Could Labor win the election by simply rejecting the FTA? And who is closer to
the truth about the Bacon years in Tasmania, Richard Flanagan or Premier Paul
Lennon? See what our subscriber think in this week’s Yoursay.

Labor can win election if it blocks FTA

According to Hawker Britton/UMR Research
40 percent of “soft voters” (ie. uncommitted voters) oppose the US free
trade agreement, while only 25 percent support the agreement. 46
per cent of soft voters were “not confident” that the Howard Government
has negotiated a good deal for Australia, while only 20 percent were

If Labor ditches the free trade agreement John Howard will be left like
a shag on a rock. He will look stupid. He has staked his
government’s reputation on the FTA with the US, so if Labor blocks it
Howard will be exposed for being responsible for having negotiated a
bad agreement and failing on trade policy.

Opposition to the free trade agreement in the general community is
growing. The letters section in The Australian (Monday, 19/7)
show three letters opposed to the FTA, and none in favour. This
is despite the fact that The Australian is the media organisation that
is the most heavily in favour of the FTA. The Age and the Sydney
Morning Herald have carried a number of opinion articles and letters in
the last few weeks critical of the FTA. The Labor Party should
expose the FTA for the dud that it is, and drive a wedge between John
Howard and the Australian people.

Labor needs to cut the “me-too” ism and differentiate itself from the Government.

Assurances by the Howard Government to block multinational drug
companies from using the US free trade agreement to force up drug
prices are worthless, because it is what is the agreement itself
specifies which counts, not what the government says. The FTA
stipulates the setting up of a new appeals process as part of the
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The Australian Government ignores
that now, but once the agreement is ratified the United States
government can call for international mediation to force Australia to
comply. Other provision of the FTA also restrict the sale of
cheap generic drugs, which will also lead to an increase in the average
price of medicine paid by consumers. The only way to stop drug
prices rising is to ditch the FTA altogether.

Nicola Mason

The Bacon Years revisited

It had to happen. Richard Flanagan’s article on the Bacon years (Age, 22/7/04)
is yet another blessed sign that dissent is back on Tasmanian streets,
daring and undimmed from an attempted throttling after the highly
politicised carnival surrounding Jim Bacon’s memorial service.

Many, who are aghast at the government sanctioned destruction of
priceless ecology in order to fleece the pockets of woodchip
multimillionaires and institutional shareholders, have again been given
permission to be unbowed in their rage.

The shuffling line of public dental patients waiting outrageously long
periods for the most basic dental care can now speak of their anger at
Labor’s 20 million dollars of corporate welfare for the racing industry
at the last state budget, not to mention the millions in taxpayer
equity lost by Forestry Tasmania, as it hands over our forests to the
woodchip cartels.

Tasmania’s dwindling saw millers should now come out and rage over the
thousands of tonnes of whole logs that the government cuts from under
their noses to be carted and shipped to Asian customers with the now
usual minimum of jobs, and pathetic returns to State coffers.

Tasmanians can again name out loud the wrath we feel over what is the
true, and continuing legacy of the Bacon years: record woodchipping of
high conservation value forests, massive killing of native wildlife
with 1080 poison, record poker machine revenues and record amounts of
money thrown to a slippery spin machine to rival that of Tony Blair’s.

Well might new Premier Paul Lennon squirm and squeal at the Flanagan
article, because he knows that the legacy he has already amassed, will
be an even greater catalogue of horrors.

We can be glad however, that the government’s elaborate attempts at
taking us all for utter fools has been named, shamed and lies in
tatters. Dissent is alive and well on the woodchip Isle and democracy
survives another day!

Neil Cremasco

NT’s spending spree

Great work- keep it up. Strange occurrences in the NT as usual.
Mark Latham’s promises and protestations about abuse of the taxpayer’s
purse for political advantage has fallen on deaf ears in the Labor
administered Northern Territory?

The Sunday following the Euro Cup final the Labor Government of Clare
Martin threw a $20 000 party in Parliament House for Darwin’s Greek
community. Why? To watch a replay of the Euro Cup final. A vote buying
spree? Not so said the Labor Chief Minister just a reason a good reason
to have a party.

