Time to get angry about the Queen’s visit

Stephen and the Crikey readership,

In less than a month our fair land will be soiled by the arrival of the self-styled “Queen of Australia”, Lizzie Windsor. This old biddy, who has demonstrated that she
cannot even raise a half-way normal family likes to think she is our head of state. No doubt her rude and ignorant husband will be tagging along for the free food too.

What I ask is this – where are the Republicans? I know that nice Mr Barns has had a lot on his plate recently but Jaysus And His Mother, it says a great deal about the state of the Australian Republican Movement if its supreme leader is more interested in Tasmanian pre-selection battles rather than the impending visit of the enemy leader.

Has anything been organised to protest her visit? Any marches? Petitions? Effigy burnings? Let’s face it, a foreign power is about conduct a tour of its dominion
and as a proud Australian who believes our nation has no head other than its people I find this unacceptable. Similarly, I do not accept the results of the 1999
referendum. Letting Honest Monarchist John “All Overboard Mateys!” Howard run a republican referendum is like letting Ivan Milat run backpacker tours. He manipulated it from the outset with all that “mateship” in the preamble water-muddying and his erstwhile “Republican” fifth columnist minion Peter Reith was only too willing to assist.

However there are some encouraging signs. I have noticed graffitti appearing around inner Melbourne lately saying things like “Not My Queen” and “Give Us A Real
Vote Johnny”. These messages are always accompanied by the legend “Australian Republican Front” or “A.R.F”

I am endeavouring to get in contact with these mysetrious direct-action Republicans and will update crikey if I do.

In the meantime, would those calling themselves Republicans please have a think about what it means to be a Republican? Is it just something to “chatter” about over
a glass of chardonnay or is it something real, a committment to a national ideal, a committment to a vision of an Australia very different to that which we have now
under the monarchists?

Remember this: if you want to, you’re already standing on an Australian Republic.

Cheers, Real Republican

CRIKEY: Barns certainly has been distracted of late and the ARM doesn’t seem to have much of a grass roots movement into protests and activism is support of their cause.

Tassie union donations a bit questionable

Stephen,

On the annual disclosure returns of Party’s…

The Labor Party in Tasmania have noted that receipts from unions are
‘non-donations’.

I suppose it’s no surprise that the receipts are a compulsory levy and
more evidence of Union domination of Labor, but I suspect there’s also
something very dodgy happening here.

Only the first $100 of a donation to a political party is tax
deductible. However, a ‘levy’ is a business expense and therefore not
subject to tax.

So the Unions give a shit-load of money to the ALP and manage to not
pay tax on it. Seems pretty dodgy to me.

Cheers, Subscriber 2047

CRIKEY: Sounds pretty questionable. If cash is being handed over it should be called a donation.

Howard’s junketeering sons

Why hasn’t anyone queried why Howard’s two sons have been accompanying
him on his overseas trips? Why, who pays? Perhaps he can’t trust them at
home on their own.

C.Willaton

CRIKEY: Fair point. Can anyone help on this one?

Where was media during false refugee claims

Dear Crikey,

I am sure I am not the only one who did not believe the great deceiver aka John Howard, when the government began its policy of demonising refugees during the election
campaign. It appeared to me to be over the top paranoia that made the idea of a red under every bed appear a mild social embarrassment. What disturbed me most at the
time was the lack of journalistic integrity that seemed to be displayed by the mainstream media.

My impression of the media during the campaign was one of a mindless loud speaker that served no other purpose than to be a mouth piece for either political party. I felt
there was no investigation into the apparently wilder and wilder allegations that were being made of refugees seeking a better life. Labour, rather than rebutting and
questioning, just tried to yell louder on how it would create a coastguard. Surely a hard bitten, cynical bunch as the Canberra press, had to have had some suspicion they
were being taken for a ride when Reith said the fateful tape “Is a bit grainy.” To me it appeared a beat up from the start, and I have never been a journalist or lived in
Canberra. It is right the Canberra press should feel stupid for being taken for mugs. I would have thought it enevitable that someone who can’t keep a core promise, or who
said they would never ever introduce a GST would try to pull wool over someone’s eyes again.

Thanks, Martin

CRIKEY: The shock jocks and people like Andrew Bolt have a lot to answer for but people like Virginia Trioli on ABC Melbourne asked lots of difficult questions and got plenty of abuse from people like Peter Reith.

Australia’s third world reaction to refugees

Having never been a fan of either the Liberal party or John Howard my first reaction
to current events was enjoyment. But then I started thinking about things properly(always
a mistake), and the enjoyment was spoiled.

