Crikey has only had six subcribers out of 1560 in 18 months request that the daily email updates stop coming so why not get on board by subscribing for a measly $55 here.

The update on Wednesday, August 15, included a confirmed sighting of James Packer at Bondi looking relaxed walking his dog after being benched by his dad for 6 months because of One.Tel.

The update on Monday, August 13, included the entertaining tale of how Dick Smith is accusing a business run by Aussie-owned Dick Smith Electronics of being foreign-owned. We also updated on Raymond Hoser’s imminent jailing and some details on Australia’s worst media units.

When the editor was on maternity leave, Hillary Bray has sent out 5 cracking daily sealed sections which has the editor feeling a deal of job insecurity.

On Wednesday last week Hillary’s update including the following topics:

1: Two new stories on the site and an updated Yoursay

2: Making sense of the census

3: RARAs rake it in

4: Lurks, perks – and reality

5: Fact and fiction at Wapping

6: Steve Bracks discovers moral hazard

7: Free Jeffrey Archer!

8: Feedback on Hillary lite

On Tuesday last week the email update included the following topics:

1. Punish Esso by boycotting Mobil.

2. Denis Burke – what a disgraceful early election stunt.

3. Shane Warne – a philandering lout’s lamentable book.

4. Bolkus, coins, pay phones, string and charges.

5. Crikey list: Death that changed the world.

6. Sydney Institute dumps Larry Adler dinner.

7. Crikey List: double dipping foreign correspondents.

On Thursday last week we emailed subscribers with a complete account of the lively Macquarie Bank AGM and on Friday at 3.40am we updated on the fights we had with Don Argus at the Brambles AGM.

The email sent on Wednesday, July 25, covered the following topics:

* Updates on the Keating piggery story.

* The book review which got Andrew Rule sued.

* How former Collingwood star Craig Kelly is milking the Melbourne City Council.

The sealed section sent on July 18 covered the following topics:

* The $2500-a-head Democrats fundraiser full of rent-seekers.

* More revelations of booth workers being paid.

* The history of Paul Lyneham’s Paul Keating piggery story.

* Sun Herald review rorting.

The email sent on Tuesday, July 17, covered the following topics:

* Allegations that the Liberals and Democrats paid booth workers in Aston.

* The losing track record of Natasha’s new puppeteer Frank McGuire.

* The complete list of almost 200 Foster’s pubs across Australia.

* Further details on the ethical battles inside the SMH.

* Revelations that Henry Bosch has cosy relations with the Australian Shareholders’ Association as he embarks on a review of their board.

And this is an example of a sealed section that was sent to subscribers last week:

Wednesday, July 11, 2001, 11.59am

Dear Sole Subscriber,

Well it is fun being based down here in Melbourne at the moment with all the political action afoot. 3AW’s Neil Mitchell has spent the morning bollocking the Government, the tax office and The Age after the Melbourne broadsheet put him on the front page examining his own status as a contractor.

This is clearly done to minimise his tax because everyone knows that Mitchell’s prime gig is a morning talk back host paid about $500,000 a year. His vociferous campaign against amendments to the contracting laws leave him wide open to conflict of interest allegations.

But there are two sides to every story. The Age’s story was written by Philip Hudson out of Canberra. He is known to be close to Costello and particularly Costello’s media adviser Nicki Savva, who recruited him to the Canberra bureau of the Herald Sun and then recruited him over to The Age.

Hudson quoted everyone from Howard’s “mate” Pru Goward to Carmen Lawrence and was widely criticised for his analogy between rape with a gun and the tax office.

If The Age is really interested in pursuing this line then why don’t they also have Pat Rafter on the front page examining his status as a Bermudan for tax purposes.

Everyone knows Mitchell has a huge ego and is super-sensitive to criticism so his reaction this morning in belting up on everyone was predictable.

Ironically, he copped the same treatment that Tony Abbott got for his poverty analogies on Four Corners the other night.

Mitchell has just interviewed Pru Goward who held her ground very well in the face a hysterical onslaught. Goward was called “a nasty piece of work” and Mitchell frothed “Do you know how offensive that is” when she maintained, quite rightly, that if he did withdraw the analogy it showed a lack of compassion for rape victims.

