28 February 2008

Whose ABC (Learning Centres)?

In the last couple of days there's been a lot of discussion about the financial troubles of ABC Early Learning Centres.

There's an interesting comment in today's Crikey from Stephen Magee:

In the constant tut-tutting of the commentariat about nasty Eddy Groves, one fact is constantly overlooked: Eddy's success is a direct result of the takeover of childcare in Australia by academics and public servants. 20 or 30 years ago, childcare was a happy go lucky affair: community-run centres operating out of church halls with enthusiastic amateurs, parent volunteers and a handful of paid staff were often the norm. Then the "experts" arrived. Self-appointed public service bureaucracies began imposing heavier and heavier "standards" on child care centres. Parents were, apparently, no longer capable of deciding what was appropriate for their children -- and could not devote the long hours needed to cope with the paper-shuffling processes of accreditation. Slowly but surely, the weight of it all led to the rise of the childcare professionals and mobs like ABC. Eddy was simply meeting a need that the public service had created.

Sounds a bit simplistic but there's more than a grain of truth in his comments. They could be applied to many other activities which were previously the sole domain of the community, or non-profit sector. Over the last 20 years or so the creation of markets for such services as child care, employment services and aged care has made it harder for smaller community based groups to survive, let alone flourish. Much Government funding is now allocated after competitive tendering, which tends to advantage larger organisations, both for profit and non profit ones. There may be some advantages in this, eg economies of scale, but when big ones like ABC ELC wobble, the entire apparatus starts to look shaky. I hope this doesn't happen but would like the government to review some of the policies mentioned by Magee which have contributed to the current situation. It's too much to expect a u-turn, but maybe not too much to ask for an easing of the rigid compliance standards which favour those who have large record keeping back offices over those whose primary concern is service delivery. Sometimes small can be better.

Update 29 February

Today's Australian has a piece by Andrew Fraser "Fast Eddy hits the wall" which surveys the rise and recent troubles of ABC ELC. Extract:

There's a strong school of thought that says child care should be run as a service, not as a profit-making venture.

The industry did not traditionally evolve around margins on earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. Most employees weren't keen on negotiating their contracts with an employer or negotiating a future employment path: most of them just liked looking after children.

The Australian's Elisabeth Wynhausen recorded some of the experiences of these workers: "(ABC Learning Centres) put some young childcare workers in a room with three company executives before producing the workplace agreement. Under the terms of that contract, minimum-wage employees earning about $13.30 an hour agreed to pay for their own police checks and first-aid training, and to purchase their own uniforms through the company."

Today's Crikey also recommended a piece by Ben Hills in the SMH a couple of years ago.

HMAS Sydney search resumes

In the next day or so, the long awaited search for HMAS Sydney will resume off the Western Australian coast.

ABC RN's PM had a good overview tonight, including interviews with key figures in th search. The transcript hasn't yet been posted online, but I'll link to it when it has.

22 February 2008

News from South Australia

A few items which have caught my eye in the last day or so:

# Mr Foley's blast

Treasurer Kevin Foley has blasted South Australians as "a bunch of bloody whingers".

"This state has an exciting future and it's not, in my view, because of timid governments," he said at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia lunch.

"What laments me and laments me quite often is that here in Adelaide we are a bunch of bloody whingers, a bunch of bloody whingers."

"We might not be the sexiest and exciting Government that some people may want. But we have delivered the almost impossible – stable government."

Mr Foley said his comments were made in response to tenured academics who hung their cardigans on the back of their seats and then sat down and wondered "who can we critique today?"

Mr F's vision (read the whole piece) sounds like a number cruncher's one, which is all very well but there is more to life than a balanced budget, important though that is. Perhaps South Australians would just like to see more tangible evidence of the prosperity which the Rann-Foley government is supposed to be delivering. It's interesting that Mr F mentions prisons as an important part of his vision, but there's no indication that he's thought about why new ones might be needed.

# Bolkus denies conflict of interest

The ABC reports:

Former Labor Senator Nick Bolkus says there has been no conflict of interest in his chairmanship of the South Australian Stormwater Authority and lobbying for the Jockey Club.

Mr Bolkus has resigned from the Stormwater Authority to take up a new business opportunity.

The South Australian Jockey Club wants to sell Cheltenham Racecourse to a housing developer but some opponents believe it should be used to capture stormwater run-off.

Mr Bolkus says that has not caused a conflict of interest on his part.