Two things in particular are scaring me at the moment. One is the possibility
that our glorious leader will probably get away with the whole thing, and manage
to cling to power. If that happens a precedent will have been set for other
politicians that it’s not only OK to lie(nothing new I know), but also that
you can get away with trying to use the armed forces to lie for you during an
election, fortunately without their willing co-operation. The difference between
first world politics and third world politics is often a matter of degree and
where a government chooses to draw the line.

What scares me even more than that is the letters from Howard supporters appearing
in our papers that basically say ‘who cares if he lies we still don’t want refugees’.
It was pretty obvious during the election that a lot of people badly wanted
to believe the story about kids being thrown overboard. It made them feel so
much happier about supporting policies that are simpy wrong.

Equally scary are those letters that point out that we all know politicians
lie so what’s the worry. Yes, we do know that politicians lie, but when we catch
them doing it we need mechanisms to deal with them. No-one would suggest that
we let a murderer off because everyone knows that people get murdered, and if
you think we could ever stop people from being murdered you’re an idealistic
fool, so why bother prosecuting. Again, the difference between a first world
society and a non first world society is not whether certain things happen but
how we react when they do.

I hope this affair stays in the media for a long time.

CRIKEY: Whilst I object to the policy, people are welcome to form their own views about it. However, I can’t see how anyone can justify the lies, deceipt and blatant exploitation of the asylum seekers by the Government.

In defence of Peter Reith

Steve

Don’t get too carried away with how much a guy like Peter Reith
has accumulated during his time in parliament. For most of that
time he was a “journeyman” earning a modest salary compared
with any mid range executive and a pittance compared with the
high fliers in the corporate world.

His super is OK but he’s pretty close to 55 so he’s not getting that
too early compared with, say, O’shea, and it’s not exactly a
squillion dollars is it?

The real reason that Reith resigned (trust me) is that his family,
particularly his wife, had had enough of the federal bodyguards
accompanying them on casual visits to restaurants and the bile
heaped on him by the non-government forces. The guy has
arguably over-achieved given his background and intellect and he’s
entitled to a job. He doesn’t have that much going for him.

Reith took on the wharfies – how would you or I go on that? – and
don’t tell me it wasn’t well past the date that it should have
happened. To use a cliche – if we didn’t have Peter Reith we would
have to invent him.

Regards, Malcolm

CRIKEY: If you listen to his hectoring interview with Virginia Trioli when he released the photos it is very hard to feel sorry for Reith. He has a lot to answer for and the Tennix consultancy is still impossible to justify no matter how you argue it.

Perth nominee for the ASA board discouraged

Dear Crikey

A source here in Perth tells me that a member of the ASA Western Australian Branch had the audacity to nominate for the ASA Board election to be held in April this year. It seems the ASA Chairman(or is it ASA Executive Chairman?) Ted Rofe was not amused. The upshot was Ted Rofe flew from Sydney to Perth (wonder whether at his expense or at ASA members’ expense?) to talk to the member who had nominated. The fly on the wall reports that the discussion between Rofe and the nominee developed into a slinging match when Ted apparently demanded that the nominee withdraw the nomination. Apparently a member of the Western Australian Branch Committee had to intervene to restore calm. It is also rumoured that the nominee has resigned from the ASA and other members are set to follow suit.

If the allegations are correct (and that’s all they are) could one draw the conclusion that while members pay $75 a year for membership there are certain people in the ASA leadership team who have scant disregard for members at large given that all members in an Association are supposed to have equal standing? If the ASA was a real company I wonder what the attitude of the ASIC would be to this.

Once again if these allegations are correct why has not Crikey had his nominations for real Company Boards treated in the same way? Or is it that the Australian Shareholders Association does not really believe in good corporate governance practices at all? If the answer is YES why does the ASA continue to criticise real companies for failure or lack of corporate governance when its own practices are suspect?

Anon

CRIKEY: Crikey reckons Ted Rofe does a reasonable job and it is tough organising a grey volunteer army of shareholders. However, he does need to tolerate a bit more dissent within the ASA and also be a bit more hard hitting at some of the meetings they attend.

Odd choices for Australian of the Year

Hi,

A belated comment on Australian of the year. I hope it’s not too late for inclusion in “Your say”

Pat Rafter is not the first controversial choice.

In his book, Glen Wheatley recounts the embarassment when John Farnham was offered the honour — he had to explain that John was still British, so couldn’t accept. A
quickie naturalisation ceemony was arranged.

More recently, Gustav Nossal was an embarassment, not just because he began talking about reconciliation straight away, and not just because most Aussies had no
idea who he was — but because many people who saw the story on tv but didn’t listen closely, assumed he was Sir Les Patterson. Many of my co-workers expressed
disgust that Sir Les had received the award. Other media commentators must have noticed the resemblance, but I waited in vain for anyone to say it publicly — perhaps
they were too well-mannered.