The issue of a celebration for the Greek Euro 2004 win has divided the
incredibly multi-cultural NT, with other groups asking why they did not
receive an all expenses paid party. The English win in the recent World
Rugby Cup missed out and some wag called for a celebration for all the
New South Welshmen after the State of Origin win. Hate to speculate
what that would have cost! And of course what happens if Australia
beats Greece in the Basketball at the Athens Olympics? Will the party
be to celebrate Australia’s win or to celebrate Greece’s loss?

Today the Martin Labor Government was again caught with its hand in the
taxpayers’ till trying to get political advantage. The third page of
the local paper, the Northern Territory News (no croc stories
today) had an article illustrating the Martin Government’s attempts to
re-badge taxpayer funded Government signage with the official livery of
the Australian Labor Party. Despite the remarkable similarities between
NT Government signs and the designs used by the NTALP and the ALP on
their web-site (see,
Chief Minister Clare Martin went on local radio this morning declaring
that she had no idea that this had occurred but this didn’t seem to
satisfy many locals. The similarity is too close for comfort and it is
rumoured that all of these issues are leading to an election in the NT.

This has followed an expensive advertising campaign by the Labor Chief
Minister singing the praises of her latest Budget. So much for
Chief Minister Clare Martin’s core commitment of Good Governance,
promising: “Labor will cut the waste, restricting advertising to
the promotion of legitimate government needs, not de facto political


Howard’s economic record

John Howard’s economic credibility is a sham. He has surfed the wave of
economic growth which is based on consumer spending fuelled by low
overseas interest rates that have kept our dollar high and import
prices down and inflated property values his misguided policies have

Max Walsh in The Bulletin last month referred to “Australia’s
large and chronic current account deficit and its savings-deficient and
heavily geared household sector, (which) is vulnerable to any hiccup
….”. Gerry van Wyngen writing in the current BRW said that
Australia’s deteriorating economic fundamentals are undermining the
Governments boastful claims on the economy. In evidence, he pointed to
household debt now at 140% of disposable income (USA 115%), Household
savings of -3% (USA +3%) and current account deficit of 6% of GDP (USA
5%). Van Wyngen says that our net foreign debt is only manageable
because of the temporarily low USA interest rate rates and “the results
of this complex mess will be long-lasting and its effect widespread”.

On top of all that, Howard has gone on a pre-election spending spree
which Access Economics has labelled a serious risk to future budgets
and the economy.

No amount of muckraking or warmongering can divert attention from the mess the Howard Government will leave behind.

John Kotsopoulos

A tabloid in broadsheet’s clothing

Time was once when the rivers of gold at Fairfax, and the fact that it
was owned by a newspaper family, whose main interest was news, meant
that the Sydney Morning Herald was worth reading. Not any more.

I was, however, quite struck by the difference in the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald when
down in Melbourne recently. It turned back the clock for me in the
nicest possible way, as I read articles, clearly well researched and
even well written and of interest.

It’s time that the Sydney Morning Herald stopped masquerading as a tabloid in broadsheet’s clothing and either do one way or the other. I was a confirmed Herald reader for more than 40 years, but now only buy Monday for the television program. Sooooo sad.

Penelope Toltz

AFR – thin and wrong

There is something worse about The Financial Review than Crikey’s accuracy complaint – it’s boring.

On top of the steep price, that’s why I no longer subscribe. I pick it
up in the Qantas Club or the occasional foyer, but to get me to pay
$2.50 a day, the paper has to deliver the goods day after day. Instead,
99 times out of 100, you’re getting no more than The Australian and SMH/AGE squeeze into their business sections.

The AFR‘s Rivkin/Kennedy/Richo exposure was brilliant – but what has it done since?

Tedious glossy magazine inserts to lure advertisers with inflated
readership claims don’t compensate for the lack of news in a newspaper.
It’s even light on opinion – just poor old Chanticleer carrying the

Never mind The Trading Post, Fairfax should buy Crikey, clean up its lack of attention to detail, and include it in the AFR.

A. Reader

Where are critical newspapers in Australia?

Soon it is two years since I came to Australia as permanent
resident. Compared to a small country like Switzerland, the press
in Australia looks rather uniform. While Swiss people have a broad
choice of newspapers from the extreme left to the far right, there
seems not to be anything left from the middle in Australia. All media
seem pro US coloured or is that a wrong impression? Most of the time
the cartoon is the most critical point of view of the newspaper.

