12 November 2010

Remembrance Day

Have been overseas, hence no posts for some time.

Yesterday was Remembrance Day, aka 11 November, Armistice Day and (in the USA) Veterans' Day.

Here are two pics showing that while the day is still widely observed the manner of its observation changes.

I bought my poppy from the Chelsea pensioner who kindly allowed me to take her photo at Sloane Square tube station on 1 November.

The other photo shows the England and South Australian cricket teams observing a minute's silence at 11am local time yesterday. The match was interrupted to allow this to take place. (Is the pic clear enough for you to tell the difference between one teams's whites and the other's creams?)

11 September 2010

Former PM demoted to Foreign Minister, former Finance Minister lands good job

Photo taken today in a local car park. A reminder of how things change. Without necessarily remaining quite the same.

Today Prime Minister Gillard announced her new ministry , which includes Mr Rudd as Foreign Minister. I find it odd that the Kevin07 who led Labor to victory and then, in the opinion of the party's backroom people, had to be deposed because he ineptly took his party to the brink of defeat, has been restored to a senior cabinet position, one where the very qualities he was supposed to lack - ability to listen, consult and communicate effectively - must surely be mandatory.

At least the longwinded Mr Oakeshott hasn't accepted the cabinet post he so unwisely angled for and even more unwisely even thought - for several days - about accepting. A letter writer in today's Australian offered this suggestion "stick a wind turbine in front of Rob Oakeshott's mouth. His long-winded responses will secure our power supply for years to come."

And Mr Tanner, who was Finance Minister until a few days ago has wasted no time in securing a very good position in the private sector. This stinks. He should have to wait for at least a year before doing this.

08 September 2010


The Independents have spoken (Mr Oakeshott at great length) and we now have a Labor minority government with Julia Gillard confirmed as Prime Minister (and Mr Abbott, despite his disappointment, graciously acknowledging this).

Expert opinion is divided as to whether the government will last a full three year term. Mr Windsor has stated that a major reason for his decision to support the ALP was that he thought a Coalition government would be more inclined to call - and to win - an early election. We can therefore assume that he and his locquacious colleague Mr Oakeshott's survival instincts will prevail. Whether the new regime (or "paradigm")'s conditions such as weekly meetings with the PM will, as the ALP's election campaign mantra put it, enable the country to move forward is another thing.

27 August 2010

Pakistan floods: how Australians can help

Today ABC radio is conducting an appeal for relief of the Pakistan floods devastation. The lead agency/beneficiary is UNICEF but the ABC website has links to several other charities.

Speaking of the ABC, Sally Sara and her support team have been doing an excellent job bringing the magnitude of the disaster to Australian viewers. In doing so they have justified the ABC's extensive network of foreign correspondents.

Despite some concerns about threats to western aid agencies from the Taliban Sally has reported that relief work will continue . Other Australians with links to or experience of Pakistan, for example Ian Chappell, have also lent their support.

As do I, though I've never been to Pakistan..

22 August 2010

Hung Parliament

A late night last night watching the election results come in and the media pundits attempting to draw conclusions and make predictions about the outcome.

My prediction about the result was wrong, though not too wide of the mark. Neither the ALP nor the Coalition look like getting the 76 lower house seats required to form a government in their own right. It's generally assumed that both Adam Bandt, the Green elected in Melbourne, and Andrew Wilkie, the green tinged Independent who looks to have won in Denison Tasmania, will support Labor so so the focus is now on the three re-elected rural Independents, Messrs Bob Katter from North Queensland, Rob Oakeshott from the north coast of NSW and Tony Windsor from New England NSW.

How this will pan out is anyone's guess: even Mr "Whatever it takes" Graham Richardson is reluctant to stick his neck out too far. All of which means we'll be waiting for a few more days - let's hope it's no more than this - to see who can cobble together a majority.

TV coverage

I switched between the ABC and Sky News TV coverage, with some interludes watching Pakistan edge to victory against England in the Test and the Crows just failing to hang on aganist Collingwood.

