Enough from us, what’s your opinion?

Hi Stephen,

I agree with your “rant” about Labor’s tarnished credentials. These are the people who undersold Qantas and CommBank: how could you trust them to sell scientific discoveries (the 21st century equivalents of penicillin or the black-box recorder) for a price that returns appropriately on taxpayer investments?

Following your earlier comments about dairy farmers, my bugbear is the tax breaks available to pretend farmers for trendy, non-staple agricultural products, eg alpacas, avocados, macadamias, or whatever this year’s lurk is. I’m not a socialist but I just can’t believe people would rather sink their money into that stuff than schools, hospitals, roads. Real farmers would not miss measures that gave them no benefit.

Surely the idea of tax breaks is for government to encourage citizenry to spend money on things that the government deems socially desirable. The 10BA schemes to promote films in the ’70s were in this vein. If the money from (what Mike Carlton in Saturday’s SMH called) “snake-oil refineries and bunyip farms” were directed toward research and seed-funding, the tax take would not be affected but there might be some serendipitous – but real – social benefit.

There is nothing precious about Pitt/Collins Street farmers: they add nothing to our rural economy, the domestic food supply or the export economy. There is every reason to redirect that flow of money, Snowy River-like, to a truly productive end.

Andrew Elder

Crikey: Well said. Farmers have long been way over-subsidised and things have never been better for them at the moment.


Since I have generally got better things to do with my time than to listen to “Cut-Price” (I like that better than “Half Price”, personally), it was interesting to read your recent transcript of his interview with Raymond Hoser.

During a recent appearance on 3CR, I noticed a memo on the subject of defamation. The memo defined it as “any comment that may damage the reputation of a person or organization in the view of any reasonable persons.” Or something like that, I recall.

I find it interesting that Cut-Price could believe that Raymond Hoser is capable of damaging anyone’s reputation “in the view of reasonable persons” after interviewing him on his program. He did, after all, point out Hoser’s criminal record – which included a conviction for perjury. He then fielded a call from someone who claimed to have been defamed by Hoser. Even when you ran his story, you referred to him as “certainly a bit on the mad side” and clarified that it was “just one man’s press release.” So what have Cut-Price’s actions said about his own credibility, your credibility, or that of Raymond Hoser? It appears to me that he is simply upset that Crikey saw fit to publish the views of someone that he had so vehemently attacked. Obviously, it is a huge blow to his ego that anyone dared to take notice of someone that he believed he had finished off! If that is the case, then no matter how “mad” or “criminal” Hoser may be, I wish I was one of the 13 people that voted for him.

Kind Regards, Mr Coe

Crikey: Interesting comments. For the record I reckon Price is a good journalist and we did publish incorrect info from Hoser which we withdrew as soon as he complained. As we’ve said before, sorry Steve for allowing less than 200 people to read this inaccurate press release.

Negotiating in the pub with Rebecca Cooper

Rebecca Cooper, as you point out, knows lots about cronyism.

Back in early 1998, I was a union official trying to organise an enterprise agreement at the Gas Transmission Corporation (which about that time became Transmission Pipelines Australia).

Negotiations were going no-where, and the Kennett Governmentt were getting a bit nervous as they were desperate to flog off the business. They wanted an enterprise agreement in place prior to the sale, so that staff would be happy and would not kick up too much of a stink. A similar deal had been done in the power industry. In fact, the agreement at Yallourn Energy was certified one day before the sale was announced. And aren’t the owners paying for that now.

Anyway, I along with other union officials, were summoned to a meeting on Wednesday 18 March at the Kent Hotel, Rathdown Street Carlton, to meet with a Rebecca Cooper, who we were told was a Ministerial Adviser. As I recall, Ms Cooper was very late, and appeared to be somewhat tired and emotional. I am quite sure she would have handed out her business card, but if she did I must have lost it. Anyway, she explained that she was a ministerial adviser, and she wanted to sort out the differences over the enterprise agreement. She made all sorts of promises, and eventually, a deal was struck.

