Richard Hurford (a government lawyer) writes: Just a point about the proposed changes to our cross media laws. Up til now, these restrictive laws have been the province of the Commonwealth Parliament because under the Commonwealth Constitution that Parliament has power over “postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and other like services” [basically electronic media – radio and TV] (section 51 (v)). It does not have powers to make laws about the ownership of newspapers as such. There are no newspaper licences like there are Commonwealth broadcasting licences. Newspapers are only subject to State laws. (This is now getting complicated by internet publishing, but we will leave that out of the equation for the moment). This means the cross media laws say something to the effect of: “A person must not own a radio or TV station if the person also owns a newspaper in the same market”. Notice that it is the ownership of the radio or TV station that is the subject of the laws. Why bring this up? Because it means it is still open to State Parliaments to control ownership of newspapers. They can attack the problem from the other end. Invert the law to say: “A person must not own a newspaper circulating widely in this State if person also owns a radio or TV station in this State.” But will the Labor Governments take on the Murdoch and Packer empires? I doubt it.

Alex Neuman writes: Re. “The crucial questions Joanne Lees fails to answer” (yesterday, item 2). Can I say I absolutely loathe Robin Bowles’s piece on Joanne Lees – it’s a study in how to generate sales for a book that completely sensationalises a tragic event. It’s easy to pose a set of completely irrelevant questions to suggest guilt on another person’s part. In politics it’s called push polling! This is not journalism; it’s marketing.

Peter Nicholson writes: I’m a big fan of Crikey but you’re honestly close to losing me with the attacks on Joanne Lees. Robin Bowles raises a lot of questions that Joanne Lees probably can’t, or shouldn’t need to, answer. Why should she have to tell you or me about why she and her boyfriend had “a blazing row”? And what’s her brief affair with another man got to do with being kidnapped in the desert? She’s not charged with anything and is helping out as a witness. You shouldn’t be giving oxygen to writers such as Robin Bowles, but rather keep the information and commentary coming on important and contentious issues.

Cathy Bannister writes: Robin Bowles raises many questions that she would like Joanne Lees to answer. It was quite obvious from Bowles’s book Dead Heart that she was biased against Lees from the outset, and the questions reveal this. The rumour, for instance, that Falconio would sell duty-free alcohol and cigarettes to his friends originates with Richard Shears of the London tabloid Daily Mail, and author of Bloodstain: The Vanishing of Peter Falconio. Most of the statements attacking Falconio’s character, including implications that Falconio had shown interest in insurance scams, come from one anonymous source, and have not been confirmed by any other journalist. Shears had already been caught out embellishing his work – in his first article back to the Daily Mail he printed, as truth, an completely fictional description of Lees scrambling through the bushes with her hands and knees bound, which he attributed to Lees herself. Lees at that stage hadn’t spoken about her ordeal publicly. A question for Bowles and Shears: how do they propose that that smear of blood got onto the back of Lees’s shirt? The blood was sequenced long before Murdoch was a suspect, which means that there is no way it could have been planted.

Anthony Lane writes: I am moved to write to complain about the inclusion of the piece about Joanne Lees in yesterday’s bulletin by Robin Bowles. It is rubbish and offensive for the same reason that Ninemsn’s poll on the topic was offensive and replaced quick smart. Murdoch was convicted of murder, beyond any reasonable doubt. The questions extracted below are some of the more ridiculous ones to pose and I do not believe they ought to be given credence via publication by Crikey. Should Bowles’s contribution have passed muster at Crikey’s editorial table? I expect better from Crikey.

Barbara Harland writes: I subscribe to Crikey to get an alternative view on issues. I found Robin Bowles’s questions to Joanne Lees to be impossible to finish reading. Why is it so necessary for female crime victims to furnish proof of their virtue; must they behave in a certain stereotypical way in order for them to receive a fair hearing as crime victims (think Lindy Chamberlain as well as many rape victims)? Do you have nostalgia for witch burning, Robin Bowles?

Robert Hughes writes: Re. “News content is determined by journalists not proprietors: D Flint” (yesterday, item 16). It’s unbelievable that David Flint thinks that Mr Murdoch and other media proprietors don’t influence what is written in their newspapers or is broadcast on their television channels. You just have to look at the consistent line the Murdoch papers have run on the Iraq War and Global Warming to see that that is a nonsense. A proprietor doesn’t have to tell his journalists what to write each day to determine what appears in a newspaper, as the good professor implies. Editors and journalists, like all the rest of us who have worked in the public sector, know what the company line is and what they have to do to climb the greasy pole. Taking an editorial line in conflict with the proprietor’s views would be a brave decision, as Sir Humphrey might say.