Goward deflected all the diversions that Mitchell put up about her being put up to this by Howard or Costello’s office. The fact remains that Mitchell made a stupid comparison about an issue that he has a conflict of interest over and a whole range of women publicly criticised him for it.

SHOULD CRIKEY SUE STEVE PRICE OVER KENNETT SLUR

Crikey is gutted to the core that 3AW’s litigious Steve Price called me “a pretender” in his Herald Sun column this morning. It is highly offensive that he said I’m “not a patch” on Jeff Kennett, would allow myself to be “ridiculed” and seen as “second rate” and that I’m not “worth serious consideration”.

Actually, he was talking about all of the Lord Mayoral candidates but I’m still profoundly upset and a broken man. How dare he say the next council will be a “Clown Hall starring yet another group of faceless local politicians and desperate residents” who will allow Melbourne to slip into “disrepair”.

Pricey loves beating up on councillors who travel but, of course, he’s never been on a junket or received freebies. And he’s got absolutely no baggage, like he says Lord Mayoral favourite Peter McMullin has after being done over by Andrew Bolt in the same space earlier in the week.

The most ridiculous thing about Price’s column was that he was calling for Jeff Kennett to be installed as Lord Mayor.

Michael Kroger is absolutely right when he tells Liberals privately that Jeff is a failed businessman and a failed politician. Yep, it is hard to find another Liberal politician anywhere in history who lost three elections.

And what about those ComSof shares? After his experience with Crikey, Jeff should have learnt never to get involved with Ivanhoe Grammar old boys. Jeff is chairman of CommSof which floated about 18 months back at 35c a share and now wallows at 5c. The chief executive is Ivanhoe old boy Cary Stynes, the older brother of Crikey mate Kimble Stynes and someone who the Packers threw out of the struggling cinema advertising outfit Media Entertainment Group. We hear from boardroom sources that Jeff has been trying to get the strike price on his slab of options lowered.

But at least the other stock Jeff is chairing, National Telecom Group, is trading at 55c, up from 50c at the float so not all is lost.

Anyway, if you’d like to email Jeff’s biggest fan he’s at: [email protected]

MACQUARIE INFRASTRUCTURE GROUP AGM

A mate in New Zealand has kindly offered a proxy for the upcoming Macquarie Infrastructure Group AGM in Sydney on July 24. I’ll struggle to get there as this will be the day I’m getting sworn in as Lord Mayor, but we are still hopping mad at the outrageous fees being ripped out of MIG – the world’s biggest tollroad company – by Australia’s biggest millionaire factory, Macquarie Bank.

The Fin Review had a taste of it again this morning. Macquarie will be ripping out a $207.7 million performance fee payable over the next three years. This is so huge that MIG – which the bank owns a measly 20 million units in worth about $60 million – will probably need to have an equity raising or sell some of their tollroad assets to pay it.

And of course, Macquarie will cream some nice fees off from the next capital raising and their base fee is based on the MIG market capitalisation also so this will add to the total. Since Macquarie started scooping up all the tollroad assets a few years back, they have literally ripped almost $500 million in fees out of them. This is on top of the $2-3 billion that investors in the tollroads themselves have made. So who is prepared to go to the MIG AGM to rip into Macquarie for these outrageous fees? We’ll give you all the questions to ask, I just need you to turn up and get stuck in.

CRIKEY EXPLAINED – WE’RE A ME-ZINE

A subscriber has sent in this link to the New York Times as an explanation of what Crikey is and must say that there are lots of similarities:

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/09/business/09ZINE.html

MURDOCH BLACKBANS NEIL CHENOWETH

The Rupert minions in Brisbane are nervous about Neil Chenoweth’s great new book, Virtual Murdoch. It seems News Ltd has just killed off Neil’s sole Brisbane gig to promote the book. Neil was booked to give a breakfast address at the Royal on the Park which was organised by Brisbane’s Better Bookshops. It wasn’t a huge gig with only 22 people booked in but Better Bookshops had advertised the event through the City News, a publication which is owned by News Ltd. A city News executive called the general manager of the Royal on the Park, and abused them for holding a function that was “anti-newspaper”. The hotel for undisclosed reasons pulled the plug on the function. That’s what happens when you have a one-paper town.