The date of this meeting is important. It was only after Jeffed.com hit the ether waves that I learnt that our meeting took place AFTER Rebecca Cooper became a stakeholder in Troughton Swier. If she was still employed as an adviser at this time then she had a massive conflict of interest. If she was no longer an adviser, then the meeting was arranged under false pretences. Whatever the case, she purported to act on behalf of a publicly owned authority, when she stood to personally gain from the outcome.

All fair minded Australians, regardless of their political beliefs, should be disgusted at this, and sadly, it is typical of how the state was run under Kennett.

Crikey: These are good points but you should also recognise that my ex did a good job overall on the power sell-off, even if she did make about $2 million as a 25% shareholder in Troughton Swier.

Natasha date with Sam Newman a stunt

“Natasha got invited to the Packer wedding because of her romance with Nine journalist Hugh Riminton and has conspicuously dated Footy Show dickhead Sam Newman.”

– I think that was some joke/set-up thing. Nat was seeing another ‘non-celebrity’ guy at the time who got pissed off about it, but nothing in it as far as I am aware.


Crikey: Yes, Natasha will do anything for publicity, even date jerks like Sam Newman. Natasha claims to be a feminist and then dates someone who treats women like crap. I know a couple of journalists who’ve encounted slamming Sam. He likes to invite himself around and then just take all his clothes off and present himself – even when there is no reciprocating interest.

Leave racing alone

I have never (nor those who know me) considered myself an intellectual giant, but usually I am not confined to the lowest quotient either. I have been involved in the racing industry for more than twenty years and having read your article carefully still have not got the faintest clue what you are talking about…and at such length. Perhaps for the benefit of persons of limited intellect like myself you could try a less wordy less emotional less sanctimonious and more intelligible approach. On the other hand perhaps you are not interested in communicating with the lesser mortals of the industry after all its hard to respond to something you simply do not understand which certainly circumvents criticism.

Robyn Murtagh

Peter Mair: I have taken a little trouble with the response because I needed to know how I would answer the points the critics made — very valid points.

I appreciate the good manners in the way critics responded but the only concession that I can make in return is an admission that being a ‘real mongrel’ does not come easy. Putting the hard and sharp edges on that paper took hours — to rid it of the natural inclination to be nice and avoid dealing with the issues properly. I had made many soft, false starts over the past few months.

Readers should be assured that I am sometimes capable of heart rending emotion and affection: for example, at the Caulfield Cup meeting in 1985 I fell in love with a married woman — Mrs Fitzherbert.

Ok — no more Mr NiceGuy.


In the global economy, money is only allocated on the basis of ‘wants’ in countries that are going backwards. Having been at the heart of the reform of the retail banking industry I can say that once rationalisation starts, and despite the political rhetoric (lies), there will be no regard for ‘social aspects, traditions, employment or a host of other factors’. Rationality has a destructive force of its own.

When I ‘see’ what is going to happen to the racing industry I am not talking about pussy-footing around the edges. In broad terms the first steps would probably involve a reduction by one third in the number of racehorses and the number of tracks and — probably also in the value of taxpayer funds ‘given’ to the industry. The subsequent ‘steps’ would make further inroads on net ‘costs’, in essence government spending on a middle class hobby industry.

Some may like it to be different but I just see no place for continuing the vision of an infrastructure of low-grade racing in country, provincial and city areas to provide opportunities for the majority of racehorses which are mediocre performers. It just cannot happen that way any more if the Australian racing industry is to have a relevant future. There is no reason why Australian taxpayers should pay for that — there is no ‘entitlement’ to that.

I suspect an important implication is that only the very best bred horses have any prospective future value in the industry.

Racing is risky

All prospective costs, risks and returns reflect in prices paid up front for everything, including racehorses. I bet, if an extra $100 million were set aside each year to compensate owners of horse that did not ‘win’ — the result would be an extra $100 million going to the breeders at the sales.