Both ABC and Sky IMO did a good job though my vote (if that's necessary) would go to the ABC, mainly because of Antony Green's computer updating and projections.

20 August 2010

Election Eve

Since I last posted I've not changed my mind about the result, which, taking my lead from the many published polls and proliferation of expert and other (set the boundaries if you wish) opinion, is that the Government will be returned, probably narrowly.

That said the coalition has held fairly firm and Mr Abbott has come across as a better leader and more plausible PM than I expected.

If the polls are to be believed support for Ms Gillard as PM has abated a little, as appears to have displeasure at the underhand means by which she took office. Kevin Rudd may have slid down the slope of ineptitude during his term of office but nobody in the ALP has plausibly denied that both the current PM and her deputy were significant parts of the problems. Whether the refashioned Labor, minus Lindsay Tanner and with Kevin Rudd awaiting his mistress' pleasure it will be interesting to see how many other ructions follow whatever happens tomorrow.

I've not yet finally decided which way I'll vote but you may get some indication of the drift f my thinking from the foregoing.

19 July 2010

Election 2010

I'm not trying to be the last Australian blogger to comment on the election which Prime Minister Gillard has called for 21 August (or "August 21" as she called it, North American fashion, on Saturday). I'll follow the campaign with interest though expect that most of my comments (and I'm not proposing to make many) will be in short form ie Twitter (@Pathfinder79).

For now I'll just say (and I'm certainly not the first to do so) that it's a long time between now and then yet on present indications, viz opinion polls and today's decision by the Greens to direct their preferences to Labor, the government will be returned.

04 July 2010

Double ineptitude: BankSA and CGU Insurance's negligence shafts longstanding customer

For the last few weeks I have suffered at the hands of BankSA and CGU insurance.

Here is an edited summary of my claim against them.

1. I am a longstanding customer of Bank SA.

2. I have been a CGU Insurance Customer for several years and currently hold Home & Contents and Motor Vehicle Insurance policies. I have previously held travel insurance and other motor vehicle policies.

3. Bank SA and CGU Insurance hold themselves out to be a single entity: for example Bank SA branch staff wear both Bank SA and CGU logos on their uniforms.

4.In May 2010 I purchased a motor vehicle. When I arranged for a Bank SA bank cheque to complete the purchase I also took out CGU Insurance Policy No 23B 1490698 00. I opted to pay the premium, as I had done with every other CGU motor vehicle and home/ contents policy I’ve ever held, by monthly instalments from my Bank SA savings account.

5. On 1 June 2010 I received an unsigned letter dated 27/05/2010 from CGU which said in part:

We have been advised by your financial institution that an instalment of $43.00 for your insurance premium could not be drawn on 23/05/2010 due to insufficient funds.

This statement is false. At the time I had several hundred dollars in the account from which I had authorised the money to be drawn.

6. On receipt of the letter I went directly to the Bank SA Norwood Branch. Staff there looked into the matter and, I believe, contacted CGU. The Norwood staff said that Banks SA/CGU had somehow attempted to access an online savings account (which had a balance on many thousands of dollars) instead of the one I had instructed them to do. I was told that everything had been rectified/ I requested to transfer the $43.00 then and there but was told that the alleged arrears would be deducted on 23 June.

7. On 28 June 2010 I rang CGU to request them to review my premium to take account of the towbar which I’d had fitted to my car. D, the CGU representative with whom I spoke, was unable to provide this information on the spot but said that she would ring be back the next day with it. Before I rang off I asked D to confirm that the payment which I’d authorised and instructed Bank SA to make on 23 June had gone through. She looked into the matter and reported that it had not. I asked to be transferred to the CGU complaints department. D would not do so but said that she’d pass on a message and that would get someone to telephone me before she got back to me the following day.