I believe Pauline Hanson was nominated for Australian of the Year last year. That would have been an interesting choice.

Does anyone else have favourite Aussie of the year moments?

Regards, The Central Coaster

CRIKEY: Hmmm, Gus was okay wasn’t he? Can’t believe anyone nominated Pauline.

Greg Barns too smooth for Tasmania

Watching Greg (“I wanna be a Sydney investment banker”) Barns address a pro-refugee rally in Hobart yesterday, I understood everything. He spoke after the Socialist Alliance and the Greens, looking like a Gap model set loose in an art director’s grunge movie. (He tried to fit in but just couldn’t bring himself to join in the chanting led by the Socialist Alliance….well, fair enough, neither could I). Greg is slick, articulate, passionate and up to date. The guy is never going to make it here!. My good mate in parliament tells me that there are at least three illiterate Liberal MP’s in Tasmania state parliament
now. These are three of the most popular guys. No wonder they hate Greg Barns. Those of us who have moved to Tasmania from the mainland may
appreciate him, but I doubt any “real” Tasmanians do.

CRIKEY: Fair point. I still think it is a real shame that he’s not in the Parliament. If only he’d shown a little bit more restraint.

Colonial Britain has its dark side

Stephen

Dateline SBS tonight had a very interesting story on the problems in Zimbabwe and in particular the farm invasions whereby white farmers have been thrown off their
land by the impoverished landless black settlers.

Of course our media follows the British line about how terribly wrong all this is but watching the programme I did get the other perspective.

The white farmers asumed the fertile lands over the many years of British colonial rule, and in doing so consigned the native blacks to the barren and infertile parts of
the country. Now that British rule is ended there is a growing movement, fanned by Mugabe as an election ploy, to retake these lands from the white people on the basis
that the lands were originally stolen from the natives with colonial acquiesence. So in this respect the media’s vilification of Mugabe and the land invasions conveniently
overlooks the black settlers’ perspective.

Similarily if you ever go to Northern Ireland and are wondering if you are in a Catholic or Protestant area. If you are driving through green fertile and rich pasture land,
you are sure to be in a Protestant area (the introduced Protestant ‘planters’ being those given the land by the British hundreds of years ago) and if you drive to the rocky
barren hilltops you are sure to be driving through a Catholic area – Catholics beiong the native Irish who were forced off their lands which were then given to the
introduced Protestants by the British.

In conclusion it should be noted that both the Zimbabwean and Irish political unrest are the direct legacy of British colonial meddling in other nation’s affairs, and it is
pertinent that our media report this aspect.

Seamus

CRIKEY: As the son of a Pom I’m a bit biased on this but the British generally conducted themselves better than most when empire building. However, there are always going to be darker aspects.

Reith’s Tennix gig against guidelines

The Rodent appears to be handballing responsibility for the fake “children thrown in the water” story to Reithy, who as an ex is clearly expendable.

However the PM can’t get off this one so easily, as its clear he took the story up with alacrity at the time when it suited his purposes.

Moreover Crikey is right to question the propriety of Peter Reith, former Minister for Defence now working as a consultant to the defence contracting company Tennix ,and
being accepted by Howard in discussions in the PM’s office.

My memory is bit hazy but I think that there are (or were) Public Service Guidelines proscribing recently retired senior public servants from acting in consultant roles similar
to that which Reith is doing.

If this is correct, why does’nt the Prime Minister insist on such conduct from former Ministers?

Also Tennix should be asked if they are happy to have on their payroll a man who the public record suggests is “economical with the truth”

Tom

CRIKEY: Reith has completely lost me. His ethics and morality are seriously damaged for good.

Howard taking lessons from Putin

Is it only me or is our government getting more like the late
USSR/present Russia every day? No media allowed near detention centres,
jounalist arrested for getting too close, new legislation to imprison
whistle blowers and publishers of ANYTHING detrimental to the Government
and now electronic spying on its own citizens. Did Johnny’s actually
spend some of his holiday time picking up some tips from that great
‘democratic’ leader Alexander Putin?

Anne-Marie

CRIKEY: Well said. We’re not the great proto-type democracy that many claim.

Too many student pollies in Dem ranks

Dear Crikey,

I was interested to note Hillary’s comments on the demographics of new
Dems members. I’ve felt for some time that Satan has been running the
party like a student political organisation. Unfortunately, having been
a student politician and mixing only with other student politicians she
doesn’t seem to be aware of the contempt that much of the population
(including many of us with a few years of tertiary education behind us)
hold for her particular style of student politics. Goodbye broad appeal.

The Dems had better be careful picking their next leader. They’ve had
three lousy ones in a row (at least. I only arrived here 5 1/2 years
ago) so I doubt if the party will survive another.

