Another extra long Yoursay covering all our readers’ tsunami concerns:

Crikey, why so quiet on NGOs?

What is it with you guys? Where is the cynical yet appropriate analysis of the role of NGO’s? World Vision or otherwise.

The only conclusion I can make is that you have a blind spot in relation to World Vision and a general unwillingness to examine this whole area. Some examples:

  • Your continued failure to analyse the WV refusal to accept the gambling money (no acknowledgement that perhaps this was based on an ideological position of Tim Costello), and what does it say about the subsequent back down, even though too late, of Tim’s leadership?
  • Your pathetic response to the quite legitimate suggestion of fairly obvious political interagency partiality to who gets the funding from the cricket match.
  • Your lack on ANY analysis of the relative worth of the various agencies involved, eg. why should we support your preferred agency?
  • Still haven’t noticed your apology for getting wrong the fact of the Red Cross funding distribution for Bali. (By the way, I am not in any way related/employed by the Red Cross).

No doubt this won’t get published either as per other contributions.

Chris

Tsunami and war cause damage

USA’s Secretary of State Colin Powell and numerous other world leaders describe the tsunami damage as more horrible than any war zone they have seen. Certainly, Colin Powell knows of what he speaks.

And the USA spends US$5 billion each and every month on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq it has chosen to fight. Contrast that with Colin Powell’s speculation that USA aid may eventually approach (only) US$1 billion total. And with the US$13.6 billion for hurricane assistance, primarily in Florida, just before the November 2004 elections.

There are many natural disasters in this world – tsunami, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, droughts, disease, famine …

We seem to go out of our way to create our own disasters, damage, devastation, often leading to or exacerbating natural disasters. Such a waste of time, money, resources, and lives!

Imagine what a different place this world could be if we invested as much on positive support and prevention as we spend on arms and wars!

Judy Bamberger
O’Connor ACT

ASA’s lack of ethical responsibility and corporate compassion

The deputy chairperson of the Australian Shareholders Association’s asinine remarks late last week that public companies should not be donating money to the various Tsunami Appeals unless they have shareholder approval was as The Age editorial characterised it, “mean spirited”.

Not only that it was downright offensive and uncalled for it was at best – a pettifogging, smart-arsed, contrarian contribution, and at worst, a callous and calculated attack on ethical responsibility and corporate compassion.

Who would want to join an organization with office bearers so out of tune with public sentiment?

However, what is even more remarkable is the mealy mouthed clarification posted on the ASA website after the public reaction to the Deputy Chairman’s comments by the Chief Executive Officer and I reproduce those comments in full:

“Contrary to a recent report, in which the ASA’s Deputy Chairman was selectively quoted, the ASA is not opposed to corporations making donations to assist the victims of the Tsunami. It is in everyone’s interest that the affected communities and economies recover as soon as possible.

Obviously, as with individuals, it is a matter for corporations to determine the extent of the assistance that will be provided. As these donations are a distribution of shareholders’ funds, the companies should publicly disclose the amount and recipients so shareholders are kept informed.”

Notice the capacity the ASA has for spin doctoring for all of a sudden the Deputy Chairman has been “selectively quoted”. The radio grab on ABC of his remarks was quite extensive and the deputy Chairman maintained a consistent approach – no shareholder approval – no dough! Now according to the ASA’s CEO all that it wants is that shareholders be kept informed of any distributions. In one sense that is welcomed but what a pissweak effort from an influential lobby group and I have no doubt there will be more where that came from if that is the best they can do by way of clarification.

Henrie Ellis

Tsunami donation and the ASA’s strange behaviour

It was with some surprise that I heard a spokesman (Stephen Matthews) for the Australian Shareholders Association (ASA) objecting to large corporates making donations to the various appeals for the tsunami victims on ABC radio 702 news this morning. I had always been under the impression that the ASA believed in corporate reform including making listed companies better corporate citizens. I would have thought that being philanthropic in the current situation would have been a sign of good citizenship but according to Mr Matthews companies should not donate unless there is a direct benefit to the company such as they being directly involved in business in an affected area.

It is interesting to note that in a SMH article the president of the ASA tried to play down the issue but in my mind the damage had already been done. Knowing that Crikey is also a bit of a corporate activist and has taken the opposing view to the ASA through its monitoring of the level of corporate donations it would be interesting to see this stance from the ASA explored further.

