The problem with popular thinking is that it does not require you to think at all.
If you have just accidentally shot dead the woman you love, what do you do? Is it:Yes folks, they threw gum in his coffee. That would silence anyone.
a) Dial 000 and summon an ambulance.
b) Call your girlfriend's parents and beg forgiveness.
c) Go to a church and pray hard.
d) Hire a leading PR firm to manage your reputation.
Call me a foolish romantic, but I would rule out ''d'' right away. If you were innocent and grief-stricken, why would your thoughts turn to ''crisis communications''? Yet this is exactly what Oscar Pistorius did within hours of the violent death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home in Pretoria.
The 26-year-old Paralympian called Stuart Higgins, the former editor of the London Sun and now a public relations expert. Pistorius' PR team lost no time in relaunching his website to put the most positive spin on what they variously describe as ''these tragic events'' and ''this terrible, terrible tragedy''. Looking at the website, with its stirring pictures of the Blade Runner in action, you notice that the words ''murder'' and ''death'' do not feature. For, lo, we have entered the soothing land of PR euphemism, where world-famous disabled heroes do not gun down women.
Among those paying tribute to Pistorius is his uncle, Arnold Pistorius. ''Words cannot adequately describe our feelings,'' he says. ''The lives of our entire family have been turned upside down forever by this unimaginable human tragedy and Reeva's family have suffered a terrible loss.''
Observe that it is the Pistorius family that has suffered ''an unimaginable human tragedy'' - their golden boy faces a career-wrecking charge of premeditated murder. The family of Reeva Steenkamp, the victim of the crime who appears to have been shot three times while in the toilet, has merely suffered ''a terrible loss''.
Steenkamp's irrelevance to the main event was confirmed by a tabloid headline. ''Blade Slays Blonde'', it proclaimed, not bothering to give her the dignity of a name. On Tuesday, as a hearse took her body to the crematorium, Oscar Pistorius sobbed throughout a bail hearing. It was an affecting performance.
And so, very cunningly, the tragedy is appropriated from the dead woman and becomes the tragedy of the man accused of killing her. The reports that, according to a neighbour, he silenced Steenkamp's screams with two further gunshots, are of little consequence to Pistorius' supporters.
''I didn't have my prosthetic legs on. I felt vulnerable,'' explained Pistorius, playing the disability card for the first time in a life that has, until now, been remarkably free of self-pity. He was explaining why he fired at a locked bathroom door behind which he was convinced there was a burglar. Because burglars always lock themselves in bathrooms, don't they? To steal the soap and the hand towel. Just as girlfriends always lock the door when they need a pee in the middle of the night. And men who think there's a burglar in the bathroom never bother to shout out first and give their girlfriend a chance to say, ''Baby, put the gun down, it's only me.''
Pistorius' story has more holes than a colander. I don't feel an ounce of pity for him. Of course, his PR man, Stuart Higgins, begs to differ: ''Our job is to capture some of the support that Oscar is receiving from all over the world, lots of positive messages from people who still believe in him,'' he said.
The obvious comparison here is with O.J. Simpson, who went on trial in Los Angeles in 1995 for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. Like Pistorius, Simpson had form when it came to domestic violence. The prosecution thought it had a solid case. But, also like Blade Runner, O.J. was a good-looking sports god who had overcome considerable odds to find fame, fortune and a beautiful blonde. Race was a complicating factor, but it was O.J.'s celebrity that turned a vicious murder case into the Trial of the Century. Last September, 18 years after Simpson was sensationally acquitted, Kato Kaelin (a TV personality and witness at the trial) was asked if Simpson killed Brown and Goldman. Kaelin replied: ''The statute of limitations has now passed … so I can now say … yes, he did it.'' Asked why he let O.J Simpson get away with murder, Kaelin said: ''I was too scared. I was terrified … People hated me. I've been spat upon. They threw gum in my coffee.''
