22 December 2009

Wreck of Centaur found by same team that found HMAS Sydney

The wreck of the AHS (Australian Hospital Ship) Centaur has been found by the same team, led by David Mearns, that located the wrecks of HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran

In today's Australian Andrew Fraser discusses the find and dusts off some interesting questions eg why did the Japanese submarine attack a well lit up hospital ship? Unlike the HMAS Sydney situation where several conspiracy theories had a good run before the wreck was found and filmed, the existence of survivors means that the facts (other than the position of the wreck) have never been disputed.

Whatever happens here (and I suspect the inconvenient questions will be swept under the carpet) the actual discovery is yet another feather in the cap for David mearns and his team.

20 November 2009

Catastrophe averted....

Thank goodness yesterday, which the authorities here deemed to be, at least for some of the state, a day of "catastrophic" fire danger, passed without fatalities caused by fires. (There were alas several road deaths)

There has been some confusion about the additional fire damage rating of catastrophic which has been superimposed on the existing ones (supplanting extreme) . Though there's a Cape Catastrophe on Eyre Peninsula near the proclaimed area I'm not convinced that everyone understands this multisyllabic term and what it means when it is invoked. Is it really necessary, I wonder? Whatever words are used and no matter how effectively warnings are communicated in a high fire risk situation each person usually has to make their own decision about whether to stay or leave.

The last couple of days have once again shown the value of a free to air public broadcaster for keeping people informed in emergency situations. The ABC staff were generally well informed about SA place names and their pronunciation, while Sky News persisted in mispronouncing "Wirrabara". one of the YHA's 20 Frequently Mispronounced Australian Destinations even though a local fire official appearing on its news programs pronounced it correctly.

I also wasn't too impressed with the inability of the SA Police media liaison person to provide ABC radio yesterday afternoon with the CFS hotline phone number. You'd think they'd have it if not in their mind then in front of them. A small matter perhaps, but possibly indicative of some gaps in interagency cooperation which need to be plugged before the next emergency.

13 November 2009

Heat...and more heat

Friday 13th. Black Friday. Yet another 35C+ day. It's now (2.40pm CDST) 38.1deg. The sequence is easily a record for this time of year, when there may be the occasional hot day or two but not this preview of January - February. And I I thought that a few days with temperatures nudging 20C when I was in the UK was uncharacteristically warm!

When will it end? Forecast is for 39 tomorrow and 40 Sunday before 28 Monday. We shall see.

11 November 2009

Not quite like de Botton.....

Just back from overseas, visiting family in London with a side trip with them to Istanbul. All very enjoyable notwithstanding the customary hazards of modern international air travel, notably airport chaos/ inefficiency and the brusqueness of (most) UK border protection officials.

Earlier this year Alain de Botton spent a week
in the employ of the British Airports Authority as a writer in residence at Heathrow Terminal Five. He's just published his diary, which is a characteristically fluent distillation of his week, which is one a long way removed from my and, I expect, most other airport users' experiences. That said it's worth reading, if only for the very different perspective he brought to his task. He must have been almost the only person with time to reflect about the terminal: everyone else was of necessity focused on a particular task: travelling (departing or arriving), security, selling (a big, big part of modern airport life) or maintenance.

I may have more to say about this topic later....

04 October 2009

Unfashionable virtues?

ABC RN's Life Matters recently ran a poll about which unfashionable virtues "should make a comeback".


Humility (23%)
Magnanimity (21%)
Modesty (15%)
Prudence (11%)
Stoicism (9%)
Meekness (4%).

I voted for stoicism.

The results were discussed on air and can be downloaded (at least for the time being) from the program website by clicking on the link above.

26 September 2009

Beauty's double meaning

The front page of today's Advertiser (prominently) and the Adelaide Now website ( less prominently) print this photo taken by a reader at Gawler earlier this week on a sunny day.


It shows a red-bellied black snake approaching a duck (identified as a "Moscovy " by the paper at p14 and a " Muscovy" by the website) .

Snake-Away snake catcher Ian Renton said it was likely the snake was feasting on ducklings and was chasing the mother duck away.

"The duck is way too big for the snake to eat so it probably would not be entertaining that side of things," he said.

Or was the mother duck attempting to interpose herself between the reptile and her brood? The Advertiser published a couple of other photos which are clearly part of a sequence taken in quick succession. It would be good to see more of them or to hear what happened.

While red-bellied black snakes are venomous their venom is (I believe) not normally strong enough to kill a human. They are also very attractive, as Judith Wright put it so succinctly in her poem "The Cedars":

The snake, the fang of summer, beauty's double meaning,
shifts his slow coils and feels his springtime hunger.

As I recently posted my most recent snake sighting was on 20 July this year in the Adelaide Hills (near Tungkillo) when it was much warmer than it's been for the last couple of days. If, as I hope to, I get out and about when the springlike weather returns, I'll expect to come across other snakes. When I do so I'll keep my distance but also try to take a photo or two.

24 September 2009


When I heard on the radio that a Catalina was going to fly over Adelaide I ventured on to my roof with camera. This was the best photo I could take with the 42-150 mm zoom on my Olympus E410 DSLR at its max focal length. My photoshopping skills are deficient so I've not been game enough to tinker with the raw material, but if you're interested you can enlarge it by clicking on the image, when you'll be able to see the characteristic (and quite elegant) outline of the plane, even if this one lacks the floats suspended from each (high) wing which I'd assumed was one of the model's defining characteristics.

11 September 2009

After warm winter, early taste of summer

Today's estimated max temp is 29deg C, 10 deg above the September average.

The BOM records that it's already reached 27 at 10.27 though it's fallen to about 25 at noon.

Climatologist Blair Trewin in The Punch reflects on the warm August many Australians have just experienced:

August 2009 was Australia’s warmest on record. Temperatures averaged over the country were 2.47C above the long-term average, nearly a degree above the previous August record set in 1998, and 25% of the country had its hottest August day on record at some stage during the month.

Trewin points out

Average temperatures in Australia have warmed by about 0.8C over the last 100 years, most of it in the last 50.

and concludes

...while we can’t blame global warming for any individual extreme warm event it is certainly making these events more common.

The entire piece, which includes several graphs, is worth reading.

03 September 2009

Seventy years on

Today is the 70th anniversary of Australia's entry into the conflict which is now known as World War 2.

At the time Prime Minister Menzies explained the reasons in a broadcast.