I would appear that the ASA has shown its true colours in this debate – profit before anything else. It would not appear that they are going to be a supporter of corporations getting a social conscience or things like triple bottom line reporting.

Keep up the good work Crikey.

David
Gosford, NSW

Union tsunami donations

A few days ago you asked the question “what are Australian Unions doing for the tsunami appeal?” However, the Australian union movement is doing something, both as individual unions and through APHEDA – Union Aid abroad. http://www.apheda.org.au/ where it appears APHEDA’s work will focus on the areas that have been most ravaged by on going civil war.

We could hardly expect the Howard government or the mainstream media to come out patting the union movement on the back for this appeal.

I, along with many other union supporters and members would be grateful if you provided this information given that you specifically asked the question.

I would personally see it very remiss of you to pose the question “by the way, what are the unions doing” in a way to make unions seem heartless or lazy, and then not inform your readers of the union movements activities. Especially given all the relevant information has been sent to you with out requiring any research yourself.

The union movement cops enough crap as it is from the mainstream media. I would hate to see Crikey merely following the popular tide with blind union-bashing.

“White collar unionist”

My donation’s bigger than yours

I’ve just read the latest Crikey and am appalled at the publication of the list of tsunami aid donors and the amounts they’ve donated. This epitomises the egregious mix of parochialism (aren’t Aussies generous?) insecurity (oh my god, we’d better make sure everyone knows what we’re doing!) and self-righteousness (look, everybody – how good we are!) that seem to be the key traits of present-day Australian-ness. I’m a Crikey subscriber – did I make a donation? Mind your own damned business! By all means publicise the donations of government and business whether they like it or not, but to encourage such insensitive and egotistical trumpet-blowing by individuals is disgraceful.

Steve Halliwell

How to really help the tsunami relief efforts

I retired after nigh-on 30 years in government emergency response and disaster relief, rising to the dizzy heights of Vice-Chairman of a UN committee. I am alarmed that some of the proposals being put forward to help in tsunami relief efforts may be counter -productive.

Disaster relief is a strange business. Never does the media do more to twist our emotions into doing strange things than when it presents heart-wrenching images of the distressed victims of some natural disaster. Never are we, being only human, provoked into doing what appears to be helpful but in reality is downright stupid. I watched quietly with growing uneasiness while the media showed the scope of the disaster and Australia’s response, but eventually some proposed aid measures have prompted me to speak.

So, to begin at the beginning: let us ask ourselves: “just who are we trying to help?” Is it the poor people in Asia, or are we really trying to make us feel good while at the same time relieving our guilt in living in such a wealthy country so close to so many poor people? If we are into “feel-good” aid, we will provide things that have no relationship to the needs of the victims. Consider:

  • There are already calls to donate teddy-bears to the child victims. Some people really think that by taking up critical cargo space to send teddy-bears to starving children who have no cultural familiarity with teddy-bears will somehow help.
  • Some well-meaning people are collecting tinned food. So once again critical cargo space is supposed to be taken up by awkward boxes of tins to be given to people who cannot read the labels and who have some discomfort with eating unfamiliar food. And, Asia does have plenty of food, just not in the right place right now.
  • Some well-meaning publications, even Crikey it seems, are advocating the sending of construction workers to the area. Now, one thing that Asia does have is plenty of skilled people. So do we really want to spend a fortune on air fares to send “resource-intensive” workers to an area where the locals are capable of doing the necessary work and need jobs?

So instead of floating some crackpot schemes amongst ourselves, why not listen to the experts who are on the spot right now? The aid agencies, (Red Cross, Care, Unicef, etc) are experts, they are there, and they know what is needed. Right now, they are calling for money, the thing that is most lacking and will do the most good.

Yes, donating money does not feel as good as donating teddy-bears, but it is the uncomfortable truth that money, and lots of it, is what is needed, and now, this minute. Give until it hurts.. Give until you go without meals.. Give until it makes you weep. The more pain at this end, the more good at the receiving end.

Eventually, we will move from disaster relief mode into reconstruction mode, and that will be at the same time as the media moves onto the next big story. Just when more money will be needed. Just when the aid agencies are calling. Will you listen to the experts then?

