In the last days, the rich are squirming on Wayne Swan’s silver fork, but the rich are fighting back with some of their own populist theatrics. Meanwhile, overseas, other rich people and their lumbering mining companies are spinning their way back into huge, oleaginous profits like Dervishes; Australia’s risible bike helmet laws plunge yet new depths and sport meets art in a great tussle, proving that we’re not a philistine as we, and at least one famous soccer player, may think.
The Treasurer and Deputy PM Wayne Swan has sauntered into Kevin Rudd territory with a for-the-people streaker sprint through The Monthly and the National Press Club, as well as various media grabbers.
He’s got a point in that the country’s miners seem to think – drawing their inspiration from former GE CEO Jack Welch – that whatever’s good for their company is good for the country. Somehow having everyone working on a drop-in basis, tearing up the landscape, buying media shares and dipping into private fortunes to pay for an ad campaign to pay less taxes (how do you get less than nothing, Twiggy?) is something we are all supposed to rejoice about. Apparently.
Is everybody working a sign of a sophisticated economy or should no-one working and everyone exploring their freedom and creativity without the burdens of work and income generation really what we should be aiming at?
Meanwhile, new Living National Treasure Clive Palmer – if you looked up the term “ bad image of capitalism” in the dictionary, you might find a picture of him there – has squeezed into a pair of budgie smugglers and bomb- dived into the populist public pool with a statement on asylum seekers that would make his mortal enemies – lefties and greenies – positively weep for joy. Comparing Australia’s asylum seeker system with Nazi Germany was harsher than pretty much anyone else has mustered in the pro-immigration camp and puts Palmer in the same category as Jeff Kennet – who famously flipped his generous part to the other side to become the spokesperson for depression – both of whom many generally love to hate, but occasionally have to, hate to, love.
As miners in Australia waltz with politicians and seek to be hugged by a grateful populace, other mining interests seem to have dispensed with any semblance of community concern by ratcheting up the hazardous practice of offshore oil drilling, even as some of the world’s coastal regions are still slippery with the stuff.
President Obama has washed the oil from his suit after his dramatic post-spill jaunt to the seashore to conduct his own Gulf War (Gulf of Mexico that is) after the BP Macondo well went haywire and decimated communities and bio-systems around the Gulf of Mexico. His White House is rather covered in oil, despite calling it a “fuel of the past”.
This is even as, the first few of thousands of legal cases associated from the spill have started working through the courts, and, as Al Jazeera reports, the infamous Macondo well, now supposedly capped and dormant, is leaking.
BP has been giving its Beyond Petroleum marketing banner and its desire for greenie cred (a strategy that was kicked off by a fellow called Browne; what is it about Green and Brown?) a workover and denies any responsibility, including, apparently, corporate. A walrusy looking chap from the US Coast Guard was wheeled in to confirm that the slick is a myth: must just be the wash-off from Mitt Romney’s hair gel.
The nuclear industry could take some PR lessons from all this. The industry is facing a oil-spill-like outcry and industry shutdown after the failures of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following the tsunami in March last year. Governments in Germany and Switzerland, as two examples, have put a moratorium on using domestic nuke energy. But, only the foolish would believe nukes have gone away. The industry has a very, very long half-life.
But, perhaps, competition from Thorium advocates might provide some heart skips, as the material that provides nuclear energy but without many of the side-effects gains cred – just as the nuke industry is copping a PR tsunami . The UK for one is taking a look into it. Somebody in PR land will be making a fortune to talk up the benefits of a dying industry. “Get oily”, might be the advice. Hows about some PR for the Australian angle: Australia leads the world the stuff.
Continuing in the spirit of trenchant stupidity, Australia’s bike helmet laws – arguably the most ridiculous legislation since the White Australia Policy – threaten to make us more of a laughing stock than we already were on matters of sustainable transport. Someone called Sue Abbott (any relation?) is being hunted down like an al-Qaeda snakehead for being caught riding her bike without a helmet. The local legal eagles are flexing their talons on extracting a $67 fine, which has escalated to $213 due to non-payment, and are considering obliging the poor woman to sell her assets to pay the fine.
Truly, if you see the woman’s hair, it’s clear a helmet is not only impractical, its unnecessary: she’s already wearing one, God bless her. Legislators might ponder the debates over the science of wearing bike helmets, which do not, as you might expect, roundly endorse the point or even the safety of bike helmets.
Legislators should spend some time in Europe, where bikes are like cars in some places and the spin of the spokes, rather than the cough of combustion engines, dominates the aural landscape. Attempts to get more European in the Sydney CBD are proving popular with commuters, despite having to negotiate the giant speed bump that is bike helmet laws.
Finally, the great Australian battleground, that pockmarked and muddied field between sport and the arts, saw another run over the trenches – this time by the arts community. Giant – in size and reputation – Socceroo goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer’s massive, gloved hand has been slapped away by a small army of geeky, arty types as he sought to up-scale the former home of deceased author Christina Stead. It’s the equivalent of a nutmeg – a goal between the keeper’s legs – for Schwarzer, who bought the pile for around $10 million, or roughly two weeks wages for an ordinary EPL player, but has now been forced to flog it after a poesy of artists (think of a better collective noun?) made faces at him and made him go away.
Christina Stead was heard to wryly, posthumously, murmur, he was a Man Who Loved Building…
Such has been the news as it appears in these, the last days.