why so many home buyers are experiencing what the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute calls "housing stress".

The result of this asset price bubble has been unsustainable levels of household debt. The Reserve Bank of Australia's household finance statistics tell us that Australian households now hold debts equal to 160 per cent of disposable income ? higher even than in the US. Unsurprisingly, RBA Governor Glenn Stevens thinks that consumers may be reaching their borrowing limits.

This huge debt burden is one reason why house prices must fall, and soon. Like their US counterparts, Australian households simply can't keep borrowing and spending indefinitely. Inevitably, balance sheets must be repaired as consumers begin to save again. In the long-term, this is a good thing. But in the short-term, this means much lower consumer spending ? something that Gerry Harvey says we're already seeing.

As consumer spending drops, so does growth. The economy slows, and unemployment rises. Higher unemployment eventually means more mortgage defaults.

Another looming problem is directly related to the credit crisis. Houses, remember, are nearly always paid for with mortgages. And some types of mortgages will be harder to get as the international funding sources for non-bank lenders dry up.

The RBA's 1 per cent cut in interest rates and Kevin Rudd's top-up of the first homeowner's grant will loosen the constraints somewhat, but there is already evidence that the credit crunch is constraining housing starts. The Master Builders Association's Wilhelm Harnisch recently told The Australian that "even some of our biggest building members, despite having been major clients of the big banks for many years, are now being told there is just not enough money to go around."

In the long-term, this might help prop up house prices by constraining supply. But in the short term, tight credit will depress house prices because customers who can't get a mortgage will be unable to buy homes. Perhaps this is one reason why Kevin Rudd's economic stimulus package included a special bonus for home-buyers purchasing new constructions.

As we've seen in the US, UK, Spain and Ireland, when property bubbles deflate, they can do so rapidly and damagingly. But here in Australia, the majority of property analysts still believe we will escape the fate of Florida and Nevada. Are they right?

One argument popular among real estate analysts is that there is a still a significant lack of housing supply, which means prices shouldn't fall too much. There is some validity in this point ? Australia built far fewer houses during its property boom than the US did. But even a shortage of properties won't stop house prices declining rapidly if demand drops off a cliff. And if home owners default, foreclosure sales will depress house prices. A vicious cycle can ensue, as the US experience demonstrates.

If Australian house prices do crash, we will certainly have been warned. University of Western Sydney economist Steve Keen is perhaps the most prominent property bear out there ? but not the only one.

Famous doom merchant Marc Faber said in July that an Australian house price bust "could be larger" than America's. Morgan Stanley economist Gerard Minack has been consistently pessimistic about Australian property all year. As he told Tony Jones on Lateline in March:

"You've got a lot of borrowers out there that have never seen a recession ? they always assume they can service their debt, and they've never seen house prices fall and so they think 'I can make a lot of money by buying a second house or a third house'. Once we see some job loss, once we shatter that illusion that house prices don't fall, then I think you can see substantial losses as indeed you've seen in part of Sydney already."

No wonder the housing industry is "pessimistic". Perhaps we should all be.

It appears the federal government are craftily surfing the market for voter perceptions perhaps more than substance. The one caveat we have on this interpretation is the upward pressure on rental cost of shelter from record levels of immigration in major cities like Sydney. A colourblind observer can easily demonstrate this does make significant pressure on rental accomodation.

There is a significant real politik aspect to the coverage of this issue in the letters page of the notoriously right wing small business/small minded audience of the Sydney Daily Telegraph aka Liberal Party newsletter. It's a lesson the high polling PM Rudd might like to consider - familiarity breeds contempt. Like a popular kid who becomes the butt of jokes for being so narcissistic. Ominiously Rudd was portrayed as Napoleon in a large graphic in the rival Fairfax yesterday.

Rudd is generally thought of as a younger model of ex PM Howard. It's a resonating stereotypical theme in Australian politics not least on the recent emissions trading scheme pre emptive buckle to big dirty business: Highly political, slick, cunning, scattering the critics across the divided spectrum. And maybe unifying them in disgust? One thing about Howard losing the election in November 2007 is that he went from being seen as popular to be seen as a smart arse. Australians are too keen on smart arses. Howard himself was warned about the same phenomena in 2001 about his government being seen as "mean and tricky". Too clever for their own good or ours. Too successful. Too popular. There is a grain of wisdom after all in the 'cutting down the tall poppy syndrome' for failure to grasp everyone is on someone else's shoulders. It's just another good reason why Rudd should take a holiday as superior politician and contemporary Barak Obama is shown playing golf in Hawaii in the press today.

There is a cost in rolling out a new policy every day of a holiday season. Familiarity breeds contempt.

Posted by editor at 7:45 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 December 2008 8:27 AM EADT

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