... Just days before Reeva Steenkamp was killed, she sent tweets offering her support for female victims of violence. Her country has a deplorable record in that area. On average, a South African woman is killed every eight hours by her partner or relative.Ms Steenkamp would have had a never-ending mountainous job ahead of her. Not now though. Now she won't even turn 30. Now she's not even here to tell her own story. Some guy with an expensively paid PR specialist will re-write instead.
After her funeral, Steenkamp's Uncle Mike told reporters that his niece wanted to be an activist for ending abuse against women.
Julia Gillard's inner sanctum hasn't had much to smile about lately, but on Tuesday her advisers were giving each other high-fives in the Prime Minister's office. The catalyst? A very brief call from Christine Milne to Gillard that ended less than two minutes before the Greens leader delivered her televised National Press Club address, and announced the end of her party's alliance with Labor.Lets just run through that again, shall we:
Gillard's response, as she recalled it the following day, indicated that the news was neither unexpected nor disturbing. ''Thanks, righto,'' she recalls telling Milne.
The sense of excitement, after the PM relayed the news to her office, was two-fold: Labor was now free to launch an all-out assault on the party that invaded its territory, safe in the knowledge that the minor party would continue to vote with the government in the event of no-confidence motions, support supply and ensure that the Parliament runs its full term.
The good news improved when Milne threatened to vote with the Coalition against the removal of $1 billion in tax concessions for the nation's biggest companies - a measure that is intended to pay for the ''game-changing'' jobs package Gillard announced last Sunday.
Here, the Labor argument went, was all the evidence you need of the Greens' hypocrisy. On the one hand, they say the miners aren't paying enough tax; on the other, they threaten to oppose something that prevents the same companies from receiving massive handouts to fund their research and development.
Kevin Rudd would catapult Labor into an election-winning position if he was reinstalled as leader, according to a new Galaxy poll.To translate: Kevin Rudd would lead the ALP to a landslide victory in Queensland. Maybe.
The Courier Mail reports a comeback by the former prime minister would deliver a massive 14 percent boost to Labor's primary vote, putting it in line to seize two thirds of the seats in Queensland.
The poll of 800 Queenslanders found federal Labor's support, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the helm, was stuck on 33 per cent support - close to its primary vote at the last election.
This would see Tony Abbott lead the Coalition to victory by 55 per cent to 45 per cent on a two party preferred basis in Queensland if preferences flowed as they did in 2010.
But Labor's primary vote would soar to 47 per cent in Queensland if Mr Rudd returned to the leadership and faced off against Mr Abbott, the poll found.
Under the Rudd scenario, Labor would win the election by 53 per cent to 47 per cent on a two party preferred basis.
Most likely though, she will hang on and try to tough it out. With all those who hate Rudd clustered around her in praetorian guard formation, a confused, conflicted caucus might acquiesce to her survival. Numbers have been hard to come by for the Rudd team.
This would mean that the legacy Gillard leaves behind would be the near destruction of the modern Labor Party. That is how bad I believe Labor's position has become. Some of the PM's backers are among my closest friends and this column may well strain those relationships. It would be worth the price to see Labor back in the game, being taken seriously, and a force for good in Australian politics.
Mr Shorten yesterday pleaded for unity, calling on MPs to be "true to ourselves'.Sure.
"I believe Julia Gillard is a tough leader for tough times," he told the AWU conference. "I think every Labor MP understands the value of unity and I know from my conversations with plenty of people we're united in terms of supporting Julia Gillard as leader."
In a later interview, he said: "I'm not even contemplating any debate about our internal line-up. I support ... Julia Gillard."
|The Lodge is going to need a lot of redecorating.|
Dubbed the Prime Minister-in-Exile by his ALP colleagues, political insiders now believe he is increasingly likely to take a second shot at a political resurrection, with MPs deeply despondent over the performance of the government and Treasurer Wayne Swan's woes over the mining tax.The footage is waiting, the endless quotes are waiting, the free kick and money for jam for whoever has the Liberal advertising contract is waiting.
