In the mid-eighteenth century, coal engines did not only power factories and illuminate streets; they fired up entire nations. Burning coal allowed for material production to explode.
It facilitated the development of the quintessential assembly line necessary to produce building materials like iron to build infrastructure and allowed for the mass production boom. Burning coal allowed goods to be transported across countries and saw diaspora from pastoralist lifestyles to the thick smog of the city for employment.
In 1863 Sydneysiders saw electricity in action for the first time with the illumination of a battery powered lamp on Observatory Hill in celebration of the marriage of the Prince of Wales.
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Eight months. That’s jockey Damien Oliver’s laughably soft penalty for bringing an entire sport into disrepute. He won’t even miss a Spring Carnival. That’s like suspending a football player for the off-season. What a joke.
In 2010, the AFL suspended a lowly interchange steward for a whole year after he placed a whopping total of $9 in bets. It was heavy-handed, but it sent the clear message that anyone employed by the AFL, no matter how tangentially, must not bet on it.
Racing had the chance to send an even stronger message today. When one of the most famous names in your sport bets the equivalent of an overseas trip on a rival horse, it’s a rare opportunity to go medieval.
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Do you remember where you were when Damien Oliver won the Cup on Media Puzzle? I was at a particularly pissy lunch in Canberra and the room choked up as, struggling to keep it together, Oliver dedicated the win to his brother Jason, who had died a week before in a barrier trial.
Today, Oliver lines up on the equal favourite Americain. He stands accused of possibly the worst crime a jockey can commit – outlaying a $10,000 bet on a rival horse in a race at Moonee Valley in 2010. Let’s be clear on this: Oliver was on the second favourite, Europa Point, paying $3.80. He bet on Miss Octopussy ($2.30), the favourite and eventual winner, earning him $23,000. Oliver’s horse finished sixth.
Europa Point’s connections will rightly want to know if one of the country’s champion jockeys ran dead on their horse. There’s no proof yet to suggest he did – but they have a right to know if this was the case.
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It is Australia’s invisible northern neighbour. The Philippines are south-east Asia’s first democracy and only Christian nation. Most of us know at least one of the 230,000 Pinoys who live here in Australia, but that is about it. Virtually none of us learn their national language of Tagalog, trade is negligible and tourism is effectively non-existent.
This week, the Philippines hit our headlines for all the right reasons. After forty years of civil war in the south, uber-popular new President Noynoy Aquino struck a peace deal with Muslim separatist group MILF. The previous day, he had released details of a national audit of his predecessor President Arroyo’s regime, which found $3.2 billion dollars had vanished in potentially corrupt payments. Apparently, 744 officials could face prosecution.
But the veneer of good news is little more than skin deep. Aquino has devoted half his first term to fighting Arroyo appointments like the Chief Justice. Last week he had Arroyo herself re-arrested, a move that was foiled only by her dash to hospital for medical care. It all makes for great TV, but fabulously little impact on the ground in this nation of over a hundred million peace-loving people and seven thousand islands.
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Eighteen trillion dollars. Yes, “trillion” dollars. That is the broadly accepted working estimate of the amount needed for vital economic infrastructure such as roads, ports, and rail facilities among Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group partners. And that’s just in the current decade to 2020.
It is a staggering sum even considering the large populations and massive growth often associated with this part of the world. For Australia, such an explosion of capital investment portends great opportunities and suggests that in addition to the mining boom, we are situated precisely where you would want to be as the locus of global power swings decidedly eastward.
For the pan-Eurasian colossus of Russia, this tectonic shift is being adapted to with maximum haste because geographically, if not culturally, the former super-power has a foot in both camps. The Russian capital may be closer to western European centres like Helsinki and Stockholm, but its vast territory extends to a coastline nine flying hours and eight time zones to the east. Which is why its President Vladimir Putin, who returned to the top job earlier this year, is now so eager to stress his country’s Asian links.
Fair Work Australia may as well make public its massive, three-year report on the Health Services Union now that it is almost certain it won’t be used to mount criminal prosecutions.
It is probably going to happen anyway through the Senate committee system. We can expect soon to have the dubious victory ceremony of downloading a 1100-page report.
The Opposition has been agitating for its release but will not be totally satisfied should the document be made available. That’s because the Opposition could be denied its ultimate trophy.
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Is match fixing and sports corruption a big enough problem to suggest that offenders should be thrown into jail for up to 10 years? You bet!
There have been one or two major betting-related incidents in Australian sport. Personally, I was closely involved when Shane Warne and Mark Waugh got themselves involved with the now notorious “John the bookie” back in 1998.
But for me, the issue actually goes back further to 1990 in my days at the National Basketball League, when I first started thinking about and studying the issue.
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I, for one, can’t wait for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, if indeed the Yanks don’t pinch it. Bring it on. Let the world sizzle and wilt in the desert sun. Let the FIFA fat cats keel over from heat stroke and the drunken northern European soccer hooligans with them.
Let sand storms arise from the desert and paralyse the whole damn thing, so that the entire world can see the full, spectacular ramifications of FIFA’s corrupt soul. “Crisis? What crisis?” FIFA boss Sepp Blatter incredulously asked at this week’s FIFA Congress. He won’t be asking that when the Qatar doomsday scenario becomes a reality.