Ken McLeod

Howard’s billion dollar pledge

Clearly, in Crikey’s eyes, Howard can do nothing right. How sad that your absolutely cynical, puerile prejudice blinds you from even beginning to consider the bigger picture. No, you’re just going to let fly with your clever little sarcastic shots, congratulating yourself on your pontificating, how your incisive-in-your-own-lunchtime wit will really, really tickle your readers’ fancy. Where’s the assessment on Howard’s move possibly just having a touch of the humanitarian about it? Where’s the analysis of a possible strategic masterstroke in Australian Indonesian relationships, to say nothing of the wider Asian community? I subscribe to Crikey because I want to see incisive journalism and inside stories, things that Crikey can be proud of. If I want to read clever adolescent cant I’ll subscribe to some left wing uni student rag.

John Devaney

PS Disclosure: I’m Cairns Branch Secretary of the Liberal Party (QLD Division) but clearly, the views expressed above are completely my own and not authorised in any way by, for or on behalf of the Party.

Howard usurps the GG again

John Devaney should take a cold shower. First, Howard did the right thing in going to Jakarta and handing out the billion big ones – and congratulations to Downer for being in the tick of things. However, Howard has again usurped the role of the faux head of state. Jeffery has been in isolated splendour at Admiralty House and appeared for a brief media show on Tuesday. He should be addressing the nation on Sunday, he should be announcing days of prayer and wearing wattle. Howard can’t get his head around the fact that he represents just a tad more than half of the population – Jeffrey should represent us all. Another Howard blunder, which is showing his true colours, is his decision to worship with Christians, Buddhists and Hindus – not a mention of Muslims.

The prime minister could make himself a real hero by pulling the troops out of Iraq and deploying them for relief work in our own region. The Americans have stuffed up big time in Iraq and any Australian politician worth his salt would be using any excuse possible to get out.

Barry Everingham

No censure for Bishop’s brother Jensen

Please congratulate “Outside Centre”. How right he is. Phillip Jensen is a disgrace to the cloth he should wear, because he very rarely does!!! My opinion is that, being the brother to the Bishop, his appointment to the position of Dean should never have been allowed. That is why he has not been censured. Those that sanctioned his appointment would not wish to be seen as having made a botch of it. What boss ever admits that he has made a boo boo with an appointment? Only those that have the courage of their convictions and, it seems to me, that churchmen are no different to anyone else. They are careful to “not rock the boat” in case their own promotion is threatened. They all make me sick.

Liz

CRIKEY: Read Outside Centre’s column here – Anglican Church – out of touch and hope?

Phillip Jensen’s comments

Outside Centre is being a little harsh on Phillip Jensen of the Anglican Church and I would’ve thought you’d have seen enough of the recent media to see why.

I too was outraged by Jensen’s reported comments in The Sunday Tele (and trust me, I am no friend of any organised religion, particularly organised and traditional Christianity), however, the comment attributed to Jensen seemed too stupid to be true, even for him.

Sure enough, in his letter to The Australian on Thursday he was got his chance to explain himself. Seems he was royally shafted by The Sunday Tele reporter/subs/both, and the ever-so-keen-to-kick-a-pompous-church-leader media in this country picked up the story and ran with it, without so much as a phone call to check that he’d been correctly quoted.

I suggest you provide a link to the letter in the interests of fairness just to show that there really are two sides to every story. If his letter is to be believed, he pleaded with the reporter to steer clear of the line of questioning at such an early stage after the tragedy.

On the other hand, at no stage in the letter did he deny they quote, albeit that he claimed it was completely out of context. Of course, an experience campaigner such has he should’ve realised that the best way to avoid saying anything to hostile questioning is the phrase, “No comment’’.

That said, given the choice between The SunTele’s original report and the explanation offered in The Oz, the balance of probability must surely still lie with Jensen. It gives me no joy to write this, but I now believe he was indeed set up, even though his comments suited all my prejudices against his form of Christianity.

Keep up the good work

Waldo the Juggler

CRIKEY: Unfortunately The Australian only publishes its letters on the website for a day, so the Jensen letter is no longer available online. However, a helpful subscriber has pointed out that Jensen’s letter is available on the Sydney Anglicans’ website.

Jensenite Anglicanism

I cannot think of a more miserable belief system than that of Jensenite Anglicanism. Twenty years ago at NSW University, a one Mr Phillip Jensen verbally abused me and my Catholic faith at a public lecture. On reflection, this is now one of the proudest moments of my life. Shows nothing much has changed in 20 years.

Elias Nasser

Tsunami and the Indonesian military

In light of your recent article on the abuse of aid by the military, you might be interested in this interview on ZNet.

