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Dear Sole Subscriber,

In today’s sealed section we have the following items:

1. Parrot lines up the Greenies
2. The extraordinary David Jones AGM
3. Oldest Victorian MP hits back
4. Liberal adviser on the Greens’ voting record
5. Vic Nats hit back at Crikey
6. The great journalistic book list
7. Are the Libs selling the Victorian HQ?
8. Queensland campaign scandal
9. Neil Mitchell’s euthanasia backflip
10. Responsible Gaming wants Labor to take on Crown
11. NSW public-private school rort
12. Foxtel stuff-ups
13. Pearson and National Museum of Australia
14. In defence of Michael Southwell
15. Are the Walkleys rigged?
16. ACT Chief Ministers get Cross

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1. PARROT LINES UP THE GREENIES

The Parrot is doing all the groundwork for his big attack on the Carr Government leading into the state election. These bushfires are all the fault of the Greenies which influenced the government to create too many national parks and not enough scientifically based logging to reduce the fire risk.

The Parrot has been regularly raising it with Carr over recent weeks and this morning he opened up using his Today Show spot and no doubt is hammering away on 2GB as well.

We’d love to see Greens candidate Peter Garrett debating the Parrot over the question of fire risk, tree lopping and national parks.

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2. THE EXTRAORDINARY DAVID JONES AGM

The media certainly built up the DJs AGM in Sydney yesterday in a big way, with most of the serious financial press and even the Daily Terror expecting some bloodletting.

There was certainly a lot of drama but Dick Warburton was comfortably returned as a director.

The AFR sent in their big guns, with one of our operatives spotting both Neil Chenoweth and Trevor Sykes in attendance. And the Fin also took the unprecedented step of posting on their website an account of the AGM “as it happened”.

Amid the shareholder anger was the odd item of levity, with one proxy holder, referring to a Fin report on the weekend, asking whether Dick Warburton was in fact a member of “the old farts’ club”.

The same shareholder also asked whether a deal had been done with the instos to return Warburton to the board if he could guarantee their preferred man as the new CEO of the company to replace Peter Wilkinson. Of course the company denied any such deal!

In reality, the shareholder anger has been bubbling for some time, with last year’s AGM a heated affair and a special meeting during the year, which was only held to vote on a capital raising, also generating its share of heat.

But Warburton got a significant kick in the backside, with 24% of the proxies voted against his re-election according to the AFR’s “as it happened” report. This is almost as bad as we can recall for an incumbent director, the only one that springs to mind as being worse was Anne Keating at IAG last year where she received a 74% “for” vote.

The only thing that will placate DJs shareholders is a significant turn around in the company’s performance, but they have been waiting for that for some time.

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3. I’M NOT AN OLD BAG

The oldest member of the new Labor broom in Victoria has hit back at claims she’s a recycled old bag:

“I find it extraordinary that everyone is hung up on the fact that I’m 65. I actually knocked off 4 young blokes in suits for preselection (all of whom put me last on their tickets and had nothing to say about me except to whinge that I’m “too old”). I suggest the author of this piece is a) male, b) under 35, c) in the right, and d) thinks older people, especially women, should keep out of anything useful so he can have a turn.

Well, I’m not moving over to give anyone a turn at anything. If I prove that I have the skills, I’ll hang around till I’m 95. I hope all women, especially older women, decide that they don’t want to retire and keep playing!!

Carolyn Hirsh Oldest Victorian MP and member of the Cain Government in the 80s

PS. Hillary also points out the youngest ever Victorian minister is… Alfred Deakin, back in 1883, at the age of 26. Sorry, Jacinta, compared to Deakin you’re an old bag too at 29. Bracks unveils his Cabinet this morning and we’ll be analysing it for the afternoon edition but it looks like Hullsy has won the war with John Thwaites and will remain Attorney General.

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4. THE GREENS VOTING RECORD

Robert Hill’s former environment adviser writes:

“Ben Oquist’s attack on the Democrats for supporting the Coalition’s Environment Protection legislation underlines why the Greens really aren’t ready to be treated as a serious political entity.

The fact is the Democrats came to the negotiating table and won some significant concessions in return for their support for the Bill, which was internationally regarded as one of the most significant environmental reforms ever undertaken by a national government.