Regards

Hugh

CRIKEY: Cheryl was good whilst leading the Dems and even Meg was okay. I reckon Natasha is definitely the weakest of the past three leaders.

Alston ballsing it up yet again

Senator Alston doesn’t accept Microsoft’s view that Australia is failing to leverage global technology developments, or that his own policies are contributing to this failure.

Yet, the Coalition’s preferred option for new media ownership rules includes prohibiting the integration of print, TV and radio newsrooms in a single market.

Günther Böttcher, managing director of the respected European news media research organisation, Ifra, warned last year that limiting news output to a single medium was
unsustainable and that multiple media publishing will become the norm.

In Ifra’s “Trends 2001” report, he continues “…electronically published products have to be added to the portfolio of a traditional newspaper publisher…If companies have
not under-stood the importance of multiple media publishing by now, next year it will be already too late for most of them.”

On top of his disastrous digital broadcasting policy, Senator Alston’s current proposal will surely condemn Australia’s media to yesterday’s technology in the global
backwaters of news production.

Big Mac

CRIKEY: The Howard government’s media policy has been a disgrace for most of the past 5 years and this latest attempt to unwind the cross-media ownership laws is just the latest episode.

Evan Thornley on Aussie brands

Steve,

a few additions to your non-US brands list:

For the Aussies, what about the wine co’s – we are kicking the world’s arse with the now combined Southcorp/Rosemount brands like Penfolds, Lindemans and
Rosemount and several other Aussie wine co’s are doing pretty well too incl. Fosters’ owned Mildara Blass.

Speaking of Agriculture, superfine merino wool is a global brand in all but … brand! Seems like we’ve missed an opportunity here to brand a global position that we’ve
clearly nailed down for a century and a half.

I think you can also give a big gong to the homegrown team at Lonely Planet – walk into any bookshop in the world and this little Aussie battler has plenty of shelf space
and easily the best product in the travel sections

And speaking of travel, how global do you need to be to make the list ? Flight Centre has a strong presence in much of the English speaking world – US, Canada, UK, NZ,
Sth Africa and do a bloody good job of it – beating out their Australian founded but sold-by-the-student-movement-for-a-penny-to-a-Swiss-multinational STA Travel which has
offices all over the globe esp. Europe and Nth America

In the spirit of “what do you mean global ?”, how about internet newcomer and the-expat’s-best-friend, cricinfo.com – it’s owned by some Poms and Indians and keeps the
global cricket community in touch. Hard for the Yanks to own this one I guess.

Can’t forget the fabulous Finn’s Nokia – matched and then beat their Scan mates at Ericsson and left the Yanks Motorola in the dust in the global handset market. Even the
Yanks are prepared to admit that it is pretty good – the only non-US brand in top 10 in Business Week/Interbrand’s Top 100 global brands –
http://www.businessweek.com/pdfs/2001/0132-toprank.pdf . Not bad for an old forest products company!

Does that mean I get my subscription refunded ? Better keep it in the kitty for your mate Mr Price. Good luck with the silks.

Cheers, Evan Thornley
San francisco

ET

CRIKEY: And Evan’s own company Looksmart should probably be on the list too.

Sydney doesn’t need another shock jock

Stephen,

Just read your pieces on Pricey coming to Sydney. Good stuff, just what we need, another shock jock in Sydney.

With Singo giving the Parrot equity in the radio station, I wondered, following the Cash for Comment scandal,whether the Parrot was a fit & proper person to be part of the
company that holds the licences for 2GB & 2CH.

Perhaps we could alert Professor Flint & colleagues at the ABA about this arrangement , I am sure he would be only to pleased to conduct a thorough enquiry into the
matter.

Following Pricey’s comment regarding the Parrot being a millionaire & single while Pricey was married with 2 kids ( now found to be untrue), The Sun Herald’s apologist for
the Right, Miranda Devine devoted Sunday’s column to a puff piece defending the Parrot with one of the headline quotes stating ‘A blast from Alan Jones can bring the
mightest to their knees’.

The classic was the the breakout headed ‘Kids who bring a tear to Jones’s eye and stated ‘ For all his success Alan Jones wishes he could have his own children. He loves
families, has “dozens” of godchildren and is close to his 28 year old niece, who works for him, and her husband’.

Now 28 is not exactly a child is it, but it sounds that Michael Costa picked the right man for the job for the Police Boys Club Board.

The Parrot who could be described as a confirmed bachelor, goes on to say having children is something. ‘I would dearly love to have done in life. But these are opportunities that weren’t available to me & I can’t have them’

So Pricey has fired the first salvo and it looks like it’s goinggoing to be a long & dirty war, however we have seen it all before, just ask Derryn Hinch.

As you correctly state Sydney is a different city to Melbourne and he’ll be up against it but perhaps a crash course in Rugby League may assist, preferably by taking a wayward Rugby League player under his wing (a Parrot specialty).

