Hawker Britton and Latham’s new staff

It seems open season has been declared on Mark Latham, regardless of facts.

As (yet another) former Chief of Staff of Kim Beazley, I know I can never be accused of being a Latham groupie. Nor have do I hold a torch for commercial competitors at Hawker Britton. So let me poor some cold water on the ramblings of the correspondent who writes ever so courageously under the nom de plume “well placed Labor insider”.

Whatever your correspondent was trying to achieve, they do no service to any of the people named in their fantasy. Politics is a tough business and Mark Latham did something he did not have to do when he retained the bulk of Simon Crean’s staff.

Latham has a right to appoint his own staff and the start of a new parliamentary term is a natural time to do it. This is what he is doing, beginning with the appointment of George Thompson. The suggestion he was prompted by messrs Britton, Byres or Cooney is rubbish -particularly the insinuation about Cooney. I worked as a volunteer on the 2004 ALP Campaign with my eyes and ears open. At no time during the campaign was there was a falling out of the sort claimed between the alleged villains and others named. People had their disagreements, but not of the nature claimed.

I know Crikey can sometimes be a forum for, “would be if could be” types and other purveyors of urban myths within the village of political chatterers, but today’s piece really took the cake.

David Epstein
Former ALP flunkey, turned venal consultant

Gender issues

“So, Mark Latham is dumping the old fogies in favour of a harem of young women?”

Is this an example of the regard that Australian women, in this case, elected public officials, are held in by the writer? The article also says, “Unfortunately, politics is about the magic of perception”. How true. Is the author able to perceive of a couple of women in the same room together without immediately thinking in terms of the bedroom?

I doubt that any of the women in question think of themselves as belonging to a harem any more than the male members of the Parliament think of themselves as a rampaging horde of raping and pillaging soldiers. Women make up more than half the population of the human race. Confront the sexual stereotypes and get over it. Belittling just leads to emasculation.


Following the footsteps of Arthur Calwell

Let us all keep calm! You write:

“The 2004 election disaster for Labor resembles their 1966 disaster under Arthur Calwell. He went backwards at that election just as Mr Latham has this time. Thereafter Whitlam invoked the two term strategy, closing the gap in 1969 before winning in 1972. Latham’s mentor may well be Gough Whitlam, but he has in fact emulated Arthur Calwell”.

In fact, Arthur Calwell scored 43.1% of the 2 party-preferred vote in 1966. Latham got 47.31%, on the AEC’s latest numbers. No comparison at all there.

In 1966, the ALP went down by 4.3% on their already poor 47.4% 1963 vote to a dismal 43.1%. Latham lost 2.08% on the latest AEC numbers from 49.05% to 47.31%. A vastly different, and vastly better, outcome by any standards. Latham is more than 4% better off than Calwell was on the 2pp vote.

You should try not to stretttttcccch the facts in order to force a colourful comparison. 2004 does NOT resemble 1966 at all. Nor does Latham resemble Calwell, at all…and especially as regards age and obvious use-by-date. Calwell was a bitter 70 year old man in 1966 who had failed devastatingly in his third election as Opposition Leader. Latham is a 43 year old tyro whose first attempt has gone poorly. But only 10 months in the job perhaps guaranteed that.

It is important that election results be discussed, but as just that: RESULTS – and not by reference to some florid fictionalised version thereof.

2004 was a very disappointing result for the ALP. It was not the ‘historic’ disaster so many scribes are now presenting.

Phil Teece

Pitcairn a tabloid paradise

If only Rupert had a newspaper on Pitcairn Island. Its headline should make good reading with Randy Christian being found guilty of sex offences.

Peter S

So right on the So issue

I agree with your article about John So, but surely you could have proof-read, concentrating on the sections criticising So’s English skills. What is ‘Wanton soup’ for instance? Your linked Age article correctly spelt it ‘wonton’. Even worse was this effort “in his adpoted English language.” I understand that you have deadlines to keep, but these were weak examples of writing.

However, as you say, over the Tibetan issue itself So should (so) be voted out. If only I lived in the right part of Melbourne.

Keep up the good work.

Nicholas Latimer

Journos rebuked for So story

Maher and Kelly are too well trained as journalists (refer to the Ed note at the bottom of the screed) to prefix their rant with a cliched “I’m not a racist but….”

John So’s unforgivable sin is that he mispronounces “Rugby”? John So can’t communicate but they know full-well that JS’ lallation of “erection” means “election”? And their delicate little constitutions find mispronounciations embarrassing?

Better examples than this are required to demonstrate a lack of communication skills, or are they just depending on the caricature they have created to give weight to their argument.

What can we make of this?

We can be pedantic, nit-picking and dismissive:

Trained journos who can’t spell or use a spell checker: “adpoted”
Trained journos who don’t know how to apply the word “occidental”
These clowns criticising JS’ communication skills? haha.

