Coup in Thailand (and related media fun)

19 September, 2006

The dust has yet to settle and it’s still at the stage where any street rumour gets reported as news, but it does appear that Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been overthrown by the military while in New York getting ready to address the UN. (ABC) (CBC) (AFP) (Reuters) (Wiki)

The events appear to have unfolded as follows:

  • Military presence started to become obvious in Bangkok during the evening.
  • At about midnight local time, the military took over television stations and most government buildings, including the PM’s official residence.
  • Thaksin and members of the Thai Rak Thai party claimed the coup could not succeed and he was still in charge.
  • Thaksin declared a state of emergency by phone from New York.
  • The army’s commander-in-chief, Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, cancelled the state of emergency and imposed martial law and suspended the constitution. Bloggers and some media report tanks moving freely around the streets.
  • A statement purporting to come from the “Council of Administrative Reform” with King Bhumibol Adulyadej as head of state (ABC notes the council was previously unknown as a political entity) made a statement:

“The armed forces commander and the national police commander have successfully taken over Bangkok and the surrounding area in order to maintain peace and order. There has been no struggle,” the announcement said. “We ask for the co-operation of the public and ask your pardon for the inconvenience.” (CBC)

  • Thaksin rescheduled his speech at the UN from Wednesday night to Tuesday night so he could return promptly.
  • Democratic Party members and members of the public come out waving banners such as “Thaksin Out”, without encumbrance from the military.
  • (04:30) Thaksin cancelled his speech at the UN. (Fox News)

More to come, obviously, but it’s been difficult trying to pin down what is going on. CBC has done a good job overnight and I think the ABC will take that into the morning coverage. The BBC initially adopted a hysterical pro-government line although this improved a little as the morning progressed (it would seem that the David Kelly affair and the Hutton Inquiry is still a bit fresh in some minds)

Given the events in Thailand in the past two years, as long as the military act honourably and the King remains in charge and is listened to, this may well be a positive development. There are occasions when the democratic system is unable to resolve an impasse – a new election would simply have re-installed Thaksin as PM (despite his claims to have resigned after the mass protests in April, which it’s clear he had no intention of doing to begin with) against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of people in four regions, including the capital, Bangkok. Thaksin Shinawatra, by any measure, has lost his mandate to be prime minister, but can depend on an alarming number of safe seats, media control through his business empire, and a political system that gives him far too much power to undermine his enemies. It’s unfortunate that it has come to this, as when first elected, Thaksin introduced sweeping reforms to economic funding, health, education and other areas which were badly needed for many years and which benefitted the broad majority of the Thai population.

(Also read Wiki – Thaksin Shinawatra)

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Amusing Hansard from 2003

17 September, 2006

This blog will be back up to normal operation soon. In the meantime… it’s sadly not often that Parliament is something other than boring or childishly adversarial, so when looking for something else, I was quite amused to find this from our own Upper House back on 3 Dec 2003 about some land down near Kojonup. To cut a long story short, an A-class reserve in the area was being excised for logging. Enquiries revealed that there was nothing to log, given it had been illegally cleared in 1975, so Greens MLC Dee Margetts was curious to know why it was listed for logging. The humorous bit is a debate about broom bush, which from the description appears to be the same as the brush fences one sees everywhere in suburban Adelaide:

Hon DEE MARGETTS (Grn): No explanation has been given for this concept of the Department of Conservation and Land Management, which comes to us via the amendment of the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure. If it is simply for the provision of broom bush to undercut other aspects of private industry for the provision of the gardening trade –

Hon Murray Criddle (Nat): What is broom bush?

Hon DEE MARGETTS: I am no expert, but I understand that it is a fencing material, which is a sort of grey –

Hon Murray Criddle: Tea-tree?

Hon Christine Sharp (Grn): It is similar.

Hon Ken Travers (ALP): It has beautiful flowers.

Hon DEE MARGETTS: Quite possibly. It is often used in new housing developments because it is a relatively cheap but quite attractive form of fencing.

Hon Murray Criddle: I know what you mean.

Hon DEE MARGETTS: It is wired together.

Hon Ken Travers: Broom bush is really pretty when it is in flower.

Hon DEE MARGETTS: It probably is when it is alive.


Mahathir loses grassroots poll

10 September, 2006

In a development which will be somewhat amusing to many Australian observers, 81-year-old former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, known nowadays more for his criticism of his successor Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, lost a grassroots vote to represent his district at a party conference. More from Yahoo.sg:

Former premier Mahathir Mohamed’s humiliating defeat in a grassroots party ballot shows he is finished as a force in Malaysian politics after waging a bitter anti-government campaign, analysts said.

But observers warned that although Mahathir suffered a major blow in the vote which bars him from addressing the ruling party’s annual assembly, his days as a critic are far from over.

The United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) had been fearful that Mahathir would use its November assembly to step up his attacks on the government, which have sent shockwaves through Malaysian politics.

