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Essential Reading

Modesty is no virtue

victoria smallVictorians go to the polls on November 29 and the auguries are not good for Premier Denis Napthine and his Coalition. Quadrant contributor Steve Kates, writing at Catallaxy Files, sees a lesson for Abbott & Co., also lagging in the polls:

"...in Victoria and federally, the Coalition has run rings around their Labor predecessors. Here in Victoria we have had three years of ultra-boring but very competent government. No dramas, no screw-ups just no-frills governance. Labor left behind its desal plant and Myki ticketing which are billions of dollars forms of waste for which no serious explanation for the expenditure has ever been forthcoming .... but in about ten days they will apparently become the former government of Victoria, the first in more than sixty years to lose after only one term....

....here’s the thing. In the modern era – probably in every era – a government must campaign throughout its entire period in office. Labor, in the same way as Obama, never stopped campaigning even if the product was useless and only did harm. The Coalition, on the other hand, is slowly but surely putting things right across a very broad front. Yet just doing the right thing is clearly not enough. Putting your case before the public ... is a crucial part of governance. No whinging, no whining, just explaining is what is required."

If Napthine does indeed go belly-up, Liberals at the federal level might wish to pay particular attention to the autopsy.

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Fairfax goes digital

hot copy

There are all sorts of smutty jokes one could make about an Opinion page column devoted to a survey's finding that women are less inclined than men to pleasure themselves.

"...nearly 45 years after Germaine Greer railed against the sexual repression of women in The Female Eunuch is this what passes for liberation? Does this underperformance in onanism tally with women being more 'assertive' about their sexual needs?"

Apparently this is news. In The Age, at any rate.

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Journalism as she is taught

priceThe craft of journalism once expected of what academics these days like to call "its practitioners" a few basic skills. One of those inky educators is Canberra Times columnist Jenna Price, who teaches at the University of Technology, Sydney. If her own writing is an indication, any UTS student with a weakness for tautology, an imprecise grasp of grammar and language, a compulsion to repeat the previously stated and, above all, a tendency to elevate florid rhetoric to dizzy heights can expect those shortcomings to pass unnoticed.

Here are the first few paragraphs of her latest effort, which argues on the basis of no named or identifiably sourced evidence the existence of an ongoing campaign of genocide against Aborigines. Allowing that the corrections below were made, Ms Price might earn a D+ :

Don't ever sit comfortably in your armchair and describe the sStolen gGenerations as a thing of the past. Don't do that.

At this moment, there are 14,000 Aboriginal babies and children in foster care, out-of-home care, or and residential care. The attempted annihilation of the First Peoples continues.

Karen, a Kuku Yalanji woman, was the proud grandmother to a new baby. Her daughter delivered the baby infant in hospital. Three days later, while the baby breastfed, Karen says,  child welfare staff came into entered the hospital ward and removed the baby from the breast, from the mother, who The baby's mother suffered terrible postnatal depression. Two years later, - never again having set eyes on her darling child ever again, - the mother hung hanged herself.

The Canberra Times now sells a paltry 27,000 copies per day. No wonder.

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Trickle-Down Economics

zeg trickle-down smallRemember "trickle down economics", that scornful dismissal of any and all who dared to suggest that markets do a better job of promoting prosperity than any number of bureaucrats and regulators? Well it seems there is some truth in it after all, as Zeg explains

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Bad news all over

print media

Australia's publishers are heeding the wisdom of the legal profession, which has long held that, when the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When they're not, pound the table. With today's release of the latest newspaper circulation figures -- numbers that speak of rot and ruin and the likely and imminent demise of several metropolitan mastheads -- the  publishers' spin merchants are pounding the growth in their digital editions. It would be a dim jury that could not see through that strategem, which neglects to mention that online revenues are but a small fraction, a very small fraction, of the cash that once flowed from ink-and-paper sales.

Still, there is a lesson there for those who still subscribe to that decidedly unfashionable notion that you reap what you sow. Take The Age, for example, which former readers know is run by unsupervised children, nakedly partisan, and thoroughly boring when not absolutely unreadable. And there are many of those former readers: In a city of some 4 million souls, The Age is now purchased by a scant 107,000 of them. The only upbeat way of looking at that figure is to draw consolation from the fact that the incidence of mental illness in Melbourne must be nowhere near so high as health professionals would have us believe.

One of the reasons for the Himalayan declines in Fairfax Media circulations is competition from the ABC, whose taxpayer support relieves it of the need to declare a profit. If electoral returns are any indication, the green-left audience represents no more than 17% of the market, so a government-funded behemoth is always going to eat its commercial rival's lunch (organic and fair trade, of course) with that demographic.

Yet in "Editor-in-Chief" Mark Scott's magic kingdom, where gross lapses of good taste are dismissed as "satire" and no one is ever held responsible for getting it wrong, there is woe and suffering of another kind:

The TV unit's Christmas party has been put on hold!

It goes without saying that the Grinch is Tony Abbott:

"In light of recent statements by the Minister and the likelihood of an up-coming announcement, the TV Leadership Group feels that will regrettably have to post-pone next week’s Christmas festivities to Wednesday 3rd December. All running details of the evening will remain the same and Jd & the admin team will be in touch next week with respect to arranging new ticket sales and refunds."

What will the entertainers who, rumour has it, were booked for the event do now? The man who was going to fornicate with a dog will be out of pocket and there will be nobody to crack jokes about those insignificant holidaymakers shot out of the sky by a Russian-made missile. ABC types just love that sort of thing.


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The Battle of Port Phillip


A Russian fleet -- if two warships and a pair of support vessels can be called a fleet -- has been observed in waters somewhat near Australia and that news is the stuff of today's front pages. Defence officials are variously quoted to the effect that there is no cause for panic, of which the only sign so far has been news editors' decision to treat the story as a major development, while diplomatic sources have explained that the ships' roaming so far from home should be seen as a further example of Vladimir Putin's taste for displaying a little unsubtle muscle.

That Australians are going about their business calm and collected is a testament to our national maturity, as there was a time, long before the Cold War, when fears of a Russian invasion inflamed the colonial imagination to such an extent that the news editors of an earlier age thought it worthwhile to explain how such an attack would be dealt with.

On January 29, 1887, Melbourne's Argus "reported":

"Every home in Melbourne knew that the enemy was at hand, and every hour the rumours grew more alarming. The committee of the City Council met a committee of the Cabinet. The Premier reported that the land forces were rapidly concentrating, and that he would have 4,000 men in and about the city within a few hours to resist a landing if one were attempted, and it was unanimously agreed to pay no ransom, but if the Victorian flotilla was defeated to run the risks of a bombardment.

Notices were rapidly printed and posted to allay alarm and avert a panic. "No city was ever destroyed by bombardment from the sea." "A shell is visible as it falls. Fall flat on your face if it is near you, and the explosion is usually harmless." "The suburbs beyond East Melbourne, Fitzroy, and Hotham are beyond the range of fire."

It all ended happily, with the mauled Russians and their battered French allies driven from Port Phillip in disarray.

For the Argus' full account of the Russian attack that never happened, follow the link below.

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The Howard Era

Edited by Keith Windschuttle, David Martin Jones and Ray Evans

Essays by Tony Abbott, James Allan, Chris Berg, Ian Callinan, Sinclair Davidson and more.

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