The prospect has the Liberal Party on high alert that the promised September 14 election could be scrapped if the Labor Party dumped Julia Gillard as Prime Minister.
Liberal strategists are preparing alternative advertising campaigns in preparation for a Rudd-led ALP, hammering him as "chaotic" and "a psycho", using his colleagues' comments during last year's bitter leadership contest and the leaked potty-mouthed video.
Wayne Swan will join the cluster of useless and incompetent treasurers whose errors have had to be righted.Ouch!
The parliamentary defence by Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan of the minerals resource rent tax has taken on a surreal air. Sitting in the gallery has become like Waiting for Godot.
The Prime Minister and the Treasurer are blaming various people - Tony Abbott and rapacious Coalition premiers - and various factors - "inefficient state royalties" and a collapse in commodity prices - for the debacle that the MRRT has become and a looming $2 billion budget hole.
As part of the whole absurd parade, Gillard told parliament Labor was about "efficient" taxes of resources and efficiency. "Spreading the benefits of the boom" was not about Coalition state governments "just jacking up" royalties.
"Jacking up royalties" was obviously in the government talking notes yesterday.
Mental Health Minister Mark Butler earlier sheeted home the admitted failure of the MRRT to raise any real revenue to "state governments . . . jacking up their royalties, which means that those state governments are getting the taxes instead of the national government".
As a political ploy it is a bravura performance, breathtaking in its illogicality, self-delusion and heroic belief that anyone could buy the argument.
When Swan got to his feet yesterday to respond to a question. he began by saying: "It is embarrassing . . ."
The opposition benches erupted in laughter and bristled with pointing fingers as the Labor backbench looked even more despondent and embarrassed.He said:
It is embarrassing because the Treasurer is the principal architect of the resource super-profits tax under Kevin Rudd and the MRRT under Gillard, and rejected the Henry tax review recommendation to replace inefficient state royalties with a federal super-profits tax.
It was Swan who created the federal mining tax as add-on to state royalties against the recommendation of the Treasury head and the entire resources industry, and without even trying to get state co-operation.
It was Swan and Gillard who went further than the Rudd plan and agreed the commonwealth would allow mining companies to credit "all" state royalties against the mining tax - even those state governments "jacked up" - and granted huge tax deductions for the big three miners.
It was the Labor governments and premiers of South Australia and Queensland who jacked up royalties first and defended the miners' claims to credits.
Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson has admitted the design of the mining tax is responsible for its failure to generate revenue, not the falling commodity prices, higher currency and state royalties blamed by the government.And it was, and is, and the Gillard Government never runs out of people to blame.
In explosive testimony to the Senate economics committee yesterday, Dr Parkinson said Treasury had compiled its budget forecasts in ignorance of the real cost of concessions agreed to by Wayne Swan and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson when they renegotiated the tax in private with the chief executives of BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata in mid-2010.
"We've adjusted those estimates for the things that we can see that have changed in the interim. What we haven't done is adjust the estimates for things that we can't see," he said.
Dr Parkinson said the two big variables it did not take into account - and which resulted in the tax raising only $126 million in its first six months - were the value that the mining companies put on their assets (the starting base for the tax) and the share of the profits that is attributable to downstream operations not covered by the mining tax.
..."When . . . the mining industry talked with us there was no legal obligation on them to have actually settled on the starting base," he said. "They actually had the opportunity to go back and think about what their starting base should be. They gave us their best estimate, as we understand it, their best estimate at the time, but they clearly had until the point they are legally obligated for the tax the opportunity to rethink that."
Asked by opposition assistant Treasury spokesman Mathias Cormann whether Treasury was "flying blind" when it compiled the forecasts, Dr Parkinson replied: "We can't see changes that may have been made."