Of course the ratbag lobby groups wanted a whole lot more than any government could have delivered.
Bob Brown wouldn’t risk upsetting those radicals by supporting a package that even he would have to have conceded privately was a major step forward.

He and his adviser realise they have more to gain by demonising the Democrats rather than taking some small steps forward and doing what is best for the environment.

Rod Bruem
(former adviser to Robert Hill)”

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5. NATIONAL PARTY FIGHT BACK

Danny O’Brien, chief of staff to the Vic Nats, has given us a solid spray for prematurely writing off the Nats:

“Ah Crikey,

You just can’t seem to get your facts straight on anything lately can you?

Your latest little dig at the Vic Nats is again factually incorrect.

Our current primary vote on the VEC website is 4.5%, but this is down from 4.85 % in 1999, not 6.69% per cent as you wrongly asserted. We polled 6.69 in 1996 and about 8% in 1992 when the Kennett landslide saw some Nats record 80 per cent on primaries. Certainly this indicates a drop in the
vote over time and that is a concern, but given that you and almost everyone else suggested we’d be wiped out this election, I think a drop of 0.4% in our vote is pretty good compared to the 8% + shellacking the Libs copped.

Given the fact that we stood candidates in more seats this time around because of the end of the coalition agreement, our vote should be higher. But when comparing to 1999 you have to realise that much of our vote then was hidden Liberal voters who had no-where else to go to in straight
Conservative v Labor contests. Particularly in three upper house seats which means the 4.85% was in fact inflated with Lib votes.

Given the pressure on the party in recent years from One Nation, Libs and independents and the generally negative media coverage, I would have thought holding our ground was a pretty good effort.

Finally to Charles Richardson’s predictions from last week – they were a laugh then and they look just as funny now. To think that Labor might win Gippsland South just showed how ill-informed he was (Labor’s primary vote dropped 5 per cent to 28). Similarly in Gippsland Province he fell for the old trick of just looking at the figures last time, without realising that Labor was facing a very popular and hard working member in Peter Hall in 2002 unlike the unpopular Liberal Phillip Davis in 1999.

Like almost every other pundit, he also predicted our demise in Shepparton. We were always going to face a bigger challenge from the Libs than the independent who was very much on the nose after another 3 years as local mayor. We were somewhat surprised at the strength of the Liberal vote, but, nonetheless, it looks like Jeanette Powell will get up. FYI, the independent finished fourth.

Finally, I should have paid no attention to the comments anyway given that he suggested we’d be “trying to win back Gippsland West”. I think he might have meant “East”. Not much done for credibility here, particularly given there was no such seat as Gippsland West this time around.

Undoubtedly the party has struggled in recent times, and party status is still not assured. But Saturday’s results show it can be turned around.

And more importantly, they show that so-called experts who wouldn’t know Charlton from Chapel Street should stick to making city predictions.

Regards

Danny O’Brien
Chief of Staff
Office of the Leader of the National Party

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6. THE GREAT JOURNALISTIC BOOK LIST

Many Australian journalists are so prolific they have branched out of the mainstream media and into writing books. Crikey, however, has noticed that some of them have a tendency to double up. Is there so much to know about John Hewson that it took two books to profile him in the early 1990s.

And now we have the Fin Review’s Andrew Main and The Australian’s Mark Westfield, simultaneously writing books on HIH, just as Peter Lalor and Sandra Lee are going head to head on the gruesome murderer Katherine Knight, dubbed Australia’s Hannibal.

Crikey has a dream of becoming a vehicle through which journalists could sell remaindered copies of books they have written. It would effectively be a Crikey book club.

So, we are embarking on the large task of building a list of all the books written by working Australian journalists over the past 20 years with a ranking based on sales figures. People like Paul Barry, Paul Sheehan and Trevor Sykes will be near the top in terms of sales but please send in the details with title, author, publisher and sales to [email protected]

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7. FOR SALE, ONE DESIRABLE SECRETARIAT, NEWLY RENOVATED

The Victorian Liberal Party admin committee is moving quickly to prevent financial haemorrhage in the wake of Saturday’s disaster.

