The Satchel Review - Friday 2 March (blow up the pokies?)

In the season of Lent, the vision of Calvary more visceral as Christians forgo something of themselves in respect to Jesus Christ, it seems at odds to think of carnage on the caucus floor (war, war, what is it good for?). 

But after attending church with his family on Sunday, Kevin Rudd met his ready-made fate on Monday, conceding an overwhelming defeat to the footy-loving Julia Gillard who seized the day and a new lease of life on her leadership: the result was 71 to 31 in the ballot. 

"Smashing!", "Decisive!" "Near ubiquitous", chanted those in camp Gillard, dabbing their weary brows with handkerchief in relief, while assistant treasurer and sports minister Mark Arbib resigned to spend more time with his family and wash his hands of the whole Rudd back-stabbing debacle of 2010.  

The metaphors have been thick and fast: "The war is now over," reported The Geelong Advertiser. The Australian Financial Review's political editor Laura Tingle described the Labor party brand as "a shop sign up swinging in the breeze and there's not much behind it in the shop; it's a pretty thin sort of veneer these days" in a video commentary

"The Caucus has spoken, I accept the Caucus verdict," said Mr Rudd. "I bear no grudges, I bear no-one any malice. It is time, in fact it's past time, that these wounds were healed. To Julia I would say the following ... I dedicate myself to working fully for her re-election as the prime minister of Australia. I will do so with my absolute ability dedicated to that task." 


While Rudd waved the white flag, Bob Carr was the ultimate benefactor from the whole shebang, claiming the Foreign Minister's post. The Australian people, I'm sure, will be looking forward to hearing his erudite and educated ripostes (what Rudd and Carr share in common is a certain proclivity for verbosity... us? never!).

For those so inclined, Carr also has a Wordpress blog called Thoughtlines with Bob Carr where you can check his credentials and read his essays on America, Art, Books, the Civil War, Film, Opera, Theatre, Travel and 'Communist Nostalgia and the Romance of the Cold War'. He has had a particular interest in the literacy levels of our youngsters.

Speaking of which, the Gonski report got a guernsey despite the leadership contest spilling onto the front pages. Ross Gittins, the friendly face of Sydney Morning Herald economics, expounded on the importance of excellent teachers.

"We seem to be extraordinarily preoccupied with who gets what rather than what they do with it," he wrote in 'Education success is about more than money'. "Why this obsession with money?... rather than the substance of education and health."

Indeed. It seems all the money in the world won't do your manners much good. According to a new scientific study, upper-class people are more likely to lie, cheat and break the law than their lower-class peers.

While the researchers concede there are definite exceptions to the rule, citing philanthropists like Warren Buffet, perhaps this charming assessment of greed and indifference by those who drive luxury cars can best be summed up by the unfolding this week of one James Packer's moves to make Australia more of a high-rolling nation.

The owner of two of Australia's biggest gaming venues, Packer wants to buy out a greater share in Echo Entertainment, which owns the Star casino in Sydney (and Jupiters on the Gold Coast) and holds the rights to operate Sydney's only casino until 2019, to use its license to open a new casino at Bangaroo to target the Asian big-money market.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has seen dollar signs, telling the press, "Any premier would be a mug if people are saying we want to invest a billion dollars in NSW not to at least hear those proponents out."

While former Prime Minister Paul Keating has told Packer to back off from the area marked out as a public space, one commenter at SMH piped up, "Why must a beautiful or future beautiful part of Sydney go to a few people with lots of money. It should be built for the public to enjoy. To hell with the so called high rollers. There is enough misery and coruption already caused by gambling why do we need more?"

Indeed, last month, chief executive of World Vision Australia Tim Costello pointed to the vast chasm that exists between what we know is right and doing what is right. "Like slavery in the time of Wilberforce, there is no politician that likes pokies. Indeed, most politicians on both sides tell me they hate them. But in the next breath they say reform is too hard because we are dependent on pokies."

And doesn't that make government just as sick as the problem gamblers, and their monied enablers, themselves? As Tim Freedman's The Whitlams once sang, "I wish I, wish I knew the right words; To blow up the pokies and drag them away; 'Cause they're taking the food off your table; So they can say that the trains run on time."

If only the government coffers could be filled in more desirous ways to pay for the kids' public school education. Is "dirty money" better than no money at all? A moral stance on finance: some food for thought on GWAS next week.

Girl With a Satchel