Midweek Mayhem!


Good afternoon, and welcome to Midweek Mayhem, our middle of the week (in)sanity break from everything that’s going on around us.

Poor old Joe Hockey. What a state he was in last night on the 7.30 report.

Mr Hockey was questioning the integrity of the data provided by Treasury and the RBA that the Government has recently used to indicate growth forecasts in the years ahead.

Ken Henry in particular, expects that the Australian economy will recover at a greater rate than our European counterparts, and of course the Liberals – especially Joe Hockey – jumped on these forecasts decrying them as absolute nonsense.

Ken Henry, in his calm and articulate style, which I have come to love and adore, mentioned during a business luncheon, that people that sought to call into question their forecasts and the methodology underpinning them, may understandably have difficulty comprehending their integrity if they weren’t “above reading age.”

Even the usually unflappable Kerry O’Brien was practically in tears of laughter while Joe Hockey floundered around trying to explain the Treasury forecasts were reliable when it comes to Liberal party forecasts but the stuff of nonsense when it came to Labor party forecasts.

“But aren’t these the same people?” asked Kerry with tears of laughter in his eyes..

Poor old Joe just huffed and guffawed his way through, chucking in the odd mention about “growing the pie” while laughing off the antics of the Labor mob.

The funniest part of the entire episode was that Hockey thought O’Brien was laughing with him, not at him.

He really ought to have his own chat show…

Thai Panic!

Why is it, that Australians are notorious for behaving badly when overseas?

It’s the one reason I no longer choose to travel to the popular Aussie tourist hot spots of Bali and Phuket.

All that greets you when you get there, is a guaranteed conglomeration of scantily clad Australians with the sole aim of getting tanned by lunchtime and pissed by dinner.

Oblivious to Thai culture of modesty and serenity, loud-mouthed Australians roam the streets, half-cut, in search of the next happy hour, or to seek out more Australians hell-bent on partying.

It’s like “schoolies” for grown ups.

So here we have another Australian, Annice Smoel, languishing at her sorry predicament of being held up in Thailand with her passport revoked, since Thai police arrested her for allegedly stealing a bar mat from the unimaginatively but perhaps appropriately named “Aussie Bar” in Phuket.

According to reports, Mrs Smoel (36) was in Phuket for her mother’s 60th birthday when the night of fun turned into a nightmare. Mrs Smoel, who was partying with a group of about 10 friends, claimed two of the women stuffed a bar mat in her handbag as a joke.

Thai police charged her with theft, and locked her in a jail cell for three nights. Her passport was confiscated until the case comes to court, which she believes is at least four months away.

Mrs Smoel, from Montrose, in east Melbourne, has been stranded in Thailand for 17 days, charged with the theft of the bar mat. Thai police said she was drunk and abusive, but she denied the claim and said police acted only because “we were women on our own”.

Mrs Smoel said she felt “scared, helpless and alone” after being detained for what she says was a practical joke pulled by her friends. She believes she would have been freed immediately had there been a male in the group to bribe the arresting officers.

“We were women on our own and we didn’t have a man here to talk to the police and deal a bribe,” she said.

“If we had, that would have been the end of it. We offered them money right from the start because we knew that’s how the system works here.”

Mrs Smoel faces up to five years in jail if found guilty and convicted. Naturally the PM and Foreign Affairs Minister have been called in to intervene however it remains to be seen what can actually be done.

Amazingly, Andrew Bolt has sided with the Thais on this occasion, and remarkably I find myself nodding in agreement (to some comments he makes anway).

According to Mr Bolt:

Two factors need adding to this story of Australians betrayed. The bar mat, for a start, was no mere coaster but a $60 souvenir, and when police questioned Smoel she did a runner.

Second, one of the Aussie Bar’s owners, Steve Wood, says Smoel made an even bigger mistake when she was taken to the Patong police station: she “verbally abused” the police chief.

