Tim Blair


New Criterion



Friday, August 22, 2003

The result of the 1998 Queensland election, when One Nation won 11 seats, was covered by no less than five Japanese daily newspapers.

But today, none have picked up on the story [of Pauline Hanson's gaoling]. Nor has the Jakarta Post, the China Daily, the Asian Wall Street Journal, the Bangkok Post or any of the English language papers in South Korea or Malaysia.

GUNNER WILKIE lays down a withering barrage of - flannel.

Mr Wilkie accused the Government of lying and fabricating evidence and he says it was clear dishonesty.

How did it do that?

"One of the most effective ways the Government exaggerated the threat was by taking the ambiguity out of it," he said.

"For want of some subtle little changes, the threat was rebuilt, in other words it was sexed up, yeah it was sexed up."

Considering the fate of the Beeb's "they sexed it up" attack on the Blair government, perhaps Gunner should have used his own words.

"Removing ambiguity". Journalists get paid for that.

"I will go so far as to say that the material was going straight from ONA to the Prime Minister's office and the exaggeration was occurring in there,"

Wilkie was a member neither of the sending nor the receiving party, so he has to go a very long way indeed to say that.

Way, way out into fantasy land.

Simon, he's all yours.

Thursday, August 21, 2003
WHILE THE AUSTRALIAN'S Errol Simper gives a mostly-deserved pat on the back to Radio National's documentary work, he ignores some of the even more deserving informers who give the RN brand value. And ignores the puzzling question, why let such down-market no-talents as Appropriator Adams, Pastor Groucho Lane, Francis Leach and old Max-weird McCutcheon have a license to besmirch it?

While Simper gives Auntie a cheer, the audiences continue to walk out, according to the latest audience survey.

Sydney audience share for Radio National has dropped 10%, Melbourne 9%. Similar in Adelaide, with only Brisbane and Perth bucking the trend.

What it means is this: of every 100 Sydney-siders with a radio on during the day, 2.6 tuned to Radio National. Even News Radio gets 1.9!

Meanwhile, ABC local radio continues to rocket ahead in the major markets.

The total for all five ABC radio channels in Sydney is 20%, but half of that goes to one channel, local radio.

Last time I looked at these figures they showed an increase in RN's audience, which the vile Gastropod used as an occasion to lie to us about how many hundred thousand Australians were listening to him.

If he tries this stunt again, bear in mind this fact. The audience figures are based on the entire period 5.30 am to midnight! What proportion of the 7.00 pm news audience hangs around for Late Night Live, do you suppose? A Gastropodian 100%, or some fraction thereof?

"ON AUGUST 6TH 1965, a bomber called Enola Gay carried a bomb called Little Boy..."

You heard it first on Radio National's PM tonight.


On last night's Late Night Live, Philip Appropriator Adams's guest, that archetypal insider turned inside-out, Daniel Elsberg, delivers a stroke of Gastropodian proportions to our own Andrew Wilkie.

Just on principle, it seems, for while Elsberg brought with him the block-busting Pentagon Papers, our own 'Gunner' Wilkie brought only the assurance that he might have been about to be a significant player in Iraq intelligence.

He didn't know much about Iraq, but Gunner's instinct for self-promotion had a PhD at birth.

Today, in the Aus's Media supplement, he repeats the shifty technique displayed so effectively, with Henny Herald's help, before his appearance before the UK Select Committee on Intelligence.

Gunner briefs compliant hack Paul Ham on what he's gunner say to Australia's Parliamentary Committe on WMD evidence tomorrow. Just like he briefed Henny from London, so they could pretend that it actually happened. What transpired, after Henny's deadline, was a comprehensive wipeout of the self-proclaimed expert.

Ham doesn't make that mistake. He does, however, broadcast Wilkie's transparently empty rhetorical escalation of his campaign. He's gunner "tell the parliamentary enquiry into intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction that Prime Minister John Howard lied to the Australian people." To date he's only said Howard "grossly exaggerated" the risk the WMD posed to Australia.

Why the up-hype?

I'll say this for our Gunner, he's delightfully transparent about his motives. "I want to give the government a serve" he tells Ham.

Wilkie's motive is, to be even more honest, that he wants to be a politician, and needs to maintain the rhetorical temperature if he's to wangle Labor pre-selection before the media get sick of hearing what he's gunner do.

Ham's article describes how Wilkie played his media hand for all it was worth, even delaying his resignation so that he could walk from the office into Laurie Oakes's interview.

It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow. Will Gunner fire? It's shorter odds on a squib, in Uncle's book.

One thing's certain. It won't be a vice-regal dunny for this out-house rodent. Pre-selection or bust.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003
WHEN THE COMMUNARDS of Radio National want to promote the political agenda of Trades Hall, they usually disguise the connection.

