25 Dec 2006

The Howards: My God, They're BREEDING!

PM pays his son to dish up spam:
Last night the NSW director of the party, Scott Morrison, confirmed it had entered into a "a contractual arrangement with Net Harbour", involving a curious round-robin of payments.

"Because it's a contractual arrangement involving the PM's son," Mr Morrison said, "... and involves the Bennelong campaign, Mr Howard took the decision to personally fund the service, to provide the funds to enable us to do that, out of his own pocket.

"He made the funds available to the division once we entered into the agreement, to make sure the division wasn't out of pocket."

Mr Morrison refused to say how much Mr Howard was paying the party to pay his son's company.
Howard Snr has already over-Americanized Australia, now his sons (the other is still in the States helping Bush's GOP, I believe) want to Americanize our political system?

Remember all the fuss when Keating said Australia is part of Asia? Seems the Liberals think we are part of America instead.

Just say no, folks.

23 Dec 2006

So the USA had this Bali Bomber guy Hambali locked up in Gitmo as the Indonesians were trying Abu Bakar Bashir. And the USA wouldn't let anyone talk to him. And Australia didn't even try.

Here's Phillip Ruddock's excuse:
A spokesman for federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says the Minister could not have done anything because the matter was under the control and responsibility of Indonesian authorities.

22 Dec 2006

Outrage over US snub on Bashir case:
THE US Attorney-General rebuffed a request from the Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, to grant Indonesian police access to the terrorism mastermind Hambali, who could have been a key witness against the radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir.

A day after Bashir was cleared of involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings, questions were raised about an alleged lack of co-operation that hampered the prosecution's case against the cleric.

Mr Keelty did get an agreement from Alberto Gonzales for Indonesian police to submit written questions to Hambali through US interrogators. However, the responses were not usable in the Bashir trial because Indonesian police could not be present when answers were given, according to Indonesian security sources.

The US's failure to grant access to Hambali will outrage families of victims of the attacks. The US embassy in Canberra said yesterday it could not respond to the concerns or explain why access to Hambali was denied.

The Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, said Indonesian investigators had "their hands tied" by Washington's rebuff. He called on the Prime Minister to explain what representations had been made about access to Hambali, but a spokesman for John Howard referred questions to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer. The Indonesian Defence Minister had admitted, Mr Downer said, that Hambali would not be able to provide any new information.

Mr Keelty said it was "speculation" as to whether Hambali's evidence would have strengthened the case against Bashir. But he added: "Clearly Hambali was an important player in the Bali bombings."

Contacted by the Herald yesterday, Bashir vowed to intensify his campaign to introduce strict Islamic law throughout Indonesia. Since being released from jail in June he has become a national celebrity, speaking at mass rallies across Indonesia.

"I was jailed because it was engineered by the US and its friends including the incumbent Australian Government," he said yesterday. He was considering seeking compensation.
Bush Loves Bush

The Regressive Antidote:
George W. Bush’s priorities in Iraq are George W. Bush – period, full stop. No great surprise there. Still the magnitude of what is being sacrificed to preserve this man’s incredibly fragile sense of himself is breathtaking.

21 Dec 2006


Stephen Colbert takes over the USA, and even Henry Kissinger makes a guest appearance. Wowzers.
Israel finally replaces their racist Australian ambassador:
"Israel and Australia are like sisters in Asia," Tamir told Haaretz, explaining why Israel and Australia should co-operate.

"We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians.

"We don't have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically the yellow race. Australia and Israel are not - we are basically the white race."
All In A Day's Drama

This is a wierd little story. PM plays down suspicious package:
"They came and collected dust samples and they had these funny men in these funny suits while I was sort of working on some papers, it would've been a marvellous shot," Mr Howard told the Nine Network...

But Mr Howard said you always have to be cautious.

"Whenever you see powder you think of anthrax and you have to go through all of these precautions."

There was another suspicious package found in Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's office in Canberra on the same day, Mr Howard said, but there was nothing to worry about.

"All in a day's drama," he said.
Over at RTS we've been talking about macho military types:
Iraqi soldiers bit the heads off frogs and ate the heart of a rabbit in a ceremony on Wednesday to transfer southern Najaf province, home to one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest shrines, from U.S. to Iraqi control...

Politicians, tribal and religious leaders, police and soldiers watched displays of Iraqi military prowess that were notable for one demonstration where five soldiers stopped in front of the main grandstand to bite off the heads of frogs.

A sixth holding a live rabbit slit open its stomach and then ate its heart before passing the carcass to his comrades to chew on in what was dubbed a display of military courage.

Under Saddam Hussein's rule, his feared Fedayeen militia carried out similar demonstrations, and in one instance were videoed hunting a fox and then tearing it apart with their teeth.

The handover was largely symbolic since U.S. forces have rarely ventured into the holy city...

20 Dec 2006

If you keep poking people with sticks, eventually they will respond:
"About 10.30 this morning the brigade responded to a high-rise building at 70 Phillip Street in Sydney in relation to an unidentified substance which was come across by two workers in the basement mailroom," Supt Clough said.

"The basement was sealed off and the two workers were decontaminated before being assessed by ambulance staff and being allowed to return to work," Supt Clough said.

Meanwhile, at Parliament House in Canberra, parts of the ministerial wing adjacent to Prime Minister John Howard's courtyard were evacuated following a security scare.

18 Dec 2006

Be Vewwy, Vewwy Scared!

We are supposed to believe that the Operation Chief of al-Qaeda in Australia wanted to blow up a car in a shopping centre at Beenleigh.

Now listen here. I live about 30 minutes drives from Beenleigh which, no disrespect to the local residents intended, is about as "happening" a place as Sydney's Mount Druitt used to be back in the 1970s. I mean, Jesus, just take a look!

This is what we have to fear? For this we expend billions of dollars, crap upon international law and trash our once-proud reputation around the globe? Really?

Where to start? Maybe you heard that there was going to be an O.J. Simpson book called "IF I Did It" and a TV show based on the pseudo-confessional book to boot? But did you know that the publisher who organized that deal was part of Rupert Murdoch's empire, and that the big Rupert personally stepped in to close down the project (only after massive public outrage, of course)?

And not just that (this was really BIGTIME outrage) but Rupert also stepped in personally to fire the lady who lined up the deal.

Well, now the lady in question, Judith Regan, has vowed "war" against Murdoch.