A local tourism publication, Phuketwan, yesterday claimed the same: “Phuketwan has been told that Ms Smoel ‘went ballistic’ at the time of the incident, abusing officers all the way up to the local chief of police . . .

“While bad language and anger are tolerated these days in many Western countries, they are not condoned in Thailand and usually only compound the problem for any tourist in trouble.”

Warning: This is the link to Andrew Bolt’s commentary. (Note: Blogocrats does not accept any responsibility for any post-traumatic stress related injuries or resulting emotional torment).

It’s interesting, how as a society, we expect overseas visitors or immigrants to Australia to respect our values and culture, yet when overseas in places like Bali and Phuket, Australians couldn’t give a toss about local culture and the sensibilities of the people who live there, and simply run amuck getting pissed on cheap grog and behaving badly.

Pollies using Perks to Purchase Property

There’s nothing illegal about it, but it does kinda make you wonder whether pollies are living in the real world as the rest of us, when they can use their travel entitlements to purchase property.

I think few would argue that politicians should be adequately reimbursed for their work related travel and accommodation expenses, however when they are using taxpayers’ funds to purchase a property, then doesn’t this beg the question “who does the property belong to at the end of the day?”

Is it ethical for politicians to use taxpayers funds to purchase property which inevitably will become an asset for that individual if and when they decide to leave politics? Shouldn’t that asset belong to the taxpayer (or the Government) to then use as future accommodation for other politicians and thereby lessen the need for taxpayers money to be allocated towards covering these expenses? Or is it all just a media beat up?

Alison Rehn and Malcolm Farr at news.com.au filed this report:

Taxpayers are paying off federal politicians’ mortgages to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars a year.

A growing number of politicians are buying homes in Canberra to live in during parliamentary sitting weeks – but are still claiming travel allowances.

According to the pecuniary interests list, more than 40 MHRs and senators have bought a house or a unit in Canberra. Even more have purchased “investment” properties in the city.

A Daily Telegraph investigation has found politicians who stay in their own homes during sitting weeks – four to five months a year – are claiming travel allowance.

So taxpayers are effectively paying each of them $215 a night to stay in their own home.

This is not illegal and at least one in five politicians – from both sides of the political spectrum – do it.
Politicians claim a travel allowance for all travel away from their principal place of residence and usually they inject a local economy with funds by staying at a hotel or pub.

But according to the current list of pecuniary interests, at least 40 MHRs and senators own properties which they classify as their “Canberra residence”.

This list includes Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop and Leader of the House of Representatives, Anthony Albanese.

From March last year, when Ms Gillard bought a property in Kingston, she claimed the travel allowance stipend for 44 days, netting her $8536 (when the allowance was only $194 a night).

Resources and Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson’s wife owns a house in Florey in Canberra, which he uses as his residence when he is staying in the capital.

Between January and June last year, he claimed the travel allowance for 75 days in Canberra, delivering him $14,550.

In the first six months of last year, Small Business Minister Craig Emerson claimed nearly $11,000 in travel allowance for when he was staying in Canberra.

And in a document Dr Emerson lodged only last week as an update to his pecuniary interests, it revealed he gets “periodic income from parliamentarians and staff” who stay at his place during sitting weeks.

Not one MHR or senator would go on the record, and sources would only tell The Daily Telegraph that what they were doing was completely above board.

The issue of MHRs and senators claiming travel allowance came to a head back in early 2007, when it was revealed Mr Turnbull claimed the travel allowance, which he paid to his wife whose apartment he rented.

At the time, the multi-millionaire MP said he was doing nothing wrong.

“Where you stay is of no concern to the Government. That’s the way the system works,” he said back in 2007.

NRL Sex Scandal – Statement from ABC’s Four Corners

This statement has been issued by ABC’s Four Corners following their recent feature “Code of Silence” (thanks to John McPhilbin for the link).

Due to the high level of interest in this program, we would like to answer a number of questions that have arisen in response to the story.