Here's what he said. I've emphasised the key words:

Fellow Australians,
It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland,
Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war.
No harder task can fall to the lot of a democratic leader than to make such an announcement.

Great Britain and France with the cooperation of the British Dominions have struggled to avoid this tragedy. They have, as I firmly believe, been patient. They have kept the door of negotiation open. They have given no cause for aggression.

But in the result their efforts have failed and we are therefore, as a great family of nations, involved in a struggle which we must at all costs win and which we believe in our hearts we will win.

01 September 2009


Today is the first day of spring. With very little assistance from me (I didn't prune the bush during winter) this rose bloomed right on time for the official opening of the season.

Not everything is rosy in our national garden, though, as today's Australian reports

Australia has just experienced its warmest winter on record.

While the claim won't be official until data for August 31 is collected from the nation's 850 temperature observing stations, yesterday's relatively warm temperatures across the country should see the winter of 2009 rewrite the record books.

The Bureau of Meteorology's National Climate Centre has produced a Special Climate Statement whose title " Exceptional winter heat over large parts of Australia" is self-explanatory.

South Australia appears to have had its warmest winter on record. This doesn't surprise me as I saw a snake in the Adelaide Hills on 20 July when the max temp in the city was a springlike 21.7 deg C (today it was 18.0).

Detailed records for Adelaide and other weather stations can be found here

13 August 2009

HMAS Sydney report handed down

The Final Report into the loss of HMAS Sydney II has been handed down and is available online.

The Report consists of two volumes of evidence and conclusions and a third entitled "Frauds, Comspiracies and Speculations". The website also includes links to transcripts of evidence, some animated recreations of the Sydney- Kormoran action, and appendix and ships' plans. I've not yet read it all (I wonder how many people have) but the Summary looks to be a good overview of the major findings.

Media reporting has tended to focus on the degree of culpability of the Sydney's captain. From what I've read so far the Report, while acknowledging that it was not wise for the cruiser to approach so close to a ship whose identity was unconfirmed, stops short of saying that the captain was negligent.

It's a long time after the event, and many people who lost friends and relatives may be seeking closure rather than retribution. Perhaps they'll be able to draw their own conclusions from reading between the lines of what may not be (given the various matters which the Report dismisses as frauds, conspiracies and speculations) the last word on the topic but should be the most authoritative one.

08 July 2009

Watch another space

Today the 2009 Ashes series begins and most of my blogging energies will for the next few weeks be devoted unashamedly to Nudges and Deflections. Will try to post here occasionally but no promises (or apologies for the focus on cricket).

PS Wednesday 0945:

As soon as I've posted the above I came across Paul Colgan's 10 reasons to love the Poms in The Punch.

His 10

1. The English language

2. English comedy

3. The least worst brand of colonialism

4. Good manners

5. The Beatles

6. Great journalism

7. The Premiership (EPL)

8. Parliamentary democracy

9. Literature

10. English sport, including cricket .

I'd agree with most of them, especially 1,2,3, 6, 8 and 9. .

I'm not sure that no 10 still applies modern cricket is very much an international rather than a national thing.

Good manners,
eg queueing, may no longer be as noticeable as they once were: perhaps the modern iteration is the ability to lose more or less gracefully (after a day or so of tabloid fury).

29 June 2009

Another battle lost?

"Its time. Sorry, it's time to save the apostrophe" argues Tracy Spicer in The Punch

It’s tiny but powerful.

Its incorrect insertion could mean the difference between life and death.

And it’s fighting for its very existence.

I’m referring to the apostrophe; specifically, the possessive apostrophe.

Even its proper name – saxon genitive – sounds more like a sexually transmitted disease than the pinnacle of punctuation.

Philistines and purists are waging war on the web, about whether this much-maligned mark should be banned.

Two photos accompany her piece: one captioned "Rabbit's die on a table", the other "Rabbits die on a table". (The first actually shows a pair of dice). .

I'm sympathetic to her general thrust though I think the battle for the possessive " 's" in certain situations, notably place names and the internet, has been lost, often with, as in the example from the UK she cites, official approval.

Here in South Australia
the government has directed "In all cases the apostrophe is to be deleted" from place names.The Geographical Names Act 1991 s3 states

"place" means any area, region, locality, city, suburb, town, township, or settlement, or any geographical or topographical feature, and includes any railway station, hospital, school and any other place or building that is, or is likely to be, of public or historical interest;.

This has led to the absurd situation where the official geographical name of a prominent Adelaide school differs from what the school, retaining the apostrophe, calls itself on its website (though even here there's some hedging of bets as the apostropheless "Saints" is occasionally used).

Is, I wonder, the college commiting an offence by not using the "official" name? s13 of the Geographical Names Act 1991 suggests that it could, in certain circumstances, be. Might we expect to see the place names police investigating the matter soon?

20 June 2009

"Breath" wins Miles Franklin Prize

Tim Winton's novel Breath has won the Miles Franklin award

I've read it, as I've done many of Winton's other books, and enjoyed it, as I enjoyed them, despite sometimes taking a while to enter into the worlds he creates.

I'm neither a dancer, a surfer nor a paramedic, but do have adult children. I find the last words of the novel resonate with me. Speaking of his adult daughters, the narrator says

They probably don't understand this, but it's important for me to show them that their father is a man who dances - who saves lives and carries the wounded, yes, but who also does something competletely pointless and beautiful, and in this at least he should need no explanation.

At the award presentation ceremony Winton criticised proposed changes to Australian laws which are likely to make it harder for local authors to be published. For further information
and to see a video click here .

16 June 2009

Foxtel CEO calls for free to air TV extension in Australia

Jane Schulze in today's Australian reports

Pay-TV group Foxtel has joined the growing chorus of media companies seeking a comprehensive review of Australia's media and telecommunications regulation ahead of the $43 billion national broadband network rollout.

Speaking to the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, Foxtel chief executive Kim Williams also said the federal government should allow a fourth digital-only free-to-air TV network as soon as possible.

"It should issue licences to new players to provide new networks, either terrestrially or via satellite. That will help to drive digital television take-up," Mr Williams said.

"Why shouldn't a company like Foxtel or others have the opportunity to offer a fourth free-to-air network or a fifth over satellite if we can make a business case work? Why shouldn't any other reputable and well-financed company be able to offer a fourth network terrestrially if it can make the business case work?"

IMO this is an excellent idea, not least because the boundaries between free to air and pay TV in Australia are artificial. In the UK there is a crossover or hybrid area where channels such as the local Sky News are available as free to air. In Australia the so-called "Freeview" has added some channels and quasi-channels but otherwise has done little to engage with the pay TV sector. (Of course, the reverse is also true).