One paragraph reads:

There’s been a tremendous outpouring from the public; all over the world people are giving donations. But most of these donations are being channeled through the UN agencies or through the big mainstream charities. There’s a major problem. Those agencies and charities all have contracts with the Indonesian government, contracts which oblige them to either channel funds through the government or work in concert with the government, which means that government officials and army officers can steal the aid, and there are already indications that this is happening. And even that aid which is not stolen may be used in a way to consolidate military control over the population.

Among other things it points out some of the drawbacks of donating via the UN and other major charities (something I have already done, and am beginning to regret). Some alternatives are given in the article, but in the longer term perhaps charities should endeavour to be more transparent in their arrangements with governments?

Nick

No Walkleys for Aussie journos in Aceh

Thank you very much for publishing Troy McLure’s report “Rampant Corruption in Aceh”.

I hereby nominate whole Australian news media for the Nelson’s Telescope Medal in the 2005 Non-Walkley Awards. Hands down winners! Did these nong-nong journalists and their screen-jockey bosses really think they were helping the victims of the tsunami by failing to report rorts, rip-offs, corruption and the like?

Troy McLure was wrong on one point though: John Howard is not a winner at all in this. Howard got away his Iraq blunder for the moment but his naive reaction to the tsunami disaster shows he is now on the way out.

Graham Bell
(another one of those ungrateful veterans)

Portraying the poor in tsunami photos

For me, the real standout issue in the coverage is the ubiquity of the swarming-mass-of-poor-brown-people-with-begging-hands-out genre of photo.

I swear that every major newspaper runs several of these every day. Maybe I’m overly suspicious and maybe it’s an appropriate image for “survivors welcome arrival of aid” story – but I really feel like the ubiquity of the various forms of this picture has gone beyond this. And I spend enough of my life with true blue Aussie types (as opposed to latte-swillers like myself) to know just what these photos would be saying to plenty of readers.

What do you reckon?

Richard

Fox’s flawed global perspective

Was reading this article – How Does U.S. Aid Stack Up? – with Bill O’Reilly on Fox and here are some of Bills Comments:

  1. America is giving $350 million which shows, “I think our duty here is to let the folks know that we are the most generous nation on earth”.
  2. Japan gives $500 million which shows “Obviously, Japan trying to reassert itself as a power in Asia”.
  3. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait $10 million each, “Again, we don’t see a large outpouring of generosity from the Muslim world, do we?”

Now there is no doubt America does it’s share of contributions, but how does the Tsunami catastrophe become an excuse for nationalistic back slapping, while sinking the boots in to other countries for their contributions, and even questioning Japans motives.

Fox News and O’Reilly again show that a conservative version of national pride comes first, sinking the boots into countries who didn’t support the War In Iraq second, and News somewhere after that.

Jon Grear
(Victor Harbor SA)

Humour swept away

Was it because of the Xmas break, a rash of worldwide political correctness, or the sheer scale of the Tsunami that – apart from a pale attempt at fake photographs of the waves – we are yet to see much by way of humour or irony.

Or has the Global Joke Factory gone out of business? Is it all too serious now? And before the wet blankets out there shoot me down, I would add that humour – tasteless and otherwise – is often a good means of dealing with stress and shock, and of helping people come to terms with something that is, as the ineffectual Kofi Annan said, is the biggest natural disaster we have ever confronted in our lifetimes.

Crikey readers will recall that within a day of September 11, the Space Shuttle and a host of other major catastrophes, the doctored photos, the hoax emails, and the plain old boom-tish tasteless jokes were zapping their way around the world’s computer networks.

Meantime, though, at least The Age seems to have a sense of humour. Check out the Home Page of theage.com.au, where you can read about:

  • Surving the Tsunami
  • Wave of Destruction
  • Driving Tips
  • Melbourne to Hobart

Apart from suggesting a novel way of dealing with a Tsunam, do those all-knowing Melburnian hacks in black know something we don’t?

Spike the Night Editor

Satirical travel book, not so funny now

In light of the recent events in South Asia, does anyone know if that sneering, little racist book “Phaic Tan” will be pulped?

After their smug jokes mocking those too poor to live in any but the most low-lying areas of their “fictional” country [see their website], I wonder how well Cilauro, Gleisner and Sitch have been sleeping this past couple of weeks?

Michael Bell [ex-subscriber]