SMH blog 2006-8

I had a newsy blog on the Sydney Morning Herald website between 2006 and 2008.

Effete? Melbourne? Bring it on!

At breakfast on Saturday I was incensed by John Thorpe’s words in the Herald, so much so that I must confess I spilt my latte all over my ciabatta. Thorpe, who is the NSW President of that august body known as the Australian Hotels Association, is trying to stop Sydney City Council from liberalising liquor laws so that we can have smaller, Melbourne-style laneway bars. Of course, he doesn’t fancy the competition, so he’s doing everything he can to stop it from happening. Including verballing those like me who happen to like Melbourne’s laneway bars. Well, Thorpe, this will not stand. As Jordan from Top Model so eloquently put it, game on, moll.

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Bye bye, Bracksy, goodbye

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It’s so rare for politicians to leave office at the time of their choosing that it always comes as a shock. But where Bob Carr left office in 2005 with perfect timing after a decade in power, Steve Bracks’ resignation is a sadder, more sudden affair. He’s only 52, and only eight months into a term. So while he may have claimed that it was the right decision for his State and party, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be agreeing today.

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The curse of CityRail

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Sydney is supposed to be a major global city. We’re constantly telling ourselves how world-class we are, and major surveys keep agreeing – most recently we were ranked fifth best city in the world to visit. And we are the largest city in a wealthy, highly developed nation. So can someone explain to me, in extremely simple terms, why our train system is reminiscent of a third world country – or, worse still, England?

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Pot, pollies and hypocrisy

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Politicians nowadays are constantly being asked whether they’ve used marijuana. Anyone who wants to enter politics needs a good answer to the question, and as baby boomers continue to take over our parliaments, the answers keep on becoming more interesting. The so-called baby boomer president, Bill Clinton, famously offered that “I didn’t inhale” excuse, which formed the basis of many a late-night comedy routine, and provided a taste of the amusingly technical justifications to come as the president denied having “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky.

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An inconvenient spliff

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I’m not usually all that sympathetic towards the privileged scions of political dynasties when they get into trouble, but I do feel sorry for Al Gore III in the light of his arrest with marijuana and a heady cocktail of prescription drugs. It must be pretty tough growing up with that legacy to contend with. No pressure, Al III, but Al Gore I and II were both Senators, and the latter was the rightful President and is now viewed by the neo-environmental movement with quasi-religious fervour. That’s a big name to live up to.

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Scooter Libby’s unforgivable pardon

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Justice is a highly variable quantity under President George W. Bush. If you’re on death row, you can forget about asking for clemency – he has been extremely reluctant to interfere to protect even mentally retarded offenders. If you’re in Guantanamo Bay, facing a trial process that the Supreme Court previously overturned and which the US refused to apply to its own citizens, then tough. But if you’re a buddy of the President’s, and get caught lying to protect your boss and Dick Cheney, then suddenly the tough guy who oversaw 152 executions in Texas – a modern record for a State Governor – is all heart.

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Free Tibet, and while you’re at it, free Bindi too

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What on earth was the Dalai Lama doing at Australia Zoo today? Okay, that was a rhetorical question, I know the answer. He was talking about kindness to animals and the environment. At… the Crocoseum. But what he was also doing was throwing another log on the blaze that is the media spotlight on Bindi Irwin, the Crocodile Heiress. She had to pose for pics with the big guy and sit patiently during what was in all probability a lengthy and complex lecture on Buddhist philosophy. At which point I started wondering whether His Holiness should have added Bindi to his “things to be kind to” list as well.

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It’s Stacks On Catholics Day

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Everyone’s fighting with Catholics in the news today. Most of Australia’s Catholic politicians are angrily attacking George Pell’s threat of “consequences” if they supported stem cell research, noted ethicist Gisele Bundchen is getting stuck into the Brazilian Catholic Church, and a strange man is clambering into the back of the Papal jeep. So I may as well jump on the bandwagon, if not the actual Popemobile itself.

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Australia’s Next Reality TV Offcasts

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What a shame Australia’s Next Top Model is drawing to a close today. And with it, the brief period in the spotlight for the contestants, who will now fade back into the obscurity whence the came. All, that is, except Alice, who will surely win the live final tonight. Despite being painfully shy and having a signature look that involves staring vacantly into space with her mouth hanging open, she’s the only genuinely modellish-looking one in the group. And that includes Jodhi Meares.

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Garrett recession? Try a Howard drought

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The Coalition would not be at all happy with the headline on the front cover of today’s SMH. Yesterday was the showpiece Prime Ministerial address at the Federal Liberal Council, where John Howard had his chance to lay out the ideas everyone hoped would catapult him to a remarkable fifth election win. He seeded some slogans we’ll probably see a lot more of before election day, and, crucially, unveiled a new climate change-based scare campaign designed to turn around the perception that Labor is the party that’s hip to global warming. And what did the Herald report this morning? “Voters dread Costello switch.”

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