While Foxtel could put a few rooms in its own house in order, eg by making Al - Jazeera TV available (not just as a counterweight to Fox News), it does otherwise provide a variety of programs some of which which deserve a wider audience. Sky News Australia reports on events in Canberra and Sydney in some depth (and occasionally runs an eye over happenings elsewhere) while the relatively new A-PAC channel has caught the ABC asleep at the wheel by providing live video coverage of federal parliament (check it out to see how rapidly each chamber empties after question time).

As the internet and other technology increasingly provide alternative means of viewing TV programs perhaps there's less need to bang on about this, but while my monitor is smaller than my TV screen it would be good to have the bigger, and broader, picture.

13 June 2009

Snake in Melbourne CBD in June

"Snake in the city. Reptile on the loose after attack" screamed the front page of mx, Melbourne's free commuter paper. Other outlets including the ABC and The Age reported the story less feverishly.

The victim, said The Age " was taken to St Vincent's Hospital, where a swab test confirmed he had been bitten by a brown snake, one of the deadliest snakes in the world and the leading cause of snakebite deaths in Australia. But a hospital spokesman said the snake's highly-toxic venom had not entered the man's bloodstream. He remained in a stable condition, but would be kept in hospital overnight for observation."

I was surprised by this, not only because I'd believed that snakes would find it hard to survive undetected in a busy environment like the Melbourne CBD but also because it was so cold on the day (I can confirm this as I was near the scene later in the morning).

Video of the scene of the incident shows a lot of rubbish which could harbour rodents which in turn could attract snakes. But in winter? A 20cm brown snake is a young one, and therefore probably not alone....And if it can happen in Melbourne then why not in any other Australian city?

07 June 2009

D Day 65 years on

Another anniversary : 6 June is the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied landings in Normandy .

The occasion has been commemorated with a ceremony attended by several world leaders and some of the diminishing number of surviving veterans.

05 June 2009

Another 4 Sept anniversary

Philip Adams' interview of Martin Krygier on ABC RN's Late Night Live last week reminded us that 4 June is another significant anniversary. It is 20 years since the victory of Solidarity in the first round of an election which saw democracy restored to Poland.

04 June 2009

20 years on, how much has changed?

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square "incident". Naturally the media, the non-Chinese media that is, has commented on the occasion.

This morning Stephen McDonell reported live from the Square for ABC Radio's AM.

For a video showing how the Chinese authorities muzzled the international media check out this Al Jazeera report.

I visited Tiananmen Square in late 1997. Apart from being impressed with its size I remember thinking how calm everything looked. Perhaps it was the tourists, perhaps the lack of a visible security presence, perhaps the presence of souvenir vendors (from one of whom I bought the kite in the photo above) which made the place look much like so many other global tourist focal points (Trafalgar Square minus Nelson's Column came to mind). Maybe I was just beguiled by the hospitality and friendliness of the people I met. I don't remember asking any questions about 1989. Probably I was content to be the quintessential innocent abroad who believed that because I saw no signs of dissent that all was, if not well, at least on the mend....

02 June 2009

Police reaction to Indian student protests damages Australia's reputation

Video of the - to put it mildly - vigorous police response to the protest by Indian international students in Melbourne against race motivated assaults has gone around the world.

Unfortunately the official response from authorities here has been deficient. Last night on ABC TV's Lateline Simon Overland came across more like PC Plod than the Victoria Police Chief Commissioner:

SIMON OVERLAND, CHIEF COMMISSIONER VICTORIA POLICE: There were other people who became involved, most of them weren't Indian, they were there for their own reasons, and I think the whole thing just got hijacked and got out of control.

RAFAEL EPSTEIN: With international attention on his officers, Simon Overland was there this morning and personally entered the crowd.

SIMON OVERLAND: We'd been in discussions with them for a long time. It got to the point where we needed to clear the intersection. So as I say, if they've been injured, I regret that, but in terms of what I saw, the police action was entirely justified and appropriate.
SIMON OVERLAND: They've made their point, they've made it very powerfully. It's a point we already understood, but they've made it to the rest of the community, and I think the rest of the community understands it. If they're not careful they'll overplay their hand and the support for them will quickly evaporate.

Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have condemned the attacks which gave rise to the protests but it's taken until tonight for the Foreign Minister to get out of the blocks and announce the establishment of a taskforce to investigate the issue . Commissioner Overland is not a member.

Better late than never but a lot of damage, some of it unnecessary, has been done to Australia's reputation as reports in, for example, The Hindu , Al Jazeera and the BBC attest.

01 June 2009

Big news day, but not for people with three university degrees

Today (give or take an hour or two) one or two new (or one new and one recycled) media outlets came on stream here.

The Punch , not to be confused with its Nigerian namesake , is a News Corp website. Its editor David Penberthy says:

The Punch is a new opinion website aimed at every Australian with a love of ideas, discussion and debate.

It’s not a fancy, la-di-dah site aimed at people with three university degrees, nor is it a site for yobbos who want to engage in mindless abuse.

It’s a place for spirited, sleeves-up, energetic, engaging commentary, written by people who enjoy writing, for people who enjoy reading.

As today’s spread of topics illustrates, The Punch is just as happy covering politics as it is covering TV, crime, music, social trends, sport, business, economics, food and fashion. Every day it will present diverse opinions from its own small team, and a rolling roster of almost 100 outside contributors, to give you real-time commentary and analysis of news and current affairs. Many of their names are published below; you will see them and others roll out over the coming fortnight.

SBS TWO (upper case) on channel 33 is the former SBS World News with some additional news, drama, documentary and (we are promised) sport content in the evenings. My EPG still confusingly lists "SBS 2" which is in fact, with channels 31, 34 and 350, an alternative SBS 1 (or ONE) : I hope the rebadging is completed soon though will visit the channel more often than I did in its previous iteration.

Several other media related stories are also worth a mention (and perhaps a post another time).

Foremost among them is Mr Murdoch's affirmation of the subscription model for online newspaper content , rather than the iTunes pay per item model which he lauded in his Boyer Lectures last year:

Rupert Murdoch has reaffirmed subscriptions, rather than pay-per-view, as his preferred future business model for online newspapers.

In an interview on the Fox Business Network, Mr Murdoch predicted newspapers would be completely digital within the next two or three years, and widely consumed on a mobile electronic device, updated every hour or two.

The chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, which owns The Weekend Australian, said newspapers would have to stop giving most of their content away online.

His comments came as two dozen or so top American newspaper executives met in Chicago this week to discuss possible online business models and the future of the troubled industry.

"There's a case that newspapers rushing on to the web to try and get a bigger audience and get more attention for themselves have damaged themselves," Mr Murdoch told Fox. "Now they're going to have to pull back from that and say, 'Hey, we're going to charge for this'."

He said one-off charges to read individual newspaper articles was not the way forward.

"I believe newspapers will be selling subscriptions on the web," Mr Murdoch said. "A (newspaper) website will be vastly improved, much more in them and you'll pay for them."

Even the sleeves up Mr Penberthy echoes the great man's voice: "If we ever did decide to charge a subscription, the fee would be reasonable, and would involve offering additional premium content, rather than blocking readers from accessing the existing site."

And another thing: The Australian's Media section reports another round in the ABC v Sky TV News war. Won't say much now except that IMO Sky has won more battles/ skirmishes than I'd have thought. More later.

29 May 2009

Private acquisition, but what about the public ?

The front page of today's Advertiser and the Adelaide Now website report a recent significant property transfer on the Fleurieu Peninsula:

The Fleurieu Peninsula's "magnificent and undervalued" land has prompted media owner Kerry Stokes to buy a spectacular 660ha coastal property.The Mt Scrub property has 2km of breathtaking coastal views at Waitpinga, adding to the 9km of coastline already owned by Mr Stokes on the neighbouring Balquhidder Station, which he bought for about $20 million in 2007.

Nigel Austin, the reporter, describes Mr Stokes' acquisition thus:

Mt Scrub, 25km from Victor Harbor, is an environmental wonderland which includes about 40ha of heritage-protected native flora and fauna.It also features the meandering Bollapurruda Creek and offers spectacular views over Waitpinga Beach, Parsons Beach, The Pages Islands and Kangaroo Island.

To those who don't know the area this may read like tourist promotion puffery, but anyone who has been in the vicinity will know that Nigel, apart from misspelling Ballaparudda Creek, is not too wide of the mark.

He has also provided some background material to place the purchase in context:

It will be run as part of the 3046ha Balquhidder Station, with cattle grazing becoming the main enterprise under Mr Stokes' ownership.Balquhidder is also considered to have major tourism and eco-tourism potential.The combined property will include several magnificent beaches and creeks. Mr Stokes, the chairman of the Seven Network and owner of a 22 per cent interest in West Australian Newspapers, also has extensive land holdings on Kangaroo Island.

If the area has " major tourism and eco-tourism potential"[how do the two differ?] would Mr Stokes, as a gesture of good faith, be willing to allow the Heysen Trail to be rerouted from its present inland detour around Balquhidder so that walkers during the relatively short May -November walking season can savour more of the "breathtaking coastal views", as Nigel so accurately describes them?

Update 1 June

The link to the SA Place Names online website appears be to functioning working sub-optimally at the moment. If you can't get through try this and see if you get the search page: http://www.placenames.sa.gov.au/pno/index.jsf

I've also included a link to the Heysen Trail and done some minor reformatting of the post.

24 May 2009

Innocent abroad?

The ABC reports

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the Government worked hard to help secure the release of Victorian woman Annice Smoel, who spent time in a Thai prison after being accused of stealing a bar mat.At the same time, Victorian Premier John Brumby has accused Thai authorities of overreacting in the case.

Ms Smoel, 36, was greeted with hugs and cheers by her four daughters and other relatives when she arrived at Melbourne Airport this afternoon.She was released late yesterday after pleading guilty to stealing a bar mat almost three weeks ago. A Thai court suspended her six-month jail sentence after the Governor of Phuket paid her $38 fine.

Mr Rudd said the Department of Foreign Affairs did a lot of work behind the scenes to secure her release.

"Helping the family, helping the individual, and negotiating quietly with the Thai authorities to make sure that this can be dealt with," Mr Rudd said. "And they've done a very good job, and I congratulate them.And I would say to the family concerned, that we're pleased that the little ones have that anxiety removed."

Mr Brumby, meanwhile, says the Thai authorities "gravely" infringed Ms Smoel's human rights when they charged and jailed her.

"To be honest, that message did get through to the Thai authorities and they saw common sense and that this was a trivial matter, that there'd been an over reaction and that a woman's rights had been gravely infringed," he said.

However Mr Brumby says he hopes the relationship between the two countries will be repaired.

Despite his propensity to bang the populist drum , I thought that Andrew Bolt had a pretty sensible take on the matter before it was resolved.

"Next time, pack some manners" was the headline of his comment after it was all over . One succinct sentence is IMO a fair comment on our times:

It strikes me that our public manners in fact no longer meet the standard required in most other countries, and improving them might make us a lot safer when we travel.

Perhaps this point could be emphasised more on the DFAT General Travel Advice web page.

Clarification 25 May 11am

The title of this post is not meant to refer to the book by Martin Indyk about peace talks in the Middle East which was the subject of an item on ABC RN Breakfast this morning.

19 May 2009

Alben who? Is this really history ?

Today's Australian reports:

World War I ended when the Treaty of Versace was signed. True or false?

Have faith, most high school students -- at least those about to hit television screens as contestants in a new history quiz show -- do not attribute the 1919 Treaty of Versailles to an Italian fashionista.

The quiz show Histrionics will be launched on Sydney community television this week, and high school students look certain to show up their parents in the home buzzer stakes.

A collaboration between the NSW History Teachers' Association and the University of Western Sydney's School of Communication Arts, the quiz show is based on the NSW history syllabus and is being billed as a creative way of inspiring students to engage with the curriculum.

The show was launched by former NSW premier and noted history buff Bob Carr yesterday, who threw at his audience some curly trivia challenges he felt sure that nobody could answer.

He was right. Nobody at yesterday's launch, academic or student alike, knew who Harry Truman's vice-president was.

I'm a history buff too, albeit nowhere near as noted as Bob Carr, yet I can't see why 21st century Australian history students should be expected to know who Harry Truman's vice-president was. If "the quiz show is based on the NSW history syllabus and is being billed as a creative way of inspiring students to engage with the curriculum" I'd like to know the contents of that syllabus and the degree to which it emphasises kmowledge of facts as opposed to understanding of broad historical changes.

