THE LAST GASP: Tycoon touch-up

This week Clive Palmer cops a political punching, tobacco gets whacked and the Senate says 'baa baa'.


The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s news, every week. This week, a shock dispute pops up involving Clive Palmer, tobacco packaging takes its last breath and Lindsay Tanner blames the 'meeja' for the incompetence of others.

Everybody loves Clive

Perhaps sick of getting along fine with everybody, mining magnate Clive Palmer has become entangled in yet another public spat this week, this time with Queensland Premier Campbell Newman. The latest battle surrounds criticism from the premier over Palmer’s attempts to use his Liberal Party clout to win political favours. Because no old, rich white guy has ever used money to influence politics. In the world. Ever. Newman has accused the billionaire, a well-known LNP financial backer and hopeful federal politics candidate, of attempting to "bully" the state government over a number of issues including a development proposal. It appears that to the Libs, when these billionaires use their money to influence the government, that’s democracy. But when it’s the LNP, that’s meddling.

Keep refreshing

Despite the fallout, Palmer claims his spats with Newman and federal opposition leader Tony Abbott have not dented his ambitions to secure LNP preselection for the upcoming federal election. He told media that his latest battlefront would make no difference at all to his decision, and while the party had still not called for nominations, all of his options were still open. The LNP later confirmed they had in fact called for nominations, and expressed disappointment that Palmer’s had obviously been lost in the mail.

Sucked in

If there’s one industry that has the public’s sympathy, it’s big tobacco. And there wasn’t a single person in Australia who didn’t feel bad for the sector this week when it lost its bid to have the government’s plain packaging laws declared unconstitutional. Reports claim the courtroom became quite heated immediately following the decision, before everyone was urged to just take a deep breath. A spokesman for the tobacco industry said it was extremely disappointed with the decision, before returning to his castle to feed on the souls of the innocent. Attorney-General and former Health Minister Nicola Roxon was delighted with the result, and said now that the government had scored a win over big tobacco, it would focus all of its strength on the country’s next most evil industry; the media.

Needless pursuit

Former ALP finance minister Lindsay Tanner lent an unexpected voice in favour of the media this week, saying the industry was well within its rights to resist reforms proposed by the Finklestein Report. However, he did reserve some criticism for the sector, which he accused of at times trivialising politics. As if they don’t do a good enough job of that themselves with the constant smear campaigns, empty rhetoric and sporadic breaking into song.

Unsure if want

Joe Hockey claims weak consumer confidence data this week shows the federal government's recent performance, amid policy backflips and broken promises, had created unprecedented levels of uncertainty in Australia. The shadow treasurer claims voters have a strong desire for certainty, like the kind they can find in a bloke who plans to take charge of the country and tear up half a decade’s worth of policy. And then… live off the plaudits, one guesses. Of course, it’s a somewhat unfair criticism of the government, given the European debt crisis may have had some influence on the public mood. It’s fairer to say that and the government’s incompetent bungling have led to the current uncertainty.

Something with numbers

It was easy to get confused this week as the country’s education industry celebrated various headlines proclaiming Australia’s universities were among the world’s best. The euphoria lasted as long as it took to read the actual numbers – according to the latest Academic Rankings of World Universities, Australia now has five universities among the world's top 100. The University of Melbourne, Australian National University, the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney and the University of Western Australia all got gongs, but a world’s best label is arguably wishful thinking. It’s a bit like North Korea trying to claim global athletic superiority despite winning only four gold and two bronze medals at the London Olympics. Oh, they do that anyway? Carry on.

On the floor

In another proud moment for Australian politics, Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald has questioned the government over last year’s widely reported cuts to defence spending, and asked about rumours that soldiers in training have been instructed to shout ‘bang bang’ to simulate weapon fire as funding pressure meant they could not be provided with ammunition. The claims are the most significant use of onomatopoeia in a senate hearing since David Bushby’s slight on Penny Wong. Foreign Minister Bob Carr told reporters that the army had assured him there was no shortage of blank or live ammunition in the armed forces. He then shouted "brrm, brrm’ and took off down the road.

Quick misses

– Liberal backbencher Don Randall claims reports of asylum seekers demanding to be taken to Christmas Island after being rescued shows some potential refugees are of poor character and shouldn't be given an Australian visa. The comments show some Australians are lucky to be born here and don’t have to face such a test.

Julia Gillard has rejected some of the key recommendations of a government-ordered manufacturing report this week, in the first ever case of Labor completely ignoring the suggestions in a report they commissioned.

CBA chief Ian Narev says the bank will retain its ‘conservative’ business settings, as caution from consumers and business continues to slow revenue growth at the lender. Which has slowed to a speed of just $7.1 billion in profit this financial year. The poor buggers.