Regards, Greg

CRIKEY: Pricey loves a dirty fight so expect him to try every trick in the book to undermine Jones.

What about Jeff’s Tribe skeleton

Crikey,

You comment on the mixed successes of Jeff on Public Boards and his fine fundraising attributes.

However, his last foray into media (as chairperson of Tribe Online) proved more than a slight disaster. It went the way of all the other youth portals – and beyond the initial cash influx he only pulled a few million for the second round. After the first round, they were not even in a position to publicly float.

As a media player – Jeff was damn good.

As a media maker – many have doubts.

cheers, Dan

CRIKEY: Fair comment, but it is not easy fighting the dot com crash.

Tash should join the Labor ranks

Crikey,

It’s a shame Hilary didn’t go one step further with the observation that
Senator Stott-Despoja is a shameless “Cheryl impersonator”. Surely it’s on
the cards that Tash will emulate Kernot’s betrayal and opt instead for a
frontbench job under Simon Crean. Her admittedly limited talents are wasted
amongst the failed school teachers, environmental cranks and other assorted
crackpots that go to make up the Democrat caucus.

One suspects Tash is intellectually nimble enough to convincingly abandon
most of the causes she’s always held so dear without incurring the wrath of
her media cheer squad – as she’d have to under Crean’s leadership. But would
Crean consent to such an arrangement? Maybe it would buy him the silence of
the stuff-it-up-brigade on his party’s left, most of whom would be content
to pretend that appointing her as some kind of roving spokesperson amounted
to a major concession to them and their “concerns”. Meanwhile Crean could
get down to the serious business of pandering to middle Australia.

Here’s hoping that something like this comes to pass, and we can all revel
in the wonderful spectacle come next election of witnessing Tash fighting
tooth & nail to secure direct votes in a marginal constituency.

Martin

CRIKEY: I think Cheryl proved it is better being a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond so don’t hold your breath over this one.

Carleton dumps all over the Parrot

Hi Stephen, I was a follower during your oh so brief stint on Rear Window which is absolutely shocking these days.

Anyway, I think you’re doing a great job, particularly with the Alan Jones stuff. That bloke needs to be (metaphorically) hunted down and shot, because he is probably the
most dangerous man in Australia (I’m serious!) and the people who listen to him are obviously too thick to see through him. Cash for Comment rolled off him like it never
happened (‘cos his audience are cretins), so what next?

Surely, surely, surely there’s a big stinking heap of the brown stuff hidden in the London loo incident if someone’s got a strong enough constitution to do the digging. I was
thinking along these lines the other day and wondering why there was so little heard about it – even just the usual journalists’ whispers – when up pops good old Mike Carlton in his SMH column on Saturday getting stuck into his former colleague in a very tasty manner. Did you see it? My partner threw out the papers this morning, bless her, so I can’t give you a transcript, but it was along the lines of having been helped out during a spot of bother in London a few years ago by dear old Jeffery Archer, who now has his own problems to contend with…

Does Carlton know something that the rest of us don’t? Does the rest of the world know something I don’t (the most likely answer)? Could Mike be persuaded to elucidate?
Could someone with more time, energy and guts than myself, and possibly with contacts on The Street of Shame, look into this intriguing aside?

Life is too short to have to put up with hypocrites such as the Parrot crapping on the rest of us.

Keep up the good work, Jack

CRIKEY: So how could Mike Carleton happily work for the same station that employed the Parrot for all those years? Why didn’t he speak out at the time? Sounds like $1 million a year bought his silence.

Hewitt’s accurate sledge of Canberra

Dear Crikey,

Like your columnist I dislike expats who dump on Australia.

However, in the case of Ms Hewitt her comment regarding Canberra – “dull, middle-class and provincial” – merely reflects what most Melbournites and Sydneysiders know to be the truth.

Is it wrong for expats to repeat things that are common knowledge within Australia to foreign ears?

Is there a cone of silence over the truth once one leaves the country? Should we try and conceal the awful truth about Canberra from outsiders?

regards, Stephen Sharpley

CRIKEY: You should be honest but I actually disagree about Canberra and reckon it’s a great place these days.

In defence of Aden, not in defence of Natasha

Your headline writer and follow up correspondent Julie got it wrong. The
letter you printed on Thursday 7th wasn’t in defence of Natasha, it was in
defence of Aden. As Julie stated, Natasha’s a politician in the big league
and has a lot more serious stuff to contend with than a few kids throwing
schoolyard taunts and competing to so who can come up with the most
ridiculous lies.

The real concern is that the continued use of Aden by the tiny pro-Meg mob
is starting to damage him within the party, as most members strongly dislike
such tactics. Damage tot he popularity of Aden is something the party could
do without at the moment.

