Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “How private equity will transform Australia’s media landscape” (yesterday, item 3). Eric Beecher is always good for a laugh when he writes about Australia’s media industry. First, he whips up the scary prospect of “faceless foreign private equity investors” owning Australian media. Fortunately for these people, many of them do actually seem to have faces – you can see them on the websites of firms like Texas Pacific. And while not all private equity firms provide photos, most list the names (and resumes) of key managers. Eric also laments that these investors will force the industry to become more commercial, leading to awful things like “cost-cutting, rationalisation, caution, discipline, process, routine”. In other words, the horrible things that every other business is subject to. To top it off, he implies that it’s wrong for these investors to make money out of media investments; try telling that to anyone with a pension. Eric obviously thinks the media are entitled to a privileged position in the economy; insulation from cost-controls, profits, customer focus and the disciplines of the capital markets. Well, I for one am glad that the rest of the Australian economy isn’t run like that – and I can’t see how the media would benefit if they were.

Andrew Burke writes: Re. “Mining for a cause” (yesterday, item 10). Miranda Devine disclosed that Gabriel Resources paid for the Mine Your Own Business film in her SMH column. Christian’s otherwise almost identical rant left out that disclosure. I guess some dancing bears are more honest than others.

Adam Rope writes: I’m sure all Crikey subscribers are aware by now of Christian Kerr’s irrational hatred for all things environmental or Green. So it was no surprise to read in yesterday’s edition of Crikey yet another swinging attack on environmentalists, as portrayed in the film Mine Your Own Business. Now, I agree with Christian that some environmental campaigners dramatically overstate their case, to their own detriment, and I’m sure that the individual environmentalists concerned in the film did say all the silly things they said, but Christian misses one important point – who funded the film. Yes, by happy coincidence, it just happened to be those lovely cuddly “best practice” miners, Gabriel Resources, themselves. Now, why was there no need to mention that Christian?

Stephen Morris writes: Re. “Mining for a cause: how environmentalists perpetrated a human rights abuse”. It makes a nice simple story that those evil greenies are imposing their barbaric and anti-development fanaticism on poor Romanian peasants by preventing the rapid approval of a new gold mine, thus permanently denying them the progress and social justice that will result from a “best practice mine that would help repair the environmental damage done by Ceausescu era industry”. The facts seem not to fit the this simplistic picture as portrayed in the film Mine Your Own Business. According to the company’s (Gabriel Resources Ltd) own third quarter report of September 2006, the delay in opening the mine resulting from going through an EU environment assessment process is “an extension of one quarter over our previous guidance” with construction of the mine expected to start in first quarter 2007. This hardly fits the script of the greenies permanently and mindlessly blocking progress. The environmental impact process, with which Christian Kerr seems especially aggrieved, was especially necessary since the proposed gold mine would be the largest open cut mine in Europe, with several villages of reluctant peasants being forced to relocate and the previous “environmentally damaged” mines and several significant Roman historical sites disappearing permanently during the construction of the massive open cut mine (modern best practice?). Of special concern was the plan to turn the whole of the next valley into a huge open cyanide tailing dam, with apparently similar dam construction methods to be used as in a nearby gold mine cyanide tailing dam which collapsed in 2000, causing major environmental pollution affecting several neighboring countries as well as Romania. It seems a film script with a simplistic message creating sympathy for peasants, and especially the acceptance of the film by a gullible, appreciative audience, doesn’t only work for a certain Borat of “Kazakhstan”.

Gary Price writes: Re. Nuclear power. Anyone interested in nuclear power station construction and finance should take a look at the Washington Public Power Supply System fiasco. A quick google of WPPSS turns up plenty of links. This was a well-intentioned $2.25 Billion disaster back in the early 80s. That figure is the amount spent on Washington Nuclear Plants 4 and 5 before WPPSS (usually pronounced Whoops) could not raise a further $25 billion needed to finish the five plants it was working on. Construction on WNP 4 and 5 was stopped and they were mothballed. In the mid-90s they were demolished. It couldn’t happen here – could it?

Greg Poropat writes: In Hanoi, John Howard said that it was not the right time to say where nuclear power stations in Australia might be located. He said that things needed to happen in an orderly fashion and that “the first thing to do is to have a general debate about the generic benefits of nuclear power”. Funny, that. When the nation wanted a debate about a republic this same man avoided the general principle and went straight to the specifics. Is anyone surprised?

Jim Hart writes: Re. “Qantas flies into private equity” (yesterday, item 1). Please inform Biggles Pascoe that bankers with a fondness for avgas won’t be found nosing around the Qantas or Virgin hangars. MacBank’s inhalation of choice would be jet fuel which is basically kero with attitude. Avgas is a high-grade petrol used by piston-engine aircraft and journalists.

Geoff Farnsworth writes: Could someone please explain to me how today’s “private equity” differs from the “junk bonds” of the 1980s? Is today’s KKR a reincarnation of Drexel Burnham Lambert? And if Fairfax “gets into” private equity, will that square the circle?

Brad Ruting writes: Re. “Perv … the most popular word in the tabloid dictionary” (yesterday, item 6). Ketchell’s item on “pervs” was rather amusing to read (item 7, 22 November), but the claim that the term hasn’t caught on here was a bit strange. Yes, it’s only been used twice in the Daily Telegraph or Herald Sun in the past months (both times in the Daily Telegraph), although according to the database I use (Factiva), one of these was hidden among some program reviews in a TV Guide, and the other was in the third paragraph of a Magazine opinion article. A broader search might have revealed “perv” being used 34 times in Australian newsprint in the past six months, with the biggest offender being – oh dear – The Age. However, the word “pervert” has been used 30 times in the Tele in the past six months, and 18 times in the Herald Sun, the most recent of which was a page 13 headline in yesterday’s Tele (22 November). “Perv” or “pervert” comes up 343 times over the past eight years in the Tele, which averages to about 43 a year, just below New York’s Daily News. Looks like the Aussie tabloids (and broadsheets) have been aware of this word for a quite a while. As is to be expected, really, from tabloids.

Michael Jameson writes: Getting through to Foxtel? Do me a favour… I actually wanted to be a Foxtel subscriber once upon a time. I was living in a small block of flats – three of them, to be precise, one on top of the other. In order to get the overly self-esteemed Foxtel, I was told, I would have to convince the other residents to get it too. That’s right, they wouldn’t install for me in my middle flat, only if all three flats would become subscribers. Apparently just lil ole me alone wasn’t worth their trouble. They’ll never be worth my trouble now.

Jay Hewatt writes: Re. “The running back trampling NFL record books” (yesterday, item 27). I suggest that Michael Winkler get Foxtel and watch some of the games. The NFL is far from light-on for exciting running backs or quality running games. Michael Winkler should be aware of current players like Larry Johnson (KC), Frank Gore (SF), Chester Taylor (MIN), Tiki Barber (NYG) and the whole Falcons & Denver offence who are currently averaging 189.4 & 142.3 yards per game respectively. Both Larry and Frank have run for more yards than LaDainian Tomlinson so far this year. LaDainian just has a few more years in the bag already. Reggie Bush should not have been mentioned. So far he’s just another college star who hasn’t performed in the BIG league yet. Players like Reggie (who’s got the credentials to be somebody special) are a dime a dozen in the NFL. Sadly, there’s no science to busting on a first round or sixth round choice, so we’ll have to wait and see. Note: LaDainian is mostly compared to Earl “The Tyler Rose” Campbell.

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.

Peter Fray

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