8. On 29 June D rang me back with details of the premium adjustment. When I asked her about BankSA/CGU contravening my instructions after some discussion she put me through to S. S looked into the matter, confirmed that everything I’d said was correct and admitted that somehow my bank account details had been incorrectly transcribed (apparently one digit was wrong!). She offered an oral apology and gave an undertaking to send a written and signed apology and retraction to me as soon as possible. Given the seriousness of my allegations and concerns and the effusiveness of her apology, I took this to mean within the next business day.

9. On 2 July I received, not the letter which S had undertaken to send, but another unsigned letter from CGU dated 28/06/2010 (ie the same day as I’d alerted D) stating

Our attempts to withdraw instalment insurance premiums from your nominated account as requested by you have been unsuccessful on two or more consecutive occasions.

This statement is false, for the reasons stated above.

The letter continued by cancelling my monthly instalments and demanding payment of the full premium within 14 days on pain of cancellation of the policy.

10. Because of BankSA/CGU’s negligence and prevarication I have been reluctant to use my car.as I am not confident that, should circumstances arise which may lead to a claim, either or both parties would honour their obligations.

11. I have suffered loss due to Bank SA and CGU’s negligence. Because of their close commercial relationship and the circumstances outlined above I consider that they are jointly and severally liable to compensate me for my loss.

Update 5 July

Today went to BankSA. Delivered statement (see above) , discussed issues with customer service (ie low level) staff. Agreed to take phone call tomorrow from middle manager. Oh, and still no letter as promised by CGU 6 days ago.

Update 6 July

Wheels are turning. Had phone calls from BankSA and CGU which if I believe them (and my internal jury is still out on that one) may produce some sort of resolution. After all the stuffing around I'd hope that both organisations will change their practices so that mistakes like this don't occur as often as they must do given all the CGU insurance customers recruited by BankSA.

24 June 2010

Backroom machinations lead to change of PM

As The New York Times put it succinctly

Party officials decided to replace Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his deputy, Julia Gillard, who becomes the nation’s first female prime minister.

This came as a surprise. The Rudd government has clearly been in trouble with public opinion lately but I'd have thought (and hoped) that he and his inner circle would have been put on notice to improve. What has happened is a cabinet reshuffle with Mr Rudd ruthlessly dispatched (to where isn't quite clear) by a combination of Labor Party and union machinations with Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan etc moving up a notch or two.

I watched events unfold on TV, alternating between the ABC and Sky. The ABC had more people on the ground and in front of the camera (Kerry O'Brien a noteworthy exception); Sky used more voiceovers but, perhaps because it's used to covering events like this, IMO it gave the public broadcaster a good run for its money.

Both networks seemed to cover the day's major events, including Kevin Rudd's farewell speech.
His family stood by his side as he worked his way slowly, and with several lengthy pauses, through his notes. It left a bitter taste in my mouth: I tweeted suggesting that someone should pull the plug on him, not to stop him speaking but as an act of kindness if not mercy. While his words quite properly referred to what he considered his achievements, the images on the screen often reminded me of those of someone found guilty at a show trial in a dictatorship such as Stalin's Russia.

Has the combination of party factional and union ruthlessness and the media's hunger for good images brought us to this?

14 June 2010

Honours recipients support republic

Today is a public holiday in South Australia, ostensibly for the Queen's birthday.

As far as I can tell nobody who's entitled to the day off has refused the offer because of their republican principles. I expect that people (an increasing number) who rely on casual work may have opted to spend a day or part thereof at the coalface (or waiting on the bistro table) to help make ends meet.

Nor, to the best of my knowledge and belief, has anyone who was awarded an honour in the Queen's Birthday honours list which was published today rejected their award. But this hasn't stopped several of them from criticising our current constitutional arrangements .

It's easy to suggest other names who could (perhaps should) be included in the Honours list. Yet what strikes me, without naming recipients' names, is that it's easier to receive an award if you are either a prominent business person or a longserving officeholder in a (usually non profit) community based organisation who has acquiesced in the changes (supported by all major parties) which have made it easier for private sector (and often offshore) organisations to come in and take over government funded for services eg employment placement.

