Where The News Began
By StaffJanuary 11, 2013
An eclectic, easy-to-eat guide to the original docs, judgments, vids, reports and artefacts that became vital (or viral) news.
Australia’s Biggest Scam?nytimes.com
It began as an inquiry into an obscure, sleepy valley in the hinterland north of Sydney and who stood to make money from the coal discovered there beneath the soil. But Operation Jasper, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into the granting of coal exploration licenses, has engulfed the Labor Party and reached into the secret dealings of some of Australia’s most prominent — and previously best regarded — businessmen.
At its most basic, the inquiry concerns how one already fabulously wealthy Sydney Labor family, the Obeids — headed by patriarch and former government minister, Eddie Obied — might have gained and used inside information to learn which new coal seams were to be opened up for mining. The family is alleged to have stood to gain windfall profits of up to $100 million.
At its widest, the inquiry — which will resume public hearings in late January — may consign the Labor Party in NSW to a political wilderness for years and could even help determine the outcome Australia’s national elections in 2013.
On a warm Monday morning in November, Geoffrey Watson SC, Counsel Assisting the inquiry, rose to outline the staggering breadth of the public hearings that were about to start.
He told the people of NSW that the coming weeks would produce evidence that would take them inside the NSW Cabinet room and to corruption — if it is eventually shown to be corruption — on scale with days of the Rum Corps, the English regiment that illegally trafficked huge quantities of liquor during Australia’s early convict settlement.Read it here
Australian Judge Unravels The Global Debt Spiralnytimes.com
Back in summer of 1994, the young czars of global investment bank JP Morgan gathered with some others at Florida’s fabled pink Boca Raton hotel to party and to look deep into the future of their industry. They came up with the credit derivative — a means by which turbo-charged investors could bet on whether a corporation, or a bunch of them, might default on their loans.
Their plan was almost a natural progression, for already the world was doing huge business in bets on the future ups and downs of exchange and interest rates. Why not extend into credit derivatives?
Throughout the next decade, trading in credit derivatives soared into almost incomprehensible sums and generated a maze of ever more complex financial products.
Sometime in 2004 the Dutch investment bank ABN Amro produced the forbiddingly named Constant Proportion Debt Obligation; it was programmed to scoop up investors’ cash and lay bets, with borrowed money, that bundles of corporate debt wouldn’t sour.
Very few people who invested — notably a brace of Australian councils — had the financial sophistication or the resources to understand the investment. All they cared was the world’s most prestigious financial ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, gave ABN Amro’s creation a AAA credit rating; it said they were virtually guaranteed not to fail.
But the investors lost almost everything, and it fell to a Sydney judge, Justice Jayne Jagot, to unravel in the Federal Court how that AAA rating was handed out. Her findings shocked investors and sent Standard & Poor’s reputation tumbling.
Her judgment, delivered in November, is longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Happily, she also produced a summary.Read it here
UK PM Has Lots of Love For Gutter Pressnytimes.com
“LOL!!” Which is what Prime Minister David Cameron, aka “DC”, would text his horse-riding chum Rebekah Brooks, as she delighted telling Britain’s Leveson investigation into British media malpractice this year, the inquiry Guardian readers dubbed OMG — Oh, Murdoch’s Gross.
As Bek, Rupert’s LOL — Loyal Overall Lieutenant in London — saucily revealed to the probe, her good mate apparently thought it meant ‘Lots Of Love’. That was until she told Dave it actually meant ‘Laugh Out Loud’ in the textaverse.
Oh, how the luvvies ROFLMAOed at that one. But LOL — Lots of Leveson — later, and a year-long police probe too, Dave-and-Bek’s textfooleries look likely to land Brit hacks with more LOL — Loads of Legislation — so as to correct the corruption of their craft. And in LOL — Loss of Leverage — too for a conflicted Cameron, much weakened after his tangle with the (at last) disgraced Rupert and cronies.
