Can you count on Lady Luck?

Can you count on Lady Luck?

You'd think in this high-tech age that superstitions would be irrelevant. But they are not, and I am as guilty as anyone in believing them.Whenever I see a single pigeon, I desperately start looking for another because the ditty "One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy" runs through my head.I don't want sorrow, I only want joy. I need to find two birds.And why pigeons and not magpies, which is the bird of choice of most Australian believers? Probably because we didn't have maggies in Fiji where I grew up.So the superstition is altered to fit the circumstances, which must surely undermine its authority.My hubby tells a story of arriving at a motel very late with his former wife and two young daughters.His then spouse took one look at the green bedspread and flatly refused to stay in the room because green was bad luck.And who hasn't avoided walking under a ladder, crossed themselves after seeing a black cat, tossed a pinch of salt over their left shoulder and tugged on a wishbone.Eleven days ago it was Friday, August 13. Without thinking of the significance, I rang a supplier to order 13 bedside lamps for the motel."Oh no," he spluttered."You can't order 13 lamps on Friday the 13th. You must make it 14."I immediately changed the order, but in hindsight perhaps I just fell for a clever marketing ploy.Interestingly, businesses generally experience a downturn on this fateful day as fewer people travel on Friday the 13th and some people don't even leave the house.Actually, you have to feel sorrow for the number 13; it comes in for a lot of flak. Motels avoid a room numbered 13, many high-rise buildings skip the 13th floor and some streets don't have a 13 house number.Many sports, including the Harlem Globetrotters and New York Jets, have retired the number 13 and no Formula One driver has had the number 13 on his car since 1976.However, in Greece and Spain 13 is only unlucky if it falls on a Tuesday and in Russia it is a bad omen on Monday.This fear of the number 13 even has a name: triskaidekaphobia.Mind you, if you live in China, Japan, Korea or Hawaii it is the number four that is considered unlucky.Maybe Lady Luck was always going to be against Julia Gillard in Saturday's federal election. There are multiple myths about redheads and who knows which ones played a part in our voting decision.The superstitions include that redheaded women can be violent and false, glib and vain, and when they die they will turn into vampires.In New Zealand they are sacred and have a clear road to heaven, but in ancient Egypt they were considered unlucky and each year a Titian-haired maiden was burnt alive.And while some people might think it lucky to rub Julia's head, others who passed her on the street might spit and turn around.Being a Catholic, Tony Abbott would regard superstitions as sinful, but then others would argue that all religious beliefs are superstitions.The only superstition I perhaps can adapt to him is my ditty pertaining to pigeons/maggies.If he has just smuggled one budgie into his swimming trunks he won't be our next prime minister, but if there happens to be two secreted within he might squeak over the line.
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Puppeteers’ power upset Australians

Puppeteers’ power upset Australians

Negotiations continue but it seems increasingly likely that Labor will be in the best position to form a minority government.As we stated here yesterday, there are quite a few examples of minority state governments that have worked, some of which have proved to be very successful administrations.Naturally, independents - and certainly the Governor-General - will need to be convinced that a Labor minority government could work.While we advocated for the re-election of a federal Labor government, and believe it could form a successful alliance with independents and the new Greens MP, we are not without one serious reservation. It concerns what has undoubtedly aggrieved many Australians; that is, the power of those unaccountable puppeteers who have treated government, both in NSW and now at a federal level, as their plaything.We had thought the furore over Kevin Rudd's political assassination would dissipate closer to polling day. But, even at an anecdotal level with our daily feature Feeling the Pulse, many ordinary voters remained agog at how a prime minister could be dumped by his own party in his first term.At the weekend, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally turned on Mr Rudd for dudding the state on infrastructure. Several other Labor figures have mused about what went wrong with the campaign and since Mr Rudd was knifed.Of course, there will be a large degree of revisionism about the root cause of how the wheels fell off such a popular and promising government.However, part of what was at play, in our opinion, was not so much a general cynicism about politics or politicians. Rather, we feel the Australian electorate was rejecting the way faceless men and women were manoeuvring a once more-principled party.Australians want to know that the mandate and blueprint they give a government through the ballot box is respected and honoured.This makes a more responsive, accountable federal Labor government - forced to work with others for survival - a fascinating and not necessarily undesirable proposition.
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State prison under siege

State prison under siege

Dramatic: The main guard tower and entrance to Risdon Prison, where 10 inmates took four hostages, including a prison officer, about 2.45pm yesterday.(1/4)Prison Action Reform president Caroline Dean and five members of the group were in mobile phone contact with the inmates during the siege.
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She said the hostage-takers were very serious.

"The prison officer's hand is on the table and if their demands are not met his fingers will be cut off. These guys don't muck around," Ms Dean said.

The hostage drama unfolded at 2.45 pm in the reception area of the maximum security jail that houses Australia's worst mass murder, Martin Bryant.

The prisoners are demanding the resignation of Attorney- General Judy Jackson and the state's Director of Prisons Graeme Barber and demanded Opposition justice spokesman Michael Hodgman attend the prison.

They are demanding improvements in their living conditions, an end to alleged human rights abuses in the prison, an end to overcrowding and implementation of rehabilitation programmes. Authorities refused to allow members of PAR or ex-prisoner Tony Bull, who was also in contact with the inmates, to join in the negotiations.