They are looking at selling the secretariat at 104 Exhibition Street and moving to cheaper facilities in the burbs – all of which makes Peter “The Three-Million Dollar Man” Clarke’s already controversial renovations even more pointless.

Meanwhile, this reply is floating around the internet from a Victorian Legislative Councillor confirming that 8 year terms are dead in Victoria, despite what the Labor Unity faction is pushing:

“Ignore the Crikey.Com claims that we will stage the reform. We are on track for 24 of 44 seats and will have the Reform Bill passed ASAP to take full effect at the next election. Thus my new
8-year term and that of the other 21 MLCs elected on Saturday will be reduced to 4-years!”

It seems Victoria will have the rare spectre of politicians voting themselves out of a job. Amazing.

——————————————————————————–

8. CAMPAIGN SCANDAL?

Dark rumours seep out of Queensland of a secret report into the alleged misuse of campaign funds by a federal MP at the last election.

Party powerbrokers are said to be working to defuse the issue before it prematurely ends the career of one MP and brings down his right hand man, who has political ambitions of his own.

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9. NEIL MITCHELL’S EUTHANASIA BACKFLIP

A subscriber writes:

“Don’t suppose the Neil Mitchell writing in yesterday’s Herald Sun is the same Neil Mitchell who, after requesting attendance rights at Philip Nitschke’s recent Melbourne workshops, is now canning them.

How can Mitchell speak with such supposed authority when he hasn’t even attended. Didn’t disclose that bit did he.

And besides, on his own show Mitchell prides himself on going to the source, yet today he seems more than prepared to do the hearsay bit…

Does that make him a hypocrite, or is this just more of the 3AW slip slide away?

Readers decide, Anonymous

CRIKEY: Bit like the way Mitchell allegedly went soft on a nursing home where his mother lives. Once again, he didn’t disclose that either when it was brought up on air.

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10. RESPONSIBLE GAMING WANTS LABOR TO TAKE ON CROWN

A subscriber writes:

“Referring to your comments up front in this morning’s Crikey sealed section, which we’ve put up on our site on www.responsiblegamingassociation.com. We put a lot of gambling related news items from all over Australasia on this site, so you might like to check it out from time to time.

To use your words, “we need fireworks between Packer’s $1 billion a year money bin and Spring St after all those appalling deals during the Kennett years”.

We at the RGA would LOVE to see someone as Gaming Minister who is prepared to stand up to Packer’s cash cow. Moreover we’d love to see someone who would be prepared to cut the casino’s whopping 13% tax advantage on poker machines! But that would mean less casino tax – remember the pokie venue operators and the State Governments are effectively in a joint venture partnership on this one.

About 12% of State own-tax revenue now comes from gaming taxes, and Victoria is now the State that is the most reliant on gaming taxes for revenue.

Andrew”

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11. NSW PRIVATE-PUBLIC SCHOOL RORT

The NSW and World’s Greatest Treasurer, Michael Egan, announced on Tuesday a plan for the state to join in with a private consortium to operate a handful of state schools in partnership. (Interesting how the Treasurer made the announcement, with education minister John Watkins only a bit player.)

The government has already announced the successful tenderer, a consortium which includes merchant bankers ABN-AMRO, property developer St Hilliers, construction company Hansen Yuncken and SSL Facilities Management.

Interestingly, St Hilliers was one of the companies recently dredged up in J-Bro’s “cash for questions” scandal. In December 2001 he had asked questions in Parliament relating to St Hilliers and a property development they were undertaking. The firm which engaged J-Bro, PwC, was St Hilliers’ auditor.

The reports of the teachers’ union reaction was a bit more understated than what we expected, with the NSW Teachers Federation’s president Maree O’Halloran suggesting that the Government would not be able to be held accountable because they would claim commercial confidentiality on the contracts.

None of the reports we saw suggested that the teachers’ union was vehemently opposed to the idea of public-private partnerships to build schools, which would be something of a surprise if that was their official position.

Could you imagine a state Liberal government trying to introduce such a scheme without a massive bun-fight?

And isn’t this just another accounting ruse by Enron Egan to keep the budget cost and debt of building new schools off the balance sheet?

Responsible governments run surpluses without resorting to funny money deals which ultimately cost taxpayers more but allow governments to keep the costs off budget.