A week after the tax was agreed, the then Coalition industry spokesman Ian Macfarlane suggested no tax would be paid: "The companies involved in the negotiations will be paying no more tax than they are now. We're starting to think the whole thing is a sham."
Then there was the recent so-called ACC special investigation into the illegal firearms market in Australia, which the ACC concluded was the result of thefts within Australia of legal firearms and interstate trade in illegal weapons. This meant responsibility fell squarely on the states, not the federal government.ACC drops the ball over probe into drugs in sport
That was despite NSW Police detecting a record 300 Glock semi-automatic pistols ambling through Customs to a suburban Sydney post office, where it appears they were sold to criminals.
It appeared to many that the calculations used by the ACC to dismiss illegal gun importations as a factor in the long-running Sydney shooting sprees was seriously flawed.
It also seemed to get the Gillard government and media-savvy Justice Minister Jason Clare off the hook as far as who was responsible for the outbreak of gun violence across the country.
But that report paled into insignificance when compared to Australian sports' "Armageddon Day", last Thursday, and the release of a 12-month "investigation" by the ACC.
Flanked by the earnest-looking Clare and Sport Minister Kate Lundy, an even more earnest-looking ACC chief executive John Lawler outlined what everyone with an IQ over 20 already knew. Customs and Border Protection agencies were seizing record amounts of performance-enhancing drugs destined for, wait for it, athletes. There were also groundbreaking revelations that organised crime had become involved.
That should shock no one as it is probably one of the few areas organised crime had not got its hooks into until federal law enforcement agencies spectacularly dropped the ball in the past five or six years protecting our borders.
I, like many others, waited keenly for the Lance Armstrong moment, when a prominent athlete would be led away in handcuffs.
It never occurred and probably never will.
But maybe there would be video evidence of a sporting team bus carrying five Glock pistols, a Heckler; Koch sub-machinegun and a bag full of cocaine. Nope, no such smoking gun.
What I did notice were some very bewildered sporting code executives with looks on their faces that said: "Why am I here and where is the evidence I can take back to my board to explain the enormous damage you have just done to our sport?"
The dust has now settled and questions are being asked about the veracity of the allegations and the timing of this "event".
Both the NSW and Victorian police forces have been quoted in recent days as having suspended any further inquiries related to the ACC report.
The Broadcasting Services Act states that the "election period" starts on either the day on which the proposed polling day is announced or the day on which the writs for the election are issued, whichever happens first. Once the election period has begun, the commercial broadcasters must ensure balance in the amount of time they give each party.The unfailingly left of the leftest lefty, the ABC, will retain a stiff upper and pretend that the election campaign has not started:
ABC managing director Mark Scott yesterday confirmed the national broadcaster had decided the election period would not begin until the writs were issued on August 12 for a general election. Mr Scott said the broadcaster would take a "commonsense" approach.Yes Virginia, the election campaign really did start ... forever ago
From the beginning, one of Gillard’s core problems has been a lack of authority, exacerbated by the Greens component of the hung parliament and her handling of it.Yes.
The vacuum at the top is disconcerting to Australians and once it’s filled you’ll almost be able to hear the sigh of relief. People would have a Prime Minister again.
Tens of thousands of jobs would be shifted to the top end and Australia would be split into different economic zones, under a sweeping draft Coalition plan for the development of the country's north.
The plan, outlined in a policy discussion paper entitled Vision 2030, proposes redirecting about $800 million in funds from the nation's foreign aid budget to create economic and aid opportunities closer to home.
The 30-page document -- obtained by The Daily Telegraph -- also reportedly outlines plans for the mass migration of public service workers north of the Tropic of Capricorn to Cairns, Darwin and Karratha.
The reform blueprint, which The Australian understands the Coalition has been working on for two years, proposes to establish different economic development zones and offer incentives to lure private sector workers to the north.And then there's the funny story doing the rounds that Tony wants to carve the country up into different tax zones. Sure, that wouldn't result in everyone promptly moving to the least taxed regions, but that's the whole point, a great big new economy up north!