Four Corners cannot control what is said in the outer reaches of the internet. We can correct some of the rumours and untruths being printed or broadcast in the mainstream media. In doing so we would also like to set the record straight on how the story came into being.

After the incident with the Cronulla Sharks occurred in Christchurch in 2002, Clare was pursued by the media to tell her story; she was offered money by commercial media in Australia; she refused all requests to speak about it.

The intervening years were marked by post traumatic stress disorder and its debilitating symptoms.

Two months ago, after we had begun researching a story on Rugby League, one of the members of the Cronulla Sharks tour to New Zealand told Four Corners about the events in Christchurch.

Through our research we found Clare and asked her to take part in a program looking at off-field incidents in the NRL, attitudes to women in the culture of the game and the possibility for change. On that basis and knowing there were other women also speaking out, she agreed.

A few points of clarification:

* Clare was not paid for the interview. Payment is contrary to ABC Editorial guidelines. Her only requirement was that we protect her identity.

* Clare has not “boasted” about the fallout from the story. She is in hiding from the media, and has made no comment about the consequences of the story for others.

* The program was extensively researched based on police material, medical reports and the first- hand accounts of participants, not hearsay from people unconnected with the events.

* The New Zealand police have not made any adverse comment about the program. They have gone on the record to say that suggestion is completely untrue.

* Most of the activity that took place during the incident is not disputed. Players and staff gave graphic accounts to police of the sexual activity. One player told police that at least one of them had climbed in through the bathroom window and crawled commando-style along the floor of the room.

* We stated explicitly in the story that we were not focussing on the issue of consent in relation to the incident in Christchurch. We stated simply that Clare made a complaint to police. This was investigated at the time. The players say she consented and no charges were laid. The focus of this incident was the role of group sex in rugby league culture and the consequences for the woman involved.

* As far as Clare’s state of mind at the time is concerned, when she made a complaint to Christchurch police a few days after the incident, police noted her distress in their reports. She was in tears and found it very difficult to describe what had happened. Days later, the police also noted that some comments she made suggesting she was not distressed were a mechanism for coping with what had happened.

* The manager of the hotel in Christchurch, Clare’s boss Keith Burgess, said that Clare was “a stable person” and “the last person to be involved in that kind of thing.” Clare says she doesn’t know the owner of the hotel who has recently made derogatory remarks about her.

* The events later in the evening at the hotel are disputed. Player Daniel Ninness said last week that Clare was not distressed leaving the hotel. Clare told police in signed statements at the time that Ninness was kind to her and came to her rescue and she relied on him for support to get home. We attempted to contact Ninness prior to broadcast but were unsuccessful.

* Four Corners sought interviews with all the players and staff from the team that we were able to track down prior to broadcast. No one wanted to give an on-camera interview. Some spoke freely to Four Corners, others did not. We identified those people whose presence was confirmed by more than one firsthand account. They were Matthew Johns, Brett Firman, and Paul Gallen who told us he came into the room at the end.

* Matthew Johns spoke to Four Corners on numerous occasions about the events and we included comments he made in the story. He declined however to give an on camera interview to Four Corners and answer more detailed questions about his role in the incident. We told Johns in advance of the broadcast that the young woman’s testimony was moving, that she had clearly suffered after the event and had been psychologically damaged by it.

Matthew Johns said before the broadcast went to air that he agreed the worst response to the program would be for anyone to go after the girl. Clare has recently contacted Four Corners asking that the media leave her in peace.

She said this:

“I am being harassed in the most awful ways and what is being reported by jornalists (sic) is horrible and untrue. They have got people speaking of me that are not my friends or people I have never met. It feels like I am living in a nightmare. All I wanted to do was to make people aware of the culture and stop it happening to other girls.”

* In relation to the Newcastle Knights section of the story, the Knights were frequently updated during the making of the story, up to and including just before broadcast. No comment from any one in any part of the program was taken out of context. Four Corners has received no complaint or question from anyone actually involved in the story suggesting the contrary.