And Murdoch's response? Ooooooooohhhh, dirty, dirty, dirty!!!
“‘Of all people, the Jews should know about ganging up, finding common enemies and telling the big lie,’” Ms. Regan said, according to a transcript of Mr. Jackson’s notes provided by Gary Ginsberg, an executive vice president of the News Corporation.

According to the transcript, Ms. Regan went on to say that the literary agent Esther Newberg; HarperCollins’s executive editor, David Hirshey; HarperCollins’s president, Jane Friedman, and Mr. Jackson “constitute a Jewish cabal against her.”

A lawyer for Ms. Regan, Bert Fields, denied that Ms. Regan had said there was a “Jewish cabal against her,” saying she used only the word “cabal” in the conversation, and it came in response to a question from Mr. Jackson. But he acknowledged that she had made some version of the first statement, drawing attention to the fact that her boss and others involved in the controversy over the aborted O.J. Simpson project were Jewish.

He denied, though, that this reflected any anti-Semitism.
The United States Defence Department doesn't want you to know about David Hick's mental health.
Sniffing Butts

IF John Howard wanted to write an Op-Ed dissing Kevin Rudd, where do you think it would be published? That's right: The Murdochian. I am reprinting it here in full so that you don't have to actually visit Rupert's site:
John Howard: Kevin Rudd is wrong, I'm no market zealot

* Far from fostering selfish individualism in our society, the federal Government has balanced economic reforms with care for the vulnerable, argues the Prime Minister
* December 18, 2006

IN the past two weeks I have listened carefully to the charges levelled against the Government by the new Labor Leader, Kevin Rudd. Unable to mount a coherent attack on our economic record, he has fallen back on the claim that we have made Australia a less fair society.

What is interesting is that, having promised a new style of Labor leadership, Kevin Rudd has adopted the same basic approach as every one of his predecessors since 1996. The same crude demonisation of the Government on grounds of fairness. The same hyperbolic overreach. The same absence of solid facts and coherent argument.

The Opposition Leader's rhetorical device of choice is the Straw Man. He conjures up a bogus image before proceeding to knock it down.

He has invested heavily in the charge that I am an extremist and a market fundamentalist. Indeed he goes further, accusing the Government of fostering an ethos of selfishness in the Australian community ("Me, Myself, I") to the detriment of the common good.

Is that it?

Of course I believe in a strong, dynamic market economy. I believe in it because it is a foundation of a good and decent society.

I also believe in ongoing economic reform. Without it, Australia will fall behind. That is why we pursued generational reform of our taxation and workplace relations systems - both of which were bitterly opposed by Labor. In the process, however, we have balanced market-based reforms with care for the vulnerable.

In a speech to ACOSS as Opposition Leader in October 1995, I committed the Coalition to a fair society in government and we've kept faith with that commitment.

With unemployment at 4.6 per cent, Australia today is closer to full employment than it has been for decades. Whether or not someone has a job is still the single biggest determinant of social disadvantage in Australia. More than 1.9 million new jobs have been created since the Coalition was elected, almost 200,000 since March this year when Work Choices was introduced.

Especially pleasing is that we have seen a pick up in employment and labour force participation from groups that have long been among the most vulnerable and marginalised in society, including lower skilled, older men. These are people Labor had basically given up on after the "recession we had to have" in the early 1990s.

Working Australians have enjoyed higher wages in the past decade. Average real wages have risen by 17.9 per cent since March 1996, compared with a fall of 1.7 per cent under the previous Labor Government. The federal minimum wage is up 11.9 per cent in real terms since we came to office.

The Government's record on fairness begins with more jobs and higher wages, but it does not end there.

Through a range of initiatives, we have ensured that the fruits of greater prosperity are shared throughout the community. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, low and middle-income households have seen their real disposable incomes grow by more than 23 per cent between 1995-96 and 2003-04, a greater increase than for high-income households.

Our family tax benefit system has especially helped low and middle-income families with children. Together with payments such as the baby bonus and childcare subsidies, overall government support for families has more than doubled since 1996-97.

Pensioners and self-funded retirees have seen their living standards grow solidly since March 1996. Single and partnered pensions have risen by almost 20 per cent after inflation. As the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling has documented, the bottom 60 per cent of households are net beneficiaries from government benefits and services.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development research confirms that Australia has one of the most progressive tax-transfer systems in the developed world, with a higher share of benefits going to the poorest 20 per cent of households than any other developed country.

How can that be the handiwork of a market zealot? Labor leader Rudd needs to reconcile his rhetoric about market fundamentalism with what the Treasury Secretary Ken Henry has described as the extraordinary progressivity of Australia's tax and benefit system.

Strong economic management has allowed Australia to maintain a strong social safety net and to significantly increase our investment in health and education.

Medicare has been strengthened, including through the Medicare Safety Net (opposed by Labor) which ensures individuals and families won't face crippling out-of-pocket health costs.

We have invested heavily in schools (government and non-government), while raising standards and increasing accountability. Far from being ideological, we are pragmatic and realistic about the need to mobilise public and private resources in health and education. This ensures a healthy balance between public and private provision of services.

Policies such as the private health insurance rebate and support for non-government schools are especially attractive to many low income earners. Why should only high income earners enjoy genuine choice?

Against determined opposition from the Labor Party, the Government has also pursued welfare reform based on the principle of mutual obligation. It is only right that those who draw on community support are obliged to do something in return. Passive welfare is not just the road to despair. It's also unfair to those whose taxes pay income support.

What about Rudd's other claim: that the Government has fostered selfish individualism in our society? Again, let's look at the facts.

The Government has worked with the private sector and community groups with on-the-ground knowledge in tackling a range of problems. I've called this our social coalition approach to issues as diverse as youth homelessness, early childhood development and drug abuse.

Survey after survey shows that far from drawing back into their own private worlds, Australians are volunteering their time and money more than ever before. Just look at the magnificent work of our bush firefighters in recent days.

Where Rudd sees rampant individualism, I see a society that doesn't wait for politicians to tell it to pitch in. Australia's heart has always been bigger than the size of its government.

That is as it should be. Our social contract is not something drawn up by technocrats in an inter-jurisdictional working committee. It is written on the hearts and minds of average Australians. And it is from them that my government is happy to take its lead.
Rudd says the attack shows that Howard does not like scrutiny.