Perhaps it's time to create a Wiki Honours list where people can nominate prospective recipients without having to go through the labyrithine processes required to get one's name in the paper on Australia Day or the Queen's Birthday

Honours recipients support republic | Adelaide Now

04 June 2010

Victoria to get ICAC as Premier backflips: will SA follow suit?

I've been on a brief visit to Melbourne. Yesterday morning I was pleasantly surprised to see the story about Premier Brumby's "backflip" on the front page of The Age

Just six months out from the state poll, the Premier has dumped his staunch opposition to a commission and will install an anti-corruption system with sweeping powers to investigate police, members of parliament, public servants and judges.

But the new Victorian Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission will hold most of its hearings in private and the new integrity system will curtail the powers of the Ombudsman.

Mr Brumby has long argued independent corruption commissions were a ''lawyers' picnic'' but yesterday said an integrity review by former senior public servant Elizabeth Proust calling for a commission had changed his mind.

The obvious question for South Australia is: will the Premier follow suit? As the last Rann man standing so it's hard to see him holding out for much longer.

30 May 2010

Dennis Hopper dies aged 74

Vale Dennis, man of many talents, not all of which he used wisely, though in movies like Easy Rider and Apocalypse Now he showed his class.

Earlier this year I saw the excellent exhibition about his life and work at ACMI in Melbourne. Until then I hadn't realised what a good photographer he was or that his acting career reached back to the time of James Dean.

Update 1 June

Of all the interesting stories which have emerged (or been dusted off) in the last few days is one claiming that Dennis was once sounded out about playing Doctor Who

21 March 2010

Labor likely to be able to govern in own right after SA election

The ABC reports

South Australian Premier Mike Rann is in a strong position to deliver the Labor Party a third term in government despite a voter backlash. Mr Rann and Liberal leader Isobel Redmond both said the result was too close to call on the night. But Mr Rann is the frontrunner with the ABC's election computer predicting Labor is set to hold 25 seats in the 47-seat House of Assembly. The Liberals are forecast to hold 18, with four Independents.

In a hubristic echo of (or cribbing from) Paul Keating Mr Rann said he hoped to be able to claim the "sweetest victory"

19 March 2010

Election eve

I've followed the ups and downs of the state election campaign probably more closely than most voters, though nowhere near as closely as those who post regularly and sometimes argumentatively on blogs and websites such as The Poll Bludger. I have tweeted a few times @Pathfinder79, usually with links to articles and, space permitting, sometimes a comment.

The consensus among the experts (both generally acknowledged and self-appointed) is that Labor will scrape back in, without having to negotiate with independents or other parties (read National) . Here'san example

For a succinct summary of some of the wider issues see this by Peter Van Onselen in The Australian

Along with Tasmania, SA lags behind other states on most national economic indicators. Its share of the national economy has declined from the levels Labor inherited in 2002. Its share of gross domestic product is below the national average. Business investment is relatively sluggish and its population share is declining, with growth rates slower than all other states except Tasmania. On the face of it, this sounds like a recipe for removing a government.

The Liberal Party wants to use these indicators to condemn Labor as having failed South Australians during its eight years in power. As is often the case in politics, the situation isn't that simple.

On each of the above indicators the rate of decline in SA was substantially higher eight years ago than it is now.

In other words, while Rann hasn't managed to transform the state from an economic laggard to a miracle economy, he has made important headway to improving long-term prosperity.

I and, I suspect,.many other voters think that Labor has overdone the spin. As an example consider the matter of Lance Armstrong and the Tour Down Under in 2009. It took the New York Times ,not a local media outlet, which revealed that the fee paid to Armstrong was not donated to charity, as the government had claimed, but pocketed by the great man (I'm not referring to the Premier).