"In respect of Cheltenham, for the first 20 or so months on either committee the issue didn't come up," he said.

"When it did came (sic) up in accordance with the practice we adopted, I wasn't alerted to the fact it was going to come up and in fact left the room and let the committee deliberate in accordance with the rules."


# No more cane toads but foxes abundant

No further cane toads have been found in suburban Mawson Lakes despite a detailed search, according to the ABC.

The Department of Land and Biodiversity has been searching for cane toads after one was found in a backyard last week.

The department's director Bill Davies says the night trapping will be called off shortly, and searches will only be conducted randomly.

"We're reasonably certain there's nothing there, so what we might do is actually pick occasions when we think the conditions might be very good for trapping and just try that," he said.

"The odd evening that's more warm and balmy are more conducive for the animals coming out."

On the other hand the Mount Barker Courier reports on an increase in fox numbers in the Adelaide Hills:

A rise in fox numbers has alarmed the region's peak environment group with 900 foxes killed on one 10ha Norton Summit property in the past six years.

Adelaide and Mt Lofty Natural Resources Management Board officer David Hughes said the fox problem in the area was "getting worse" with the animals thriving in the Hills, particularly on the urban fringe. The number of foxes in the region is impossible to accurately estimate but experts believe for every bait taken there could be as many as four foxes within a square kilometre.

Property owners are being urged to act to halt the rising menace and
implement strategies to limit their numbers. Landholders Sue and Sean Delaney have had two to three baits taken every week from their property which backs onto the Morialta Conservation Park.

Unlike cane toads, foxes aren't recent arrivals here but there have been other reports of them occupying areas even closer to the city eg the Botanic Park. On walks and drives through the Adelaide Hills over the years I've occasionally seen a fox, or more often when walking, scats (droppings). Nobody seems to have much idea of what to do about them.

21 February 2008

All bets are on

It's a concern to see that, as the ABC reports the Victorian government has approved betting on races via TV. While it's true that alternative forms of home based betting (telephone, internet) are available, and have been for some time, the gambling industry seems always to want to take a giant step forward while not really pausing, let alone taking a step backwards, to make it easier for people to bet rather than in trying to help those who become compulsive gamblers.

It also looks as if the SA government may follow in Victoria's wake. Senator-elect Xenophon has spoken out about it, quoting the Rev Tim Costello's line about being able to lose your home without leaving it.

All this comes with little notice, and only a couple of weeks after Mr Rudd expressed his concern about the ease of access to ATMs in many gambling venues. While he didn't promise to change government policy, his raising the topic is at least an indication that he may be well disposed to introducing more restrictions on gambling at some stage in the future.

In the meantime if you're so inclined and you live in Victoria, you can sit back, relax, reach for the form guide and TV remote control and place your wagers. Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to gambling per se but have heard too many horror stories to believe that governments should be expanding the ways in which people can gamble. Of course, those governments rely upon gambling taxes for a significant chunk of their revenue ( I think it may be about 14 - 15% in SA) so you can hardly blame them for trying to rake in more.

16 February 2008

"The quality of travellers is better at the back end of the plane"

In The Weekend Australian former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie writes whimsically about his journey across the Pacific and the US in economy class.


I really didn't think it was that funny to be honest but I smiled politely as I desperately tried to force my carry-on luggage into the overhead bin above seat 50H in the bowels of economy class on the Brisbane to LA flight QF175.

"What no more first or business class?" chuckled a friendly Australian of Indian descent, who seemed far too pleased with himself. The woman next to him across the aisle was even more direct: "Why are you down here?" I thought that was self-evident so I just kept smiling like some deranged idiot until the last of my luggage was finally safely in place.

But as I sat down she wouldn't let it go, "Don't ex-premiers get first and business class travel for life?" she inquired. She was about my age and pleasant enough so I ever so politely explained that ex-premiers did not get free air travel for life, secretly wishing for the first time ever that we did. But since I was the fool who had banned such travel I was in no position to complain.

"The quality of travellers is better at the back end of the plane," I stated bravely. They seemed particularly pleased with that idea and I was equally pleased they didn't ask when was the last time I travelled economy. The truth was it has been a little while since I travelled either out of the government jet or the pointy end of the plane and since their taxes had been paying for both the least I could do was to take their gentle Australian ribbing on the chin. So I did.