Bob Carr claims elsewhere in the article that when he was Premier of NSW he, unlike his more acquiescent counterparts elsewhere, resisted pressure to abolish history as a discrete discipline. For that he deserves recognition, and perhaps even a little indulgence for promoting what looks like a frothy diversion.

PS. The Oz
doesn't answer the question it poses about Harry Truman's vice-President. I didn't know the answer: if you are curious it is here .

14 May 2009

Gruen Transfer censored by ABC management

ABC TV's program about advertising The Gruen Transfer is one of my favourites. I've also bought the season 1 DVD . One regular segment, The Pitch , sets two advertising people against each other to devise ads to sell the unsellable, eg going to war with New Zealand ('100% there for the taking"), reviving the Australian Democrats and promoting child labour. For some examples see here .

Last night's topic was Fat Pride. One of the ads, which featured four jokes which I expect most people would place somewhere on the spectrum of politically incorrect to extremely offensive, was removed from the show before it went to air. It can be viewed, prefaced by an explanatory note and a warning and followed by an extended discussion between the panel and the ad's creator here.

Here's an extract from the explanatory note:

This segment of The Gruen Transfer was scheduled to appear on the ABC-TV program on May 13, 2009. It was not approved for broadcast by the ABC. We are grateful for the ABC’s consent for us to put the material on this website, as it facilitates further debate and discussion.

This is a confronting ad. We at Gruen feel that it may be offensive to some people, but we stand by the fact that The Foundry agency made it with a considered and legitimate intent to persuade Australians to reconsider their prejudices.

It is clearly an anti-discrimination ad, an argument for tolerance, not divisiveness. As road safety advertisements sometimes use horrific accident images to make a point, so too this ad uses shock to drive home the ugliness of prejudice. It was made by a highly experienced advertising creative, winner of a Cannes Gold Lion, one of advertising’s greatest honours, for a previous anti-discrimination campaign.

As a show about advertising, we feel that it is appropriate for an audience, with fair warning, to consider and judge the ad for itself. And so we are making it available for viewing through this site.

To provide a clear context for the ad,The Foundry and JWT agencies were asked to come up with a campaign for the idea of Fat Pride, to end shape discrimination and make overweight Australians feel less humiliated by the constant public disapproval of anyone who isn’t a size 10 or under.

After watching the video and the discussion I concur with the ABC's decision to pull the ad from the program. It's not so much the end (promoting a non PC topic like Fat Pride) as the means to which I object. IMO there needs to be some link between what - images, language, content - could reasonably be shown on TV (not necessarily prime time TV). In this instance I believe that the content (the jokes) did not meet this standard, whereas the segment which was shown on the program (and which was adjudged the winner by the panel) did.

I do, however, agree that it was right to make the video and the discussion available online. The publicity which has ensued will probably see more people watching it online than would have watched the program, but everyone who does so at least makes a conscious choice to do so, for whatever reason.

04 May 2009


Today South Australia followed followed Zanzibar's lead and banned most types of plastic shopping bags .

There's been a lot of media comment about the change, much of it reiterating the Rann government line that this is a worthwhile (and worthy) exercise . A more sceptical and to my mind more accurate assessment was provided a week or so ago by Christian Kerr in The Spectator Australia.

There is nothing quite like fatuous gesture politics, particularly when one side of politics thinks that the other’s fatuous gesture deserves to be trumped with a fatuous gesture of their own. That is exactly what has happened in the state once labelled a ‘paradise of dissent’, South Australia. A ban on most kinds of plastic shopping bags has been gradually phased in from the beginning of this year. By May, a week away, retailers will be prohibited from supplying them.

South Australia is the first state to legislate for such a ban, so its environment minister Jay Weatherill has decreed that there must be an education campaign for shoppers, businesses and retail workers. ‘If they supply them it is an offence and so it’s an offence punishable by fine,’ he said. Instead of getting plastic bags to carry their shopping in, we get to carry the cost of promoting and enforcing this gimmicky new law. The local Liberal party opposed the legislation. Instead, they offered a gimmick of their own. They argued that a levy on plastic bags would be better. In other words, they wanted to tax the state’s citizenry for the privilege of carrying their shopping home.

Throughout the debate, South Australians were encouraged to believe these measures would be good for the environment. That is what Weatherill suggested when the bill passed into law last November. ‘We see millions of tonnes of these plastic bags being dumped every year across this nation,’ he said. But it is all just spin. The whole issue of plastic bags was examined in detail three years ago by an inquiry by the federal government’s main microeconomic policy review group, the Productivity Commission.

Its report, the catchily titled ‘Waste Generation and Resource Efficiency’, found fewer than one per cent of plastic bags become litter. The extent to which these bags harm wildlife, it suggested, is uncertain. The report found ‘no waste’ policies are unobtainable and lack credibility. Unsurprisingly, it also discovered that 75 per cent of households reuse their shopping bags rather than throw them away. The Productivity Commission has been accused of providing refuge for free-market fundamentalists, but it was politically savvy enough to throw a sop to the nanny-staters. The plastic bags we take home, the commission declared, also play an important role in food safety.

01 May 2009

The longest day ... 3 years on

It's three years today since the longest day of my life: 37.5 hours travelling from Adelaide to New York.

29 April 2009

Ministerial irresponsibility?

It first broke more than a week ago, but the story of former Minister for Road Safety yet still Minister for Correctional Services, Youth and Volunteers Tom Koutsantonis' progressive disclosure of his driving record still has legs, as the part-ex Minister continues to shoot himself in the foot and
the media eg the ABC , The Advertiser/Adelaide Now and today's Australian (print ed p7) to report.

South Australia's former road safety minister Tom Koutsantonis has conceded he has been off the road three times due to traffic offences.Mr Koutsantonis has told Parliament he has incurred a total of 59 traffic infringements over 14 years.He currently has nine demerit points.

He says his licence was disqualified for three months between March and June 1999 and that he has also been suspended from driving twice.

"I have twice been temporarily suspended from driving due to the late payment of traffic fines, I was suspended from 15 December 2004 to 4 February 2005 and from 26 March 2006 to 15 May 2006," he said.

"I did not drive during these periods. My licence was returned to me upon paying the outstanding fines.

"The two instances where my licence was temporarily suspended due to late payment of fines did not come to mind when I was relating my driving record to the Premier, because the suspensions were not imposed due to my driving behaviour, but for the non-payment of fines arising from my driving."

His full Ministerial statement is here .

Premier Rann has also been embarassed by the developing situation. After first standing by his man he had to backflip as further details became known.