For the right to address the forum he was forced to contest a party ballot in his home state of Kedah, but after 472 members cast their votes Saturday he came in only ninth among 15 candidates vying for seven delegates’ positions.

It was Mahathir’s smallest political contest to date and believed to be his first electoral defeat at an UMNO division he had headed for 30 years.

Read the rest of this entry »


More from The West Australian

9 September, 2006

It seems that someone didn’t check The West Magazine in this weekend’s edition of The West Australian before having it printed.

If they had, they might have seen this on page 9 (click on image for normal-size version of whole page):

West magazine p9 - Peter Brock at rally


The votes are in – Fourth term for QLD Labor

9 September, 2006

As Beattie continues into a fourth term in a victory most commentators are describing as a two-term, questions are being asked within the Coalition camp as to how it all went so wrong.

Conventional wisdom held that this election should have been that with trouble in key portfolios such as health and water, Labor would have been on the nose. They had lost three seats in by-elections (the Brisbane seats of Chatsworth and Redcliffe and the Gold Coast seat of Gaven) held in August 2005 and April 2006, suggesting widespread discontent with the ALP. The Bundaberg hospital scandal, where overseas-trained surgeon Dr Jayant Patel had been found by a public inquiry to be guilty of gross incompetence and responsible for the deaths of 13 patients, also significantly damaged the Government’s public perception, while a recent referendum result in Toowoomba and public anger in Gympie and Noosa suggested the Government’s water plans were in trouble.

However, a series of missteps and gaffes plagued the Liberal/National coalition’s campaign. Problems within the coalition itself – including uncertainty as to the precise coalition arrangements and the ousting of the popular Liberal leader a week before the campaign was declared did not help their attempts to promote themselves as an effective alternative government.

Early in the count, the ABC rather enthusiastically declared several candidates as the minor rural and hospital booths reported their results.

In the end result, it appears Labor have reversed their by-election losses, and made gains in unexpected areas. Most commentators are predicting that Labor have won between 59 and 61 seats out of 89 in the single-house parliament. They have only lost the Sunshine Coast seat of Kawana at this stage, and are ahead on counting in inner-urban Clayfield, a seat divided between wealthy and working-class areas not unlike the Perth federal seat of Swan.

Independents haven’t done too well this time around. Former Labor MP Cate Molloy in Noosa, and ex-One Nation two-term MP Elisa Roberts in Gympie (whose notable contribution to this campaign was changing her mind repeatedly as to whether to run or not) lost their seats to the Nationals, while Dolly Pratt in inner-rural Nanango narrowly fought off a challenge from John Bjelke-Petersen (son of Joh) in his home town. Only One Nation’s Rosa Lee Long in the (Atherton) Tablelands seat picked up a swing.

Meanwhile, two possible ALP seat gains must carry the sweet taste of revenge – Gladstone, held by Independent Liz Cunningham who in 1996 handed government to the Nationals’ Rob Borbidge, and Robina, until this election held by former Liberal leader Bob Quinn, who had retired.

Both Lawrence Springborg, the Opposition Leader, and Bruce Flegg, the Liberal leader, offered concession speeches. Figures within the Liberal and National parties told ABC radio that there will be considerable soul-searching in the following week as to why the Nationals failed to pick up the protest vote. Elisa Roberts’ speech was both shorter and less political in tone – openly acknowledging she wasn’t wanted by the voters and announcing her intention to write a book which would “make The Latham Diaries look like Play School”. Peter Beattie was gracious in victory, acknowledging that it probably wasn’t so much an endorsement of his government as a decisive last chance to fix Queensland’s problems.

The ABC election computer, as with most state campaigns, was excessively referred to in ABC coverage, a fact not lost on the South Australian blogger behind Adam’s Diary, providing a fitting and amusing graphic to wrap up this bizarre 26-day campaign.

(Originally written for perthnorg)

Sources: Poll Bludger, ABC, ECQ


Brief personal post

7 September, 2006

Apologies for the lack of recent updates – they have backlogged due to aforementioned computer problems, a project which emerged out of nowhere and needed many hours of my attention, the Queensland election for which I was thoroughly unprepared, and other matters. I should be back later today with some fresh material.


The Worst Australian.

2 September, 2006

OK, forgive me for the bad puns on print media titles this side of the Nullarbor (see my last one about their crosstown rivals). I’ve got bad news. There’s more to come yet. Stay tuned. But today, we’re going to look at the West Australian, our worthy, venerable source of anti-Labor bile and extrapolated-beyond-belief surveys.

I’ll leave the complaints about the 11 anti-Government articles as that would take all day to write about and I don’t much like them, anyway. I’m sure they’re more than capable of complaining themselves. I’m sure they can also handle the letters to the editor page, and the xenophobic editorial. Hell, they managed to get a page 2 apology for last week’s mess of an article about the Corruption and Crime Commission maligning a commissioner in their desperation to get “Godfather” D’Orazio (ed: I am calling him “Godfather” to mock the West, who obsessively use the term, rather than to impugn D’Orazio.)

