Budgets, Bishops, Brawls And Water Boys


WELCOME to Another Week In Paradise, a new weekly NM round-up which will focus primarily on national politics, unless of course Troy Buswell does anything newsworthy… for example if the rumours prove true that our nation’s favourite chair sniffer has purchased a major sporting stadium. In which case the column will be devoted entirely to that now, and into the foreseeable future.

We’ll also bring you a bit of international news, particularly anything out of America that relates to bat-sh*t crazy conservatives, and a few other bits and pieces that take our fancy (and we hope yours!)

So please enjoy… and by all means send us your tips and scuttlebutt.


TONY Abbott is to apathy what Mal Brough and a glass of water is to Clive Palmer (see below).

Tens and tens… and tens of thousands of Australians turned out in cities and towns around the nation yesterday to protest stuff, in particular anything to do with Tony Abbott and the 'worst federal budget in the history of the planet'.

As with all things protest, there was plenty of colour and signs. "Utterly offensive", with Joe Hockey depicted as a pig, was quite popular, if not a little jarring. "Enough is Enough" probably got the strongest run – it’s become the catch-cry of the March in (Insert Month Here) movement.

New Matilda’s vote for the best sign goes to this one, from the Adelaide march. Thanks to Catherine Zengerer for the pic.


SINGER-songwriter Sarah Blasko joined the Sydney protest by performing at Belmore Park, following on from Billy Bragg’s appearance at the March in March rally earlier this year (the one where Bragg inexplicably argued that it "wasn't conservatism or capitalism that is the problem, but the fact that young women get attacked on Twitter for expressing their opinions"). Sorry Bill, conservatism IS the problem. And the jury's still out on capitalism. Blasko’s event was MC-ed by whirlwind activist and satirist Van Badham, a Twitter warrior of some note.


NEWS out Monday morning is that the punters in paradise are not happy. The Coalition has recorded the worst poll results after a budget in more than two decades. The most notable figure is this one, as reported by the SMH: “Mr Abbott's negative rating of minus 28 per cent rivals his lowest ever — the minus 29 reading he recorded in December 2012. It is also as bad as any recorded by Julia Gillard at her weakest point.”

That’s pretty bad, and given there’s so much blood in the water, can we now expect News Limited to catch "poll fever" again and go after Abbott with the same poll reporting vigour it displayed during the Rudd, Gillard, Rudd years?

Sadly, no.

Over at News.com.au the story that got top billing this morning was Pamela Anderson’s revelations overnight that she was sexually assaulted as a child.

A worthy yarn… save for the multiple pictures of a semi-naked Anderson which objectify her, and seem to defeat the whole purpose of the story.

To News’ credit, they did report on the Marches in May, and on a Labor resurgence… just no mention yet of the polls (at the time of press… we’re happy to stand corrected if one appears).

We wait with bated breath. In the meantime, if you want some good, hard-core poll analysis, start here.


THERE is a budget emergency, there isn’t a budget emergency… someone really needs to get to the bottom of our finances.

Smoking Joe Hockey’s Chicken Little dance over the dire state of our government coffers has been going on for months. But things apparently weren’t so bad that it prevented Hockey from hosting a $50,000 dinner in Washington last month for G20 finance ministers, replete with “barramundi, Victorian Wagyu beef, a ‘eucalyptus ice’ dressed with Tasmanian leatherwood honey and WA truffles". Oh, and an Aussie chef airlifted to the US to cook the spread.

Fast forward to the weekend, when the PM got a grilling from the ABC about yesterday’s "emergency meeting" of the States, angered over the decision to pull $80 billion out of health and education.

“This idea there is some kind of emergency because things are going to have to be adjusted in three years' time is not right,” said Abbott.

Well, that’s a relief.


BRONWYN Bishop has notched up her first tonne as Speaker of the House of Representatives. That is, in less than a year she’s expelled 100 members of parliament, and every single one of them from the Opposition. That’s right, the Iron Hat has sent precisely zero members of the Government to cool their heels in the naughty green corner.

Bishop’s partisan performance is doing the Abbott Government more damage than they probably realise. While punters would be hard-pressed to name a single person ejected by Bishop — or, more to the point, a single reason why they were ejected — it doesn’t go unnoticed how her rule is unashamedly biased. It also draws unwanted attention to Bishop’s "school marm" persona, something which the Liberals could probably do without for the time being.


BRONNY’S perception of bias wasn’t assisted by an incident during the Opposition's budget reply speech.

Leader Bill Shorten had received a standing ovation from members of the party he leads, with a few hoots and hollers thrown in from the public galley. You’d have thought Shorten won a Nobel Peace Prize the way they were carrying on, although on the upside these things help to substantiate Einstein’s Theory of (Other) Relativity, namely that the level of faux adoration heaped upon an Opposition leader is directly proportionate to his or her political ineffectiveness.

But we digress. Christopher 'Poodles' Pyne – a stickler for rules, although apparent occasional user of the c-word — found himself standing amongst the "ovaters". He’d intended to 'dis' Shortern by casually wandering off, not unlike the honey badger who doesn’t ‘give a sh*t, but when the Opposition members leapt to their feet, Pyne found himself unexpectedly part of the faux love-fest for Shorten. So rather than bolt for the doors again, Pyne simply signaled to the Speaker that she should stand, and end the adoration, post-haste.

Bishop — the independent Speaker of the House of Reps — duly leapt to her feet. And, naturally, was ignored for a bit longer.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the whole silly little event was captured on parliamentary cameras. Expect Hansard and the video unit to suffer some cuts at the 2015-16 budget.


BISHOP’s sycophancy was hard enough to swallow, but Mal Brough’s new role as parliamentary water boy made watching the budget last week a little more stomach-churning than usual.