US political scientist and soccer writer Andrei Markovits described FIFA this week as “a complete, literally perfect oligarchy”. Back home, Nick Xenophon likened Blatter to Monty Python’s Black Knight. Spot on, both of them. FIFA’s members could not be better geared for institutionalised corruption if they wore Chairman Mao hats. The thing is, it’s been that way forever. The only reason we now care in Australia is because we’re the ones that just got bitten.
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The campaign tactics of all major parties in the NSW election proved we live in an atmosphere where truth is negotiable and lying is routinely accepted as a political necessity.
The result is widespread public cynicism that often masquerades as humour - but is, in fact, an excellent form of crowd control.
We do not expect our politicians to amount to much, so we are neither surprised nor particularly upset when they don’t. Rather than demand reform, we tell cynical jokes and are bemused by their brazen immorality.
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There are many ways to describe the gluttony that comes with lopsided result after lopsided result at the ICC World Cup. Pages upon pages around the world are being cranked out as we speak, by those cynical types who don’t quite see the romance in Sri Lanka annihilating Canada, or New Zealand treating the Kenyans like Whangarei park cricketers.
Tonight, just to make things really interesting, England takes on The Netherlands. So here’s the shortest summation of the tournament you’re likely to read. It needs just six words. Ready? Here goes.
I’m thinking of watching Ben Elton.
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They called it Tangentopoli. ‘Tangenti’ is one of the Italian words for ‘bribes’, and Tangentopoli summed up the idea that Italian politics had become a game of Monopoly fuelled by kickbacks.
I spent a lot of time in Italy in the 90s, starting with a story for ‘Foreign Correspondent’ in April 1993. Tangentopoli had convulsed the country, with magistrates uncovering vast swathes of corruption involving most of the leading political figures of the previous three decades.
My first encounter with the new reality came in a town in Abruzzo called Chieti. It was a sort of magnified microcosm of Italy, because almost every councillor on the local government had been arrested for corruption.
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Coalition Senator Michael Ronaldson decries the current mixed funding system of elections in his post on the Punch last week.
Early last year the newly elected Government introduced the Commonwealth Electoral Amendments (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2009 to the Senate to make political donations more transparent. However the bill was defeated by Liberal Senators who did not want to clean up our campaign finance system.
Australia has a very clean electoral system by world standards. While we don’t hear complaints in Australia that elections have been rigged, the funding system is in need of some reform.
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JUST five days ago I sat down and wrote an imagined piece of writing outlining the next 521 days (count ‘em) in the life of this most excellent NSW Labor Government.
It outlined how, just one month after the John Della Bosca sex scandal, two MPs were busted running a gin distillery out of their offices, Matt Brown was recalled to the frontbench and promptly sacked again for performing a strip tease during his swearing in, NSW was stripped of its AAA rating by Moodys but awarded a XXX rating by the Eros Foundation – on and on, at the rate of one scandal a month, until the March 2011 poll. But in NSW truth is stranger than fiction. If I’d really been doing my job I would have written this:
Just five days after the John Della Bosca sex scandal, the State Government is rocked by claims that a notorious property developer, shot execution-style in his driveway with a single bullet to the head, had made a secret tape recording in the days before his death where he implicated senior Labor figures in a corruption and bribery scandal.
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My first brush with politics was in local government. I think I was eight.
My father was an independent ‘alderman’ on our local municipal council. A significant part of my youth was spent standing on polling booths, pounding the pavement to deliver Dad’s election newsletters and fielding constituent calls after school before Dad got home from work, as my older brother refused to answer the phone.
I remember one year standing on a polling booth for Dad where the big issue was council amalgamations. Dad was strongly opposed. So there I was, arguing the case for grass roots democracy against the monolith of big council bureaucracy.
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I recently received a bribe in China. The 300 yuan ($52) was a reward for attending a local government press conference promoting a trade fair. At least that’s what I think it was about, everyone spoke in Chinese.
What did I give them? I’m not really sure. I’m a journalist but my role in this transaction was simply to be the token foreigner in the audience.
Like everyone else there, I was handed a bag that contained the cash in a white envelope and a glossy booklet promoting the trade fair.
“Democracy is not cheap.” That’s what the former NSW President of the Australian Hotels Association John Thorpe had to say about our political system. He was of course referring to the fact that his industry, in the nine years to 2007, had donated a jaw dropping $3.5 million to the NSW Labor Party. And he’s just one of hundreds of big donors out to buy our democracy.
Yesterday the National Audit Office released its report into the ‘Utegate’ debacle. While it found no wrongdoing by our politicians this doesn’t take away from the fact that the scandal left a sour taste in the mouths of many Australians.
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The other day, I was asked on ABC television about the conviction of Gordon Nuttall, a former Queensland Labor state minister, for accepting secret payments of $360,000 from a businessman. This is one of the most serious cases of corruption ever recorded against a minister of the Crown in this country.
Nuttall is not the first former Queensland Labor minister caught out over recent years – another has been jailed for blackmail, and a third for paedophilia. I responded by saying there was a culture of favouritism and relationships with big business tainting the Queensland Government, which needed to be fixed.
Barrie Cassidy, a journalist for whom I have some regard, then came back with his “gotcha” question (and continued on after the interview). How could a Nationals’ leader complain about corruption in Queensland considering the Fitzgerald Inquiry at the time of the government of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s National Party?
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