——————————————————————————–

12. FOXTEL STUFF-UPS

www.Notgoodenough.org only went live in February of this year but the site already has over 12,000 active members griping on its discussion forums about everything from airlines to shop assistants with way too much attitude. While compliments about companies remain in the minority, their number is gradually increasing, making NGE a place of comment not just complaint. Looking at the bigger picture, NGE has found that telcos are our most complained about industry, with the banks not far behind. Pay tv providers also feature in the gripe list and it’s not just last week’s winner, Austar, who is copping it. Foxtel, too, have been getting their fair share of annoyed punters.

Foxtel has been slammed by NGE members for its performance both on and off the air. One member rightly wonders why they have to put up with so much advertising for a service that they already pay to view; another is more than a little concerned about the $300 or so dollars that was taken from a
bank account by Foxtel shortly after cancelling their subscription. While the money was returned days later (without interest, of course), this now ex-customer of Foxtel warns others to “read your statements very clearly when it comes to Foxtel!”

More recent Foxtel-inspired complaints at the NGE Gripe Headquarters focus on the provider’s decision to cease transmission of the Country Music channel in response to exceptionally poor ratings. Probably a fair enough decision in itself. But this “contracted viewer’s” channel was taken off air
and replaced by you guessed it nothing. Viewers were however given the option of subscribing to the ESPN (Sports) Channel, which is a “tier package” channel. As one Unhappy Jan put it, “you will LOSE a channel and then pay MORE to get back what you already had!” Could this be another case
of thousands of people totally inconvenienced by another Telco who just can’t get it right?

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13. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIA

First, we read in The Oz that Dawn Casey’s term at the National Museum of Australia is not to be extended because she has ‘upset conservative members of the NMA Board’ and presented a differing view of Australia History or some such vague statement.

Then, we read that the NMA will recruit overseas for a replacement, presumably one who will not upset conservative members of the board and who will not present a differing view of Australian history.

Then, I can’t bear it, we read that Christopher Peason is to take up more space and be the regular inside page columnist in the Oz. The Age recently gave him the boot.

Joining some dots – Pearson is on the NMA board and could rightly expect to be a, or the, conservative board member, he was a government appointment to the board. Pearson is on the Australia Council Board, a government appointment who has had his term extended.

So I know you have been on about company boards and shareholder action and stuff but these are taxpayer boards of national institutions and we are the shareholders I suppose.

Just how many of the ‘peer nominated’ members of the Australia Council, the NMA and other like institutions are actually government appointments? They are all approved by government but how many were actually proposed by the field as opposed to just put in by government? I reckon at the Australia Council the balance must have tipped from being mainly peer nomination and a few government appointments to more than 50% government straight appointments. So what’s the point of it being an ‘arms length funding body’ with its own act if it operates like a government department?

I don’t know Dawn Casey, nor do I know the industry view as to whether she has done a good job or not, but pissing off Pearson should not be a major reason for being made to leave your post.

So now the man is not only going to run the NMA and the OZCO but is going to turn up next to my breakfast in the paper regularly – if I wanted that I could have moved to Adelaide.

What do you reckon, are we the dudded shareholders in this?

Kind Regards, Charlene.

——————————————————————————–

14. IN DEFENCE OF MICHAEL SOUTHWELL

A media watcher in Western Australia writes:

“The attack on Walkley Award winning journo Michael Southwell by an anonymous
assassin who is clearly at management level was outrageous — and it was a good explanation for why The West Australian is the nation’s worst newspaper.

Truth is, they’re a lot more comfortable with mediocrity than they are with real journos who give a hoot about keeping the b*stards honest.

That manager – whoever he or she is – might also remember Southwell’s role in uncovering the finance brokers’ scandal and in exposing Doug Shave as Australia’s Worst Minister of his time. Southy was a bit of a handful then, too, refusing to schmooze with Doug like the paper’s political editor did.

Oh, and breaking that yarn about the convention centre debt that the government lied about. Trouble maker.

It’s clear that The West management prefer journalists who run with the pack, stay mates with the PR flacks and don’t upset the big end of town. That’s why their service to the people of Western Australia is so woeful — and it’s getting worse.