It was also in defence of truth. Crikey performs a valuable role as an
independent outlet, but it becomes rather devalued if it keeps printing
material that’s simply wrong and just turns into a b-grade gossip column.
As shown again with your Friday offering which stated Natasha was extending
her US visit so she would be away from South Australia on election day –
this ‘revelation’ appeared on the same day that Natasha was out campaigning
publicly in Adelaide.

Kay

CRIKEY: If Natasha was indeed back in Adelaide campaigning then we owe her an apology for saying she was still in New York and Crikey will in future be more sceptical about the lines being pushed by this group of disaffected Dems.

Yanks put employee entitlements ahead of tax office

Hi Stephen!

I’ve been reading — and enjoying — Crikey for some time now, and I realize
that we’re pretty far apart politically and otherwise, but I was surprised by
the tone of your recent piece on the Ansett creditors’ meeting (“Unions rip off
Ansett creditors (Feb 4)”).

Now, I lived in Sydney for several years — which is why I read Australian web
sites — and I’m aware that Australia is the Boss’ Paradise, but I grew up here
in the U.S., where bankruptcy law puts employees first in line, ahead of all
other creditors, even ahead of the tax office. So I have a hard time
appreciating the argument that holders of frequent flier miles should be paid
before baggage handlers.

What’s more, I was a creditor of a failed company while I was in Sydney, and I
recall that employee claims were paid first (I got about $2). “Boss’ Paradise”
or not, that may be the law in Australia as well.

It’s certainly the right result — but “let a hundred flowers blossom”.

Cliff

CRIKEY: But there are employee entitlements (ie holiday pay, superannuation) and employee entitlements (redundancy payments of up to 2 years pay). Each worker is getting an average $22,000 payout from the administration (plus their super in full) while each frequent flyer member will get an average of less than $1. By all means payout the holiday pay and super but redundancy cheques are a luxury in a collapse because people are getting paid for work they didn’t do.

Ripped off by the unions at Ansett

Dear Crickey

I am a Global Rewards member with about 70,000 points, enough to have a quiet holiday with my wife in Singapore, or so I thought. And yes, I earnt those points with my own post-tax money, flying Ansett and using my Diners Card.

I too was present at the Ansett Creditors’ meeting on 29 January 2002, courtesy of Virgin Blue. Virgin left on time, arrived on time and the whole staff were friendly and cheerful. Ansett and Qantas could learn a thing or two.

I was astounded at the contempt shown by the “100 cents in the dollar” creditors towards the “less than 5 cents and going down daily” creditors at the meeting. It wasn’t as if the employees were ever going to miss out on their whack.

Global Rewards and Golden Wing members were heckled and any requests for clarification about the wonderful Tesna deal were met with groans and abuse. I was amazed that Ansett employees had such vile regard for the very people who made it possible for them to have jobs in the first place (and the future). No doubt the Ansett employees that Tesna takes on will show their future customers the same sort of malevolence that I saw at the meeting: customers are leeches who are not worthy of a voice, let alone a vote.

I’m sure that Crikey has been following the recent application brought by the two Marks to get
approval for the continued running of Ansett while Tesna sorts out its dispute with Sydney
Airports Corporation (and waits for the flat trading month of February to pass). The issue has
been well ventilated in the financial press, except for one interesting matter.

When commencing consideration of the two Marks’ application on 1 February, Justice Goldberg said that apart from hearing from the ACTU he would “be greatly assisted … also hearing from and having a particular non-priority creditor address the issues … that person [should] have the benefit of legal advice and be [legally] represented” (transcript page 9).

So what did the two Marks do? Find a creditor who voted against the Tesna sale on 29 January? Find a Global Rewards member who doesn’t think that they are doing a great job? You guessed it …

On 4 February Mr Whelan, counsel for the two Marks announced that Mr Wollan, a solicitor, who is a Global Rewards creditor, has been served with the papers and will be represented at the hearing by counsel at the cost of the administration (i.e. to further diminsh the funds for non-priority creditors) to bring a critical mind to bear on the two Marks’ proposal.

And guess what? Mr Whelan, counsel for the two Marks said: “Mr Wollan, as a creditor, does not actually oppose the course that’s being proposed (i.e. continuing to run Ansett at a loss of $6M per week while Tesna screws both the administration and SAC until they get a better deal) but frankly, your Honour, we don’t think! we would be able to find a creditor who actually did oppose the course” (transcript page 2).

So there you have it. The two Marks are asked to get another point of view to assist Justice
Goldberg. They don’t look for anyone who might disagree, but instead spend more of the
administration’s funds (5 cents in the dollar looking like 1 cent now) on getting someone who
agrees with what they want to do. Truly amazing. And Justice Goldberg’s response? “I understand what you have done and that’s fine”.