Howard rejects the attack on the attack:
"I don't think anybody's policies in Australian public life over the last 10 years have been more heavily scrutinised than mine and I'm very happy for my economic record to be scrutinised."
At this stage of the campaign, the two dogs are just sniffing each others butts. There is a little gnarling of teeth, but it's basically getting-to-know-you formalities.

Let's hope the PM will deign to give his next Op-Ed to the ABC.*

*That's just a joke, obviously.

17 Dec 2006

We Only Call Them Aussies When They Win Something

About that New Zealander killed in Iraq (who lived in Brisbane with a wife and three kids, and served in the Australian Army):
He is the fourth Australian working as a private contractor in Iraq to die.

Jon Hadaway, 34, of Melbourne died in Germany in August this year from injuries he sustained in a bombing, while Wayne Schulz, 34, of Queensland died in June when the armoured vehicle he was travelling in was destroyed by a bomb, 300km north of Baghdad.

Chris Ahmelman, 34, of Queensland was killed last year with two others in an ambush by insurgents on their way to Baghdad airport.
I have no sympathy for these mercenaries, but I wonder how many people at your local shopping mall could tell you how many Aussies have died in Iraq?

14 Dec 2006

Howard: Blame The Iraqis, Take Their Oil

Howard suggests that the violence in Iraq is all the fault of the Iraqis themselves, and all we can do now is wait for them to sort it out:
"The most important thing that can happen in Iraq is that there can be a domestic political accommodation," Mr Howard told ABC radio.

"Horrific situations like this are always resolved through some sort of domestic political accommodation between the different Shi'ite sections and between the Shi'ite and Sunni...

"In the end, the Iraqis hold the key to their own future, our role is to give them an opportunity of consolidating the democratic choice that they've made," he said.
Howard then starts salivating at the prospect of what Dick Cheney defines as "success":
"There was some welcome news on that front a few days ago when an agreement was reached between the various parties for the federal government to have a final say in relation to the distribution of oil revenue," he said.
He's talking about the "federal government" in Baghdad, by the way, not Canberra or Washington (lest there be any confusion).

And he's excited at the "welcome news" because it means Big Oil will finally have found someone semi-legitimate to sign their Production Sharing Agreements (PSA's), which they have been anxiously peddling from door to door for the past three years.

And that means everyone can declare a Job Well Done and go home. Except the poor Iraqi people, of course, whose children's children's children will still be financially crippled by these PSAs a hundred years from now.

But as Howard himself would say, that's their problem, innit?
Howard's Australia

How shameful when Australia generates headlines like this in the world media: Australian city rejects Sudanese refugees.
Laura Bush Wins Wanker Of The Day

I think it could be the first time Atrios has ever given the award to a woman (Anne Coulter doesn't count: she is a man). The winning quote came from a TV interview where Laura blamed the media for her husband's dismal polls:
I do know that there are a lot of good things that are happening that aren’t covered. And I think that the drum beat in the country from the media, from the only way people know what is happening unless they happened to have a loved one deployed there, is discouraging.
And how's this for the ultimate Fridge Magnet:
Protesters demand the release of Hicks:
The group of about 30 protesters held placards in support of Hicks outside Sydney's Supreme Court building where his lawyers have been granted an urgent hearing.

Hicks' legal team will argue in court that the federal government should be ordered to demand the US frees him from the Guantanamo Bay prison where he has been held for five years.
Antony Loewenstein:
It’s been a good year for those of us who campaign against US hegemony. US influence in the Middle East is at rock bottom. Likewise in many Latin American countries. Views of the Bush administration in Australia couldn’t be worse.

Bring on 2007.
In Case You Missed It: Howard's Abusive Relationship With Australia

Let me just repeat here a previous comment:
The Australian nation is in a dysfunctional relationship with a cheating partner. He promises her security and prosperity, but he cheats on her repeatedly and then he lies about it.
“Where were you last night, darling?”
“I was in bed with the AWB, but don’t worry - nothing happened. I promise…”
She knows he is lying, but she doesn’t dare to challenge him, not wholeheartedly. She is scared of confronting the horrible truth, and she dreads the consequences that must inevitably follow.

If our government knowingly breached the UN sanctions program against Iraq, even while millions of innocent Iraqi children were dying as a result of it; if our government then knowingly participated in a pre-planned war, in defiance of international law and the UN, to seize control of Iraq’s oil fields; if our government lied through its collective teeth to hide these facts and then, under international pressure, set up an anodyne enquiry to absolve itself of any guilt; if, with half a million or more Iraqis now dead and their entire country teetering on the precipice of bloody chaos, our Government continues to put its own survival ahead of any moral consideration; if all this and more is true, then we as a nation have lost our way, we are in the hands of mobsters, we are ruled by War Criminals in shiny suits, we are worse than a laughing stock because we have voted for these people again and again and again, even while we watched other people suffer the consequences of our poor judgement.

The desperate refugee children fished from our heaving seas, the suicidal children locked behind razor wires in desert detention centres, the charred corpses of bombed children with blackened, burned out bubbles where their eyes should be… These are the victims of our terrible misjudgement.
The same could be said of the USA, of course, or the UK under Blair. But at least there are some vague stirrings of accountability in those countries. Australia's national apathy has become pathological.

It was 46 degrees celcius out at Birdsville today. The harsh light of the sun was scorching the barren earth. But nobody was breaking a sweat in the air-conditioned corridors of Canberra.

13 Dec 2006

Would A Terrorist Really Wear An Anti-Bush T-Shirt?

This man is a terrorist because he threatens the very basic values which define our Australian way of life: unquestioning belief in the Howard government, ruthless devotion to Bush’s USA and -above all - a refusal to disrupt the status quo.

Send him to Gitmo and stick a prod up his ass - let’s find out how he came to be such a terrrrrrrrrst!!! The public has a legitimate Need To Know!

Via A.L. .
Now He Tells Us?

After ignoring the problem for a decade, Howard warns Australians to expect more extreme weather:
On his last stop in St Helens, Mr Howard was asked if he accepted the scientists' predictions of more extreme weather events.

"Let me put it this way," he said. "I think the country should prepare for a continuation of what we are now experiencing ... I think the likelihood of this going on is very strong."

12 Dec 2006

Howard: Against Emissions Trading Before He War For It

Howard blows hot and cold on emissions:
THE Federal Government was on the brink of introducing emissions trading in Australia three years ago as the centrepiece of a major new climate change strategy — until the Prime Minister stepped in.

