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Police jump the gun

STREWTH
Sian Powell | May 23, 2007

THE very real threat of terrorism has spawned a very real overreaction from police and defence authorities across the world. From the Patriot Act in the US to stringent terror measures in Australia, anti-terror efforts have changed the way we live.

Early yesterday morning, Queensland police made a frightening announcement about two young Brisbane men: "Both men have been charged with one count each of international terrorist activities, using explosives or lethal devices, under the Commonwealth Crimes Act." The pair had allegedly mixed brake fluid and chlorine to make small bangs. Once it would have been called hooliganism, but yesterday morning it was terror. However, by early afternoon the terror charges were quietly dropped and the pair appeared in a Brisbane court on a variety of minor charges. Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said the first announcement was wrong and conceded "we could have done it better, and it's a shame really because it was a tremendous piece of police work, in my view".

Flying in face of change

VIRGIN chief Richard Branson has bought into Queensland Premier Peter Beattie's battle to amalgamate councils. "Dear Peter," Branson says in a warm letter, "as always I hope this finds you very well." Still friendly, Branson goes on to applaud the amalgamation plan, as long as it doesn't include "distinct and iconic" Noosa. Branson, of course, is a Noosa ratepayer of sorts: he owns a 9ha island in the Noosa River. The anti-amalgamationers have won some glittering support, including footballer Shane Webcke, tennis player Pat Rafter and singer James Blundell.

Big boys and their toys

THERE'S something about guns, tanks and jet fighters that strikes a visceral chord in many men, and Australia's political leaders are no exception. Brendan Nelson declared this week that serving as Defence Minister is the best job he has had. This is a man who worked as a doctor, curing patients, and as education minister, at least partially responsible for the enlightenment of Australians. "This is in my experience the best and the most important job I've had," he told an appreciative audience of defence experts on Monday.

Heat rises over ABC doco

THE ABC yesterday announced it has bought the notorious British documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, a program that has prompted almost uniform derision from scientists across the world. Swindle pooh-poohs the widely accepted theory that human activity is causing climate change. Last month, at a forum in Melbourne, eminent scientists expressed their concerns about the doco. Australian of the Year Tim Flannery even wondered whether it should be classified as fiction rather than a documentary. At the time, the ABC refused to answer any questions about Swindle, saying the program wasn't for sale so the question was academic.

Moore invades Cannes

FILMMAKER Michael Moore let fly at the Prime Minister yesterday, blaming him (at least partly) for the Iraq war. Moore was at the Cannes film festival promoting his new film, Sicko, an expose of the US health system, but he spared the time to launch a few missiles at his political enemies, including US President George W. Bush. "There wouldn't have been a war if the likes of Tony Blair, John Howard and whoever the guy was in Spain at the time had not endorsed Bush," Moore said. "That allowed Bush to go back to the American people and say he was doing the right thing." And later: "Why didn't you guys stop him?"

Three chairs for Fairfax

THE Sydney Morning Herald ran the cabinet chairs imbroglio on its front page yesterday, following reports the Government had spent nearly $200,000 on new seats for federal parliament's cabinet room. Meanwhile, the paper's colleagues at Fairfax Business Media are having chair problems of their own. An email sent to staff by Tracey Jones, executive assistant to Fairfax Business Media chief executive Michael Gill, asks for chair responses. "Three chairs have been set up outside the conference room on level 25," the email says. "They are test chairs for the One Darling Island office. Please test them whenever you can today (Monday) and leave comments on the sheets stuck to the conference wall above them."

strewth@theaustralian.com.au

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