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Eurovision 2015 was disturbingly freak-free

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest was pretty good.

As reactions go, that’s roughly on par with saying you found the new Mumford & Sons album not in the least bit effete, or that you were moved by a recent episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

In fact, both observations have been made recently after recent instalments from the Mumfords and Kardashians pleasantly surprised critics. Which goes to show that just because a live, international television broadcast has been one way for an astonishing 59 years, that doesn’t mean it can’t achieve the unexpected.

This year, for its 60th anniversary, most countries somehow lifted their usual standards to produce a perfectly respectable, non-wacky effort. Which might just have made it the most disappointing Eurovision I’ve ever watched. In fact, it was so solid that one could almost have been forgiven for taking the whole thing seriously. Continue Reading →

Budget 2015: the definitive best guaranteed accurate winners and losers

Budgets are complicated documents in which a multitude of complex changes to expenditure and taxation are delivered in one go. It’s for this reason that media organisations helpfully break the detail down into concise lists, usually with groovy little graphics like these ones.

I read every single one of the 93 winners and losers lists published by the Australian media on budget night to bring you this, the most definitive list of all.

Which I suspect makes you the winner and me the loser.

WINNER: Adelaide

Joe Hockey said that this was “a budget for a start‑up business in Adelaide”, which is fabulous news for whoever owns it. There will undoubtedly be more, as the City of Churches is inundated by froyo shops.

LOSERS: Backpackers

Travellers on working holidays visas will no longer have access to the tax-free threshold that’s available to Australian residents, so they’ll have to pay income tax on all of the non-cash-in-hand income they almost never earn.

WINNERS: Small business

Assets worth less than $20,000 will be able to be deducted immediately. There will also be lots of work for accountants, as the threshold of $2 million will see all major Australian businesses restructured into related entities with turnover of $1,999,999.99.

LOSER: Apple

The US device maker is being targeted, along with 29 other multinationals, in an attempt to bypass its complex tax minimisation and profit-shifting measures. Fortunately, any increased tax it pays will be more than offset by the deluge of small business owners buying tax write-off iPads.

WINNERS: Smash repairers

Not only will they be able to invest in new equipment, but there’s a bonanza on the way from all the small business owners who misunderstand Hockey’s invitation to go out and write off their assets immediately.

LOSERS: Expats

They’ll now have to pay back the HECS they’re using their degrees to earn money in London or New York instead of here. And if they don’t pay it, presumably we’ll seize the sweet little apartment they bought themselves with the first home owner’s grant. That’ll teach you to abandon Australia, brain-drainers. Or to leave to get educated even earlier.

WINNER: Netflix

Sure, customers will have to pay an extra 90c a month to use their service, but does anyone really think that’ll make any difference when figures published this week say that their market share’s already ahead of Foxtel’s? After all, they have Orange Is The New Black, while their local competitors may discover that their new black is red.

LOSER: Indonesia

Along with our ambassador, we just recalled 40% of our aid, presumably because if the country can afford to send air force jets to escort a handcuffed pastor and painter from one prison to another, they don’t need so much of our help any more. Although we might want to pay for Joko Widodo to get an answering machine, so he can do a better job of returning Tony Abbott’s calls. That said, phones have been a contentious subject in recent years.

WINNERS: Waterslide lovers

The Treasurer promised an “immediate tax deduction for new investment in water facilities”, which we can only hope inspires the construction of dozens of aquatic theme parks right across the country.

LOSER: Anti-vaxxers

Their childcare payments will be reduced unless their kids are inoculated, although if their approach to the science of mathematics is the same as their approach to the established science on vaccination, they might not actually notice.

WINNER: Hockey Real Estate

The Treasurer mentioned how his family’s family real estate agency “put a roof over our heads” and “gave all of the family a chance at a better life”. No doubt the whole country was listening, and thinking hey, why not ask the Hockeys to put a roof over our heads too? No word on whether you get a cigar for a successful transaction.

LOSER: Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey

Do you remember that guy, who said things like “[Wayne Swan] wants you to believe he can deliver a Budget surplus, but as each day goes by there’s increasing doubt that he ever will (2011)” and “Labor’s planned return to surplus is not credible and presents a potential black hole in future Budgets (2013)”? Being unable to resisting the direction of the global economy seems far more forgivable when you’re on the Treasury benches.

WINNER: Northern Australia

$5bn of loans will be made available for anybody who wants to build a port or other major infrastructure up there. Which is presumably the government saying it can’t be bothered, because it’s just so incredibly hot and humid up there – but sure, knock yourself out, Gina et al.

LOSER: Bill Shorten

Last year’s budget was so unpopular that Bill Shorten went on a months-long spree in the polls. But now the government has remembered that it needs to make people like it to win re-election, so it’s been doling out money to the voters whose support it needs, the way John Howard used to. Which means Bill Shorten’s job just got a whole lot harder than it was when he was ahead in the polls as a proxy for “anyone else”.

LOSER: Bill Shorten again

This time because it was his birthday on budget night. Seriously, who wants to spend their birthday wading through financial documents? (Well, Albo would have been up for it, but that’s still an awkward subject.)

WINNER: Joe Hockey

After the criticism he’s weathered from the media, the pollsters and even some of his colleagues over the past year, it’s a huge triumph for him even to be delivering this budget – even though Scott Morrison got to sell the most attractive bits. Nobody can say that Joe didn’t follow his own advice and have a go, even if some of his colleagues ultimately conclude he has to go.