Then they drag in another cliche via restaurant connection – surprised they didn’t include a “Flied Lice” gag…..

Dear me, we find ourselves in the year 2004 and still see the mockery of English skills, from both journos and public figures.

Page 3 of yesterday’s (25/10/04) age had a more insightful analysis of the issues at hand. Sad that Crikey columnists can’t offer more. Grow up, Terry Grow up, Hugo.

Peter should never have made the comments. He did and he’s paying for it.


Racist garbage by Maher and Kelly

Just one short comment for Maher and Kelly. When they are next in Hong Kong, I’ll join them, just to check if their Cantonese is as good as John So’s English.

James Hardie and Peter Macdonald’s pay day

As a former plaintiff industrial relations lawyer may I point out a few flaws in your thinking in relation to Peter Macdonald’s pay day.

On any reasonable view the adverse finding by the Commission of Inquiry would be enough to warrant instant termination without notice. Even Meredith Hellicar, the former Corrs supremo, should be able to get her head around this. Most employees having copped such a caning wouldn’t have even bothered to call back in to clear out their desk and pack away their Mont Blanc. But if Macdonald did this, it would create undue pressure on the rest of the Board. May I suggest he is one of the few former James Hardie employees to be given the option of resigning in such circumstances? I’m absolutely sure there are a number of sacked James Hardie employees who when caught lying were not treated so kindly.

Secondly, most employee option schemes have a claw back provision allowing for forfeiture of the options in the case of termination for serious misconduct. Lying to a Commission of Inquiry and bringing one’s employer into serious disrepute would be held by most courts to amount to serious misconduct and would provide grounds for forfeiture of options. If the scheme didn’t provide for this, then James Hardie should look at suing whichever firm drafted the options agreements. If the agreements did provide for forfeiture, which I suspect they do, then the Board should explain why they did not invoke this provision.

I’ll wager London to a brick that James Hardie has instantly terminated numerous employees for dishonesty and has withheld pay in lieu of notice and long service leave, yet Macdonald has been allowed to keep the lot.

Sadly, it’s weak boards like James Hardie that allow union officials to argue with a degree of justification that there are two standards of behaviour in the workplace.

Bill Watson

More asbestos victims to come

A little surprised at today’s comments that the James Hardie criticism has been done to death (so to speak). As one who has worked in the building game for 35 years and cut asbestos with a powersaw in the seventies because I was not warned of the risk, I feel that Hardie’s behaviour has been unforgivable. It has been known for years that the mesathelioma problems will not peak until around 2020, why would Hardies try to dud the victims?

If the recipients of the big payouts had any sort of moral fibre they would tip their money into the victims fund-some hope. There is one compensation though in this sordid little affair, not only the workers will be dying a particularly nasty death, drowning in their own lungs. All those yuppies who joined in the renovation boom of the last ten years are susceptible as well. When the professional people who did up their own homes start dying, then we hear some real screaming.

Humphrey Hollins.

“Sunday” on John Kerry, VVAW

Ch 9’s “Sunday” put on not a bad program about John Kerry’s Viet Nam War record and on his influential political action in VVAW to stop more useless slaughter.

Unfortunately, the program airbrushed out (1) Most of the articulate, intelligent, impassioned young Blacks and Hispanics who gave the veterans’ demonstration so much grass-roots credibility, (2) Hundreds of veterans throwing their medals back at The Congress, (3) Police beating up paraplegic Ron Kovacs (“Born on the Fourth of July”); the program gave the thoroughly false impression that all the Police in Washington were sweet and understanding, (4) All the Congressmen and Senators who kept their sons out of the military, (5) The New York and Chicago activist veterans – such as Army Lt Barry Romo who brought his nephew’s body back from Viet Nam then went to visit Ha Noi and survived the U.S. bombing raids there. Airbrushed in were a couple of prominent veterans who were none too prominent at the time; their severe shyness didn’t disappear until the whole thing was seen as a popular cause, and it was only then that they jumped on the bandwagon.

Hagiography or history? Anyway, I hope Kerry wins.

Graham Bell
(another ungrateful war veteran)

Ben Oquist is right

Why all the anti-Green rubbish in the sealed section of Crikey?

Yes, we all NOW know that there was a significant swing to the Liberals at the 2004 election, a trend that few, if any, commentators predicted. That voters left the Democrats and One Nation is not surprising, but why does Crikey continue to peddle the myth that the Greens are somehow to blame that these votes went to the Libs. After all, the Democrats and One Nation were more a breakaway from the Libs (and to a certain extent Labor).

Your “correspondent” states that… “the Greens only increased their vote by 2 per cent. [Australia wide]” This a damn sight better that what the ALP managed! (-0.21%). What more do you want? The only party to achieve a higher swing was the Liberals.

The same “correspondent” also stated… “During the campaign the electorate was continually being told how the Greens were a threat to the ALP in inner city seats such as Sydney and Grayndler – this threat never eventuated with the Greens coming third to the Libs in both electorates.”