The pointy end of QF175 may have been full but there were plenty of spare seats where the "quality passengers" were. So my new travelling mates told me that as soon as we took off we should divide up the empty seats for maximum comfort. "We will end up with more room that those buggers in business class at a fraction of the cost," my new best mate said in his clear Australian-Indian accent. And he was right...

I must try to emulate Mr B and be more stoic about long distance flights; but it would be good to acquire the secret of how he managed to get a whole row of seats to himself on a Qantas trans-Pacific flight.

Ash Wednesday 25 years on

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Ash Wednesday fires, which burnt through large tracts of South Australia and Victoria and took many lives.

At the time I was living near the Adelaide foothills. I can still recall seeing a wall of flame advancing steadily across a hill not far away from my home. Fortunately for me and my family a cool change accompanied by a change of wind direction and some rain helped the firefighters to contain and then control the fires in the vicinity.

Much of Cleland Conservation Park, was burnt out, though the affected areas slowly regenerated in the following years (unfortunately plants like blackberries did so more rapidly than the native flora).

Today The Advertiser/Adelaide Now and The Australian both acknowledge the anniversary with their coverage . On the other hand, while tonight's ABC TV South Australian News also led with the story, the ABC website only has a brief report. I wouldn't for a moment suggest that the brevity is because the fires didn't approach Sydney.

15 February 2008

Father of his people?

'An effort to lift South Australia's population to two million well before its target of 2050 will be led by Monsignor David Cappo" reports The Advertiser/ Adelaide Now.

Is this just an example of poor sub-editing, or is the Monsignor, who is better known in the secular world as chair of the state's Social Inclusion Board (which normally deals with matters like this), expected to lead in a literal sense?

14 February 2008

An impressive interview

The Prime Minister appeared tonight on ABC TV's Lateline.

I thought that he spoke extremely lucidly about a number of matters, ranging from yesterday's apology (which he drafted in longhand), through future collaboration with the opposition to address pressing indigenous issues (an offer Dr Nelson can't, and mustn't, refuse) to the situation in East Timor. The transcript isn't yet up on the web but I'll link to it when it does appear.

Update 22 February

Here's the link to the transcript.

Smoky Dawson

Smoky Dawson has died. Tonight's ABC TV 7.30 Report paid a generous tribute to him, including some footage of him riding a horse, singing, reminiscing and, back in the 1950s, plugging Kellogg's products on the radio (which nowadays would have him excoriated for promoting obesity).

A brief glimpse of a poster during the program showed that he was proficient in a several fields, eg knife and axe throwing, though he was best known for his singing. He was no Slim Dusty, as much of his material( and all his attire) had an American flavour, but he could carry a tune and did so until very late in his life.

My favourite performance of his is his duet with Jimmy Barnes singing "Cold Cold Heart", the old Hank Williams song. By the time he recorded this Smoky was only up to backing Jimmy's rasping vocals, but together the pair did a good job. By agreeing to appear with Smoky Jimmy presumably wished to acknowledge Smoky's contribution to Australian popular culture.

He was 94 and is survived by his wife Dot who is , according to the 7.30 Report, 101.

Update 16 February

There are more media tributes today, including "Smoky's sunset", by music writer Iain Shedden in The Australian , the last paragraph of which is a succinct summary of his career

Last year Dawson was honoured at his last Tamworth appearance. His plaque on the city's Galaxy of Stars promenade outside the entertainment centre marks a career spanning eight decades, that drew on vaudevillian show business traditions, cowboy pastiche and crafted storytelling as much as it did on singing and songwriting.

13 February 2008


Today was an important day for Australia. In Parliament House Canberra, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition expressed their apologies to the stolen generations of indigenous people.

The media, eg the ABC website, have covered today's events in great detail.

Of all the comment and analysis about the event one remains in the forefront of my mind: Noel Pearson's in yesterday's Australian. The title, "When words aren't enough" says a lot, but if you care at all about the next steps which must be taken to follow up on today's statements, I recommend that you read , and ponder, it.

10 February 2008

Is this what we are fighting for?

The Independent (UK) has drawn attention to the plight of Sayed Pervez Kambkash:

A young man, a student of journalism, is sentenced to death by an Islamic court for downloading a report from the internet. The sentence is then upheld by the country's rulers. This is Afghanistan – not in Taliban times but six years after "liberation" and under the democratic rule of the West's ally Hamid Karzai.

The fate of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has led to domestic and international protests, and deepening concern about erosion of civil liberties in Afghanistan. He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed.