The backstory is that Palmer United Party head Clive Palmer had fallen asleep while Tony Abbott was riffing about budget emergencies and why he never actually lied to the electorate. In Clive’s words, according to the Herald, "Tony Abbott sent me to sleep during question time avoiding questions about his cruel and heartless budget."

Palmer later explained to media that he’d been up since 2am and had done "about 850 media interviews that day" (actually he claimed it was “38 interviews today, roughly”, but we’re sure he meant to offer up his usual gross exaggeration, so we’ve upped the figure to one more befitting a human headline).

Mal Brough to the rescue. Herald snapper Andrew Meares caught Brough scurrying over to offer Parliament’s richest man a glass of water.

Not since his Northern Territory intervention days has Mal Brough done so little, for so few.

It was a surreal experience, because the last time we saw "Mal Brough" and "Clive Palmer" used in the same news story was when Clive announced he would sue Mal for defamation over the Ashby-Slipper affair.

So what happened? Where’s the fire and brimstone? Was Brough merely trying to draw attention to Clive’s nap? Or are they besties again? The Sunshine Coast Daily reports that Brough and Palmer have apparently ‘buried the hatchet’. The question remains, in whom?


UNIVERSITY students in Sydney are under fire after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was nearly beaten to death. More or less.

Video of the clash shows Bishop arriving on Friday to chanting and protesting from a few dozen students. A scuffle ensued with university and ministerial security staff.

The level of violence rivalled that of the four-day riot at the 40th anniversary Tent Embassy celebrations in 2012, when Prime Minister Julia Gillard was nearly boiled in a pot of oil and eaten alive by violent Aboriginal revolutionaries.

You remember that one… the 'riot' at the glass walled restaurant that saw not a single pane of glass cracked (but, admittedly, a back door knocked off its hinges… by police).

Word is Bishop escaped with both shoes, although her perfectly coiffed hair required an emergency re-adjustment before she took the stage to announce that a further 1,000 students would be able to study overseas, thanks to new government spending. Oh, the irony.


THE United States is doing some soul searching this morning after news reports emerged of a police operation which saw numerous motorists pulled over for "traffic code violations". In what is believed to be a first for the US, everyone caught up in the sting was white.


COURTESY of the Abbott Government’s budget, 'hockey' has become a dirty word in Australia. Which is a damn shame, because as lovers of the ice know, there’s 'bad Hockey', and then there’s 'good hockey'. This is good hockey. With a caveat or two.

Promoters The Douglas Webber Group are Bringing the Biff Down Under: “After a sellout tour in 2013, the fastest sport in the world is back, with an extended 2014 International Ice Hockey series between USA and Canada.”

If you’ve got the cash (and the inclination) you can spend $300 for a "Showview Dining" experience: “Watch every hit, miss and goal from your private high bar area, enjoy drinks and buffet dinner whilst watching the finest 30 players from the world’s leading Ice Hockey teams, Canada and USA for the first time in Australia, offering the true VIP experience.”

Which sounds really good. Should be a great spectacle. But the marketing hype is a little, well, ridiculous… not to mention inaccurate.

Firstly the match is not "USA vs Canada". It would be more accurately described as "Some professional and semi-professional hockey players who may or may not come from the US" vs "Some other professional and semi-professional hockey players who may or may not come from Canada".

Neither of the teams are the official Canadian or US teams, and none of the players have ever represented their countries in adult teams.

Promoter Craig Douglas reports that “USA will be captained by Zenon Konopka (of the Minnesota Wild).” Except, Konopka doesn’t play for the Minnesota Wild, he plays for the Buffalo Sabres. Oh, and he’s not from the US. He’s Canadian.

“Canada will be lead by Kyle Quincey (of the Detroit Red Wings)”… all of which is actually true. Quincy is currently signed with the Detroit Red Wings, and he is from Canada.

Marketing guff aside, the event is still worth attending. Both Quincy and Konopka are very good players, and while not world class, they more than hold their own in the NHL.


KONOPKA in particular is worth going to watch. That is, of course, if he’s allowed to play come July. He was suspended for “violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program” last week.

The NHL media release is light on detail — for his part, Konopka apologised and said he took an over-the-counter supplement, which contained a banned substance. We don’t know what it was, so we’re just going to take a punt and suggest Konopka took too many angry pills. That wild speculation is based on his total number of penalty minutes served in the NHL (more than 1,000 in his career) and the fact he holds the distinction of having the second and third highest recorded penalty minutes in a single season of all current players: 307 minutes in 2010-11 and 265 minutes in 2009-10.

No mean feat, but what exactly does that mean? Konopka doesn’t know the rules? Konopka likes to cheat?

Nope, Konopka is what’s known in hockey as a goon — he’s paid to go out on the ice and terrorise other players. And he does a pretty good job of it.

He’s also a faceoff specialist (that’s the bit at the game when players square off against each other for the puck drop), winning more than 90 per cent of contests in a recent game against Montreal.

But Konopka’s tough on-ice persona is not all there is to the man — he’s well known in his hometown of Ottawa for working with charities, has a penchant for wine and runs a Twitter account where his pet bunny rabbit Hoppy regularly enjoys a starring role. If you like your blokes rough, but with a softer side too, Konopka is your man.

Australia’s international ice hockey series was a hit in Australia last year, selling out in both Sydney and Melbourne. By all reports there was plenty of biffo — like hockey generally, players in this series are encouraged to ‘drop the gloves’. If you’re after a very different night out and a peak at what all the fuss is about, a highly recommended event.


* ANOTHER WEEK IN PARADISE will return in the Thursday Digest.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.