The Advertiser/Adelaide Now recently asked all ministers and shadow ministers to disclose their traffic records. The responses make interesting reading, not least for some disingenuous statements, notably Transport, Energy and Infrastructure Minister Conlon's coyness about a drink driving conviction some years ago.

This particular virus seems to have spead interstate, if this is any guide.

Given the disclosures of the Ministers and shadow Ministers about their own road traffic lapses perhaps Minister Koutsantinos has been punished enough by being exposed to ridicule and being removed from one of his positions. I reckon this one could remain in the public mind for a long time.

Disclosure: In the last decade I have expiated three traffic light offences, and still have (I think) three demerit points which are due to expire in June.

[Photo above taken in Wakefield St Adelaide today]

Update 30 April

The Adelaide Now website now has a graphic poll online "You be the judge: What should happen to Kouts' car?"

Options range from start at pimp it and ascend through crush it ,green it, infect it, graffiti it, detonate it !

20 April 2009


In today's Age Anson Cameron predicts that loss, mainly from upstream drawing off, of Murray - Darling water wil leave Adelaide low and dry. His recommendation:

The only thing we can do is proclaim terra nullius over South Australia and evacuate the people of Adelaide to the north coast. Add her name to those of Mesopotamia, Pi-Ramesses, Atlantis, Pompeii, Troy, Carthage and Babylon and let her serve as a reminder to us of the many despoiled places from which man has withdrawn. And it must be done with kindness. Such a humble grid of sandstone chapels, there is no place like Adelaide to her people. So we must make a place like Adelaide for them; a dull, isolated town in which their solipsism can thrive.

Compensation must be paid to property owners in Adelaide by the Federal Government on the proviso it's spent buying land in a site chosen on the north coast of Australia, to be named ReAdelaide.

The people living in the best streets in Adelaide must be rehoused in the best streets in ReAdelaide, to make the relocation as painless as possible. Thus, in ReAdelaide citizen X will find citizen Y still living to his right and citizen W to his left. A neighbourhood reborn. Adelaide's familial zest will have been transported apiece, and the yap of X's poodles will discommode Y and W anew in the tropical gloaming.

Some will want to stay. Crones clinging to the graves of their men and the memories of Christmases past will declare Adelaide their sacred site and chain themselves to their Hills hoists and barricade themselves in their wine cellars. We must not winkle them out with the long arm of the law. More compassionate to let them expire at their own pace in their unlit dilapidation, surrounded by the ghosts of those they loved.

Adelaide must be maintained when her people are gone. Caretakers must be employed and guards placed at her entrances to ward off tomb raiders. She must be preserved so that, in centuries to come, the City of Churches will rank as an archaeological wonder to rival the Valley of the Kings, and tour buses will shuttle Sydney under-12s to the Adelaide Oval to pirouette in wonder at the blue sky through which Bradman once lofted sixes.

But that is her future. Maggie Beer is their queen and should have the honour of being last to leave. And just as Boabdil, the last Moorish king of Granada, looked down on that city from the Puerto del Suspiro del Moro and sighed as the Moors left Spain forever, Maggie might gaze down from the Adelaide Hills similarly bereft and exhale a foie-gras-scented sigh over the empty streets of that town and the future of her people.

06 April 2009

Overseas contingency operations

The Australian's Cut and Paste section has an interesting take on the US government's redefining of what has hitherto been called "the global war on terror" or "terrorism". The new term is "overseas contingency operations"

A couple of pastes:

New York Post on March 25:

THE Obama administration has ordered an end to use of the phrase "Global War on Terror," a label adopted by the Bush administration shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. In a memo sent this week from the Defence Department to staffers at the Pentagon, members were told, "this administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror' (GWOT). Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation'." A Pentagon spokesman said there was no memo or directive instructing officials to stop using the Global War on Terror phrase but acknowledged that the department has officially adopted Overseas Contingency Operation as the new term for the war.

Craig W. Duehring, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower, also used the term last week. "Key battlefield monetary incentives has allowed the Air Force to meet the demands of overseas contingency operations even as requirements continue to grow," he said in congressional testimony.

Wall Street Journal editorial on Saturday:

THE 9/11 Commission counselled clarity, the new administration is emitting a haze of obfuscation. The Pentagon's preferred term is "overseas contingency operations", a bit of military jargon of which "overseas" is the only part recognisable in plain English, and which obscures the key point that the war -- sorry, the "operations" -- began in earnest only after terrorists attacked American cities. Yet Mr Obama's policies so far have been much more hawkish than his rhetoric as a candidate. He has abandoned his pledge to withdraw immediately from Iraq and has merely reiterated his promise to close Guantanamo. In court, he has hewed closely enough to Mr Bush's positions on secrecy, surveillance and detention to prompt an agonised New York Times editorial. The one foreign policy promise Mr Obama has kept is the one the far Left finds hardest to swallow: a troop surge in Afghanistan. Maybe, then, the President's hope is that the MoveOn types will settle for words in the absence of real change. If so, we suppose the rhetorical smoke is a small price to pay, even if the euphemisms for war and terrorism sound ridiculous.

Criticism of tender continues

The discussion (mostly critical) continues.

ABC TV's Insiders showed some clips of Minister for Employment Participation O'Connor (a title which is looking more Orwellian by the day) stumbling over some answers to questions about the tender outcomes.

Elsewhere on the ABC website Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has a succinct and IMO incisive analysis of the situation. Worth reading it all, but here's a longish extract:

The previous government privatised the Commonwealth Employment Service to create the Job Network - by outsourcing its services to a mixture of community based non-for-profit organisations, Australian based for-profit companies and one or two international for-profit companies. In 2002 a Productivity Commission into the manner in which Job Network services were being outsourced concluded that this was not an efficient way to run a tender process.

The Rudd Government has continued the outsourcing of these services this week - now re-badged as Employment Services Australia - but the process now seems to have gone totally off the rails. The decisions on these contracts announced in the last couple of days show neither rhyme nor reason. It is fair enough to change providers if a quality service is not being provided but this does not seem to have been the basis for the decision making of the Government. Some of the highest rated providers (4 and 5 stars) have been overlooked, and in some cases have seen their services handed over to other providers from different regions whose services have rated poorly (1 or 2 stars). We have also seen a couple of large overseas commercial providers brought in - including A4e from the UK.

