The Satchel Review - Friday February 3, 2012

The new parliamentary year is nigh and the mud slinging has officially begun. Former Labor leader Simon Crean took the opportunity to sling some in the way of Kevin Rudd, telling one radio station in a 'lively chat' that, "I think that part of the reason he lost the leadership was that he wasn't (a team player)... there's no point having a band of prima donnas unless they operate as a team."

Looking for tips on teamwork? Take a cue from Queensland's mud army. The army will be mobilised yet again as some Queenslanders evacuated their homes and towns this week with wet-season flood waters making things inhospitable in Charleville and Roma. No prima donnas need apply.

But another natural force swept through Australian media this week: "The G Force", otherwise known as Gina Rinehart (Australia's richest person), who had everyone in a flurry over her Fairfax Media group share acquisition. In her efforts to procure holdings in all industries starting with "M" (except, maybe, manufacturing), Rinehart bought up a 13 per cent stake in the company.

In some quarters this has been decried as yet another example of capitalist imperialism, a way for Rinehart to assert her interests and influence the political cogs; in others a saving grace for a beleaguered company that could go caput without significant investment; in journalistic quarters, there was some contempt ("she's picked the wrong megaphone," wrote Mark Day).

In any case, the share market cheered. And Rinehart's family values, trials and tribulations were dragged through the proverbial... yes, mud.  

Another potential media target for Rinehart: Facebook, which has confirmed it will float $100 billion in stock. Given the social network's global domination (it has 90 million global users), the $5 billion initial public offering could prove to be the everyman's stock of choice.

Speaking of choice, we are spoilt when it comes to fruit and veggies, with supermarkets last week deciding produce will be the new warfare ground after the cut-prince milk hype went sour. It's all about the consumer, say Coles and Woollies; it's a simple supply and demand issue.

Meanwhile, farmers confront smaller margins together with increased competitiveness from imported supplies. Is that fair? Want to delve further into the workings of the food system? Read this nifty government report.

In related news, Dick Smith has used his voice to protest the potential sale of his Dick Smith stores to foreign interests by Woollies, which recently reported its lowest quarterly sales growth since 2010 (thanks to lower fresh food prices... hmm).

Still with fruit... Apple made has been in the news over its production values. "Apple's Chinese workers treated 'inhumanely, like machines', read a headline in The Guardian, followed by, "Investigation finds evidence of draconian rules and excessive overtime to meet western demand for iPhones and iPads".

Mitt Romney won in Florida, but it's the rise of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt that's cause for greater alarm (the country's first free elections saw the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party win 47 per cent of the vote... female representation in parliament has dropped from 12 to 2 per cent).

Early in the week, we learnt that the Shafia family had been found guilty of murdering three teenage sisters and another woman in an honour killing that took place in Canada. "The jury found that four strong, vivacious and freedom-loving women were murdered by their own family in the most troubling of circumstances," said prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis.

That makes a bit of mud-slinging look like child's play.

Girl With a Satchel