The discussion paper, which has been circulated among senior Coalition figures, state governments and premiers for consultation, is also reported to recommend relocating major defence facilities to the north.
Tony Abbott is understood to be seeking feedback on the policy discussion paper, but the plan to split the country in half and establish a new food bowl and resource and energy industry in northern Australia is not believed to have been costed yet.
In a speech to the Sydney Mining Club last September, Mrs Rinehart said: "We need to create a large special economic zone in our north, stretching across northern Queensland, northern Western Australia and the Northern Territory, with fewer regulations and taxes."Federal elections, gotta love 'em. A welcome relief from the serious business of peptides running amok through the perfectly tuned bodies of professional sportsmen across the country.
... few voters of either persuasion appear intent on rewarding the PM for subjecting them to an eight-month campaign.....
Nor do they believe her motive was to provide the country with stability and certainty - rather to insure the government against resignations or a leadership challenge.
Re-enforcing the view that the PM has a significant battle ahead of her to restore trust with the community, 53 per cent of voters said they didn't believe her explanation. Only 41 per cent accepted the PM's claims.
MPs yesterday questioned her judgment in announcing an election date on Wednesday. "If Rowan Atkinson had written the last week for a part for Blackadder, he'd have thrown out the script because it would be too silly," one MP said....
ALP national secretary George Wright declared "so far, so good"...
The former PM, who earlier this week appeared on morning show Sunrise and with a chainsaw helping flood victims in Queensland with their clean-up, today tweeted about the joys of his new granddaughter.
It was accompanied with a picture of a relaxed Mr Rudd reclining on the lounge with his daughter Jessica's new baby, a rattle, and a soft toy.Try as I might - and I haven't tried at all - I don't begrudge Kevin Rudd his schadenfreude.
He wrote: "Heaps of fun having baby Josephine home."
... doctors say many women are not making such informed decisions. Last month, University of Michigan researchers reported on a study of more than 1,446 women who had breast cancer. Four years after their diagnosis, 35 percent were considering removing their healthy breast and 7 percent had already done so.
Notably, most of the women who had a double mastectomy were not at high risk for a cancer recurrence. In fact, studies suggest that most women who have double mastectomies never seek genetic testing or counseling.This is a decision no woman should be making, no doctor or surgeon should be supporting, and no media outlet should promote - usually with awe at the courage and determination of the woman deciding to cut off a body part for no confirmed medical reason.
“This election is about trust,” Mr Abbott said.Who will the voters trust?
“The choice before the Australian people could not be clearer. It’s more tax or less. It’s more regulation or less. It’s less competence or more. It’s less freedom of more.”
ALP vice-president Tony Sheldon has launched a ferocious attack on the political and moral crisis inside Labor and the toxicity of its most powerful faction, saying only a ground-up change of culture can restore its fortunes.
Speaking just days after Julia Gillard set September 14 as the election date and as Labor battles twin scandals in NSW, Mr Sheldon said the party faced a "catastrophic situation", with its brand damaged by a failure to focus on what matters to members and supporters.
"Our crisis is more than just a crisis of trust brought on by the corrupt behaviour of property scammers and lobbyists," Mr Sheldon told a factional dinner for the Right at the Young Labor annual conference last night.
"It's a crisis of belief brought on by a lack of moral and political purpose."All Tony Abbott needs to do during the next eight months is manage to keep his tie straight, be seen once in a while with one or other of his gorgeously photogenic daughters, and ... well, that's pretty much it ... turn up and vote for himself on September 14, collect the keys to The Lodge the next day.
The shock resignation of Ms Roxon, a solid Gillard supporter, created a storm of commentary within ALP ranks late last night as the word spread she was stepping down and not expected to contest the next election.Gillard forced into a reshuffle: keep calm and carry on captain!
One senior Labor MP told The Weekend Australian late last night that "Rome is burning".