Mr Kambaksh, 23, distributed the tract to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University with the aim, he said, of provoking a debate on the matter. But a complaint was made against him and he was arrested, tried by religious judges without – say his friends and family – being allowed legal representation and sentenced to death.

The Independent is launching a campaign today to secure justice for Mr Kambaksh. The UN, human rights groups, journalists' organisations and Western diplomats have urged Mr Karzai's government to intervene and free him. But the Afghan Senate passed a motion yesterday confirming the death sentence.

The MP who proposed the ruling condemning Mr Kambaksh was Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, a key ally of Mr Karzai. The Senate also attacked the international community for putting pressure on the Afghan government and urged Mr Karzai not to be influenced by outside un-Islamic views.

The newspaper has an online petition calling for the UK Foreign Office to put "all possible pressure" on the Afghan government to prevent Mr Kambaksh's execution. Click here to read and, if you see fit, to sign it.

The Independent has subsequently reported that the death penalty may not be enforced:

A ministerial aide, Najib Manalai, insisted: "I am not worried for his life. I'm sure Afghanistan's justice system will find the best way to avoid this sentence."

Some people may believe this, others will, like me, wait and see what happens. The Independent's petition has so far gathered more than 63,000 signatures which may have had some influence. In Australia we've heard little of the matter, even though we have troops there propping up defending Mr Karzai's regime.

08 February 2008

05 February 2008

Mitsubishi closure confirmed

It has been confirmed that Mitsubishi's Tonsley Park plant will close at the end of March. About 1,000 workers will lose their jobs and many others in component suppliers may also do so.

This is a bleak, if hardly unexpected , day for South Australia.

There are many reasons for the closure, but I think that the principal one was the crack brained decision to develop a six cylinder car, the 380, at a time when anyone with half a brain should have been able to see that four cylinder cars were the way of the future. Even a four cylinder version of the 380 might have helped stave off today's announcement.

I hope that the state government has some contingency plans in place to assist the displaced workers to find new jobs. Mr Tom Phillips who was more than happy to take credit for the 380 (there's a photo showing this in today's Advertiser) seems to have landed on his feet. Let's hope that many others do.

Shortcomings of mental health system identified

Both The Advertiser/ Adelaide Now and the ABC have reported the findings of the coroner's inquiry into the death of an 18 year old man, who

died from a methadone overdose at the Palm Lodge supported residential care facility in College Park, in August 2003.

The 18-year-old was not prescribed methadone for his severe depression and an autopsy found it was likely he had never taken the drug before.

His body lay in his room undiscovered for up to three days after his death, prompting a call from coroner Mark Johns for a sweeping overhaul of procedures inside state-run care centres.

His father, who I know, has also made some pertinent yet dignified comments which remind us that despite all the resources devoted to mental health, the system still has major shortcomings:

while nothing could bring back his son, he said the findings were a "wake-up call" for those running the mental health system.

"I talk to other parents every day who have got kids like Tom and I think that this issue of care for 18 to 25-year-olds just cannot be ignored by the community or the people we elect," he said.

"I don't think it is a big vote winner but I talk to a lot of parents who have got kids with difficulties to varying degrees who are incredibly frustrated."

04 February 2008

Rumours about Mitsubishi resurface while government launches tongue in cheek campaign to attract migrants

This afternoon reports that the remaining Mitsubishi motors plant in Adelaide would close soon resurfaced in public, as they have done at regular intervals for the last few years. (A couple of weeks ago I heard a gentleman bellowing this into his mobile phone in a public place).
On this occasion even Premier Rann, according to an ABC report from later tonight, seems to be expecting bad news:

South Australian Premier Mike Rann met with Mitsubishi's Australian management today and said he was told any decision on the plant's future would be based on its viability as part of a global restructure.

The state and federal governments have tipped in tens of millions of dollars in aid to help prop up the local plant over the past decade.

At the same time the SA government has, as the London Daily Mail reports (link via The Advertiser/ Adelaide Now), launched a campaign to encourage Brits to move here:

Under the headings Sod London House Prices, Screw Working in Staines, Stuff London Traffic and Bugger it, I'm off to Adelaide, the adverts promise a life in paradise.

They offer "fine weather, fine wine, fine houses, fine jobs, fine beaches and fine universities" to the students and skilled workers-such as plumbers and electricians they are hoping to attract to South Australia.

A campaign spokesman said: "It's a stand-off challenge for people to stick two fingers up to the UK and reach out for better business prospects, better health care, higher-quality education, warmer weather, lower house prices - overall a far superior way of life."

