Comments on everything from television coverage following the disaster, to donations, refugees and Ray Martin’s dash to the disaster zone.
Unprepared journos sent to disaster zone

A friend of mine knows one of the journalists you mentioned as being based in one of the major disaster-hit areas.

Having heard about how she was notified to get organised for her trip to Phuket (at very short notice of course), I’m amazed at the lack of preparedness for such a disaster by her employer. She does not seem to have any vaccinations against any of the more common diseases including Hepatitis and the trauma must be enormous. Do these people get paid enough for this type of work?

It would be interesting to hear an unbiased story of what these journalists have to go through in order to do their job and the risks associated with being a journalist, cameraperson etc. in this situation. I fear for their safety. It takes a lot of courage to fly into a disaster area knowing that disease is about to break out and the infrastructure is destroyed. And I guess the consequence of saying ‘no, I’m not going over there’ would mean the end of their career.

It would be an interesting topic for your emails and website and feedback from anyone who has had to endure and recover from such a trip would be intriguing.

All the best for 2005.

Portland Victoria

SBS’s great tsunami coverage

I don’t know why Terry Television is so surprised at SBS news being good, they consistently are the best news service in Australia. Their tsunami coverage on Boxing Day was only to be expected. We sat around on the 27th with a bunch of overseas friends and found the commercial coverage to be cringemaking (and downright embarrassing). Quite obviously the cricket was far more important to the programmers. Which is only to be expected…

I have an idea for a reality TV series: Rebuild luxury Asian resort. You get a number of teams spread anywhere from the Maldives to Phuket, AUSAID funding, a bunch of photogenic locals, and it’s a feel-good ratings winner. And good for the hapless tsunami nations.

Re the arts comments. Small wonder NZ is doing so well when the PM also happens to be minister for the Arts. NZ is following the Ireland model, while we, er, are following the dumbed-down US model. And we’ll end up the poorer for it in the long run. Don’t get me started – why are Australian classic novels out of print, why does our PM go to cricket rather than Science awards? Why does Kerry Packer not let his son go to uni? Etc etc.


SBS’s decision to switch off

I note that Terry Television has given praise where due to SBS for their coverage of the Tsunami on Boxing Day evening, where all the other networks continued their normal programming.

However, given the magnitude of the unfolding disaster, and the fact it is in our close proximity, why did the boffins at SBS still decide to close programming abruptly and without warning at 1.35am? Did they run out of coins for the transmitter or was it a case of “disaster or not, I’m off for extra pudding” ?

So while it is admirable that they had switched coverage to the BBC, at what disaster level would SBS continue broadcasting throughout the night? If we are to assume that the switch to the BBC was due to the importance of events to the Australian audience, why on earth did it become not important at 1.35am?

Kind regards for the season.

Adam Kibel

Tsunami coverage

Warning….Warning…. It’s official, the journos are starting to get bored. Let’s face it they only have the attention span of a monkey. Channel 7 have now started to refer to “Ground Zero” in their Aceh coverage. Thankyou players, thankyou ball boys.

Fox coverage

I too channel surfed the News Channels and could not believe Fox coverage – more like non-coverage. How far up the Fox chain of command would a decision on coverage be made? Was this a racist decision ? good work


Natural disasters and the media affect

Few commentators are pointing out that China has suffered far larger catastrophes (flood and earthquake – not counting the Great Leap fwd here) in the late twentieth century. But with no TV cameras there – well it didn’t really happen.

It was also interesting to note the collapse of logic in the face of an emotive media. Day one and the reason why there is no warning service (once in a hundred year phenomenon, high cost, no infrastructure to utilise warnings, no warning comprehensive system in the Atlantic) was championed and explained patiently to the media. Day two and three this was chucked after constant calls that America (the great devil) had organised a warning service (because the US and Japan suffered at the hands of regular Tsunamis). They are now talking about having a group of experts sitting by the phone waiting for the once in a hundred year phone call – with no one to tell once they know what will happen.

The idea that the limited expertise and monetary resources of these countries might be better spent on water, power and telephony in these areas has just sailed through to the keeper.


On the ground in Thailand

Accountant Glen here. Not sure what news is getting through back there. I assume it is 911 overload type stuff. But I can say from life here in Thailand, that if you were nowhere near a beach, life is going on pretty much as normal.

The scale of the tragedy beggars belief. 100 000 people dead is something I struggle to comprehend. I hope our country is doing it’s part in helping countries such as Thailand.

Not sure what our glorious leader (the little man) is doing in all this. Asia/Pacific is your patch Johnny, isn’t it? Funny how the tragedy of 100 000 dead Iraqis fails to get same coverage. I suppose there is no oil in Asia.

Staying safe on Samet (the other side of Thailand).

Glen Parkes

The tsunami refugee question

The suggestion that Australia should take in tens of thousands of refugees from the Tsunami is not sensible. Foreign aid is a much more effective solution. We can help more people for the same cost if we given aid money rather than taking in refugees. Let’s not use the Tsunami as an excuse to push the refugee barrow. Let’s concentrate on helping the victims.


Muslim tsunami donations

Notice from the media that it is mainly the western, Christian countries providing most of the aid to tsunami victims. Now Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim nation. I am curious as to what aid the super rich middle eastern oil states have provided to help the suffering of their religious brethren?

Apple’s tsunami donations page

Interesting that Apple Computer have replaced their normal web start page with a request for donations. Are there other examples of socially aware companies out there?