The community sector is understandably upset by the inequity and lack of logic of the outcomes - but the thing that has rankled more has been the manner in which the process has been run. Having had to submit complex and time consuming submissions, there appears to have been little cross-checking of claims and evaluation of the capacity to deliver a particular service in a particular location, and service quality.

Over the last two weeks, organisations have struggled to get any useful information from the department - they have not been contacted and informed about the status of their applications and have been given the run around when seeking information. Many are still struggling to get an understanding of exactly what the on the ground impacts of these decisions will be. This makes things particularly difficult when they are bound to give staff advance notification of whether or not their jobs will soon be terminated.

The whole process has undermined the relationship between the Government and the community sector right at the time when this relationship is crucial to their ability to tackle the impacts of the financial crisis on those most at risk. It has undermined their trust and is likely to have derailed the discussions of a 'compact' with the sector ... and left their much vaunted 'social inclusion' policy in tatters.

This is the kind of ignorance that can only creep into government departments which have spent over a decade managing contracts rather than actually delivering services. It is clear that DEEWR hasn't engaged in or simply doesn't get the 'whole-of-government' approach to 'joined-up-policy' and 'wrap around services'.

The results of the tender process demonstrates that the values underpinning the tender focused much more heavily on the false God of the market rather than the values of equity, sustainability and community, despite Mr Rudd's recent comments.

How else could you decide to redirect your funds away from your best performing employment services at a time when the nation is sliding into recession and unemployment rates are expected to go through the roof?

As unemployment rises dramatically, these services will be at the front line. Local community based providers are best placed to develop the innovative programs that will be needed with high unemployment and few new jobs.

Well put!

Elsewhere The Australian and Indaily report the opposition's call for a senate inquiry.

03 April 2009

2,500 jobs lost in network revamp

The results of the Job Services Australia tender have been announced. They should be available online here though at the moment the official website is down just as, The Australian reports, it was yesterday at a crucial time:

Hundreds of employment service providers across Australia have lost their government contracts under a $4 billion overhaul of the Job Network, forcing up to 2500 staff to join dole queues with their clients.

But an embarrassing crash on the website of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, which was to list the successful tenderers for new employment services, angered the providers, with some still unsure of where they stood last night.

Major church providers of social services have called for an independent review of the process for allocating the contracts, following the release of the Jobs Services Australia deals.

"Today's decision challenges the nature of the relationship between the Government and the non-profit sector, which increasingly provides outsourced social services," said Frank Quinlan, director of Catholic Social Services Australia.

More than a quarter of the job agencies -- up to 100 businesses -- missed out on contracts.

The biggest losers were the Wesley Mission, the Salvation Army, Sarina Russo Job Access and Mission Australia, which between them will slash several hundred jobs.

The Government's claims that two new British providers would take only 2 per cent of the market were blown away after it emerged that a US job agency in the system, MAX Employment, increased its business share.

The Age and the ABC have also reported the decision(s). Misha Schubert in The Age comments

Staff at two top-rated agencies in the electorates of those driving Labor's shake-up of services to help the jobless find work are heading for unemployment themselves.

Shock waves were felt across the industry yesterday as hundreds of workers, including those at the Salvation Army and Wesley Mission, were told their agencies had lost contracts in the shift to the new system devised by the federal Government.

But Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard insisted that staff whose agencies would fold would be in great demand by other firms that had won contracts to train and find work for the jobless in their local areas.


Djerriwarrh employment and education services acting chief executive Trish Heffernan was also stunned after telling 36 workers — 26 of them permanent — that they would have to look for jobs.

"The staff are incredibly disappointed and concerned about their futures," she said.

Lisa Fowkes, chief executive of Job Futures, a network of community-based groups in the sector, said many agencies with strong track records that had not been awarded contracts in a "flawed process" that relied too heavily on paperwork and not enough on results.

"I can only imagine that what has happened is that the reliance has been on words on a page rather than the reality of service delivery in the community," she said. "I think that in future, it will be really important to test the claims of tenderers in terms of whether they have those local connections, grassroots knowledge and connections to make the services work."

Asked if she was comfortable about any job losses, Ms Gillard sought to reassure staff.

"Of course there will be some change, but for people who work in a service now and that service hasn't succeeded, there will obviously be new opportunities in their locality for the services that have succeeded in the tender round," she told ABC2.

But Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull was scathing about the process, which he deemed a "colossal bungle".

"What a shambles that is," he said. "Hundreds of people being thrown out of work, instability in the whole employment services area precisely at the time where you need continuity and commitment. Again, one bungle after another."

I know a bit about Djerriwarrh, a lean, not-for-profit organisation with a considerable track record of serving job seekers and other disadvantaged people in outer western Melbourne. I'd like to know on what criteria they failed to measure up to the other applicants. Probably having a strong connection to the local community was not one of them.

01 April 2009

The fourth month begins

Guardian has a piece acknowledging the significance of the first day of this month.

No quotes, just click on the link.

GG under scrutiny again

In The Australian Malcolm Colless reports that some eyebrows have been raised by the Governor-General's recent activities .

Kevin Rudd may feel comfortable with an interventionist governor-general but this view is by no means unanimous within his ministry.

In fact a number of ministers are known to be not just concerned but angered by Governor-General Quentin Bryce's involvement in the affairs of government. The fact that no one has apparently conveyed this to the Prime Minister is more a reflection of the autocratic way Rudd runs his ministry than the level of concern about politicising the role of Australia's head of state. "Voicing disapproval of the Prime Minister's judgment on this issue, even in private, would be tantamount to committing political suicide. But it is nevertheless outrageous," one senior minister told The Australian.

Reluctance to buy into this may have also been influenced by persistent rumours in Canberra that Rudd is likely to reshuffle his ministry after thebudget.

Attention is at present focused on Bryce's 10-nation, 19-day lobbying tour through Africa to drum up support for Rudd's push to gain a non-permanent seat for Australia on the UN Security Council. But ministers are still bristling over the unprecedented private briefing she ordered in February from the heads of the departments of Foreign Affairs and Treasury and the head of the defence forces, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston.

Presumably the relevant ministers signed off on these security briefings and received the Prime Minister's blessing before they took place.

But after media reports about the meetings at least one other senior minister issued a blunt instruction that any request from Yarralumla for departmental briefings should be unambiguously declined.

Whether this justifies calling Ms Bryce an "interventionist" G-G is questionable.

Regarding Ms Bryce's trip to Africa, the program on her website isn't detailed enough to draw many firm conclusions from.

An itinerary including fuller details of all meetings etc would have helped.