The rubescent Rebekah is charged with perversion of power, paying cops for yarns no less, among other crimes and misdemeanours. But no matter, she’s equipped with LOL — Lots of Lolly, some £11 million of it — her pay-off from Rupert when she was forced out of News last year. WTF!Read it here
Rarer Than A Hen’s Tooth, We Give You A Cheery Speech About Journalism’s Futurenytimes.com
And LOL for Oz hacks too — Lots of Laurie (Oakes), in a characteristically magisterial address to the Walkley faithful in November.
Oakes optimistically riffed that yes, the media was confronted by big survival issues and hadn’t covered itself with glory, but punters will always demand good, solid, true, honest stories, something we at TGM wholeheartedly agree with, FFS.Read it here
From the He-Really-Said-That Files: Endangered Devil Is In the Detailnytimes.com
Bipartisanship is one thing. Sure, it’s been in short supply both in the United States, where political opponents continue to dance on the fiscal cliff, and in Australia, where there has been personal venom between political foes.
But there are times when you can’t blame a pollie for taking a shot. So it was when Australia’s Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke, received a letter from his opposite number, Greg Hunt, about an issue of concern to Hunt’s Tasmanian constituents.
It was a gift really, mentioning as it did Hunt’s concerns for the well-being of the famously extinct Tasmanian Tiger. (For our international readers, the devil is in the detail, folks. Hunt meant to refer to the endangered Tasmanian Devils.)
Both Hunt’s initial letter and Burke’s letter in reply were well circulated, a reminder that scoring political points can still be done with good humour.Read it here
Bipartisanship? A River Runs Through Itnytimes.com
You get the feeling something historic might have finally happened to save the mighty Murray-Darling river system, the life-blood of Australia’s eastern seaboard.
In November 2012, Minister for the Environment Tony Burke signed into law an agreement to return 2,750 billion litres of surface water to the river by 2019 and save the river system.
“Today, under the Gillard government, Australia — a century late, but hopefully just in time — has its first Murray-Darling Basin Plan,” Burke was quoted as saying in The Australian newspaper.
While Greens are unimpressed, not so those at the mouth of the river in South Australia, where it slows to a trickle in drought time, leaving the city’s drinking water sometimes muddy brown as it emerges from the taps.
The SA Liberals have taken out full-page advertisements in the local paper trumpeting their involvement in reaching agreement on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
And the federal Coalition support the deal too. An historic compromise perhaps. In a speech to the National Press Club, Minister Burke acknowledged that bipartisan effort over the life of two governments, to save the river — perhaps the best sign that this plan might stick.
He paid homage to former conservative Prime Minister John Howard, who got the ball rolling by announcing a $10 billion federal takeover of the river system in 2007.
All this — along with a history of the politics of water stretching back to Federation — was delivered off-the-cuff by the minister, a former debating champion. And it was broadcast live to air.
The speech, like the plan itself, was quite the high-wire act.Read it here
Dear Mum, Dad, Headmaster, Teacher … I Really Am Sorrynytimes.com
Who hasn’t been beastly to a teacher? We were all teenagers once and that required us to be appalling. At the very least sniggering at the “bold” children who were headed for detention.
An acquaintance of mine remembers going around to his parents’ home in Melbourne to humbly apologise for being such a shit of a teenager. His astonished elderly parents were required to sit down on the lounge for this serious chat, a good 30 years after the long forgotten offences were committed. You see, the man’s darling son had recently become a teenager himself.
The United Kingdom’s Education Secretary, Michael Gove, had a similar epiphany this year.
At 15, Mr Gove was a bounder and a cad.
He cringes when he remembers his “pathetic showing off” and “clever dick questions” in class.
So 30 years on, he’s said sorry.
His open letter apologising to his former French teacher, a Mr Montgomery, was originally published in Britain’s Radio Times. (It also helped publicise the annual Teaching Awards.)
Meanwhile The Guardian newspaper has discovered an entire new genre — the “Dear Sir, I’m Sorry” letter — and has published a selection from around the world. Some are more sorry than others.Read it here
Getting Schooled By East Asian Kidsnytimes.com
Well, didn’t Australia get the horror report card at the end of 2012? And you Americans, Brits and Europeans up the back there needn’t smirk, either.