What a bizarre farce.

Kevin

CRIKEY: Well said Kevin, if you appoint the administrator you get what you want and it was the unions who put the two Marks into the job and have been paid $10 million for their efforts.

Political donations, free speech and dodgy professionals

Dear Crikey,

It was an interesting weekend for news. I think 3 items in particular
warrant continued coverage by your site. All 3 will have a crucial role on
how our society shapes itself, and you can bet londaon to a brick on that
the axis of evil will win on each of them.

First, the coverage of the political donations. This is just a disgrace.
Anything short of making political donations illegal will be a disaster for
democracy. Any reasonable analysis will show that democracy barely even
exists when companies and individuals are allowed to donate to political
parties. And why can’t we regulate the media so that their licence to
broadcast is conditional on giving away free air time during election
campaigns so that the parties don’t feel so obliged to accept dubious
donations. I’d rather have a slightly distorted media market than lose
all pretence at democracy. I don’t think people understand how easily the
political process ignores them.

Secondly, the coverage of the Howard Govt’s legislation to gaol
whistle-blowers. This would be a significant blow to free speech and
consequently, you guessed it, democracy.

Finally, I would love to see more coverage of the Accountants chasing the
lawyers for the title of most unscrupulous profession. Apart from the
Enron, HIH, auditors/consultants conflict of interest issue there is a huge
industry in creating blatant tax avoidance products which are undeniably
unethical, at best. The tax Dept issued a ‘tax warning’ on the weekend to
advise investors to be wary of another scheme whereby the individual
invests $100,000 in a website development project, $20,000 in cash and
$80,000 as a loan, get to write off $100,000 in income, pay interest
expenses on an $80,000 loan and receive a guaranteed $20,000 return on
their investment. It is so blatantly non-commercial tax cheating. Why
is their no professional ethical oversight of this pernicious industry.
Australia is bleeding because of these rip-offs. If everybody paid there
fair share of tax we probably could afford to have personal income tax
rates of 30%, but the big end of town seems to think that tax is what the
poor people are there to pay. The Accounting profession should be getting
bullets all year from you.

Best of luck, Andrew

CRIKEY: All very good points and issues we’ll be pursuing vigorously.

Treachery or the truth about Greg Barns

Let’s look closely at the language used in this so called “searing
critique” as this best reveals the true values underpinning the
anonymous critic of Greg Barns.

Putting to one side the party bureaucrats (which would make any
Nazi-Party hack of the 30’s proud) what is most evident is the authors
contempt not just for Mr Barns and those who may share his concerns, but
also for the democratic process itself.

“Treacherous conduct”, “quality of obscene disloyalty”

Language such as “treacherous conduct” and “obscene disloyalty” is not
only
strong in terms of usual domestic political debate, its highly emotive
nature clearly indicates the visceral level at which Barns poses a
threat
to the existing Tasmanian Liberal Party and the national Liberal Party.
The
vehemence and persistence of the counterattack proves just how dangerous
Barns must be.

The quality or otherwise of loyalty/disloyalty is obviously in the eye
of
the beholder – many good Liberal Party members and others viewing these
matters from the outside may in fact conclude that Mr Barns
demonstrates a
greater loyalty to his party than those who are currently holding
office,
towing the line for the titular heads of the party
organisation or who are minor functionaries in the hierarchy of the
current
Howard regime.

“Discipline” is when you follow orders. ” Treachery” is when you
undermine
control of the current regime.

Further, “treachery” is usually associated with acts designed to
undermine
the nation-state. It is the ultimate conceit of party/power obsessed
operatives that they perceive their individual interest, be it policy or
merely position, as the “national” interest. In using such terms,
clearly
the anonymous “Right Wing Apple Isle Lib” not only displays their own
delusions of grandeur, but their ignorance of history.

The last time I checked Australia was not a one-party state. The capture
of
the state by a political party is usually the defining feature of
totalitarian regimes, most famously seen in the examples of Nazi Germany
or
Soviet Russia, or more recently with Hussein’s Ba’thist regime in Iraq.

So the critique demonstrates plainly the authoritarian nature of its
composer.

And Mr Barn’s “sin”, as identified by the author? Well, shock-horror: he
dares to speak out on a broad range of current public policy issues
clearly
in the public eye and in a way which resonates favourably with a broad
cross-section of ordinary Australians, be they members of the Liberal
Party
or indeed others.

Let’s make no mistake about the reality of the situation here: Mr Barns
was
silenced precisely because he was a highly effective advocate of policy
options which did not, however, happen to be the current policy of the
Party as such but which nevertheless were legitimate positions which
could
be taken by those within the mainstream of Liberalism. Infact, they were
positions often taken by the party itself at different times under
different leadership.