Luke O’Dwyer writes: I agree with David Flint where he says “The idea that he [Rupert Murdoch] determines what appears in, say, The Australian, is preposterous. If he does, he must do this for every newspaper he owns. Now he does work hard – but he is not a superman.” He only has to determine what doesn’t appear in any of his papers. And while Superman fought “the never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way”, I only see Rupert’s media fighting for one of these things.

Anthony Baxter writes: So in David Flint’s world, the real problem is that the ABC and journalists still show the occasional piece of spine and that there are still local content rules in the media? In addition, he appears to oppose any form of regulation of what the media corporations do with the public airwaves which they have been allowed to use. Can I just thank whichever gods are listening that this man is not still the head of our broadcasting authority?

Dereq writes: Independent communications expert Paul Budde wrote yesterday (item 22): “Telstra says it’s been listening to its customers. But I haven’t heard any of them asking for yet another mobile network. Customers are not asking but screaming for better fixed broadband services.” It may be true that you haven’t heard any of them asking for NextG but rest assured that such customers (or, more accurately, would-be customers) exist. I live in regional Australia and I have no terrestrial broadband options. NextG will be my first such option. I welcome the arrival of this new network and I have been badgering my local Telstra Country Wide office for some years. So there! I’m sure that those who already have access to broadband are asking for “better, cheaper, faster” but spare a thought for those who have no broadband at all.

Sonja Davie writes: Re. “If shareholders don’t control the company, who does?” (yesterday, item 15). A company is a legal entity with its own rights and interests so the answer to Charles Richardson’s question is that the directors control the company, on behalf of the shareholders but also on behalf of the company itself. They do this within a legal, ethical and financial framework the basic principles of which have been articulated by the ASX Corporate Governance Council. The situation resembles a parent-child relationship rather than a democracy. A conflict between a company and its shareholders exists, for example, when it comes to paying dividends. Directors must balance the shareholders’ desire for a large dividend with the company’s need to retain working capital. Telstra is an example where shareholders are not necessarily interested in the long-term profitability of the company. This is where independent directors come in.

Julian McLaren writes: Charles Richardson’s article regarding Telstra is spot on. Jack Bogle’s recent book, The Battle For the Soul of Capitalism decries the move from “Owners Capitalism” to “Managers Capitalism” whereby Managers are attempting to take the reward of shareholders’ capital. This is no more obvious than the Telstra Senior Management advising that they did not approve of Cousins as a board member despite his nomination by the largest shareholder. Very sad indeed.

Darren Schwartz writes: Re. “Does Israel’s “right to exist” actually exist?” (yesterday, item 12). This article does make a very good point about recognition of a state’s right to exist but in my opinion, Scott oversimplifies some points. I don’t think Johnny Howard or anyone else thinks “that if only Israel’s enemies acknowledged its legitimacy, and issued formal statements acknowledging its ‘right to exist’, peace in the region would be found.” If Hamas, for example, recognised Israel’s right to exist, aid and money and all the other things that have been withheld since Hamas’s election would flow. In other words, recognition would be a step that could possibly restart negotiations. Similarly, Scott implies that mainstream opinion in Israel is that the Palestinians have no right to a state. This is patently untrue. Certainly fringe elements have worked for a “Greater Israel” but mainstream politics in Israel has always assumed a multistate solution since 1948. Even if you argue with that assertion, consider what was offered in 1996 by Ehud Barak; virtually all the occupied territories and part of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. The “right to exist” point is well made as a semantic point. The rest of the article misses the mark.

Alex Lubansky writes: Yesterday, Antony Loewenstein (item 11) wrote another of his religious sermons preaching “the truth”. As is typically the case with Loewenstein’s articles, this “truth” was a one sided criticism of Israeli and American Governmental policy without so much as a hint of the real situation they face from some sectors of the Palestinian people. This “truth” tends to be repeating the opinions and beliefs of his mates and colleagues. The truth is (and by truth I mean my opinion) that the situation in the Middle East is complex, there is blame on all sides, victimhood on all sides, and, frequently, justification on all sides. To write on Israel’s blockade of the Gaza without mentioning Gilad Shalit or Qassam rockets leaves a somewhat distorted view of the situation. Similarly the alleged undermining of the Hamas Government (much as Loewenstein himself would happily do to the Howard or Bush administrations if he had the power) seems to miss some important points regarding acceptance of Israel and renouncing violence. Things that most of the political players see as necessary for Hamas actually to be a potential partner for peace. Given that Loewenstein has previously spoken in favour of boycotts, surely he must appreciate Hamas being boycotted if they won’t renounce violence.