An international reading, maths and science test showed Australians languishing towards the bottom of the class — our average Year Four students came 27th out of 45 nations for reading, 18th for maths and 25th for science.
In each case, east Asian kids blitzed the field.
According to Dr Ben Jenson, school education program director with the Grattan Institute in Melbourne, “as economic power is shifting from West to East, high performance in education is too”.
That, he says with considerable understatement, “has profound consequences”.
If you want to work out what why Korean students, along with Chinese kids from Shanghai to Singapore to Hong Kong, have the edge, take the time to go through Jensen’s very readable report, “Catching up: learning from the best school systems in East Asia.”Read it here
When A Good Man Doesn’t Do Nothingnytimes.com
Whistle blowing doesn’t come at a much sharper pitch than in the case Peter Fox made against the Catholic church:
“I can testify from my own experience that the church covers up, silences victims, hinders police investigations, alerts offenders, destroys evidence and moves priests to protect the good name of the church.”
Fox, a Detective Chief Inspector with 35 years’ policing to his name, spoke out in this article and on national news shows, in the full knowledge that he was risking his future in law enforcement. He called for a Royal Commission into the Australian Catholic church.
Fox not only wanted to expose what he saw as a culture of abuse in the Australian Catholic Church, but also to allege a police cover-up of the abuse.
Institutions don’t tend to look favorably upon such dissent. Whistle-blowing can lay waste to a person’s life, particularly when taking a personal stand against not one but two powerful organisations. Towards the end of an interview on ABC Lateline a few days after the Sun Herald article was published, the policeman Fox said that while he was fine (“I’m a big boy”), terrible things had happened to him and his wife, and she had suffered “a complete nervous breakdown” as a result. There had been threats, he added, darkly.
Days later Fox announced he would not return to the police force, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a Royal Commission into church abuses.Read it here
Catholic Church Cops One From Policenytimes.com
Taking on the Catholic Church is never done lightly by public institutions; webs of politics, power and influence over-lap across the Church, Government and the law. Repercussions flow.
Yet the Victoria Police bucked tradition and provided an unusually candid and damning submission to the Victorian Parliament’s inquiry into the handling of child abuse allegations by churches — predominantly the Catholic Church.
The submission — signed by the Victorian Police Commissioner, Ken Lay — rocked the Victorian Catholic and legal establishments when it was made in October. It revealed that despite the Victoria Catholic Archdiocese Church having made compensation payments to 300 people as victims of sexual abuse, the Church had reported not one of the offenders to police.
The police submission also documented how some offenders were moved by the Church to far-off countries, including places where they were out of reach of Australian authorities. Also detailed was the manner in which the church sought the silence of complainants who were compensated and how it dissuaded others from going to the police.
Later the Catholic Church promised a review of its sexual abuse complaints policy.
However in mid-November the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, upped the ante by announcing a national Royal Commission into child sexual abuse within churches and other institutions.
The Prime Minister said: “The allegations that have come to light recently about child sexual abuse have been heart-breaking. There have been too many revelations of adults who have averted their eyes from this issue.”Read it here
“I Will Not Be Lectured On Sexism and Misogyny By This Man”nytimes.com
After putting up with months of sleazy, sexist denigration on the internet, dog-whistling from the federal Opposition and open contempt from the shallow end of the radio talkback gene pool, Julia Gillard finally snapped.
Responding to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s no confidence motion against then-Speaker Peter Slipper, on October 10 in the House of Representatives, the Australian Prime Minister unleashed on Abbott with a long list of his sexist indiscretions, many of which had been directed at her. “If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia,” she told the House, “he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror.”
No-one could accuse the Prime Minister of being quick to anger; in fact she was slow to acknowledge the sexism that has been seeping into Australian political discourse ever since she replaced Kevin Rudd as leader of the Australian Labor Party in June 2010. But in August, she fired a warning salvo during a fiery press conference, referring to sexism and misogyny directed at her by “nutjobs on the internet”. When her cabinet colleagues took up this theme, the Opposition responded with more sexism, branding them the “handbag hit squad”.