The preferred sleight of hand involves one of those Think-Tanks Whose Politics May Never Be Labelled, like the Australia Institute. These pens-for-hire then conduct a study, in the style of a deliberative poll, using the money provided by organised labour, and publish an "independent" report. If Auntie gives this confection its undivided attention for a day or two, who can complain? Apart from Uncle, of course.

This morning's Life Matters breaks the mould in a decisive way. Perhaps they're becoming over-confident, following the stirring defiance of their great leader, Biffer Balding.

We're dealing with the choices we make about dividing our time between work and family, and we can all call in. If you're quick, you still can.

But the programme's first twenty minutes is devoted to a paean of praise for the campaign of the Victorian Electrical Trades Union to contol overtime. This is what you would expect, since the lead speakers are Dean Mighell, the secretary of that Union, and one of his hand-picked electricians.

They have hammered their members and their employers into accepting an absolute limit of ten hours overtime per week. That is, on top of the award-dictated 36-hour week, you may not work more than another ten hours, totalling 46 hours per week, over seven days. That is, no more than 6.57 hours per day, on average. And I haven't factored in the RDO. That is, one Rostered Day Off per month. That is, a compulsory, Union-dictated, paid holiday.

It's a dream! warbles the ETU's chosen talent. I am getting to know my kids.

It's the social trend of modern fathering, chants commere Julie McCrossin.

We're behind it, proclaims Labor's front-bench titan, Lindsay Tanner. He diagnoses "affluence fatigue", a social disease he's been told about by, you're ahead of me here?, the Australia Institute.

What if your mortgage demands you work eight hours a day? Get with the programme, troglodytes!

What if you're single, or married-no-kids, and want to save for a deposit on a house? Stiff cheese.

What if you're single, or empty-nested, and want to save for a comfortable retirement? Get out of here!

What if you're wife is so corny she wants you out of her way when she's dealing with the kids, or wants a man who can provide the kind of income she is capable of helping to spend? Don't worry, she'll divorce you and you can try again.

What if you just think it's all your own business? You'll never get a job in Auntie's workshop.

What if you think these finger-waggers are prepared to sacrifice your prosperity and your country's future on the altar of their collecctivist ideology? Get out of Victoria, where building anything costs 30% more than elsewhere in Australia, thanks to Dean Mighell and his comrades.

With a little help from Auntie.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003
HERE IS BIFFER BALDING'S list of budget shavings:

Television Closure of digital multichannels $7.27m (announced 26/05/03)
Removal of advertising budget $2.75m
Reduction in factual programming $0.50m
Removal of schools production $1.83m
Reduction in live sport $0.53m
Production plan cut $1.50m

News and Current Affairs

Reformat Foreign Correspondent and other measures $2.0m
Remove cadet journalist program $0.53m
Re-schedule morning business outputto noon $0.90m
International Operations (FX) $2.0m

Radio $0.20m

New Media $0.05m

Development Division
Audience Research $1.0m

Non-Program Functions $5.04m

That is, apart from the punt on digital broadcast, the major savings are in staff reductions.

Allowing for the fact that most of the cuts lack detail ("reduction in factual programming"?), and some are clearly taken straight from the list of management priorities brought forward to lay at Alston's feet, we are left with some big questions.

Like, what is the potential saving by cutting the kind of program Auntie should have cut anyway?

For example:

Late Night Live
The National Interest
Background Briefing (pre-schoolers retained while apprentice journalists sacked!)
Crap TV (insert your list below).

And where is the extra money for corporate education in the small matter of professional standards?

Monday, August 18, 2003
SPEAKING OF DELIBERATIVE POLLS, and referring to ABCwatch's latest, why are serial voters so attracted to the bulge in Kevin Rudd's trousers?

ANOTHER HETERODOXY rejected by Pastor Lane is democratic process. In yesterday's sermon, repeated today, the Pastor takes Ron Roberts, the President of the South Australian Legislative Council (the State's upper House), to task for daring to disagree with the results of some deliberative polling conducted in that State recently.

Now, Uncle is a strong supporter of deliberative polling and practices it regularly on ABCwatch. The best thing about it is that the results are never surprising. Which is not surprising, when you consider the methods employed.

The Pastor's attack on the chief of the undemocratic swill in South Australia's upper House was dented by his inability to read the results of the "poll". In brief, he got them a*se up.

But his point was, the politicians should respond to the popular demand for Citizen-Initiated Referendums (CIR).

Is this kind of "direct democracy" what the people really want? Certainly the anti-semitic League of Rights wants it, as do the even nuttier Larouchists.

Leaving aside the details of the questions posed during this state-sponsored rort oops deliberative poll, as we must since the Pastor throws all into confusion, consider how the organisers of this exercise got their democratic sample inside the door of the conference room.