In 2003, a government committee representing the Treasury, Environment and Industry departments was told to come up with an affordable, long-term plan to cut Australia's greenhouse gas emissions over coming decades.

A key part of the strategy was to support emissions trading: to make companies pay for producing greenhouse gases while allowing those that cleaned up their act to profit by trading unused credits to pollute.

Government sources have told The Age that the plan won the backing of virtually every department, including the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, as well as the support of Treasurer Peter Costello, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and then environment minister David Kemp.

In July 2003, the strategy was taken to the Coalition cabinet room. A month later, after meeting the chief executives of minerals, aluminium, power, paper and chemicals companies, the Prime Minister dumped the strategy, arguing it would cost industry too much.
Via John Quiggin, who expects Howard to introduce some form of emissions trading as a pre-election rabbit from the hat.
Downer Saves The World (Again)

Apparently the USA was just about to withdraw all its troops from Iraq, till suddenly Alexander Downer (MP) talked them out of it:
Mr Downer says he told the Bush Administration not to pull out too quickly from Iraq.

"The consequences would not only be disastrous for the Iraqi people, it could lead to neighbouring countries being drawn in to military conflict over Iraq and in Iraq," he said.

"And, of course, the consequences for the struggle against terrorism internationally would be utterly disastrous.

"That's one message that we have delivered to the Americans. I know it's not a very popular message."

11 Dec 2006

Hail, The Wise Old Man

The oracle speaks again:
"I knew that Labor would get a bounce in the polls. That was going to happen and it doesn't surprise me in the least bit."
Rudd scraps Beazley's values plan. International visitors will not need to agree to a list of Australian values as a condition of entry. What a bloody stupid idea that was.
AWB Heads For The U.S. Rocks

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer is in Washington for two days of meetings with US Vice President Dick Cheney and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. What do you think he is talking about?
Foret's original class-action lawsuit claimed that AWB's actions in Iraq broke US laws and caused economic damage to US farmers by engaging in a "global campaign of racketeering, money laundering, fraud and bribery".

If successful, it could lead to a payout of more than $US1 billion ($A1.28 billion) to US farmers.
Guess who is going to be footing the bill? You and me, mate. Just like we taxpayers are bailing out James Hardie.

So how is Downer's conversation with Cheney going to go...?
Dumbo: Excuse me, sir, but please remember how we supported President Bush's War On Terror.

Cheney: Heh.

Dumbo: And how diligently we have disseminated the neocon talking points for an antipodean audience.

Cheney: Heh.

Dumbo: And how we always vote with the USA against UN motions critical of Israel.

Cheney: Heh.
Howard 39, Rudd 36

Latest Newspoll:
Labor's primary vote has climbed seven points to 46 per cent.

In the preferred prime minister measure, 36 per cent of voters would prefer Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd as prime minister.

That is an increase of 11 points on Kim Beazley's last Newspoll result.

However Prime Minister John Howard is still ahead on 39 per cent.

Mr Rudd says his party still has a lot of work to do.

"Labor Party members should take a cold shower when they look at these poll results today," he said.

"I think it represents at this stage a protest vote against Mr Howard, who's increasingly out of touch.

10 Dec 2006

Am I the only dialup user who has noticed that it is getting harder and harder to access ABC News Online?

7 Dec 2006

Worth a read... Club Troppo: Friday’s Missing Link.
Five Years: It's All Hick's Fault

David Hicks has been in Gitmo for 5 years. Govt explains why:
"One of the explanations for the five years is that probably up to 18 months to two years of that period of time has been accounted for by the legal processes trying to stop the military commission going ahead," he said.
Err, John? Those military commissions were ruled illegal by the US Supreme Court. You should have been the one stopping them going ahead, not Hicks' lawyers.

You should have brought him home a long time ago. Somewhere in your shrivelled little heart you know that.
Howard finally admits the bloody obvious:
"Certainly things in Iraq are going very badly."
Please, George, Let ME Fly It!

Britain baulks at US fighter plane deal. They actually want to be able to fly and control the airplane they are helping to build.
British legislators say it is still uncertain whether Washington will agree to transfer the technology Britain says is needed to allow it to operate the aircraft independently.
I guess this is what it looks like when Her Maj's Govt stands up to Uncle Sam. Australia is also involved in the JSF program. Will we get to fly our own plane too? Doubt it.

UPDATE: We commit the cash and the USA promises we can fly it too:
Australia and Britain had baulked in the past about committing to the project because the US had refused to share the jet's secret technology, but both countries have received assurances they would receive the necessary information.
Australia has pledged a massive $12 billion (that's $12,000,000,000.oo) to the project.

Twelve. Billion.

Taxpayer funded, of course.
Howard lets out a tiny squeak:
"If I decide to have a reshuffle I'll say so, if I don't you won't hear anything from me - you won't hear a squeak out of me."
Bye bye, Amanda.
Waiting On Washington

Blair agrees war 'not being won':
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell asked: "Isn't it clear that the British government has no policy of its own in relation to Iraq? And that we are wholly dependent on the decisions taken in Washington?

"What sort of strategy is that? And what sort of legacy is that?"
If only Kerry O'Brien had been as forthright with Alexander Downer on the 7:30 report this evening. Transcript to follow...

6 Dec 2006

The "Biological Agent" Lie: Whodunnit?

Yet another scandalous top-level Howard government lie exposed. But this could be more than just a lie. It seems to me that the Howard government has engaged in a deliberate act of premeditated terrorism.

On June 1st, 2005, Alexander Downer told parliament that a suspicious package had been sent to the Indonesian embassy.
Soon after question time he revealed "the initial analysis of the powder has tested positive as a biological agent, though further testing will need to be carried out to determine what the substance actually is".

John Howard then told reporters that sending the powder to the embassy was an act of "murderous criminality". He rejected a suggestion from a reporter the substance could turn out to be "rather benign".