The article is accompanied by some photos which make SA, compared to a wintry UK, look attractive, though not all of them are up to date: the one of Glenelg shows an old H class tram of the class which was phased out several years ago.

Goyder's Line

The Weekend Australian Magazine published a story "Where Goyder made his mark" by Jamie Walker about the travails of farmers in the mid and upper north of South Australia.

Drought persists and there is concern that
Goyder's Line is shifting southwards from the position it has held since it was first defined in the 1860s, by G W Goyder , the SA Surveyor -General of the time.

Last July, on the way home from my trip north, I travelled across some of those areas. Most of them ooked green from afar, thanks to early season rain, yet on closer inspection the ground was hard and the crops, which hadn't had the follow up rains they required, didn't look to have the makings of a bountiful harvest. Things don't seem to have changed much since then.

The print version of The Weekend Australian article is accompanied by some good illustrations: the online version (click Jamie Walker link above) has a slide show which is worth looking at. Last year ABC RN's
Hindsight also broadcast a program about the line: neither transcript nor podcast is available but the program website includes an image gallery.

03 February 2008

Comments on indigenous matters

The Weekend Australian has two good pieces on indigenous matters. The first "A symbol of intent" by Mike Steketee discusses the views of Ian Tuxworth, a former CLP (conservative) Chief Minister of the NT and resident of Tennant Creek,and Richard Court, former Liberal WA Premier, about the proposal to say sorry to Aboriginal people".

An apology is not the most important issue facing the Rudd Government. But nor should the power of symbolism be dismissed. The policies of child removal adopted throughout Australia treated indigenous people not just as bad parents but as racial inferiors. Acknowledging how mistaken this was matters. Going further through what [former WA Premier Richard]Court called a national change of heart and incorporating the oldest civilisation on earth into the Australian consciousness would be something of which we could all be proud.

Tuxworth wrote last year: "It is easy for us to see Aborigines as members of dysfunctional communities, remote skin groups or disruptive mobs hanging around in public places, with little to do but be a nuisance which offends the sensibilities of the wider community.

"In fact, they are also individuals whose beliefs, confidence and self-esteem are at such a low ebb it is going to take at least a generation to rekindle in the Aboriginal community the inner spirit that drives other Australians."

An apology can help light that flame.

The second "Standing on secret ground" by Paul Toohey asks "Is the national emergency response still an emergency?" Although Major-General Chalmers, the head of the Federal government's emergency response taskforce, says it is because the government has said it is, Toohey's response is more nuanced in places and forthright in others:

The intervention is in three stages: the current stabilisation period, which will nominally last a year and seeks to establish order through increased police presence, changes to alcohol and pornography laws, the quarantining of welfare, the gathering of population data, and explaining the intervention to residents of 73 communities and 45 town camps; part two is the longer normalisation stage, in which communities will - they hope - be provided with the services they need for good health, education and infrastructure; the final stage is the exit strategy.

The emergency response legislation will be dismantled after five years. If all goes well, not just Aborigines will know their responsibilities by that time, but the Territory and federal governments, which have long neglected Aboriginal communities, will know theirs as well.

Fears that the legislation, which allows the federal Government to control communities for the five-year period, was a disguised land grab have not been justified.

If some of the shriller opponents of the intervention were now to look more closely at what is happening, they would find the intervention is less invasive than they imagine. The Northern Territory Government, initially shocked by the emergency, then humiliated, has seen the benefits: it knows that over the five-year period will come an enormous injection of commonwealth funding to the bush. The quarantining of welfare money, or income management, is being rolled out in stages, with a sweep of central Australian communities the first to experience the regime. As of a few weeks ago, it was being introduced in one of the Territory's biggest northern communities, Wadeye. So far, Katherine, Tennant Creek and the whole of Arnhem Land are yet to be affected by the intervention at all, except for health checks. People can choose to have their welfare quarantined to their local store, which electronically manages the money for food or essentials (but not cigarettes), or, if a person wishes to spend in, say, Alice Springs, they can get a Centrelink card that works at Woolies or Kmart, but not at the bottle shop.

"There are problems with it and these are very complex things to introduce," says Chalmers. "When a problem crops up it aggravates people but people who often don't have voice (women): they know this is making a difference and money is available to be spent on children. Stores where we've introduced income management have had an increased turnover of 20-30 per cent. To me, that money that was potentially being spent on gambling or grog is now being spent on food and essentials."