Lionel Kowal writes: You are not clever to use Loewenstein for Middle East comments. He suits an undergrad rag with an uncritical anti-Israel/-Semitic audience, all the more eager and willing to hear it from a Jew, not a “serious” publication.

Grant Ye writes: Why is it that Antony Loewenstein continues to ignore the rockets that have been fired daily from Gaza into Israel? Why shouldn’t Israel try to “undermine” the Hamas government? An organisation whose charter calls for Israel to be destroyed and which calls anyone who even suggests peace with Israel to be branded a blasphemer! The truth about Antony Loewenstein is that his “truths” are very distorted. As for Scott Burchill questioning the concept of “Right to exist” – Israel DOES recognise the right of a Palestinian state to exist – just not at its own expense. It does recognise Syria and Iran (and would love peaceful relations if either country wanted the same). When countries or organisations have called many times over for its destruction, why is it unreasonable for Israel to require recognition of its very existence and its right to continue existing as the starting point for discussions. If Hamas, Syria, Iran, et al cannot even recognise this then what is there to discuss? The real question is “Does the truth have a right to exist?”.

John Richardson writes: While most might not like the idea of North Korea having a nuclear weapons capability, shouldn’t we be just as worried about India and Pakistan, both non-signatories to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty? And what of Israel, America’s middle-east surrogate, which won’t even acknowledge the existence of its estimated nuclear arsenal of 200 warheads? The reckless and criminal behaviour by the US, Great Britain and Australia, in mounting an illegal war of aggression against Iraq, along with their threatening posture toward North Korea, Iran and Syria (in hypocritical contrast to their attitude toward India, Pakistan and Israel), sends a pretty powerful message to any nation not willing to submit to Western dominance: do as we do and not as we say.

Bob Phelps writes: Your editorial slagging off North Korea for its nuclear weapons test is unconstructive. North Korea and Iran are both neighbours to nuclear weapons states, or their militant allies conventionally armed to the teeth. Deterrence is a regrettable but understandable imperative in the circumstances. You and the rest of the “mild mannered media” are constantly silent on the wider responsibilities of nations, particularly existing members of the nuclear weapons club. For instance, you do not mention that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty requires nuclear weapons states to dismantle their nukes and disarm. Yet all are increasing and modifying their nuclear arsenals with impunity. You never mention Israel’s offensive posture, its possession of hundreds of nuclear weapons and its failure to accede to full IAEA scrutiny. In contrast, Arab proposals for a nuclear-free-zone over the whole of the Middle East are ignored or belittled. Who belongs to the axis of evil? Crikey, don’t be lapdog. With a bit of research, analysis and reflection, you might do better. I wish.

Wendy McMahon writes: David Tanner (yesterday, comments), I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t want for all of their students to be able to read, write and do their arithmetic! I’m not a teacher and of course we all want to see the school system providing that. We all want for kids to come out of school competent and confident in their ability to make a contribution. However, we’re not all going to become research scientists or entrepreneurs or doctors or prime minister. My concern is that teachers are thwarted in actually getting on with the job of delivering quality educational outcomes for their students by the constant compliance demands on their time. The Howard government’s preoccupation with testing and recording and reporting to the nth degree just takes up teacher’s preparation time. The time when they are searching for ways to be creative in meeting the needs of the students. I think it’s a tough gig. Everyone can turn out some statistic or truism to justify their position. If teaching is such an easy job why are we looking at a national shortage of teachers?

Stephen Feneley writes: My apologies to Australian Galleries proprietor Stuart Purves for incorrectly spelling his name in my reports yesterday (item 19) and the day before. I can’t blame a misplaced stroke on the keyboard for my error because I repeated it again and again, spelling the esteemed dealer’s name as Purvis instead of Purves in two separate dispatches speculating on the career prospects of ex-National Gallery of Victoria curator Geoffrey Smith. I’m indebted to Jonathan Green of The Age for pointing out my serial orthographic misdemeanours. Mr Green is a master of the well-turned phrase, able to inject life into the most prosaic subjects with his elegant prose. And while I’ll happily acknowledge that I can’t match Mr Green’s wordsmithing skills, at least here at Crikey we readily fess up to our mistakes, while at Fairfax’s Melbourne outpost it can be a sacking offence to tell the truth.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.