You could hear the plop last week as the latest proposal for a new Australian flag collapsed before it was hauled up the flagpole. Ausflag has proposed that we have a special flag omitting the Union Jack and the Federal star and adding a couple of garish, coloured stripes, for flying at sporting events, obviously as a softening-up for changing the national flag. It looks like the flag of one of those tin-pot republics in Africa or South America where the President has murdered his political rivals, keeps his subjects in a permanent state of fear, siphons foreign aid to a bank in Zurich and is then elected as Chairman of the UN Human Rights Council. The cries of despair when this beach towel was launched could be heard from Moonee Ponds to Mornington. Still the best judge of Melbourne opinion, the Herald Sun took a survey which produced three per cent in favour of a change and 93 per cent against. If Ausflag have any fancy ideas of the sporting flag taking over as our national flag, someone should tell them that we have an Act of Parliament which provides that the flag cannot be changed without a majority vote of the Australian people.

Much has been written already about the Prime Minister’s ham-fisted attempts to shoehorn the Aboriginal Nova Peris into a seat in the Senate. But one really gasps at the new depths this latest exercise in incompetence has plumbed. Gillard is building up a catalogue of bungles that generates real concern. Still, look on the bright side. When her track record consists of gems like the conspiracy against Kevin Rudd, the carbon tax lie, ‘the real Julia’, hare-brained schemes like Cash for Clunkers, the permanent salsa dance on refugee policy, the ‘young and naïve’ excuse for the union slush fund and the about-face on the budget surplus, it looks as if these masterpieces in public administration are endemic and that more will tumble out during the election campaign.

The long tentacles of the state are about to make another lunge forward with the government’s proposal to put public money into the administrative costs of political parties. It was bad enough when public funding was introduced to help the parties pay for their election campaigns. But this extension of largesse is outrageous and entirely unjustified. Political parties are private organisations and should find their own money. Taxpayers suffer enough and have to stand by and watch so much of their hard-earned taxes wasted on foolish schemes, bloated bureaucracies and propping up people who should look after themselves. It is to be hoped that every decent Member of Parliament will oppose this latest grab for money by a government that has elevated extortion and waste to a new level.

With the political season underway, it is appropriate that there should be two movies for political junkies to get their teeth into, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty. The former, although this is likely to be a minority opinion, is dull. It does not tell you much about Lincoln himself, other than that he had some skill as a wheeler-dealer, or how and why the dispute between the states degenerated into the Civil War. The film deals with one issue: how Lincoln got a bill through Congress to abolish slavery. So we have to drag ourselves through every bribe and stratagem to stop waverers and attract converts and the endless tallying of votes and abstentions, all to the accompaniment of loads of maudlin and sloppy music. So the film is tedious and limps to its sad conclusion with the death of the President. The one interesting fact I gleaned was that those in favour of abolishing slavery were largely Republicans and those opposed were Democrats. Perhaps the latter-day guilt at this record explains the deluge of hand-wringing sentimentality we have inflicted on us by the Democrats and the media every time the issue of race is raised in the US. Zero Dark Thirty, in contrast, is enthralling and utterly compelling, as it takes us through the ten years of detective-work and persistence that pinpointed Osama bin Laden’s lair and terminated him with extreme prejudice. It is intensely patriotic and inspiring and will renew your belief that the resilient United States has risen again. Naturally, there is a lot of agonising in the media over whether the movie suggests that torture can produce results. It does not argue for that conclusion at all, but it certainly shows that ‘enhanced interrogation’ of terrorists is more than justified.

Would someone please tell me what Hillary Clinton has done to justify being called the best-ever US Secretary of State? One hagiography after another has told us how wonderful she has been, but with no facts to support them. The Israeli-Palestinian issue is more intractable than ever, relations with Israel itself have been put under stress, new swathes of desert and jungle have fallen under the terrorist franchise, the anti-American axis in South America is firmly in place, an unnecessary suspicion of China has been generated, new territorial claims break out wherever there are underwater gas or mineral deposits, North Korea is as erratic as ever, the US prevaricates on using force to bring the mad mullahs of Iran into line and chunks of Africa are in complete chaos. Apart from her endless travel and self-promotion I cannot see what Clinton’s great achievements have been.