If income management is implicitly discriminatory, Mavis Malbunka, 63, an emerging spokeswoman for Aboriginal women from Hermannsburg, in the centre, is prepared to overlook the fact. She has now lived with income management for close to six months. "We see the benefits," she says. "There's no money running out. Income management is a great help for Aboriginal people; in Hermannsburg I hear no complaint about income management." She says it is too early to say whether gambling has been stamped out, because there is still cash money available in the un-quarantined welfare payment.

"But I do know people are buying more food," Malbunka says. "We see income management as more safe." She witnessed the initial visit by the army and medical teams. She says an infrastructure crew is in the area talking about renovations and building improvements but, as a grandmother, she says what she really wants from the intervention is practical assistance with disciplining kids.

"Old people and family feel there's a threat coming from the children. If we hurt them, they go to police and we are charged. We are not looking to hit kids, but we want support to work with the kids. They're going over us." Her point is valid: how can you help kids, and protect them from harm, if they won't listen? Therein may be Dave Chalmers' toughest intervention challenge.


Chalmers won't comment on Macklin's decision to reinstate the permit system for townships. So I will. It is a disaster. She has said keeping the permit system will keep out the pedophiles and the grog and the ganja. But aren't the pedophiles supposedly already in the communities? Wasn't that the basis of the emergency response? As for drug and ganja runners, they are not outsiders: they are Aboriginal locals, looking to make some extra money or taking in their own supply.

In its intention to reinstate the permit system, Labor is not acting in the interests of Aborigines but reaffirming Labor's strong political base in the bush. Journalists will be allowed in without permits, but so what? It isn't about journalists, it is about allowing normality to return - or begin - in the bush.

Labor's position will undermine every successful step the intervention has taken and will see, in five years' time, communities return to their rotten isolation. It should be very clear: permits will, and should, still be required for the vast Aboriginal land holdings that surround the towns. If people want cultural privacy, all that land is theirs to use. But Aborigines and whites who don't like the intervention should be able to see, by now, that it was the permit system that created the intervention. A secret world is not necessarily a sacred one.

I've quoted lengthy extracts from them, but both articles are worth reading in full.

Commissioner beleaguered

In The Weekend Australian Hedley Thomas and Cameron Stewart report that AFP Commissioner Keelty's support has vanished in the wake of his contention that the media should be gagged or at least severely restricted in its ability to report trials of terrorism suspects..

Ken McKinnon , Chairman of the Australian Press Council, puts the case against the Commissioner's views trenchantly:

Our freedoms must not be destroyed in the name of defending freedom. We have open courts so that citizens may be assured by attendance or media reports that their freedoms are being preserved. Only in the most extreme circumstances should courts be closed. The public interest is the standard by which matters investigated and reported by the media should be judged. Delaying the reporting of terrorism trials as a matter of course would be entirely against the public interest.

Characteristically people in authority, ministers and commissioners alike, control sensitive information. They release what they think the public ought to be told, usually partially, from a particular point of view, and drip-fed at that. Or information is leaked to selected sympathetic journalists.

The best newspapers do not accept this as enough. Editors and journalists rightly believe it is their duty in an open society to discover the whole truth and report that to the public. That entails exploration of all sources of information, official and unofficial.

I, too, am concerned with some opinion pieces in newspapers, especially when they are at odds with what I believe. That does not mean they should not be published. And I can understand that the commissioner's onerous responsibilities are made more stressful by that kind of press analysis and criticism. But they are the necessary rules of play for commissioners and other officials. That is what democracy properly demands. Regrettably, the council has been put on notice that it is going to have to be alert to preserve those rules.

Well said. Let's hope the media continue to practice what Mr McKinnon preaches.

01 February 2008

Innocents abroad or junketers?

Today's Crikey "Tips and rumours" section quotes an email purportedly written by someone who attended the recent G'Day USA Australia Day Ball in New York. Extract:

The Victorian and South Australian state government contingent were on a massive junket and I can't believe they had the audacity to even fly over for the event and stay at the Waldorf all at taxpayers' expense. Disgraceful.

Was this part of the high powered delegation about which I posted last month?

If so, when might SA (and Victorian) taxpayers expect to see a statement of the costs and an estimate of the benefits of the exercise?

I also hope that everyone behaved themselves, and especially that that there was no unseemly provincial backbiting about backwaters between the Victorian and South Australian delegations.