"No … the reference biological agent does not mean it's benign," he said.
Now it has been confirmed that the scary powder was just flour. The Sydney Morning Herald's Matthew Moore launches a brave attack on Howard and Downer, saying they personally "distorted test results":
Documents from ACT Pathology and the federal police, obtained under freedom of information laws, show the microbiologist who examined the powder on June 1 last year and the federal police never called it a "biological agent", and described it as a commonly occurring bacteria.
So common, in fact, that it even turns up in plain flour. So how did the term "biological agent" end up all over the papers?
Constable Helena Cox took the powder to ACT Pathology at Canberra Hospital at 12.35pm, where it was analysed by an unidentified microbiologist. After checking it under a microscope, she told Constable Cox it contained a live organism called "gram positive bacilli" and would take 48 hours to identify. Constable Cox said in her note she rang her superior to pass on this result, some time after 1.18pm, and before question time.

The documents do not show who advised Mr Downer and Mr Howard of the results, or what information was given to them. The Government has refused to say.

Mr Howard, Mr Downer, the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, and Senator Ellison have all failed to answer written questions on who came up with the term biological agent, generally used to describe diseases like anthrax, used in biological weapons to cause mass loss of life.
Moore's article puts the scare in the political context of the Shapelle Corby case.
The description of the powder as a biological agent torpedoed a wave of public anger directed at the Indonesian Government and its justice system that had been building for five days after a Bali court convicted Schapelle Corby of drug smuggling on May 27.

Before announcing the powder had tested positive as a biological agent, Mr Downer warned Parliament the public attacks on Indonesia would cause "a good deal of anti-Australian sentiment in Indonesia" and make it difficult to conclude agreements with Indonesia.

The Government's revelations that a biological agent had threatened the safety of Indonesians at the embassy sent shock waves through Corby's defence team. Her lawyers condemned it for damaging her chances of winning an appeal. After the public outcry over the biological agent, Corby never again enjoyed the public support she had previously received.
In other words, the scare blew Corby's case off the front pages and provided a very timely counterpoint to growing anti-Indonesian sentiment. The Howard government was facing a full-blown international crisis, with growing demands for action against Indonesia, and then - voila! - a little white envelope fixed the problem. How convenient.

You can just imagine the thinking in Canberra...
Downer: This is ridiculous! Some dumb bitch gets busted for smuggling dope into Bali, and suddenly everyone in Australia wants us to start bombing Jakarta! The TNI -

Ruddock: Well, she may not have actually been smuggling -

Downer: Every CEO in Australia is ringing my office, demanding we get this fixed immediately. Contracts are already collapsing. Do you know how many millions -

Howard: Relax, guys. These things have a way of working themselves out. True, the Corby story has had a lot of traction right now. But another story will come along soon, and public opinion will blow the other way again.

Downer: What do you mean?

Howard: Well, just imagine if, say, there was an earthquake in Indonesia tomorrow, for example. Or a terrorist attack, even better...

Downer and Ruddock: Hmmmn...
Seriously, though. What are the options? Who could have mailed that fake anthrax scare to the Indonesian Embassy?

a) Some pro-Corby nutcase from the public.
b) Howard's boys.
c) The Indonesians themselves.
d) Anyone else?

Admittedly, (a) seems the most likely scenario, while (c) seems most unlikely (unless it was a joint exercise). But Howard's boys had a clear motive and the timing was perfect for them. And it's not like ASIO needed to be heavily involved in such an operation. And here's the clincher: they are refusing to co-operate with enquiries. So for my money, it's (b).

The bottom line is this: Howard and Downer intentionally TERRORIZED the Australian people (and the staff of the Indonesian Embassy to boot). At best, they did it by knowingly distorting facts. At worst, they were personally involved in planning and executing an act of terrorism.

Book 'em, Danno.

UPDATE 1: Howard says his Government informed the public the white powder was probably not toxic by the next day. But that is the Bush spin in spades: lie, deny, retreat. By that time, the story is old. You got the headlines you wanted, and that's all that matters.

UPDATE 2: Another strange twist here. Corby's lawyer threatens to "tell all". He leaks that Corby's family refused an offer from the Australian Federal Police to DNA test the cannabis. And ABC says Corby met an Adelaide man, "in the pre-dawn darkness", on her way to Brisbane airport. Corby's family says that is all "crap". Funny how this stuff comes out right now, innit? Very strange timing... again.

What if Australian Customs has a whole lot to hide? What if public confidence in government truth-telling has collapsed and everyone has to make up their own mind? What if the media who brought us Saddam's WMDs on a plate can no longer be trusted?

This is John Howard's Australia.

UPDATE 3: Howard finds someone to blame:
Mr Howard said the term was used in an incident report prepared by the government's Protective Security Coordination Centre (PSCC) at 2.13pm that day.

"In media interviews later that day, when answering questions about the white powder incident, I was also quoting from the advice provided by the PSCC," Mr Howard said in a statement.
And simultaneously, Howard denies (conditionally, of course) that he ever said the flour was toxic:
"In Question Time that day (2 June), I advised that analysis of the substance indicated that in all probability it was not toxic.

"The AFP statement advised that testing has shown that the substance is not anthrax. However, it must be stressed these finding are interim and analysis is continuing."
This is deliberately misleading nonsense, because he is talking about the following day (2 June) when the scare-mongering had already been accomplished and the story was all over the newspaper and TV news headlines.

Read the story again: Downer gave details to parliament in June 1st, and Howard backed them up. The next day - under pressure - they backed down.

Lie, deny, retreat.
Ministerial Responsibility? Moi?

Kerry O'Brien ripped into Amanda Vanstone last night, as these 7.30 Report transcripts show:
KERRY O’BRIEN: Senator, the Government has been there for nearly 11 years. You were there, you and your predecessors in this Government were responsible for the Immigration Department for 10 years up to 2005, the most recent case that we've investigated.


KERRY O’BRIEN: Who takes responsibility for the actions of the departmental officers that you employ and run?

AMANDA VANSTONE: Kerry, I've already indicated to you, and I'll say it again, that the systems in a department, the culture in a department, get to an inadequate situation - and they did get to that - and -

KERRY O’BRIEN: When does ministerial responsibility come into it?


KERRY O’BRIEN: When does ministerial responsibility come into it?

AMANDA VANSTONE: I'm only going to start answering the same question the same way...
Labour today renewed calls for her resignation.
Bring Them Home

Labor frontbencher Robert McClelland says Australia should plan Iraq exit:
"The prime minister said yesterday, 'Well our objectives are for stability in Iraq'. At no stage has the government articulated what our strategy is, what our precise mission is, what the benchmarks for achieving that mission are and the likely time scale involved in achieving that mission.