And the denigration of the Prime Minister kept on coming. In a speech to a Sydney University Liberal Club function attended by members of the Opposition front bench, broadcaster Alan Jones said the Prime Minister’s recently deceased father had “died of shame”. During the furore that followed, Jones was forced to apologise to Gillard. But then, as the storm over the Speaker, Peter Slipper, raged on, Abbott echoed Jones’s contemptible comments in his usual sly way:
“Every day the Prime Minister stands in this Parliament to defend this Speaker will be another day of shame for this Parliament, another day of shame for a government which should already have died of shame,” he said.
That was the last straw. “Well can I indicate to the Leader of the Opposition the government is not dying of shame, my father did not die of shame, what the Leader of the Opposition should be ashamed of is his performance in this parliament and the sexism he brings with it,” Gillard thundered.
The parliamentary press gallery has been criticised for missing the significance of a speech that was immediately picked up by international media. Gillard herself, when she first sat down, appeared to have no real sense of the impact of what she’d just done. But her colleague, Treasurer Wayne Swan, saw immediately that she had delivered what he described as the “J’Accuse speech of 2012”.Read it here
In The Gutter, Looking Down At The Sewernytimes.com
It was the speech that lit a fire under the debate about sexism and our Prime Minister. Anne Summers’s 2012 Human Rights and Social Justice lecture at the University of Newcastle in August built a strong case that the nastiness surrounding much of the criticism of Julia Gillard is motivated by her gender.
Titled “Her Rights at Work: the Political Persecution of Australia’s First Female Prime Minister”, the lecture lays bare a stream of nasty, misogynist sleaze that has continually been directed at Gillard, including the obscene cartoons of Larry Pickering, the offhand vulgarity of taxi-drivers, and the sexist sledging shared via social media. “The threshold is being progressively lowered, so much so that it is now pretty much in the gutter, if not the sewer,” Summers argues.
Summers says Gillard has been subjected to a harassment campaign that would be illegal in any other Australian workplace. Reading the illustrated, “R-rated” version of her lecture, it is hard to escape the conclusion that much of it boils down, not just to hatred of the Prime Minister, but hatred of women in general. Cartoonist Larry Pickering bombarded Gillard daily with his hate-filled commentaries and cartoons showing her naked with a strap-on dildo, which were also sent to all members of the federal parliament.
“Yet no Member of Parliament has denounced them, not in public at least. I find this almost beyond comprehension. Nor, before Gillard mentioned them at her [August 23] press conference, had they been written about by anyone in the parliamentary press gallery,” Summers says.Read it here
Billionaire Troll Of The Yearnytimes.com
It was a big year for Gina Rinehart. For a start, she was named Australia’s richest person and the world’s richest woman.
But that was perhaps the least of it. Far more news space was devoted to her attempt to buy her way onto the board of Australia’s second-largest publisher, Fairfax, widely seen as an attempt to influence its editorial line so it aligned more closely with her own conservative views.
Why, even the Fairfax chairman, Roger Corbett, no bleeding heart liberal himself, made much of the threat she posed to the group’s standards of editorial independence.
She was fighting on a second front, too — a battle with three of her children about their inheritance. Rinehart threw vast legal resources at trying to get the courts to hush up the dispute about the kids’ access to trust accounts. She failed and endured reams more coverage, mostly negative.
And then there was that speech, given by video link to the Sydney Mining Club in September. (To get some idea of the way this speech was received, consider the headline from The Atlantic: “Meet Gina Rinehart: World’s Richest Woman (And World’s Biggest Troll)”)
Why? Well Rinehart suggested Australian workers were too well-paid; they were competing with “Africans willing to work for less than $2 per day”. Not to mention illegal Mexican labour in the United States.
But there was more than that. She wanted special new tax breaks. She advocated the importation of large numbers of low-wage foreign workers.