The US Boulder Report explained how something which could have been handled positively backfired and added to the growing public perception that the government was being economical with the truth:

It’s less the donation than the secrecy surrounding it that seems strange and excessive. As Adelaide Now reported, the South Australia Tourism Commission just got a $1.506 million boost to its budget from the state government, even as Rann said that wasn’t related to Armstrong’s appearance fee.

Armstrong has every right to ask for personal appearance fees. And just as he has every right to solicit donations to his foundation, (most) donors have every right to keep those donations private. But ones made with taxpayer dollars, in an ostensibly democratic and open government, fit a different standard of disclosure. And, a governmental partnership of any kind is the thing you’d think they’d be proud to discuss, particularly since the money may end up right back in the Australian public health system. There shouldn’t be anything about this that’s shameful, but the tight-lipped approach creates needless drama.

The Liberal campaign has not been gaffe-free either but Ms Redmond seems to have been able to put most of her messages across. It's a very tall order for the Liberals to make up all the ground they've lost at the last two elections, but the evidence of polls etc suggests they'll make up a lot of it. We shall see.

06 March 2010

Can I just try that again, it's a little bit jumbled?

On Friday South Australian ABC TV Stateline viewers were short changed by a sudden (and unexplained) truncation of a debate between Treasurer Foley and Shadow Treasurer Griffiths.What went to air (including presenter Ian Henschke's apparent lack of awareness of what had happened) can be viewed here. .

Despite the ABC's ineptitude, what it did screen was interesting for a number of reasons, not least that Mr Foley sounded more like a Liberal than a Labor politician. Mr Rann hardly got a mention, though the Premier did appear in some introductory material (at 1:35). What was more surprising was that Foley praised Mr Howard and Mr Costello (eg at 6:30), and said that he was happy to engage some of their former staffers for the $2.5m budget review body which he plans to set up after the election. To cap it all, when the mild mannered Mr Griffiths took issue with one of his points, the Treasurer accused him (at 8:17) of acting like an old style Labor treasurer!

While Mr Foley had none of the makeup malfunction which may have lessened the Premier's impact during the Leaders' debate earlier in the week, he wasn't always on top of his material. At one point, when trying to explain the effects of the GFC on the state's finances he recognised that he'd lost it and asked (at 4:59) "Can I just try that again, it's a little bit jumbled?". A little later (at 7:23) he had a Mrs Malaprop moment: "We haven't prescripted [sic]anything".

And Mr Griffiths? He may not have scored many points but in my opinion he didn't do himself or his party too much harm. Check out the video and decide for yourself.

Update 8 March

A longer version of the debate, presumably the one which was intended to go to air on Friday, is now available here . It has cut out some of the preliminary material and appears to include the full original debate. It also makes my timings above inaccurate. It shows Mr Foley in full attack mode and Mr Griffiths, who stumbled over the names of taxes, more defensive.

I can't find any reference on the ABC website to the fact that this was not the version shown on Friday. This is inexcusable (and Orwellian). I'm not saying that the first version should stand but that the ABC, whose fault it was, should point out that what viewers saw on Friday night is not what internet users can see now. If it means two versions so be it.

Update 9 March

This is now on the SA Stateline website:

This debate failed to air on the program due to technical difficulties. The version here was screened in Stateline's Saturday repeat timeslot.

It is wrong to claim that the debate "failed to air on the program". Also the "version here" implies that there are other versions. I know of at least one other version, but how many are there?

There is still (6.00pm CST) no transcript. Wonder why.

Further update 10 March

In today's Crikey (scroll down until you reach the item) Alan Sunderland, Head of National Programs ABC News replied. He conceded that Friday's Stateline was "interrupted by technical difficulties" but claimed that the ABC "fixed the problem and the full show aired the following day in the normal repeat timeslot".

He then added
"Although it is indeed standard practice to add an Editor’s Note explaining any changes from the program that went to air, we would not routinely note that a technical glitch had occurred. However, to remove any confusion or uncertainty during an election campaign, an explanatory note is being added to the program website."