Further, they may be positions the party will adopt at a future time –
again, under different political leadership. Isn’t this really the
threat
Barns mounted – that he posed such a direct challenge to the existing
Tasmanian Liberal Party hierarchy?

No, the shame is that a weak party, under mounting pressure to be
something
other than an ineffectual opposition at a state level and in the thrall
of
a Federal political machine savouring the zenith of its power, was
unable to
cope with vigorous policy debate.

Rather, at the behest of its Federal wing it sought to silence this
potential internal threat to its authority. That current office holders
of
the Party in that state (and probably Federally) hoped to cultivate some
goodwill by doing Howard’s bidding is also most likely, and I suspect
“Tasnime Tasmanian” falls into this category of minor functionary.

Clearly, whether you regard the acts of Mr Barns as “treachery” or the
acts
of a courageous party activist fighting for what some may see as genuine
Liberal (or liberal) values, depends very much on what you have to gain
or,
most tellingly, on what you have to lose.

That, in terms of party realpolitik, is the essence of what transpired:
the
sacrifice of free and vigorous party debate to protect hierarchical
self-interest under the guise of “discipline”.

It essence, what the essayist reveals is a very limited and superficial
agenda: “my party, right or wrong”, and its author seems to view this as
tantamount to another dangerous position: “my country, right or wrong”.

Political parties live through vigorous policy debate otherwise they
ossify
and cannot serve the good of the polity. Plainly this is the fate of the
Tasmanian opposition.

As patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, so special pleading
in
the name of party “discipline” is the last excuse of the party hack.

Treachery v Truth

All this, of course, does not even go to the core of the issues Mr Barns
was actually raising. There are supposedly a litany of “sins” Barns
engaged
in, but the one which clearly most upset the apple-cart of the Tasmanian
party was Barn’s critique of the Federal’s government’s abuse of asylum
seekers for political ends; his questioning of the Howard government’s
“Pacific solution” and its demonisation of the boat people, most of whom
were fleeing the Taliban, the very regime with whom Australia is at war.

Barns was right to smell something rotten in the claims made by Federal
Ministers in attacking the asylum seekers, and perhaps he believed a
Liberal Party had a higher obligation to tell Australian’s the truth
about
the situation.

The core of our democracy is built on trust. People who seek or obtain
public office do so on the basis that they will not abuse the power and
authority vested in them by the public. Central to this relationship of
trust is truth.

Regardless of party “rules”, no such rule can negate the overarching
obligation to deal truthfully with the public.

In speaking out on asylum seekers Greg Barns demonstrated that he
wanted,
and moreover wanted his party, to speak truthfully to the public about
the
real issues that were involved in the Howard government’s policy on
asylum
seekers.

It seems to me that it’s a very dangerous party rule which can be used
and
manipulated to stifle open and free debate – a critical mechansim for
revealing the truth – and to undermine the onus on all politicians and
all
engaged in public parties to speak truthfully.

Those who would criticise Mr Barns should examine closely on which side
of
the truth divide they stand.

The Senator for Royston Vasey

Finally, and it may seem a small point, there was a rather interesting
phrase used by TT, considering you would expect them to have Tasmania’s
interests at heart.

In their piece, TT refers to Barns “retreat(ing) to the minor baliwick
of
Tasmania”. Now these, remember, are the words of TT, not Barns.

What they show is TT’s own contempt for Tasmanians. Greg Barns clearly
believed serving in the Tasmanian parliament a worthy objective, and he
was
fighting passionately for this outcome (perhaps too much so).

The derisory attitude of the Tasnime Tasmanian to his own state could
not
have been displayed more clearly had he dubbed Howard’s Tasmanian attack
dog, Eric Abetz – the man behind this whole disgraceful episode – the
Senator for Royston Vasey.

Come to think of it, that is a most appropriate name for Eric and the
other
“League of Gentlemen” known as the Howard regime.

Postscript

The above was written before the recent sitting of Federal Parliament.
New
information this week reveals just how duplicitous the Prime Minister
and
senior Ministers, including Immigration Minister Ruddock and former
defence
Minister Reith were in dealing with information regarding asylum
seekers.

I am doubtful, but one would hope the majority of Australians feel
concerned about the abuse of trust engaged in by those in the highest
public offices of our country.

Again, this reinforces that regardless of party, regardless of party
“rules”, the public has a right to expect its politicians to speak
truthfully on matters of public concern.

In this so called critique the Tasnime Tasmanian clearly shows they have
a
preference for party discipline over truth. Hiding their identity should
come as no surprise, and merely reflects their lack of courage – in
stark
contrast to the courage demonstrated by Barns.

Name withheld

CRIKEY: It’s good to see Barns has some supporters out there and there are lots of good points made here.