The speech was a gift to a government campaigning the greed undue influence of the super-rich on Australian politics. Rinehart’s speech is worth a look, and one of the most spectacular own-goals of 2012.Watch it here
The Target Rich Environment Of The 1%nytimes.com
Class warfare, the politics of envy or just a natural reaction to increased economic inequality and uncertainty in the developed economies?
Whatever it was, it was one of the major motifs of 2012: austerity, riots and wild political swings on Europe; taxes on the rich a major issue in America’s presidential election.
Even here in relatively-stable but nonetheless nervous Australia, it brought political opportunity, seized by Treasurer Wayne Swan.
In an article for The Monthly in March, in couple of major speeches and innumerable lesser appearances he drove the wedge between certain of Australia’s super rich and the rest of us.
Swan had plenty of material to work with: starting with the popular perception that the benefits of the mining boom were not flowing to us all, and actually choking investment elsewhere.
Better yet, politically, the miners had the hide to complain they were hard done by. Best of all, the greed and political meddling of the miners could be personified.
Three names stood out. There was Andrew Forrest, who complained about corporate tax rates, then, as Swan noted, admitted “to not paying any”. There was Clive Palmer, the pugnacious, litigious magnate who substantially bankrolled the conservative side of politics. And there was Gina Rinehart, who inherited from her father vast mineral interests, extreme right wing politics and a spectacularly dysfunctional family.
It was what the military would call a target rich environment.Read Swan’s attack here
Putin To Pussy Riot: “You Got What You Asked For”nytimes.com
Russia still loves a show trial. Move over Stalin. Make way for President Vladimir Putin.
In the dock in 2012, were not some boring old Bolsheviks but a trio of bolshy young women from a “feminist punk rock collective” Pussy Riot.
In February, they’d staged one of their guerilla performances at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, railing against Putin, whom they consider a dictator, and his supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church. They certainly got themselves and their cause noticed.
In August, three of the pussy rioters, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, and each was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. (Samutsevich,was later freed on appeal.) What Salman Rushdie became at the end of the 1980s, Pussy Riot is to the new century. Their case has been taken up by everyone from Amnesty International to Yoko Ono.
President Putin said they “got what they asked for”.
One of the defendants, Maria Alyokhina, had a great deal more to say from the dock.Read it here
Aung San Suu Kyi Doesn’t Scare A Damnnytimes.com
In June 2012, after 15 years as the most notable political prisoner since Nelson Mandela, Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi was finally able collect the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991.
And in September 2012, she was also presented with the highest honour bestowed by the US Congress, the Congressional Gold Medal. (They love a freedom fighter, even if the US did precious little for decades to actually bring about freedom and democracy in Burma.)
Speaking at the investiture ceremony, former Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, who was brutally tortured as a prisoner during the Vietnam War, said that Suu Kyi was his “personal hero”.
“They did all they could to break her,” said a tearful Senator McCain, “Aung San Suu Kyi didn’t scare a damn.”
The same day, speaking at a packed Amnesty International event in Washington, DC, Suu Kyi called for the release from prison of the Pussy Riot members.
“I don’t see why people should not sing whatever they want to sing,” she said.
Earlier in June, in her Nobel lecture delivered in Oslo and broadcast internationally, she spoke with her characteristic elegance and humility as she tried to recall what she felt when, confined to her dilapidated lakeside residence in Rangoon, she heard on the radio one evening that she had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
“It did not seem quite real, because in a sense I did not feel myself to be quite real at that time.”Read it here
A Man In A Wheelchair Needs To Weenytimes.com
It was the actor Gérard Depardieu who was most famously caught short when nature called.
The actor was thrown off a flight from Paris to Dublin after another passenger on the flight claimed he stood up and peed in the aisle after crying out, “I need to piss! I need to piss!”
Turned out it was something about a prostate problem and a too-small Evian bottle. Or something.
That kind of humiliation ain’t just reserved for the A-list.
Daily, disabled people struggle to find a suitable bathroom, to afford the wheelchair, the aids or the support they need to live a comfortable, full life. And even though there is disabled access to many big city buildings these days, there’s still that one bloody step which must be summited to get into so many high street stores.