At a press conference, Mr Barber said that the custodial officer was safe and had spoken with negotiators several times, and appeared in good spirits.

Mr Barber confirmed that 19 prisoners were involved in the incident.

He said that medication had also been provided from the prison hospital for a number of prisoners with pre-existing medical conditions, while an earlier demand for food was met about 9pm.

Mrs Dean said inmates claimed other prisoners in the main yard had been hosed down in near-freezing conditions to get them back to their cells.

Government spokesman David Nicholson could not confirm the action.

Earlier in the afternoon, a prisoner calling himself Conway Richardson called the ABC claiming he was with the inmates who had taken over the jail, and outlining their demands.

He also asked for Opposition justice spokesman Michael Hodgman to attend the jail.

Mr Hodgman last night said he would not be attending Risdon Prison unless asked by those involved in attempting to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the stand-off.

Mr Hodgman called on inmates involved in the siege to release their hostages and cooperate fully with the police and prison service negotiators and then resume discussion about their conditions.

The drama follows an incident last week in which a prison officer was stabbed in the neck and ear with a narrow piece of wood and one in which an inmate was held hostage by another prisoner for more than seven hours in the top floor of Division 8.

Professional criminologist Rob White, of the University of Tasmania, said the prison's overcrowded conditions and lack of rehabilitation programmes had created a "powder keg" waiting to explode.

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Hawthorn -v- West Coast

Hawthorn -v- West Coast

Midfield focus: Hawthorn assistant coach and former Essendon and Port hardman Damien Hardwick ... predicting today's midfield battle will be vital to the outcome of the match. (1/2)The ladder leaders were keen to put behind them a torrid week which threatened to overshadow their impressive start to the season.
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A storm on Sunday caused a power failure at the club and on Wednesday captain Ben Cousins and forward Michael Gardiner were caught up in a police investigation into a nightclub shooting.

"It has not been the best week but it's nice to be here where we can just focus on the footy," said communications manager Gary Stocks.

Gardiner will miss today's game with a knee injury but the skipper was doing his best to be one of the crowd at yesterday's training session.

"Ben's been fine," said assistant coach Peter Sumich. "He's a pro. We would not think that will affect him. He'll play a role (in the game) and hopefully a pretty big one."

The Eagles' record goal-scorer said the team enjoys playing on a ground with similar dimensions to Subiaco Oval.

"We prefer playing on a ground like this," he said. "It's in terrific condition and the weather looks like it's going to be fine."

The Hawks reacquainted themselves to their second home in the setting sun and assistant coach Damien Hardwick said the players look forward to fixtures at Aurora Stadium.

"They call it home and we've won five out of six here," he said. "We've also got a good contingent of fans down here."

Hardwick predicted today's game would be won in the midfield.

"They've got a good forward line and a steady back but the top midfield line in the competition. If we can come out on top in that we've got a good chance of winning the game."

The former Port Adelaide premiership player expected Cousins to receive some flak about his newsworthy week.

"I'm sure he'll cop a bit. The media has built it up a bit but from a footballing point of view it counts for nothing.

"At the end of the day they are six-zip and it's only one player. The other players do not really care."

Sumich added: "If Ben gets sledged so be it. They are big enough to handle that sort of stuff. He'll just get on with the game.

"It cannot stop you winning the footy, taking a mark or kicking a goal and that's what we're focused on."

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Greens put fast rail back on track

Greens put fast rail back on track

After 25 years of planning, high-speed rail between Newcastle and Melbourne may become reality after the newly empowered Greens pledged to make it a key issue when they assume the balance of power in the Senate next year.The new NSW Greens senator Lee Rhiannon told the Herald that fast trains, running at up to 350 km/h between Sydney and Melbourne, had been one of the party's most prominent policies during the election campaign.The Greens leader, Senator Bob Brown, announced the policy in April and his colleague, Scott Ludlam, repeated it in July, during the federal campaign. ''There wasn't a speech that Bob gave that didn't mention high-speed rail as a priority,'' Ms Rhiannon said.''Bob said we are not demanders - and we're not going to say that you have to give us this if you want that - but this has been a clear and consistent commitment from the Greens and we will pursue it.''The Sydney-Melbourne corridor is the fourth-busiest route for passenger aircraft in the world and the Australasian Railway Association believes the population growth in both cities will boost the market for a service directly between the Sydney and Melbourne central business districts.Ms Rhiannon - who, as a NSW MP, campaigned for improved urban public transport - said the Greens would consider amending any legislation dealing with infrastructure that came before the Senate. ''If the opportunity comes up in the context of legislation, the Greens would inject that [a clause or amendment on high-speed rail],'' she said.During the campaign, the federal Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese, announced a $20 million, 18-month study into the viability of high-speed rail between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The Nationals leader, Warren Truss, also committed the Coalition to high-speed rail.The new Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, whose support will be crucial in forming a minority government, has also committed to a fast link between the two major cities. ''It was very much a part of his campaign,'' a Greens spokeswoman said.If the Gillard government retains office, Ms Rhiannon said the Greens would campaign for the rail plan in Mr Albanese's inner Sydney electorate of Grayndler.
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