The explanatory note is now on the program website:

Foley v Griffiths on SA economics

Source: Stateline South Australia

Published: Friday, March 5, 2010 8:58 AEDT

Expires: Thursday, June 3, 2010 8:58 AEDT

Treasurer Kevin Foley and shadow treasurer Steven Griffiths debate economic policy for the March 20 poll in SA. This debate failed to air on the program due to technical difficulties. The version here was screened in Stateline's Saturday repeat timeslot.

This incorrectly states that the program “failed to air” – only some of it did -and shows that the boundary between the technical and editorial matters can easily become blurred, especially during an election campaign.

Other ABC News Sites state when stories are updated: why can’t Stateline’s?

Oh, and there's still no transcript online. Due to "technical difficulties", Mr Sutherland?

07 February 2010

Committee and people choose different Words of the Year

Macquarie Dictionary's Word of the Year 2009 (chosen by a Committee) is shovel-ready, It means, according to the report on the website " adjective: (of a building or infrastructure project) capable of being initiated immediately as soon as funding is assured."

I can't see why tweet didn't win: in fact it (at least the verb) did win the People's Choice Award . (The Committee did at least give it an "honourable mention").

Neither term is peculiarly Australian but surely tweet is much more widely used. It was (as both noun and verb) chosen (by a committee) as the American Dialect Society's 2009 Word of theYear .

Perhaps the Macquarie Committee, a member of which is Les Murray (much of whose poetry has a distinctly Australian voice) felt it needed to distance itself from the Yanks and any perception of linguistic cringe.

Shovel-ready (which IMO is two words: a Google search will show some support for this view) sounds as like a term chosen by a committee. Despite being first used (or popularised) by President Obama it doesn't seem to have caught on to the same degree as tweet.

Anyone like to put money on which of the two terms we'll be using most in a year (or 6 months)?

04 February 2010

Court rules in favour of David over Goliath re copyright

"Film industry loses iiNet download case" reports ABC News.

The case against iiNet was filed in the Federal Court by a number of applicants including Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Disney and the Seven Network.

The legal action followed a five-month investigation by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft. The companies claimed iiNet infringed copyright by failing to stop users engaging in illegal file sharing.But today the Federal Court in Sydney ruled in the internet service provider's favour.Justice Dennis Cowdroy said it was "impossible" to find against iiNet for what its users did.

The case, which appears to be one of, if not the first, of its kind has already attracted a lot of international attention, not least from Boing Boing "Awesomely awesome Australian copyright news: scrappy ISP beats Hollywood fatcats".

There is of course the possibility of an appeal, as Fairfax , News.com.au and a < href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/02/04/2810520.htm">later ABC reportallude/

Disclosure: I am an iiNet customer/ subscriber

03 February 2010

A-G backs down ... but not out

Attorney General Atkinson has backed down but won't resign report the ABC and Adelaide Now

For me and probably many South Australians the question now is how can we have confidence in Mr Atkinson as chief law officer of the state when he appears to be thumbing his nose at the basic principles of Westminster democracy and even Premier Rann. That he could falsely claim that that one of his online critics doesn't exist beggars belief.

Update 4/2/2010

At least we now know that at next month's election a vote for the ALP is a vote for Michael Atkinson as Attorney-General (probably) for the next four years, even though as The Advertiser/ Adelaide Now said in an editorial yesterday "Lawyers and Left faction luminaries Patrick Conlon and Jay Weatherill could walk seamlessly into the job tomorrow."

And today
"Singapore on the Torrens", an editorial in The Australian , makes some good points

A little more civility on the internet would be no bad thing, but that's no reason for the nanny state approach adopted by the South Australian government. The decision by Attorney-General Michael Atkinson to introduce laws to censor free speech in the blogosphere was ill-conceived at every level. That Mr Atkinson was forced to back down and promise to repeal the laws says much about the value users put on an open web: outraged consumers had flooded sites to complain.

