Terry McCrann writes: So, it appears one can get two Stephen Maynes in a lifetime. Your Thomas Hunter has picked up where Mayne left off. Writing about me maliciously, with deliberate deceit, and just plain wrongly. He purports to “ping” me on four contradictions.

1) I wrote that James Hardie has committed to pay some of its profit to asbestos victims “pretty much effectively forever”. He was able to triumphantly announce that the commitment is for 40 years. Gotcha! Actually, that was my immediately following sentence, and I quote. “The commitment is for 40 years. But is clearly going to continue as long as there is a victim alive”. Funny but not surprising, how my sentence noting the 40 years “went missing” in the quote from Hunter purporting to describe what I wrote. “Missing”, in some dots used by Hunter to signify missing text. Deliberately deceptive? The broader point which I’m sure Hunter doesn’t comprehend is that a financial commitment running for 40 years is “effectively forever”.

2) I wrote that Packer was not interested in Fairfax, Then I supposedly directly contradict myself with “If James Packer doesn’t nab Fairfax after pocketing Helen Coonan’s billions – and being allowed to when the media law changes… then Kerry Stokes will with the same package”. This is a classic combination of deliberate deceit by Hunter and a lesson for me for not appreciating that some like Hunter are, how shall we put it? Reading challenged? The reference to Packer and/or Stokes buying Fairfax was a description of the frenzy of rumours in the market. In this case my immediately preceding sentence was, and I quote: “With the rumor mill ablaze yesterday”. Again funny but not surprising, that this sentence didn’t make it into Hunter’s quote. Further, that my supposed contradiction in writing that Packer was not interested in Fairfax was a later sentence in the same comment, specifically rejecting the market rumours.

3) I have previously written that the bit of Fairfax that Packer would really want is the only bit he specifically can’t have – the online advertising sites. Now I’ve supposedly contradicted myself by saying he could get into a battle over Fairfax for some specific asset – most obviously the Financial Review. Let me explain to Hunter. Packer would want the online advertising sites. Competition law prohibits him getting them. So if he is going to chase a Fairfax asset, it, err, can’t be them. If Fairfax came into play, he might chase an asset. The obvious one left is the Fin. NOT the two main broadsheets.

4) I wrote that it was entirely coincidental that the Packer deal with the private equity group surfaced just after Coonan got the media law changes through the Senate. The supposed contradiction is writing he pocketed $4.5 billion from the deal thanks to her. As I’ve explained on a number of occasions, including again in this comment, what made the deal possible was what Coonan did NOT do – dismantle the free-to-air oligopoly. Not from what she did do – remove the ownership restrictions. Packer was going to pocket $4.5 billion, courtesy of Coonan whether or not the law changed. As a number of commentators have written, the timing of the deal was set completely independently of the media law changes passing through the Senate. So the contradiction is what exactly?

At least one thing can be said for Crikey. Its consistency is maintained.

Peter Colley, National Research Director for the CFMEU, Mining and Energy Division, writes: Re. “Has the CFMEU wedged itself over coal?” (yesterday, item 7). Christian Kerr claims the CFMEU may be “wedging itself” in its climate change discussion paper released last week. Perhaps Christian missed the actual media reporting of the release, because it was welcomed by the Australian Coal Association – the main industry lobby group – and by major green groups such as the ACF and the WWF. We have received extensive positive feedback from other unions and the ACTU. The paper is also consistent with Federal ALP policy. The policy position was adopted after substantial discussion within the union, and is currently being voted on by the entire mining membership. The coal industry is experiencing rapid growth due to surging world energy demand, and our members want to supply that demand while leaving a world fit for their kids to live in. So exactly who is being wedged? The only people who don’t like it are the Howard Government, who oppose what unions do as a matter of principle, and some green groups who are implacably anti-coal for ideological reasons.

Erwin Jackson writes: Yesterday Christian Kerr in “Has the CFMEU wedged itself over coal?” espouses a the myth running around the media at the moment by saying, “… there are already fears that by calling for deep cuts in emissions, the CFMEU is selling out its core constituency”. The reality is that most of Australia’s coal industry is based on exports, not domestic consumption. Economic analysis shows that it is the reduction in coal use in other countries that accounts for most of the impact on our coal industry – NOT action in Australia. The EU and Japan are committed to meeting their Kyoto targets and China has put in place policies that are expected to avoid about 400 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions by 2020. This is equivalent to shutting down approximately one-third of China’s existing coal-fired power plants. These kinds of actions are always going to be more important to our coal industry that whether or not Australia reduces its greenhouse emissions.