Christian Hostettler

McGeough’s Allawi story

Paul McGeough’s “scoop” on Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi maybe the
story which will bring this very biased Journalist undone. His
blatant anti-American sentiments have made him an unreliable Journalist
to quite a number of readers of the SMH.

Yosi Tal

RE: The ABC’s Ultimo meltdown

This sort of thing (although usually not so catastrophic and wide
reaching) is par for the course in the ABC, what do people expect after
20 years of budget cuts? Our system is now a complex house of cards,
with legacy, piled on kludge, heaped on improvisation. That we get to
air at all, let alone as thoroughly and continuously as we do is a
tribute to the professionalism of the staff that have to work with the
stuff we’re given.


CRIKEY: Read an insider’s account of the latest Ultimo meltdown here.

Out with Kerr, in with Bray

Bring back Hilly. Nom de plume or not, I don’t trust this Kerr fellow.
Sounds like he had something to do with Gough getting the boot. If Red
Rupert bought the SMH on Sunday, 100 000 avowed Newscorp haters would
still buy the SMH Masthead on Monday. Hillary and Crikey went together
like Mao and books of quotations.


TV star or journalist?

Living in Hong Kong, I always like to keep in touch with the child-like
going ons in our media back there and the Channel 9 “crisis” has been
has been a massive issue of primary school-sized proportions.

I don’t know if he did this on purpose or if it was produced by a
writer possessing a sub-conscious brilliance, but your TV man Terry
Television wrote on July 18: “But David Gyngell, the Nine Network CEO,
denied that any changes were being planned and told The Sunday Telegraph that he had met each of the stars to tell them of his support.”

Stars? Stars, I ask you David? Is your fiancé a star or a journalist?

I would have thought Martin, Wendt and Waley were supposed to be
journos and therein could lie the problem for C9 and The Big Fella and
his desperation to turnaround the shellacking his stars masquerading as
journos (or journos who need to be stars) are copping. Maybe they would
rather be stars?

Until they all become news people again and not used in station promos
and promoted as “stars” etc they will never regain the respect of the
viewing audience.

Look back to the great TV journalists of the past, would they want to
be called “stars” by management? I would think not. And by the
way, I think you are spot on with your coverage of Eddie Everywhere and
his multiple conflicts/personalities.

Bourgeoisie Class Barry

Foreign policy and Israel’s wall

Is Iron Mark now avoiding foreign policy like the plague? Most
governments around the world would dread the kind of headline that you
get when you line yourself up with such bastions of foreign policy
independence like Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau. This
morning Australia was the only country with vague resemblance of
political impendence to line itself up with Israel and the United
States voting against the endorsement of the International Court of
Justice decision on Israel’s security barrier. The overwhelming
majority of democratic countries including both “old Europe” and “New
Europe” voted against. At 150 votes to six it was indeed a crushing
majority as the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv described it.

You would think that an Opposition Leader may wish to take advantage of
such isolation to at least question the wisdom of such a decision. The
punters may not be that interested in foreign policy, but somehow they
may prefer somewhat more substantial bedfellows than three groups of
islands in the Pacific. They may also like to line up with the majority
of the democracies. Of course Latham may be persuaded that the decision
is correct. His new shadow Defence Minister, Kim Beazley, who has been
described as pro-US and pro Israel by Crikey, may have some say in the
matter. [BTW anyone who has read Kevin Rudd’s speech to the State
Zionist Council would find it difficult to take the title of Israel’s
strongest friend away from him].

Under those circumstances Latham could have acted the statesman and
publicly endorsed Howard’s stance. He could have even exploited the
contradiction between this vote and Australia’s publicly stated view on
the subject which is virtually the same as the court’s. [Last year
Downer stated: “I’m happy with the idea of the fence, but I think the
route of the fence is provocative and unacceptable.”]

Latham is following in the footsteps of Simon Crean. Repeated calls to
the ALP last year failed to get a response on the issue of Labor’s
stance on Israel threatened assassination of Yasser Arafat. It seems as
if Iron Mark may have decided that on this issue at least he should
emulate his predecessor. So when it’s comes to the Middle East the
guiding line is no longer “don’t rock the boat” but “quick, let’s hide
the boat.”

Your Hebrew-reading media watcher