Charlotte Elizabeth Diana: what’s in a Royal Name?

Congratulations to his current Royal Highness and future Britannic Majesty William, Duke of Cambridge, Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn, Baron Carrickfergus, and future king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, the fifth of his name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, on the birth of his daughter!

And of course congratulations also to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who seems to have handled matters ever so well for a commoner. She is now Mother of Heir and Spare, having admirably prolonged the House of Windsor into yet another generation, unlike newfangled dynasties like the House of Cards, which sank into mediocrity in only its third year.

Especial congratulations too to the family on the choice of the child’s name, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge. It’s a fine choice, full of heraldic significance. A name befitting a princess, really, which is lucky, because unlike your computer-animated Disney versions, this is an actual, proper princess, with access to castles and everything.

Continue Reading →

Thirsty for a ‘Straya less obsessed with booze

Controversy has always come to Shane Warne as effortlessly as that cheeky grin and those huge leg breaks. Last night, the genius spinner who can get himself into trouble with nothing more than a mobile phone and his own legendary libido managed to cast an idiosyncratic shadow over the moment when his former teammates won their first-ever home World Cup.

Mark Taylor often does the on-field interviews on Nine’s Wide World of Sports, and tends, boringly, to ask his fellow cricketers about the game. Not our Warnie. All he wants is to ascertain their level of thirst.

And we aren’t talking about thirst as a metaphor for desire to win. We’re talking about the consumption of liquid, and not the sort that gets brought onto the ground on a little cart shaped like a giant bottle. At Warnie’s journalism academy, all that matters is the likelihood of a cricketer smashing a Boonyesque number of tinnies to celebrate. Continue Reading →

Some real vision for Australia’s Eurovision

As of today, Tony Abbott has a fresh global accomplishment to chalk up alongside his three free trade agreements and whatever is happening with those submarines.

This year, Australia will be allowed to compete in Eurovision in honour of the song contest’s 60th anniversary – despite the country being thousands of kilometres away from Europe, and further away still in terms of musical taste.

We are the only ones being so honoured, presumably in reflection of the great loyalty we have displayed by watching in large numbers each year. I can only imagine the Eurovision organisers don’t realise that 97 per cent of viewers watch for the purpose of sniggering at the many inadvertently hilarious entries. After all, Europe may be the cradle of Western civilisation, but it is also the cradle of pop music so heinous that it only gets played in gyms in order to encourage people on treadmills to run away as quickly as possible. Continue Reading →

Spill averted, but for how long?

Tony Abbott is holding on, but only by his powerful fingers. 61-39 is hardly a hearty affirmation of a prime minister’s leadership less than halfway through his first term. As an endorsement, it’s about as enthusiastic as Kevin Rudd looked in that notorious 2010 photo shoot with Julia Gillard.

It’s important to note that this morning’s vote should be adjusted for cabinet solidarity – even Malcolm Turnbull promised that he would vote to oppose the spill. Consequently, the real margin of dissent is likely closer. The PM still has a sword in close proximity to his neck, and it’s not about to tap each shoulder and award him a knighthood. Continue Reading →

A good knight?

Yesterday, our Prime Minister pondered the relative merits of 22 million Australians, and decided that two men were worthy of our nation’s top honour – a widely respected military leader, and that Greek-Danish fellow who is married to the Queen.

In so doing, Tony Abbott ensured that the nation spent this year’s Australia Day discussing the merits of a nonagenarian who lives on the other side of the planet, instead of the person we would all have been discussing otherwise, Taylor Swift. Still, at least Rosie Batty got one evening atop our news headlines.

The decision has been met with a little criticism from the graffitists on social media, but in some respects, Prince Philip is a perfect choice. All of the other recipients since knighthoods and damehoods were reinstated have been vice-regal and/or members of the military. Philip is not only ex-military, but he’s so downright regal that he lives in Buckingham Palace. Continue Reading →

Here endeth the ethics lessons?

Fred Nile is now the longest serving member of the NSW Parliament, having stuck around in Macquarie St for even longer than his own eyebrows. In what he promises will be his final term, either God, fate or the folly of the NSW electorate has granted him the balance of power. And Rev Nile has celebrated by proposing an “Ethics Repeal Bill”, whose name would surely be too absurd even for the writers of The Thick Of It. He’s argued for the cancellation of ethics classes in NSW schools by claiming that they have been shown to bring about Nazism and, simultaneously, communism. All of which would seem a terribly jolly farce if he wasn’t in a position to pass his bill by cutting a deal with Barry O’Farrell. Continue Reading →

Hard questions for those who ask hard questions

Julia Gillard’s claim that News Limited has “hard questions” to answer because of the phone-hacking scandal is disingenuous. Rather, it has a very simple question to answer: have its journalists hacked any phones or paid off any police in Australia? Like whether her colleagues are happy with her performance as Prime Minister, it’s a straightforward question whose answer is almost certainly no. Continue Reading →

I believe you Juliar

The claim that Julia Gillard is a liar is now as widespread across Australia as rabbits and Andre Rieu, and almost as devastating, at least to her approval ratings. Tony Abbott has been gleefully claiming that her pants are on fire for months now, and Alan Jones, that bastion of civility, called the Prime Minister “Juliar” to her face, his Wildean wordplay reminding me of those halcyon days when primary school wags named me “Domadick”. Continue Reading →