Meanwhile, as promised, here is a summary of another chapter in Neil’s book which is attracting lots of attention around the world. The Independent in the UK have just run a big extract but for some strange reason no News Ltd outlet is talking about it. Where is Terry McCrann and Bryan Frith when you need them given that the book reveals that Rupert did a Yannon shortly after the 1987 sharemarket crash. Check out this summary of Chapter Four:

VIRTUAL MURDOCH EXTRACT: “The Party Line”

“The tale skips ahead here to Murdoch’s great 1990 debt crisis, the defining moment in his life. More specifically, Chapter Four begins with that famous evening in the middle of the crisis when Murdoch was trying to convince Pittsburgh National Bank to roll over a $10 million loan. Murdoch survived the debt crisis, and everyone talked about the Pittsburgh moment, but nobody would give any details about where the Pittsburgh loan came from. The trail leads to a $1 billion loan involving Queensland Press, which was now a private Murdoch company. The great Pittsburgh crisis wasn’t about News Corp, it was really about saving the Murdoch family’s private fortune.

Within weeks of the end of the debt crisis, the Australian Securities Commission launched an inquiry into the Pittsburgh loan. To understand this peculiar tale, you have to go back to New York in the week of October 18, 1987. Murdoch should have been in Australia for the News Corp annual meeting. But Forbes magazine had just named Murdoch a billionaire, and Malcolm Forbes had invited Murdoch to a party in New York. Going to the party meant that Murdoch probably couldn’t get to Adelaide in Australia in time for the annual meeting. So he skipped the annual meeting and was in New York when Wall Street crashed.

The crash was a big problem for Murdoch because earlier that year, the family company, Cruden, had taken out a big loan to buy Queensland Press. The Cruden loan was secured against Cruden’s News Corp. shares, but when the News Corp. share price collapsed, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Citibank began to worry about their loan. They wanted more security. Rupert and Ann signed over a mortgage on their New York penthouse two days after the Crash. Then 24 hours later in Australia, Queensland Press bought a parcel of News Corp. shares from Cruden at $16 when the share price was at $13.80, sliding to hit $8.50 the following Tuesday. Buying shares for almost twice the market price didn’t hurt Cruden or the Murdochs, but it was a different story for News Corp. shareholders. News Corp. owned 44 per cent stake of Queensland Press as well. Doing the deal so far below market price arguably cost News Corp shareholders up to $100 million. However, Murdoch’s lawyers have a very different account of the transaction, and say that Qld Press directors made a farsighted and courageous decision to ignore short-term market turbulence to take advantage of a unique opportunity, and point out that today Queensland Press is $3 billion ahead on the deal.

The $1 billion loan that Queensland Press raised for this deal was syndicated, and Pittsburgh National, which had just opened an office in Queensland, ended up with a piece of it. The loan fell due three years later, right in the middle of the 1990 debt crisis. This is the real origin of the moment that William Shawcross has made famous.

MRS GADGET TAKES OVER THE CRIKEY FINANCES

Rose McMahon, the wife of our Gadget man Con Christov, has taken over the Crikey finances. Rose has chucked in her gig with Telstra and after taking a few months off is determined to knock us into shape – she literally punched me yesterday – now that we are about to be supporting 5 people and two mortgages.

If you’ve got any ideas for Rose, the you can email her at [email protected] But be warned that she is one tough woman. When Con and I were getting excited about the impact of www.jeffed.com during the last Victorian election, Rose would sit there over dinner and say “Jesus you blokes are full of it”.

The first deal Rose has stitched together is as follows. For $105, you will get the following:

The hardback of Neil Chenoweth’s Virtual Murdoch sent to your home which retails for $49.95.

A Rich Webb CD that Crikey loves which was rated 4* by Rolling Stone and retails for $26.95.

A $55 12 month subscription to Crikey which includes a tee-shirt.

All new subscribers need to do is mark the $50 in the donation field when signing up and we’ll get all of this to you after debiting your credit card $105. If you’re an existing subscriber, why not gift one of these to a friend. With Rose getting into full swing we’ll have a members shop on the site shortly for existing subscribers who’d just like the book or CD.

If you’re been passed this email by someone else or would like to gift a $105 subscription deal to someone, just click here: https://subscribe.crikey.com.au/servlets/Subscription

NATASHA HOPPING MAD WITH CHANNEL TEN

Maybe it is the influence of the combative Frank McGuire as her chief adviser but Natasha Stott Despoja is apparently hopping mad with Channel Ten for daring to ask her on Meet The Press last week why she failed to attend a key Democrats party meeting the morning after the Mid-Winter press gallery ball. Rather than saying “I had a big one and slept in”, Nat has chucked a hissy fit.