I am in awe of the ‘owners’ as the really big punters in the racing industry. However as all the risks are factored into the prices paid, there is no sympathy for owners of slow or broken horses, there can’t be.

No sympathy means no taxpayer funded soft landings for slow horses on out of town tracks.

Leadership is hard

The current ‘management’ structure for the racing industry is not working. The leadership is not coming from the TABs — I do not understand what they are doing and I think they do not understand either. The leadership is not coming from the State politicians — and the Commonwealth Parliament clearly has no interest in the issues. The TRB is handicapped by its dependence on people with a long tradition in creating the mess. I do not think that an amalgamation of the TAB and TRB boards would help. There is a vacuum at the top. The industry may just slowly collapse — and the few survivors with ability move to Asia.

There is a very serious crisis in this industry and in NSW in particular. Victoria now ‘owns’ what is left of a rudderless national racing industry.

People resist change but they do change

I agree people like things the way they are — I do.

That is the challenge for industry leaders

As I write this (on Saturday morning) I am incredulous listening to the new format for racing radio — ‘sacking’ Kerry Buckeridge is beyond belief for me. Singo may well start broadcasting races and pick up the people cast aside by 2KY I appreciate that others are equally committed to the way they now like to participate in racing.

That said I eventually adapt — I may even have to get SKY channel back, having preferred the ‘old’ 2KY.

‘Rural’ racing seems to have much the same character as the trots and the dogs — a close knit ‘family’ culture where there are strong loyalties to different ‘camps’. I have enjoyed that sense of being an insider at country race meetings. Dapto Dogs on Thursday night offers the same thing — I won a couple of dollars and enjoyed the night.

Sadly, however, most true ‘rural’ racing will not survive as is. That is not the future for the industry — except perhaps as, like the Moss Vale dogs, they run non-TAB events on Saturday afternoon in a picnic atmosphere. Provided there is no taxpayer money involved, people should be free to run whatever races they like when ever and where ever they like. I would allow bookmakers to stand at ‘picnics’ like Moss Vale and in any pub or club.

I agree that there is no market here yet for overseas racing. No effort has been made to market it properly. In 1993 I approached the JRA in Sydney to get a better deal for the Japan Cup, proper form, access to the Tokyo betting pool etc — their preference would have been to arrest me for stupidity. I got only a polite acknowledgment when I met with the Singapore Turf Club management in May this year. And only a hopeful ‘possibly some time in the future’ response from the TAB about organising a linkage into the Hong Kong pool for the big races there.

The role model here is the dominance of Victorian racing everywhere in Australia — and even (?) in NZ. If the product is properly marketed and backed up with media coverage it can be exported — and imported. I bet ‘Sportsman’ is sold in NZ on Friday morning as it is in Hobart and Perth.

The needed industry leaders will emerge as government cuts off the flow of taxpayer money. That is the key — the Victorian government will eventually cut off the flow of money to other states by charging for access to that racing.

Qualifying races

I agree that a system to qualify horses for the ‘big’ races is a “must have”. However, it does not mean that taxpayer money is used for prizes and operating expenses to run all the qualifying races. Some could be non-TAB events.

More generally for the horses that do not qualify, it does not mean that there should be some never ending sequence of low-grade races for low-grade horses in remote locations to ensure that every player wins a prize funded by taxpayers.

The right balance is difficult to strike but it is markedly different to the present model.

End Piece

As I said being a ‘mongrel’ is hard — but it is better for me than saying things that I don’t believe should be or will be true — and remaining ‘quiet’ while people like Bob Charley take the Federal Parliament for a ride on “Banjo Bulldust”.

The main objective is to get some sensible restructuring going — otherwise the industry will degenerate further into mediocrity and less. The ‘key’ is to realise that the racing industry is not so special that only it is specially ‘entitled’ to depend on taxpayer funding.

Peter Mair

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