Paul Barry is a Sydney husband and father, coping with an extremely rare motor neurone disease, which began to affect his speech and mobility nine years ago.
After struggling to find a loo in inner-city Sydney this year, he felt some sympathy for the dissolute Frenchman and wrote about it in his often-very-funny blog.Read it here
$14 Billion Well Spentnytimes.com
If you think the National Disability Insurance Scheme is too expensive and the huge mortgage you signed up for makes you a “stressed” and worthy recipient of billions of dollars in middle class welfare, you may care to read this next report.
It explains that how the disabled fare in Australia depends on where they live, what their disability is and how they became disabled.
It’s a cruel lottery.
Some 45 per cent of disabled Australians live near or below the poverty line. That’s double the OECD average.
For them, the Lucky Country is a decidedly unlucky place to live. A place where a child can wait two years for a wheelchair.
Problem is, disability services receive only half the funding necessary to meet the needs of disabled Australians, according to the nation’s Productivity Commission, who are supposed to be dry economic types. About $14 billion dollars more needs to be spent every year.
The commission’s own report on the NDIS is in two parts. The first is 529 pages long. We just couldn’t do that to you.
So we offer you instead, PWC’s 62-page summary. Easier to read with lots of nice pictures.
It explains why a scheme based on an insurance model — assessing disability and funding need — is not only “the right thing to do”, it makes financial sense: $50 billion dollars in extra GDP, as it happens.
Betcha didn’t know that.Read it here
You Are Dumb, Barely Functional: Aaron Sorkin’s Stirring Message To Graduatesnytimes.com
All screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s best work explores the space between how bad things really are and how good they could be in the Camelot he chooses to imagine.
This was Sorkin’s theme in May, in a commencement speech to students at Syracuse University, where he graduated in 1983. “Develop your own compass, and trust it. Take risks, dare to fail, remember the first person through the wall always gets hurt,” he told the students.
“Don’t ever forget you’re a citizen of this world, and there are things you can do to lift the human spirit, things that are easy, things that are free, things you can do every day. Civility, respect, kindness, character.”
But Sorkin also had a less comfortable message about how well their expensive education had prepared them for the realities that lay ahead: “Make no mistake about it, you are dumb. You are a group of incredibly well-educated dumb people. I was there. We all were there. You’re barely functional. There are some screw-ups headed your way. Wish I could tell you there was a trick to avoiding the screw-ups, but the screw-ups, they’re a-coming for ya. It’s a combination of life being unpredictable, and you being super-dumb.”Read it here
It’s A Process: In Defence Of Public Servicenytimes.com
The chief executive officer of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, says the country needs to restore the authority and legitimacy of the public service.
“Good policy-making processes are the last line of defence against the whims of short-termism, and that is what a high-performing public sector can and must provide.” Too often, she says, major policy decisions have involved “pre-determined political compromise dressed up as economic reform”.
Westacott is herself a former public servant. In Victoria she has been Director of Housing and Secretary of Education, and in New South Wales she was Director General of the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources. She says many politicians have lost sight of the fundamental role of the public service, that many “precious things about the civil service” are in danger of being lost, and that “the frustration from the lowest to the highest levels of seniority is palpable in every conversation I have”.
Among her proposals for public service reform is a halving of the allocation of personal staff in ministerial offices and the restoration of tenure for departmental secretaries.
“The contract system that currently exists for departmental secretaries, in my view, opens the door for a culture of bullying and intimidation,” she told the host of ABC-TV’s Lateline program, Tony Jones.Read it here
The madcap mayor of London — who likes the look of Number 10 — sure outshone the PM at the Olympics.
To his detractors, the London Mayor is the embarrassing new Prince Phillip, gaffe-prone and proud of it.
But that just makes him more loveable, say his devotees — one of whom isn’t, most likely, Tory leader and party colleague David Cameron — who can barely wait for Boris to knock Prime Minister Cameron off and take Number 10.