"There has been no analysis as to the cost, no analysis of whether it's been consistent with Australia's national security priorities and no analysis of the additional risk it places on our troops in Afghanistan because we can't provide, in particular, intelligence resources that we need to support them on the ground."
How's this for optimism: Knockin' on Kevin's Door.
Abbot Launches The Attack On Rudd

From SMH:
Like most on the political left, he is a professional Howard-hater who appears to believe that the Australian people can't wait to remove a "morally illegitimate" government. On AWB, his allegations were no less over the top than Beazley's. If the economy goes bad; if a disaster befalls Australian forces in the Middle East; if the Government loses its internal cohesion and discipline, Labor might win by default.
Interesting. If Howard loses, it won't be because of Rudd, it will be their own fault, or circumstances beyond their control (like the Iraq War they foolishly enjoined).

5 Dec 2006

You OK With This, Australia?

Committee approves sale of uranium to China. As long as they promise not to use it for military purposes. Which they have. So that's fine then. Right?

4 Dec 2006

Taking The Piss

Channel 7's breakfast news co-host David Koch is in big, big trouble with the PM after airing the following joke:
John Howard is on a skiing trip - Christmas holidays, Aspen, the whole thing.

He's coming down the slopes and then in the snow written - obviously someone has relieved themselves in the snow - and written, "John Howard is a dork".

Well, John stops in front of it and looks at it absolutely fuming and says to the secret service guys who are sort of shadowing him while he's on his holiday in Aspen: "Look into this. I want to know who did it, under what circumstances." They say, "Yes sir" and he went off skiing.

That night the forensic guys have taken a sample of the thing in the snow. They go to him, "Well, Mr Prime Minister, we've got good news and bad news.

"We've tested the urine samples and we've come to a conclusion. What do you want - good or bad news?"

And he said, "Well, what's the good news?"

And they said, "Well, it's Kim Beazley's urine".

And he said, "Well, what's the bad news?"

And they said, "Well, it was in Janette's handwriting".
For a good time, call Kevin Rudd:
He asked voters to contact his office directly to offer input as he and his future front bench, to be voted on Thursday in caucus, develop alternative policies to that of the Howard Government.

"We in politics don't have a monopoly on wisdom," Mr Rudd told the Seven Network. "You pick up a whole lot of information and good ideas from the community who are at the coalface."
Mind you, I never had much luck contacting John Howard at the Lodge after he made a similar invitation.
Follow The Logic

We cannot leave Iraq because the country would collapse into chaos, and we cannot stop using the AWB because markets will disappear:
AWB warned key markets could be threatened by the loss of its veto power.

"If any changes are made to the bulk veto system for this harvest there is potential for wheat growers to lose valuable access to important long-standing markets like Japan and Korea," AWB national pool manager David Johnson said.

"Changing the bulk veto at this time could result in the national pool receiving lower quality wheat, which it must accept under its obligation to be the receiver of last resort.

"This could result in Australian wheat growers losing valuable international customers to our overseas competitors."
As opposed to financing brutal dictators with bribes, which is just great for business, right?
Unexplained force shakes NSW mid-north coast. Apparently a couple were making love on the beach at Byron Bay...
On the first day of his leadership, ABC News captures a moment of Rudd arrogance:
"I'll be leading this show and when it comes to the outcomes I want I intend to get them.

"I don't particularly care if others have opposing views - that's what's going to happen."
Let's hope it is short-lived. A little boldness and idealism would not go astray in the present climate, but politics is a hard game.

3 Dec 2006

So is Kevin Rudd just Murdoch's new boy?

This little interview took place just two weeks ago:
JOURNALIST: There’s a newspaper report today that suggests that Rupert Murdoch will throw his support behind a Labor Government if the Party dumps you and installs Rudd and Gillard as the leadership ticket.

BEAZLEY: All speculation. I’m going to make Kevin Rudd a very fine Foreign Minister for this country and Julia Gillard an excellent Health Minister for the country.
Of course it was all just speculation:
Greg Baxter, the director of corporate affairs for News Limited, however, is playing the Grinch. He has a very blunt letter in the Fin today:
Your "Beazley-bashing gathers momentum" (November 20) reports that Rupert Murdoch will back Labor if it installs a Kevin Rudd-Julia Gillard leadership ticket. This is wrong. No one at News, including Murdoch, has given any hint of any such thing to Beazley, Rudd or Gillard or to any apparatchik on either side of politics, or to anyone in the press gallery.
As they say, if News Ltd is denying it emphatically, it must be true. But who were the first people to run thse Beazley versus Rudd polls anyway? Who ignored Beazley's long lead over Howard in the polls, then started chattering excitedly about Labour leadership problems as soon as Howard drew level? Hmmn?

Of course, leadership destabilisation can be fertile media ground on both sides of politics. Murdoch previously advised Howard to "go out on top" and his papers have regularly enjoyed giving encouragement to Peter Costello's rather silly ambitions. But nobody even likes Costello, and the speculation has always seemed rather Machiavellian to me. It has never looked like an orchestrated coup, and Costello has never looked like Rupert's new boy.

In retrospect, it seems the seeds were planted and the ground was fertile for the change. All it needed was a Howard "Yeeeaaarrggghh!" Dean moment. In retrospect, Beazley's "Rove" name gaffe may be one of the costliest slips of the tongue in political history.

The following day, a Dennis Shanahan article (Beazley Going Backwards, 18 Nov 2006) in Murdoch's The Australian declared Beazley's leadership was "in the balance" and even threw the spotlight onto the ordained (?) takeover team:
[T]he high-profile gaffe and its timing could turn it into a Labor epiphany. This could have the effect of unleashing the dogs of war, venting the frustration so many of his supporters feel and convincing waverers that things could be better under a different leader.

It could also drive Beazley’s supporters to try to draw leadership contenders into premature moves and have it all out and over before a Christmas deadline...

Beazley's leadership has never been based on a positive endorsement and was engineered without a ballot for the good of the party.

The next generation - Kevin Rudd, Lindsay Tanner and Julia Gillard - was talked into not running on the basis that Beazley's experience was what was needed after the experiment with the untried and crazy-brave Latham. Indeed, Beazley's declaration this week that he was "iron clad" on experience while many of his frontbenchers were not could have been aimed squarely at Rudd and Gillard.