1201 persons were selected "randomly" from the electoral roll.

Those who couldn't give a stuff had to be put aside, leaving 809.

Following interview, or other kinds of selection, another 486 were side-lined, leaving 323.

Even Uncle would blush to admit to such a process.

BACON'S BUTLER may be no wiser a choice than Whitlam's Kerr.

Power without pre-selection is always the dream of political cronies. In Richard Butler's case the challenge of public position without public opinion may prove too hard.

Later: On tonight's Radio National PM Richard Butler began his vice-regal life as he intends to continue it - politically. Following a slash at monarchist David Flint, Butler promised to keep his appointment with the parliamentary enquiry into WMD on Friday this week.

What if his statements, explicitly or implicitly, put him at odds with government policy?

Stiff cheese; our Dick insists on his rights (he calls them obligations) to comment on matters on which he has expertise. As a former Foreign Affairs employee, Butler no doubt thinks he has expertise on most things, national and international.

Butler says that he will perform the role provided by the Tasmanian constitution, i.e., in another of Uncle's perfect paraphrases, 'to represent the people of Tasmania'. Silly old Uncle thought that's what Tasmanian governments were elected for. So does the Tasmanian constitution.

And if Hollingworth's children came back to haunt him, will Butler's women rattle along his battlements?

Sunday, August 17, 2003

That was the curt instruction on the nice cardboard box of stodge slapped in front of me by the skirted minion of our market-gouging "national carrier" airline, shortly after I deserted the keyboard.

I did my best to comply, within limits imposed by the incisive elbows of the large fellow in the small seat to my left, and on the right the cheek-swipes of the swill-dispensers galloping up and down the aisles.

It was a short flight, Allah be praised, and but for the fact that the metal detectors at the gateway to all this delight had been turned up to maximum sensitivity, no more exhausting than usual. That is to say, I would have found it a greater pleasure to pull a sled across the Antarctic continent.

At my destination my first task was to hire a vehicle mid-way in cruising speed between the aeroplane and the sled. Here I met again the national scandal that is the collusion between the credit-card operators and the vehicle hirers (and other businesses) that provides the latter with unfettered access to your funds, or your indebtedness, without bothering to tell you about it.

It works like this. You arrive at your destination, heavily expended on airfares and deposits on accommodation etc., and the vehicle hirer informs you that you can't drive his French whorehouse-smelling wreck away unless you first authorise him to debit to your credit card account an unlimited amount of money, in case you should do any damage to their property that they have chosen not to insure against. You protest that this kind of financial imprudence is strictly reserved to governments or Ray Williams, but they show you the finger. You, the consumer, are always free to go home again. If you can find a seat on Qantas.

It is Uncle's guess that these businesses have chosen to reduce their insurance burdens and lower their shop-window prices by transferring the risks to you, the mug punter.

Always keen to be less of a mug tomorrow than I was yesterday, I had arranged with the hirer that I would authorise only the deduction up to the limit of the so-called "excess", a mere couple of grand. This excess applies, of course, only to the kinds of damage that the hirer has chosen to insure against.

Clever old Uncle!

Not clever enough, it seems.

The credit card provider cleared the payment of the "excess", unsurprisingly since no other charges had been made against the account since it was last paid.

I then tried to pay the outstanding cost of the vehicle hire, a modest one grand, on the same card. Rejected!

How can this be? There is no stated limit on this card. The provider must have set a limit, but it would be in the tens of thousands, not down with your common Bankcard accounts.

I suspect the solution to this mystery, which caused the credit card in question to remain a useless dead weight in my wallet for the remainder of my travelling, may have been published in the Australian Financial Review for the weekend just passing.

Ben Sandilands writes on page L2 of a vehicle hirer that "Instead of charging him say $2000, they [the hotel or vehicle hirer] had been "authorised" by Mastercard or Visa to clean him out for a far larger sum in case he wrecked the room or caused a 80-car pile up. If this "authorisation" isn't cancelled by the vendor, it is automatically deducted from his total card limit, leading to very awkward scenes down the track."

In other words, the fact that simple old Uncle had written the sum of $2000 on his credit card payment form had no effect whatever on the sum that the sharks at the other end were prepared to pay Wrecks'R'Us, should Wrecks'R'Us choose to ask them for it.

So remember, financial institutions are just like the tax office. They believe your money isn't yours until they or their partners in crime decide they can spare it. For the time being.

The answer's simple. Go back to cash. And forgo vehicle hire, commercial accommodation (apart from country motels) and the convenience of on-line financial transactions.

In case you're interested, the vehicle did break down, causing me to miss a couple of appointments.

Wrecks'R'Us is refusing to return the hire charge, or pay for the new tyre I bought.

And Our Hand in Your Pocket global credit providers are not in the least interested.