But Boris also has a canny knack for capturing the public mood and at his self-effacing best manages to transcend his oft-evident Etonian entitlement.
Such as this speech, made days after the London Olympics ended, as the triumphant Team GB paraded through London to end up outside Buck House.
Cameron was standing next to Boris, having spoken minutes earlier. Dave had notes. Boris had none. His speech has had 100 times more YouTube views than rival Dave.Watch it here
“You Get What You Work For”nytimes.com
London was the locale for another great speech, well, another speech anyway, from another aspiring statesmen, The Man Who Would Be Treasurer, Australia’s Joe Hockey.
Joe mused that the West’s problem was its state welfare culture, or “universal entitlement” as he described it, comparing it unfavourably to booming Asia — which he’d just flown over — and its regard for “filial piety”, a low-tax, family-first social welfare net where “you get what you work for”. He marvelled about his recent trip to China’s Pearl River Delta. It was booming, he said, and there was much to learn for the faltering, freeloading West. What he failed to note, or didn’t know, is that it’s also notorious for sweat shops, worker suicides and some of the world’s worst pollution.
Hockey has poor form when stepping outside his comfort zone, wherever that is. In 2011 he ridiculed Wayne Swan for being awarded Euromoney’s Finance Minister of the Year. In research extending no further Google, he chortled the same gong had previously gone to a Nigerian and a Pakistani, implying that Africans and South Asians are incapable of economic competence. Problem was the Pakistani in his sights, ex-PM Shaukat Aziz, had been once been lavishy lauded by Joe’s hero John Howard for, er, exemplary economic management and was once touted as a possible Citibank boss in New York. And the Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was being hailed globally by economic minds greater than Joe’s as she angled for the World Bank presidency, while Joe was bagging her.
Still, Joe might be onto something. Looking for answers, he mused in his London riff that “perhaps the real problem is the exuberant excesses of politicians”.
Quite.Read it here
Strangers Breaking Up On A Trainnytimes.com
Hilarious “live tweeting” of a couple breaking up on a train. A 2012 internet sensation and a cautionary tale for those who conduct their private lives on public transport.
If you’re travelling on public transport this holiday season, it might pay to keep your voice down.
The year 2012 showed what can happen when indiscretion meets mischief, armed with Twitter.
The mischief-maker was Scottish comedian Janey Godley, who was on a train trip from Glasgow to London.
In the same carriage was a couple she calls “Jack and Francesca” having an excruciatingly drawn out — and highly audible — break up.
If there was a Booker Prize for tweeting, this would have been 2012’s hands-down winner.
Remember: Always look before you speak. Trust no-one.Read it here
Too Smart To Succeed In Politics?nytimes.com
The brightest man in the Australian Parliament, as well as the richest, Malcolm Turnbull has a tendency to be impatient, which has held back his career.
In 2011, he spat the dummy on climate change. Nearly two years after he lost the leadership of the conservative Opposition — in part over his support for the Government’s emissions trading scheme — he ridiculed climate sceptics, comparing them with people who refuse to admit smoking causes lung cancer.
This year, on top of having to put up with the climate sceptics and conspiracy theorists in his own party, he’s had to endure the vicious political discourse in Australia’s hung Parliament, which he says is contributing to a “deficit of trust” in politics.
“If you love your country … and care deeply about our nation’s future, there is nothing more certain to arouse your fury and invite your contempt than listening to an entire House of Representatives Question Time,” Mr Turnbull said, proving the former barrister can be Churchillian as well as being rich and bright.
His remarks were made as he delivered the George Winterton lecture in Perth in September.Read it here
Yes We Can Take A Look At Some Of These Numbersnytimes.com
President Barack Obama is one of the truly great speakers, right?
Well, yes and no. He has delivered some of the most moving, rousing, call-to-believe speeches of our time. The poetry of his words, the cadence of his sermonising — using that word in its most positive sense — can be mesmerising.
But he is an inspirer, more than an explainer.
As Mario Cuomo once quotably observed, while you campaign in poetry, you govern in prose.
And Obama is not so good in prose, as we clearly saw in the 2012 Presidential debates.