Many of her appearances, eg laying a wreath at a war memorial in Dar es Salaam, receiving Botswana's Senior Female Minister and Minister for Local Government (one and the same person) and attending a morning tea with "prominent Kenyan women", seem to be the sort of things you'd expect the Queen to do. Therefore it should be appropriate for our G-G, as the Queen's rep here, to do the same.

But of course it raises other questions such as why the representative of our "real" according to the Constitution) head of state rather than the head of state herself should be making such a tour. A (minor?) anomaly in our current constitutional arrangements.

30 March 2009

Australia to become "bleeding edge" in employment services delivery?

In today's Australian Nicola Berkovic and Dennis Shanahan report that other voices, notably Tony Abbott, have weighed into the debate about the next round of Job Network tenders

The Coalition has urged the Rudd Government to consider suspending its $2 billion Job Network tender, warning that thousands of people would miss out on retraining and assistance in finding work as the dole queues lengthened.

Opposition community services spokesman Tony Abbott said many of the 600,000 clients of the Job Network would miss out on crucial services because of government bungling.

"A very large percentage of Job Network sites are going to be closing down in the next couple of months," he told the Ten Network.There will virtually be no Job Network services in these sites in the three months it takes to close the existing ones and the further six months to start up new sites."

In the past week, some of Australia's biggest and best-performing job agencies have been told they have lost their government business to provide employment services to the unemployed, as two new British providers enter the market.

Employment Minister Julia Gillard yesterday defended the Government's handling of the tender, saying it was being conducted at arm's length and that it would be improper for her to interfere.

"I'm not interfering with the tender round," she said."It's being done properly, at a distance from political figures like me."

On ABC RN Breakfast this morning Sally Sinclair, CEO of the peak industry body NESA , held her cards close to her chest as she was interviewed by Fran Kelly (can be heard here )

At one point Sinclair said the current system was"mired in red tape". Later she asserted that Australia was at the "leading edge" in the provision of employment services then, in an unfortunate choice of phrase given the likelihood of redundancies among workers in the industry, that it could be "the bleeding edge". Hmm.

Note:Ms Sinclair recently delivered a presentation at a conference in Vienna in which she spoke in favour of stronger business involvement in employment services: see here and here .

26 March 2009

Shambolic security

The Australian asks more questions about the deficiencies in airport security revealed by events at Sydney Airport:

Why were police notified of the deadly bikie brawl only after receiving a 000 call from a member of the public?

Given the density of closed-circuit television cameras scattered throughout the airport terminal - supposedly one of Australia's most secure - why did the first police officers arrive after the 15-minute brawl was over and most of the attackers had fled?

And, crucially, why were no police on hand at gate five to escort the bikies away as they arrived off a Melbourne flight? It's now known Qantas cabin crew had expressed concern about the potential for strife during the flight to Sydney.

Respected security analyst Alan Behm thinks he has some answers. There was a security failure on Sunday; a man was killed at the airport, he says. But deploying more police to the airport is simply a knee-jerk reaction to a more complex problem, Behm tells The Australian.

Airport security at Sydney and most other capital cities across Australia is geared to prevent an act of terrorism on board a plane, he says. It all depends where you want to put the focus of your security measures: on the air side of the passenger security screening barrier or the public concourse.

"I think the solution really is to maximise the protections you've already got with the (screening) barriers by having the police on the air side rather than the public side, if not apprehending, then intervening, before those thugs got on to the public concourse after getting off the plane," Behm says.

Security protocols for an aircraft captain to radio ahead and warn of an onboard incident exist, which raises concerns about why this was not put to good effect on Sunday.

"It's a question of whether the message was put into that system. Did the purser say to the aircraft captain, 'We have a potential issue here, could you warn security?' I suspect not," Behm says.

There are suggestions police should have apprehended the bikies in the passenger departure area, but this would have posed a serious danger to the public.

"Police can't just get their weapons out and start shooting. They can't go throwing tear gas and stuff around, and even if the police went up against 12 blokes wielding these big steel bars, there's every chance they would have got beaten s--less."

Behm and fellow terrorism expert Clive Williams, of Macquarie University, agree with Keelty that police response times, on being notified of the incident, were acceptable. But it is unrealistic to expect unarmed Qantas security staff to intervene in a bikie brawl, Williams says.

At least one Qantas security official did have the presence of mind to record the numberplates of taxis departing with fleeing gang members, he says.

"He did the right thing. The police arrived essentially after these people (bikies) had fled," Williams says.

"The problem with this bikie violence is that the kind of violence these police at the airport are trained for is terrorism related and not so much gang violence. Obviously there's going to be a need to look at bikie violence more generally, not only in an airport context but the kinds of activities they are engaging in nationally, where there are wars going on between their factions."


Concerns about security at Sydney airport are not new. In 2005 Allan Kessing, a former Customs airport security officer at Sydney airport, was convicted for leaking a highly damaging report about serious security breaches to this newspaper. The report dealt with a range of security concerns including the criminal records of baggage handlers, luggage theft and drug trafficking.

His actions spurred the Howard government to implement a far-reaching probe into airport security, the Wheeler report, which resulted in more rigorous security measures being implemented across the country.

But the bikie brawl has again raised concerns that more needs to be done.

AFP officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say one area requiring immediate attention is better agreement on airport policing functions involving the AFP and their NSW Police counterparts.

"State police don't want to listen to advice from the AFP; they want to run their own race," one AFP source tells The Australian.

While the AFP has prime responsibility for security at Sydney airport, that does not include the monitoring of the CCTV cameras, a state police role.

The issue of agreement on police roles is a problem, says former Sydney Airport Corporation chief executive Tony Stewart. The AFP believed its main role was counter-terrorism, while NSW Police focused on other areas of crime, he told ABC radio.

"The weak link is the demarcation between whether this was an anti-terrorism incident or a crime incident and somebody was probably looking at the rule book, saying it's the other guy's problem," he said.

In his first comments on the airport violence, Kevin Rudd yesterday pledged "zero tolerance" for bikie crime.

"This sort of behaviour by bikies and others engaged in organised criminal activity is unacceptable in Australia, absolutely unacceptable," the Prime Minister said soon after arriving in Washington, DC. State and commonwealth attorneys-general would discuss a co-ordinated response to the bikie menace at their next meeting, he promised.

Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus says the federal Government has ordered an investigation into the adequacy of the AFP's response on Sunday in addition to a national audit of police officers deployed at airports.