“That’s a malicious leak and I’m surprised you would repeat it on national television,” she told Ten.

“It may be cute to get a plug in for the midwinter ball, but … I’ve heard none of you journalists talk about (that) in relation to just about any other leader of a political party or member or senator.”

We also hear that Natasha wrote to Mel Mansell, the likeable editor of the Adelaide Advertiser, denying there was a Democrat dress code – even though the Tiser had a memo headed exactly that.

Hillary predicted that Natasha’s hyper-sensitivity would catch up with her and this appears to be playing out. Remember when she complained to the Daily Telegraph’s Sydney Confidential column after the Packer wedding that her dress was described inaccurately.

THE COURIER MAIL VERSUS PETER BEATTIE

We’ve written before about the cosy relationship between Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and Rupert’s Courier Mail but a recent spat over capital equipment in hospitals has strained relations somewhat.

The Courier this week has been running a series of scaremongering articles about the state of capital equipment in the Emergency Services department – in particular EXCLUSIVELY EXPOSING aging and broken down vehicles in the rural fire services.

Some of the reportage has been a little over the top… yes there are aging and dilapidated vehicles in use here and there, but the government to be fair is in its third year of a major cap-ex program for Emergency Services.

Anyway at a press conference earlier this week with Peter Beattie and Emergency Services Minister Mike Reynolds, it all boiled over with a lovely spat between the Courier’s state political editor and part time busker, Matthew Franklin, and Reynolds and Beattie.

Beattie started the ball rolling by suggesting the whole thing was a bit of a beat-up, and then Reynolds went for the jugular, effectively questioning the Courier’s adherence to the journalists’ code of ethics.

This all degenerated into a verbal slanging match between Matthew Franklin (who is regarded by some at the Courier as being a little “Precious”) and Beattie/Reynolds, which only ended after an exasperated ABC reporter suggested perhaps we get back to the matters at hand.

Now all this in the cut and thrust of press gallery journalism – at least in Crikey’s experience – is pretty much par for the course, and Beattie is certainly no Paul Keating or Jeff Kennett when it comes to attacking the fourth estate.

Franklin, however, has taken all this as a dreadful personal slight, and lodged a formal complaint with the Premier’s Department apparently looking for an apology because his character has been so besmirched.

But wait, there’s more… not satisfied with a formal complaint, Franklin – in the throws of an Olympic standard hissy fit – then telephones Reynolds’ press secretary, Bernie Alizart, threatening retribution. While Crikey is not privy to the exact conversation and is not suggesting that Franklin was openly threatening vendetta, we are assured it was not pretty.

Crikey remains convinced that journalists are the most thin-skinned people around. Neil Mitchell and Matthew Franklin are the latest to demonstrate this very clearly.

NEW REHAME TACTICS

Steve,

I thought I would draw to your attention one of the practices used by Rehame to boost its profits.

I am a press secretary for a Canberra frontbencher and have access to a web site which gives us a little taste of all the transcripts they have on offer. You click on your boss’ name, for example, and all the mentions of them in the last 24 hours pop up, and you order what you want.

The interesting bit is the way they double and triple up on the transcripts in a way that would catch out naive media advisers, such as those who work for Bronnie obviously.

As you are no doubt aware, 3AW provides the news for most of the AM stations in Victoria, and I think, at least 3 in Melbourne. It is the same bulletin, simply retransmitted every hour on the different frequencies. The Rehame website offers a transcript of EVERY one of these bulletins. Thus, if my boss leads the news on 3AW, their website can offer us half a dozen or more copies of the same story just from Victoria. And of course that doesn’t include the same story broadcast on 2UE affiliates in Sydney, Brisbane etc and rebroadcast on their country affiliates

We choose what to accept or reject, but if you were on a contract to have everything sent to you, a simple press conference could generate literally dozens of versions from around the same country of the same news item hour after hour.

Name withheld

Do ya best

Stephen Mayne, Paula Piccinini, Con Christov and ROSE McMAHON

ends

Now if you reckon one of those a day is worth $55 (plus a free tee-shirt) then please click here.

Peter Fray

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Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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