The Greens ARE a threat to the ALP in Sydney and Grayndler (trust me, I have had ‘sleazy easy Albanese’ pleading and offering inducements for my preferences in the past).

Just look at the recent Marrickville Council results (2004):~ Greens 5 Councillors, ALP 4 Councillors, progressive independents 3 Councillors = loss of ALP control of Marrickville Council for the first time in living memory! And remember that in the previous Council (1999) the ALP only managed to gain a majority on the back of a very sleazy preference deal with the …….LIBERALS!!! The ALP tried this preference deal with the Libs again in 2004. The result this time was an outcome that saw the Greens outpoll the (now-ex) ALP Mayor in his own Ward!! Oh how the sleazy have fallen.

Still not convinced? Look at the last State election results (2003):~ Greens 28.47%, Libs 12.83%, ALP 48.40%.

The question is not IF the Greens will start to win State and Federal seets from the ALP, but WHEN.

Eeyore – a Grayndler voter

The lost election reason mystery

With all the deliberations and disections by the top journos in the country and political minders as to the reason for the loss at the election not one has come close to the sleeper of sleepers

Proposed cigarette tax increases was despised by smokers that I have spoken to over recent times – was it enough to have some smokers change their vote – you bet it was

Tad in Northern NSW

Top team advantage

What a surprise, the minute a decision goes against a top team, ie Arsenal, there’s a call for a video ref. When Arsenal played Fulham and had a penalty against them reversed, who gave a damn. and in the same breath, why was the decision against the Gunners this time, a far more dubious penalty, not reversed.

What’s my point? Well, my point is be it Man U, be it Juventus, be it the Brisbane Broncos, the decisions always favor the top clubs, and where top clubs play each other, the home team.

The footy guy

WA is in the ARU too

As a rugby player of 32 seasons mostly in Western Australia, a past chairman of the WA Rugby Union ,spectator of all the major games played in W.A.(Paying customer of course) I think your so called “sports editor” should take a short jump over a wide chasm with his report on where the new team should be based. When one takes his grand kids to rugby on Saturday morning and sees over 100 junior teams participating on one great playing field I am sure rugby is a growing sport in WA and so nutters like Roscoe should realise there is a world beyond the eastern states black stump.


Response to Max Factor’s on the Idol process

There seem to be an awful lot of (fellow) musicians with this cynical, superior attitude to the Idol circus. As if the POP charts were till now filled with the efforts of very original acts doing very original material honed over years of sweat and toil. And do the Idol winners thereafter monopolize the charts, preventing the rest of us having a go with original material. Think about it – in the last 50 years how many pop acts have been truly original? Only a handful (eg. Queen, Cold Chisel, The Cure, The Clash, Dylan, Young, …). And what have the other 11 million acts been? For God’s sakes, we are in the fucking video age, where the video and marketing machine has a large say in determining what sells. And the radio station culture openly admits it looks for material that in some way sounds ‘familiar’ – in other words songs that rip off older, better material. Idol is just facet of that system and it quite effectively forces the cream of a small batch of milk to rise to the top.

Ok, it wins no prizes for promoting serious, credible music, but then it never pretends to that dubious throne. It’s a POP contest, aimed at people who don’t analyze music to death. How many 15 year olds are interested in the social commentary of Dylan or Butler? If the show aimed to be something more serious there would be no show. These same people no doubt place faith in the endless series of ‘Battle of the Bands’ (a money making racket if ever there was one). What about something like the annual John Lennon song-writing contest? Maybe the songs that win this contest are cheating real song writers?

And for God’s sake, let’s not envy the winners who then become stars/rich? Do you begrudge the winners of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ or tattslotto for that matter? In that other money driven industry – movies – do actors have to routinely audition by reading some part placed in front of them? Are they allowed to present their original material? There are actors and there are script writers and occasionally ones who do both. Do we castigate the ones who can’t do both? Do the Idol winners have to sign contracts that say that forever and a day they will only be doing material provided to them? Even in the confines of the show contestants are allowed one night to sing whatever they like. Let’s not forget who is doing the judging – the (predominantly) youthful public, who are not able to detect good from bad when it comes to material they are hearing for the first time. Give them a familiar tune and they both enjoy it and are able to have some idea of whether the performance was good or bad. It’s not a singer-songwriter contest.

It’s not as if this contest is one where contestants are placed in front of judges who judge them by their appearance and personality and then the names of a subset are placed in a barrel and the winner is given a make-over and a recording contract and told who their managers and agents are going to be. And who exactly of you lot are saying the talent of the finalists has not been exceptional so far?

Ask any bleeding, successful artist and they will tell you it takes talent, and hard work, and luck. Idol is just providing the luck up front, for a very few (if not just one).

Gerard Rozario

Peter Fray

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