The “iGeneration” survey
However, what really grabbed my attention was on the front page, as well as all of page 8 and page 9 – reportage of a survey commissioned by The West Australian and health insurer HBF of young people between 18 and 30, entitled “iGeneration” by Patterson Market Research, which involved “nearly 470 people” / “467 iGeners” (a figure I really had to look for) – compare this to 854 for the last Newspoll for state politics in Western Australia). The survey’s certainly big on hyperbole about itself:

  • “The survey, commissioned by The West Australian and health insurer HBF, has prompted calls (from whom?) for mandatory political education…” (p.1)
  • “Political analysts (theirs) say the findings are woeful.” (p.1)
  • “A staggering 41 per cent…”
  • “A shocking 17 per cent”
  • “The findings should concern all political parties”
  • “A wide-sweeping new youth survey… has uncovered…” (p.8)
  • “The comprehensive insight into the so-called “internet” generation…” (p.8)
  • “Damning evidence” (p.9)
  • “The findings of a survey by The West Australian and health insurer HBF reflect the selfishness of today’s young adults and a lack of education” (p.9)
  • “Survey findings provided clear support for…”
  • “The first survey of the iGeneration” (p.8)
  • “iSnapshot” sidebar promoting the survey’s findings as fact (p.8)

Anyway, this staggering, shocking, wide-sweeping new youth survey (I’m not entirely sure that 29yo quite fit the “youth” demographic) is only matched in hyperbole by the speculation and slanderousness of the newspaper’s column inches about this demographic (would it get away with such coverage of the baby boomer generation?). The generation of which I happen to be part has more labels stuck to it than a Queensland orange in reporting which really shows beyond doubt an anti-young people bias evident throughout other sections of the paper in all its gory detail – let’s see:

  • The “I couldn’t give a stuff” generation (p.9)
  • “Deeply, deeply self-obsessed” (p.9)
  • “Selfishness of today’s young adults and a lack of education” (p.9)
  • “Affluent, optimistic, a little self-obsessed and surprisingly conservative” (p.8)
  • “Give us health and wealth, say self-obsessed 18-to-30 year olds” (headline, p.8-9)
  • “Politics is, like, so boring, but patriotism is the new cool” (p.8) (note: not a quote – attributed to reporter Melissa Kent)
  • “iGeneration – with an emphasis on the “I”” (p.8)
  • “Perhaps they should be called the “me” generation” (p.8)
  • “This is, after all, a generation that is very much concerned with itself” (p.8)
  • “For these young people, change is worrying.” (p.8)
  • “69 per cent would like to hear the pitter-patter of little feet one day” (p.9)
  • “A generation focused on the self.” (p.9)
  • “An appalling lack of political awareness” (p.1)
  • “Woeful ignorance” (p.1)

OK, OK, enough, enough, I hear you say. It’s disgraceful. As a 28-year-old myself with many friends ranging in age from 15 to 56, these “findings” just don’t wash with me. Some other findings suggest a woeful bias – only 1% of their sample (4 people?) are unemployed, for instance.

But what is the real iGeneration? Does anyone but the West use this somewhat pejorative term?
Quick check of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, suggests that “iGeneration” actually refers to a generation who at their oldest are presently 15 or 16 years of age and not being surveyed at all by Patterson in this study – contrast this to “nearly 470 people aged 18 to 30, who comprise the iGeneration”. It would seem nearly half of their survey subjects fall into the category labelled “Gen X’ers” who grew up well before the Internet became a phenomenon, leaving about 270 people, give or take. The other term used, “iGeners”, only generated 15 hits on Google. Not that that will increase much, given the West is yet to catch onto the internet revolution – their site has greatly improved this year but still isn’t anything close to an online presence.

Survey methods suspect
This survey would be forgivable if it was a first offence. In those leading up to the last election, however, they did a special survey which picked strong-Liberal-voting suburbs (but they didn’t disclose this bit, only the names of the suburbs) in marginal seats and suggesting on that basis a landslide Liberal victory (it went the other way). Three months after the election, they were still claiming Labor was trailing Liberal but was “improving”. Who was being surveyed, and how, and where? What questions were they being asked? Was it random or was it the same people each time?

Unfortunately The West tells us nothing about their sampling and survey methods, and what questions were asked and how. Newspoll (which, although often reliable, swings more wildly than I suspect the population does) provide an endnote on their surveys which means we can decide ourselves how to interpret them:

These surveys were conducted on the telephone by trained interviewers among voters throughout Western Australia. Telephone numbers and the person within the household were selected at random. The data has been weighted to reflect the population distribution of Western Australia. The latest survey is based on 854 interviews. The maximum margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

EDIT: An amusing comment from someone I was chatting with this evening: “what generation isn’t obsessed with themselves? I’m sure the hippies didn’t smoke marijuana to reduce CO2 emissions…”