The banks’ tsunami donations

Interesting you should mention the big four banks and donations to the Tsunami disaster. Considering the billions in profit they make, their donations are pretty ordinary. According to The Age, ANZ Bank donated $200,000 and has matched $60,000 of staff donations. National Australia Bank has donated $100,000 and the time of call centre staff to man donation hotlines. Westpac has donated $100,000 and is matching staff donations. The Commonwealth Bank has donated $250,000 and is allowing customers to donate credit card loyalty points to World Vision and has waived fees for customers transferring funds to family members in affected areas.

Compare this to the smaller banks and organisations like those listed in this Age story, including Woolworths ($500,000), St George Bank ($300,000), RACV ($250,000), Australia Post ($250,000 plus use of a cargo jet), Bendigo Bank ($210,000), and Foster’s Group ($100,000). And even individuals like Dick Pratt who has given $1m (for starters).

The NAB made $3.2 billion last year. I think they can do better than $100,000. The Commonwealth made $2.5 billion. I think they can do better than $250,000. ANZ made $2.8 billion. I think they can do better than $200,000. Westpac made $2.5 billion. I think they can do better than $100,000.

Qantas makes $400-500m profit and has given $1m. That’s a quarter of a percent of their yearly profit. A lot healthier than NAB’s 0.003%.

Of course we all appreciate what they are doing, and they are putting in more than just the (little bit of) cash. I just think they can do better.


Silence and stoicism from Burma

One of your subscribers asked about the lack of info on Myanmar. The Guardian‘s Indian Ocean Tsunami Country Guide provides some information.

We lived in Burma (as it then was) from 1985-88 and were lucky enough to able to get down the western coast to Moulmein and Ye. From what we saw there was not such concentrated habitation as (say) Malaysia’s or Thailand’s coasts. However the infrastructure was substantially behind either of those two countries. One village we saw right on the coast just north of Ye was real Middle Ages stuff – mud huts and cooking on open charcoal fires. It wouldn’t have a chance. The most hard hit region is most likely the Irrwadday delta region which was more populated. I think it is the case that governments have to request international aid and it is not surprising that the ruling junta hasn’t.


Tsunami death toll censorship

I have been wondering why we haven’t seen many references to the so called unaccounted Australians in Thailand in particular. DFAT talks about 5000 Australians out of contact and 1000 who could have been in the effect areas. I haven’t seen or read of many stories of people back here looking or wondering what happened to loved ones. Do you think that major news agencies are keeping the lid on these sort of stories? If a 1000 or more Australians holidaying in Thailand are dead or believed dead by the government because of the boxing day tsunami then I wonder if some sort of informal censorship is taking place? After the Bali bomb blast’s we had a lot of stories about families looking for bodies and remains of loved ones. This time it all seems very quite on the family home front.

Also has anyone seen Mark Latham over the last few days?

Joseph Mahon
Crikey Life Member

Tsunami observations and the Indonesian army

As a relatively average observer without the benefit of enlightened advice, I thought you may be able to provide answers to two questions that have been unanswered as far as I can see:

Firstly, the media are reporting the human situation as far as Australians are concerned in two ways; the number missing and the number unaccounted for. What’s the difference? Surely, if you’re missing you’re unaccounted for! Is this another DFAT way of breaking us in gently, as per your previous observations?

Secondly, why are we sending helicopters to Indonesia when they are reputed to have the third largest military force in the World, already supported by considerable Australian aid provided over many years? From an outsider’s point of view, wouldn’t they be better deployed in other more needy areas such as Sri Lanka or the Maldives?

Keep up your good work and regards

Ray Martin the show man

I was appalled at Ray Martin’s closing comments after the “special” talking of the Asia disaster, last night. He said words to the effect, as he smiled, “hoped you enjoyed the show!” Smiling was not the time or place, “Hoping We Enjoy the Show” was both callous and thoughtless for the thousands of relatives watching hoping to glimpse the sight of a loved one, perhaps “missing to them” in the crowds!!! He spoke as he normally does, when closing his TV Chat Show. This particular subject was not a chat show! and should have been treated with more respect and consideration. I found the “show” quite distressing and could not watch it ongoing, least of all “enjoying it, as he alone smiled!

Mary Walsh

Ray the compassionate

Further to your story about Ray in Aceh. I note that he gave a lift to some poor unfortunate local back to where he expected to have no family or house. Ray achieved what he, no doubt, set out to do when the person broke down in tears and Ray put his arm around the grieving person for the cameras. Mission accomplished and very tacky television for Channel Nine.

Jeff Woodhart

Ray’s hair

How offensive was that false grin from the guru after each break? Sickening really! The earlier reporters were doing better- all power to them. By the way, wasn’t it obvious that Ray didn’t have his hairdresser with him to colour his greying hair?


Ray’s history of disaster dashes

Being parachuted into a story is nothing new for Ray Martin. Remember the Thredbo disaster? Nine sent Ray in on the ground and Seven had Anne Sanders there as well. Shortly after Princess Diana was killed and the respective stations rapidly deployed the pair to London to add an Australian touch to the reporting of the funeral.

While they were there Mother Therasa died and The Sydney Morning Herald kindly published the brief letter I wrote, “Who’ll be first to Calcutta? Ray or Anne?” Mike Carlton, then on afternoon drive time made much of it during his session that day “Did you see this great letter . . . “. Also, by coincidence my son was working at Seven at the time and he reported that a very much magnified A3 photocopy went up in the tea room to the great amusement of those obliged to grovel at the feet of the stars.


Peter Fray

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