But how could Labor in so few days have gone from a competitive electoral position, looking positive and aggressive against the Howard Government, to develop clear difficulties? Going into this week the federal Labor Party and Beazley were looking good...
Indeed they were. But it all went tits-up very quickly.

Still, you can't pin this defeat totally on Murdoch. The Herald's Alan Ramsey suggested that the poll slide was largely Beazley's own fault. And while the Bomber was digging a hole for himself, Howard's priorities were all too clear:
"It's a great privilege to be here tonight and to share briefly in this very important occasion which honours a man and also honours a friendship between nations. Rupert Murdoch is a remarkable product of a remarkable family, and I don't know that anybody can better epitomise, in a sense, the great bonds and links and shared experiences between our two countries. The great Australian family, the Murdochs, has contributed so much, not only to the media, but in so many different ways to the life and experience of this country … and I think it appropriate that tonight this dinner is held in honour of Rupert Murdoch.

"But it's also held in honour of an association that means so much to all of us … Rupert's already reminded us that beginning with the Battle of Hamel in July 1918, Australians and Americans have fought together in every major conflict since … I echo with all the being I can muster the reminder of Rupert Murdoch that we Australians should never forget the debt we owe the US for the assistance given [during World War II] …

"Rupert Murdoch was right when he said our involvement in Iraq was never popular. If I may say so, I think it's about the most poll-defiant thing that I have done in the whole of my prime ministership …"

"Tonight [we] honour a man in Rupert Murdoch who has done great things and great deeds to keep the friendship in good repair …"
Great Australian? As Ramsay points out, Murdoch renounced his Australian citizenship 21 years ago "for business reasons".

The Bomber now looks set to bow out quietly:
"For me to do anything further in the Australian Labor Party I would say is Lazarus with a quadruple bypass," he said, in a reference to a remark once made by Mr Howard after a party defeat.

"So the time has come for me to move on but when that gets properly formalised I will let you know."
Beazley was a Union Man, and those days are gone. As a kid who grew up in the strike-ridden 1970's, when even teachers and garbage men were regularly walking off their jobs, I know Australia's distate for militant unionism has been a big part of Howard's success. But now both men are set for the scrapheap of history: we don't want to go back to Beazley's unionist glory days any more than we want to go back to Howard's glory days of Menzies and WWII. We want a real leader with a clear vision for a better future. In that sense, at least, Rudd looks promising:
Mr Rudd said the government had gone "a bridge too far" on a number of issues, including Iraq, industrial and climate change.

"The call for the Australian people these days is this: it's time to restore the balance, it's time to reclaim the centre ground," he said...

Mr Rudd said his "new style" of leadership would look beyond short-term issues.

"What we mean by that, when it comes to the big debates for the future, we're not concerned about just the next 12 months, we are concerned about the next 20 years," he said.

"I think there's too much short-termism in Australian politics, and the more I move around the Australian community, they want to know what is the long-term (goal).

"And when you're looking at the big ones like climate change, they want to know whether you're real or whether you're just coming up with something which sounds good between now and the next election."
Just don't expect any harsh words for Rupert's friends in the White House:
"I am rock solid on the alliance with the United States... The ANZUS remains fundamental for Australia's long-term security."
Oh, well. We can't expect too much all at once. I think Rudd's defeat of Beazley is a good thing for Australian politics - even if it was largely orchestrated by Rupert. My logic is this: I'd rather have a Rupert-picked ALP in charge than a Rupert-picked Liberal Party.

Long-time readers will know that it is not like me to be so practical.
So who is Kevin Rudd?
Mr Rudd won the Queensland seat of Griffith at the 1998 election and was promoted to Labor's front bench in 2001 as foreign affairs spokesman, a position he held until today.

The politician with the nicknames Harry Potter, Heavy Kevvie and Pixie, will now begin a media blitz to sell himself and his message to voters ahead of an election that could be called as early as August but will be held within 12 months.

However, he inherits the leadership of a party that is ahead in the polls, according to the latest Herald/ACNielsen poll, which shows, on a two-party preferred basis, Labor ahead of the Liberal-National Coalition by 56 to 44.

The poll also suggested Mr Rudd would invigorate Labor's primary vote by luring support back from the Greens, minor parties and independents.

Born in Nambour, Mr Rudd is married to Therese Rein and the couple have three children.

He graduated from the Australian National University and is a former diplomat having served the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at postings in Sweden and China.

He has a strong interest in China, speaks Mandarin, and was recently in Beijing holding talks with senior Chinese Government officials.

While he has no experience as an MP in Government, he says he has a "range of experiences'' that equip him for the job. He served as chief-of-staff to Queensland Labor Premier Wayne Goss.
Rudd: A Breath OF Fresh Air

Laurie Oakes says it's 49 for Rudd and 39 for the Bomber.

Now confirmed. Let the battle begin in earnest.

Personally, I think this ALP Leadership spill would not have happened were it not for Rupert Murdoch giving Beazley the cold shoulder for the past month. The Bomber was kissing ass at every opportunity when Murdoch came home for the Newscorp AGM and sundry meetings, but it was all to no avail.

Let's see if Rudd gets a fair run. He doesn't look like a bloke with too many skeletons in the closet. I guess that means the media will have to portray him as boring. But the public seem to like him, particularly those who watch breakfast TV (where he is always a regular commentator on breaking stories, while Dim Beastly is still in bed).

Lawd knows, maybe we will even have an election based on real issues!?! That would be novel.

1 Dec 2006

Fascism In Australia

Via Aussie Bob:
Ignorance and a total lack of responsibility are the new twin engines of power...

The parliamentary aftermath of the Cole inquiry suggests that politics has now invaded, some would say infected, every aspect of public life. Political survival and plausible deniability are now the paramount objectives of public administration. Executive government and the bureaucracy are now seemingly inseparable, their fates intertwined. They exist to look after each other… which suggests the rest of us will have to look after ourselves.
From the comments:
A sad reflection of a public that doesn’t give a shit about anything unless it directly effects them...

30 Nov 2006

Rupert Murdoch's Drunken Goon Attacks

Story here.

Goon will not be sacked.
Journalists scuffle at Walkley awards:
The founder of news website crikey.com, Stephen Mayne, had just presented the Walkley for Best Business Report to the Australian Financial Review's Morgan Mellish when he was interrupted by an audience member.

The News Limited political correspondent Glenn Milne rushed up onto the stage at the Crown Casino and pushed Mr Mayne over, calling him a disgrace.