The email criticising Southwell is one of the most passionate pieces of writing to come out of the paper all year — shame the effort wasn’t put into criticising someone in the government or business.

You’ve got to wonder if Rogers approved of that email? If not, he should hunt down the writer — just as West management did when other anonymous missives ended up on Crikey.

And a little food for thought … when Rogers and Southwell were both at Channel 9, didn’t they fall out over a story involving bad deeds by a company called Iluka Resources? Two directors of that company? Ken Court and Rogers’ long-term de facto, Val Davies.

No wonder Rogers can’t congratulate true journalism.

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15. ARE THE WALKLEYS RIGGED?

As predicted yesterday, The Australian have given the Walkleys a big spray in their Media supplement today which you can read here: www.theaustralian.news.com.au

Interesting to see Fairfax spindoctor Bruce Wolpe going on the record saying McCrann shouldn’t have won the business Walkley ahead of Colleen Ryan’s HIH pieces for the Fin Review.

Meanwhile, someone calling themselves “Brendan Donohue” writes:

“Two points on the Walkleys, which, I believe are seriously rigged, sometimes for personal reasons, and often to ‘even things up’, so no single outlet gets too many prizes. This is partly because the awards are run by the union, so there’s a built-in vested interest in not alienating any paper or channel, for
fear of losing members and support. If the Pulitzers or the British Press Awards were done in this way, no-one would stand for it, but here we seem to accept it as if there were no alternatives. (The Pulitzers are run by a trust set up from a pulisher’s will, the British Press awards by the independent UK
Press Gazette).

1. There was much bemusement on publication of the shortlist at the fact that Jim Waley was in there for a couple of fairly soft interviews, while Tony Jones’ extremely powerful interviews with Howard on the Children Overboard were passed over, as were people like Kerry O’Brien. But since Waley’s appointment to succeed Brian Henderson as Nine’s newsreader, it all looks a bit murky.
Conspiracists are pointing to the fact that John Westacott of 60 Minutes, a very senior member of the Nine news and current affairs hierarchy, was on the judging panel for that category. I know the Walkleys are ‘judged by their peers’, but a decision should be made to ensure that such conflicts of interests are rigorously avoided. There’s no reason why broadcast interviews have to be judged by broadcast journalists — indeed, if as sometimes happens, a fellow broadcast interviewer is included,
issues of unspoken jealousy may intrude. Why not keep things separate, and have newspaper journos judging the broadcast categories, and vice versa?

2.You nominated as a fair dinkum editor in the online section, contributing a vast amount to editorial input. I agree that Michelle Feuerlicht did a lovely job of putting the Timber Mafia story on the web — but the fact is that much of the content in it comes from the reporter, producer and crew who did the
story for Four Corners. They get no credit from the Walkleys, even though the content involves Stephen McDonell’s road diary, full transcripts of all Stephen’s interviews, a portfolio of photos taken during the shoot, etc. It’s a newish category: now they have to make a real decision about what it
really represents. If this decision is a precedent, it will put online in the same category as the awards for layout subs or headline writers — perfectly respectable, but not the same as the ones you get for major writing and editing jobs, or journalistic work in the field.

Regards, Brendan”

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16. ACT CHIEF MINISTERS GET CROSS

The battle to replace Margaret Reid as the ACT’s Liberal Senator is turning into a two horse race between former chief ministers Kate Carnell and Gary Humphries.

Carnell’s liabilities are well known – the circumstances of her departure, the Canberra Hospital implosion et al – but more recent political events may cruel Humphries chances.

There is still considerable disquiet in sections of the ACT party over Humphries’ decision earlier this year to expel MLA Helen Cross from the Libs for the heinous crime of voting according to her conscience in a conscience vote and allowing Labor’s abortion legislation to pass.

Canberrans are left-leaning on social issues, and their liberal tendencies were well exploited by Carnell. Some members fear the move will cost the Territory Liberals votes at elections to come and question Humphries’ political judgement.

Then there’s the Cross supporters left in the party. This is their chance for revenge. Their votes could prove to be Humphries’ undoing.

——————————————————————————–

Do ya best,
Stephen Mayne, Hillary Bray, Kate Jackson, Neal Woolrich and The Crikey Team

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