Fortunately, perhaps the greatest living explainer was available and had decided to bury the hatchet and come to the aid of the party.
The best political speech of the 2012 American election was Bill Clinton’s address to the Democratic National Convention.
No-one does prose like Clinton, and there is no better example of his skill than this speech. Somehow he manages to be simultaneously forensic and folksy, funny and serious, casual and yet compelling.
It may not move you like Obama at his best, but my goodness, it makes you think.
For, as Demosthenes once said, when asked what was the most important part of good rhetoric, “delivery, delivery, delivery”.Watch it here
Has the US housing crisis scared you half out of your mortgage?nytimes.com
Perhaps you are experiencing a touch of economic hypochondria? A lot of Australians are, you know.
Just the other day the ABC’s Alan Kohler pointed out a remarkable statistic: business confidence in Australia in November was lower than it was in Italy. In fact businesses here were “among the gloomiest in the world”.
Now, this is remarkable. Italy, like much of Europe, is in the midst of a recession. Meanwhile Australia has low unemployment, low and falling interest rates, low government debt, a AAA rating with all the international credit rating agencies, and has not had a recession for more than 20 years.
So why the pessimism, not only among businesses, but palpable in the broader community?
Well, Kohler put it down in part to the strength of the Australian currency — which is a real problem. And in part he attributed it to what he called PFS, or Politics Fatigue Syndrome, brought on by “nothing but mad, hysterical politics, day in, day out” for three years — which is a perceptual problem.
Maybe. Or maybe it’s just that Australians see the economic sickness in the wider world and look for symptoms indicating we’ve caught it.
May we suggest a course of action if you are worried: Read this speech, given by Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens back in July.
There are lots of reassuring charts, showing how relatively healthy Australia is.
It’s not Pollyanna stuff; Stevens acknowledges the risks.
But, as he assures us all at the end, with what is presumed to be central banker humour: “We have much to live for.”Read it here
Exceptional Courage In Circumstance Of Great Perilnytimes.com
Too often we are led to believe that acts of gallantry and courage occurred in the past, among generations more willing to sacrifice, more courageous in the face of loss.
But the Afghanistan campaign has produced three Australian military heroes whose deeds have seen them awarded the Victoria Cross, the country’s highest military award reserved for the bravest of the brave, given only for the most conspicuous acts of gallantry in the presence of the enemy.
The latest VC winner is Corporal Daniel Keighran, a bloke who is now only a part-time soldier. Like so many young Australians, he’s headed west to join the fading mining boom and now he works in an underground gold mine outside Kalgoorlie. Let’s hope he makes his fortune there.
He made his name on August 24, 2010 as a 27-year-old soldier in Derapet, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan. Keighran was quoted as saying he would never get used to being talked about as a hero. He’d only told his wife about what happened during that battle, a few days before he was awarded the VC. This video shows some of the action from that day.
Read the full citation. It won’t take you a minute. It’s only 617 words long. What it describes is so extraordinary, you might need to read it twice.Read it here
The Man Who Brought Down Lance Armstrong (Hint: Not Lance Armstrong)nytimes.com
Lance Armstrong no doubt still considers himself a hero. Video news footage released this year showed he still has his record seven Tour de France awards hanging on the walls of his US home, despite a comprehensive report which proves what many had long suspected — the fairytale story of the cancer survivor who beat the odds to become a cycling champion, was indeed too good to be true. Armstrong was a drug cheat all along.
There was one hero to emerge from this story, although you’ve probably never heard of him.
Travis Tygart, the man who brought down Armstrong, has been described as a dogged, Eliot Ness type character.
He is the head of the US Anti-Doping Agency that produced a thousand pages of compelling evidence, including testimony from 11 former team-mates, proving that while Armstrong may have been able to pass drug tests, he was taking performance enhancing drugs all along.
The report represents the forensic demolition of a sporting giant. Tygart calls it the “Reasoned Decision”. Here is the US Anti-Doping Agency versus Lance Armstrong, in full.Read it here