South Australian politicians are increasingly taking Singapore rather than Westminster as their model by resorting to legal action where political redress would be more appropriate. ..Surely the ballot box, not the courts, is where an opposition should be brought to account.


The internet is a robust and immediate forum - a modern-day version of the town square meeting at its best. It relies on the freedom of ordinary people to join a public conversation without fear their details will be collected by a central bureaucracy. Australian users are well equipped to filter the web: they do not need the state to do it for them.

02 February 2010

Attorney-General's hamfisted attempt to censor internet make SA look foolish

At the behest of Attorney-General Mr Michael Atkinson the South Australian Parliament has amended s116 of the Electoral Act to require that all comments made on the internet during state elections are accompanied by the maker's name and address(not post office box). Even though both major (and perhaps most minor parties) supported the move it has many of the trademarks of Mr Atkinson's hamfistedness.

The Advertiser's website Adelaide Now has led the chorus of protest , quite properly highlighting the appalling insensitivity of Mr Atkinson's comment that the Adelaide Now website was "not just a sewer of criminal defamation" but also "a sewer of identity theft and fraud". For video of his media conference see here .

Of other media comment Hendrik Gout on the InDaily website makes the point that while the Attorney has the power to pursue those who fall foul of his amendments the Labor Party is still able to accept anonymous donations.

The comparisons with China have already been made and no doubt will continue to be. How embarrassing to be a South Australian.

Update 3 February

AG Atkinson has backed down.

South Australia's Attorney-General Michael Atkinson admits he misjudged public opinion on the state's attempt to curb political comment on the internet.

Mr Atkinson says he will repeal a law which would have meant that anyone posting comment or blogs during an election period would have had to give their real name and postcode.

Opponents had branded the law an attack on freedom of speech, and Mr Atkinson says he listened to community concerns in his decision to overturn it.

Better late - and where freedom of expression is at issue a day is too late - than never.

14 January 2010


Another natural disaster in a place which is already burdened with much more than its share of troubles.

What can one say or do? Express sympathy, donate money and hope that the scale of the suffering and loss is less than the initial media reports, which talk of more than 100,000 deaths, suggest. I wish I could do more.

03 January 2010

"Private matter" all above board?

From The Sunday Mail/Adelaide Now

Former Liberal Premier Dean Brown has been paid more than $800,000 for advice to the State Government on how to tackle the state's crippling drought.

The figure is more than double the amount that Deputy Premier and Treasurer Kevin Foley publicly stated last year.

The Sunday Mail has learned Mr Brown has received more than $800,000 over the past three years, working as chief strategist co-ordinating statewide responses to the drought and lobbying on behalf of communities along the River Murray.

Acting Premier Paul Holloway did not deny the $800,000 figure this week, but Mr Brown said he didn't think it was accurate.

A spokesman for Mr Foley said Mr Brown - who was appointed Special Adviser on Drought to Premier Mike Rann in October 2007 - had been paid by three government departments, but he refused to name them. In December, in his role as Acting Premier, Mr Foley approved a new $130 million copper-gold mine at Kanmantoo, in the Adelaide Hills, to be operated by Hillgrove Resources Ltd - a company chaired by Mr Brown.

The mining project was opposed by the operators of fertiliser company Neutrog, who feared their Kanmantoo plant would have to close because of the mine's impact.

Mr Holloway defended employing Mr Brown, saying this week that the Government's remuneration package with the former premier was a "private matter" and would not be released without Mr Brown's consent.

On tonight's Channel Nine TV news I heard Mr Brown describe himself as a "public servant". If that is correct shouldn't his remuneration package, like those of other public servants, be disclosed?

Mr Holloway (apart from having a name redolent of a minor Dickens character) looks and sounds out of his depth on TV, though in this matter he's more the messenger/monkey than the organ grinder. Definitely not Premier material though.