"You are an absolute disgrace, you, you are an absolute disgrace," Mr Milne shouted.

He accused Mr Mayne of defiling journalists' reputations without reason.

Mr Milne struggled and continued to shout insults as security dragged him off stage.

Mr Mayne got up and composed himself quickly.

"Come on settle down, it's nothing special - just another pissed journo," he told the audience.

He appeared unfazed by the incident and said he had a special announcement to make on behalf of Rupert Murdoch.

"That is the former Sunday Telegraph political correspondent Glenn Milne, sponsored by Fosters," he said
Bush picks up on Howard's new thang: U.S. to unveil new citizenship questions.
No longer would it be sufficient to know the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial). Applicants could also be asked why there are three branches of government.
No questions about cricket, though.
Just for the record, isn't it strange that all this Labour leadership speculation is coming otu at the same time as the AWB findings? Hmmn?

29 Nov 2006

Downer Shocked - Shocked! - By AWB Scandal

Downer talks to the Murdoch press:
"I didn't have any anxiety about anybody on my staff or in my department having done anything wrong," Mr Downer said in the interview, firmly blaming AWB for the debacle.

"They were deceiving us. They were deceiving the UN. They were deceiving their own people. I was shocked." ...

"As evidence gradually came to light, we did deal with it. The narrative that somehow we didn't do anything about this is clearly a false narrative," Mr Downer said...

"We have been shocked to discover what AWB has been doing," Mr Downer said.

"We have discovered it. We have got to the heart of it. And those people haven't got away with it. That is really the central point."
Put a rocket up his arse. That'll shock him.

23 Nov 2006

Time To Shuffle The Deckchairs?

PM won't speculate on a cabinet reshuffle:
"But I'm amused that people keep writing that there's going to be something. I haven't indicated that."

21 Nov 2006

Australia's nuclear waste will be stored in Ziggy Switkowski's bathroom:
Dr Switkowski attempted to quell community fears about the disposal of radioactive junk, saying modern reactors generated "very little waste".

"A typical nuclear power station would probably produce as much waste as would fill maybe a bathroom in a small house," he told the Nine Network.

20 Nov 2006

Howard's Alternative Reality

PM Howard in Asia:
"I was regarded as somebody who wouldn't comfortably deal with the countries of the region," Mr Howard said.

"But I did."
Hmmnn, let's see.... Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia hate us for the whole stupid war on whatever crapola, Fiji and PNG hates us for political, military and police interference, East Timor hates us for stealing their oil and abandoning them to the Indonesian Army, West Papuans hate us for similar reasons, Tongans are rioting as Australians get a military airlift to safety... Yep, it all looks very comfortable indeed.

13 Nov 2006

High Court dismisses workplace law challenge:
The states and the unions challenged the validity of the new laws, saying they were unconstitutional because they were set up under the corporations power in the Constitution.

However the High Court has found the laws are valid, and that it was appropriate for the Government to base its new laws on the corporations power.

The court also rejected the challenges to particular sections of the Act.

Two of the seven judges, Micheal Kirby and Ian Callinan, dissented from the majority.

The chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, says the High Court's decision provides companies with more stability.

12 Nov 2006

The Oz Politics Blog - Election 2007 predictions:
Iraq is a non-issue for most Australians. Unlike the United States, Australia does not have a sizeable and growing body count that plays out every evening on the nightly news. While the majority of Australians might not agree with the decision to engage in Iraq, they are not passionate about the issue. It is not the vote changer it was with the recent US mid-term elections.
Stalling For Time

Govt to push 'New Kyoto' at UN talks:
The government remains opposed to signing the Kyoto Protocol on slashing emissions, instead pushing for what Prime Minister John Howard has labelled a "New Kyoto" to take effect when the current pact expires in 2012...

The move follows Treasurer Peter Costello saying Australia could not afford to sit on the sidelines as the world moved toward a comprehensive global carbon trading scheme.

But Mr Costello also said it was not something Australia would have to consider for another decade or more.
Hello and welcome to my new blog, Howard Out.

Some of you may know me from Bush Out, where I have been blogging since 2003. For those who don't know me, I am a nondescript 41-year-old father of three, living on the Gold Coast in Queensland. I have no political connections or agendas.

Having now helped to bring Bush to his political knees, I will still be keeping my old blog alive, at least until it's time to deliver the ultimate coup de grace. But given the Democrats' new hold on power, and the opportunities now available to them, I don't think that bloggers will be (or need to be) at the fore-front of the push for change over the next few months. So I am expecting that Washington will no longer be the main focus of my attention, at least for a time. I don't expect things in the USA to change overnight, mind you: the people there have a long, hard battle ahead of them.

But with my own country, Australia, facing important national elections in 2007, and with our PM John Howard still unaccountably popular, I wanted to start a new blog, focussing more closely on Australia's own media, politics and people. Of course, it is still the same battle of ordinary folk against a war-loving, fear-mongering, Big-Business-backed elite regime. It just has a different flavour, different characters, and different dynamics.

My primary goal is to ensure that John Howard cannot win re-election. My secondary goal is to hold him, and others who facilitated Australia's involvement in the Iraq War, accountable for past lies and misdeeds. Beyond that, I want to get engaged in the national debate about who we are and where we are going, and try to push that in a more positive direction.

It seems to me that as a nation, in terms of self-identity, self-belief and self-respect, we are pretty well lost right now. We need to pull back the curtains on the increasingly global politics-business nexus, and we need to inject a huge dose of idealism into the "story" that controls our national direction. As a melting pot of cultures, Australia has an incredible opportunity to stake out a key place in the globalization debate, the environmental challenge and other big issues. As the Yanks say, it's time to step up to the plate.

As this blog develops, I hope to educate myself a bit more about how politics and business work in the land of sweeping plains. I'm sure I'll make a few enemies, and hopefully a few new friends, along the way. Comments are always very welcome, but I will be implementing a "use 'em or lose 'em" policy. I tend to be a bit of a newshound, trying to fit the latest stories into a broader context. It's not always the best format for comments, which disappear down the page pretty quickly. But don't let that hold you back. And please do email me (gandhi) any time (at bmail dot com dot au) with any other thoughts, comments and suggestions.

So welcome aboard: please bookmark the Howard Out URL and stop by regularly for the latest news and views.