Jaryd Fletcher writes: I don’t understand why John Howard opening up a possible Liberal Nuclear Future in Australia hasn’t been a huge own goal for him or why Labor and the media has not had mileage off it all week? Just asking around friends, colleagues, relatives – I could not find one person that would vote for a Nuclear Howard Government, including rusted-on lifetime Liberal voters. Is it because they all think it is just a stunt and would never actually happen and don’t want to buy into it? Even if this is the case – isn’t it even more damaging for Beazley to be seen to be not able to act, even when given a free kick?

Paul Gilchrist writes: Jeff Wall (yesterday, item 28) says that “the quality of Australian cricket coverage on both television and radio is exceptional”. There’s an exceptionally large amount of it, but not much of it makes any sense. The careers of all these commentators depend on keeping the public interested, that’s why they are all spinning the idea that this year’s Ashes will be a contest, when they know it will be a walkover. Richie Benaud “believes England are capable of overcoming their injury woes” and Shane Warne “rated England’s underperforming Test side stronger than the one that sprang a surprise Ashes series win over Australia last year”. I doubt if Richie or Shane really believe this nonsense, but at least it sells newspapers. Let’s face it, in 2005 everything went right for England and the wheels fell off Australia, but still England only just scraped home. Now in 2006, Australia has a posse of young and fit fast bowlers to choose from, and plenty of batsmen. England have gone backwards and half their team is returning from injury. Apart from Flintoff, their bowlers spray the ball anywhere, and unless their first three batsmen can score heavily, England will be lucky ever to get more than 300 in an innings. There are three Test matches before Christmas, so by the Boxing Day Test it might all be over. But, by then all our commentators will have sold their newspapers, beer, holidays and memorabilia and will be content with a job well done. Who cares then if they really believe the stuff they write?

John Kelly writes: The insertion of an eight or nine second delay in Channel Nine’s broadcast of the cricket this year certainly does not qualify it as ”direct”’ coverage. The time difference in TV to radio broadcast is more evident this year than ever before. I have notified the Nine Network of my intention to switch off the television and listen only to the ABC cricket coverage until the situation is rectified. I wonder if this action by the Nine Network constitutes some sort of violation of its contract with the Cricket Board?

Simon Dodshon writes: After the first day of the first test, as a cricket purist, it was impossible to watch Channel Nine and listen to ABC radio… at the same time. The pricks at Channel Nine now telecast their picture with a two\ to three second delay (note no “live” in the top right hand top corner), a change from the one second delay in the last series which made it just acceptable to watch Nine and listen to ABC radio. I ended up in the pub, picture with no sound!

Lisa Crago writes: Re: “The Victorian ALP’s synthetic anger on preferences” (yesterday, item 12). Charles Richardson wrote: “Greens voters usually preference Labor anyway, regardless of what the how-to-vote card says.” Spot on Richardson, and here are the stats to prove it. The Australian Electoral Survey data from the 2004 Federal election shows 70% of Green Voters did not follow the how-to-vote cards for the House of Representatives. Out of the 30% of Green voters who followed the how-to vote cards 74% preferenced the ALP. Green voters who did not follow the how-to-vote card preferenced the ALP 79.6%, this being a higher percentage than those that did follow the party’s preferred preference deal. Green how-to-vote cards have little effect on the political environment. The wheeling and dealing with preferences is really no reason for the ALP to get angry. There is not much more to Green preferences than a lot of hot air and thousands of dollars worth of paper.

David Menere writes: Re. “The problem with having an Indigenous cultural experience” (22 November, item 8). Chris Graham usually writes interesting and thought-provoking articles, but he is off the mark if he thinks that the Aboriginal houses at Lake Condah are the oldest surviving man-made houses in the world. Yes, they are older than the pyramids, but in the timescale of human development the pyramids are relatively young. For the oldest houses, try Googling Jerf el Ahmar, Abu Hureyra or Mureybet (Syria), or Ain Mallaha or Ohallu (Palestine), for a start. Most of these are 9,000 to 11,000 years old; the last is about 15,000 years old. Aboriginal culture has its own intrinsic value, but this value isn’t enhanced by making extravagant and inaccurate claims which some might see as reflecting a cultural cringe. He shouldn’t be giving such ammunition to potential critics.

John Sparkman writes: Margaret Simons (yesterday, item 18) writes “the risk of (ABC) outsourcing is that a capacity to respond in a sustained way to modern Australia is lost.” What on earth does this mean? Why does the ABC employing vast numbers of production staff to sit on their bums most of the time enable it to “respond in a sustained way to modern Australia”? The ABC has been a sheltered workshop for too long and needs a thorough purging of excess production resources – both facilities and staff.

Garry Muratore writes: Re. “Foxtel blows AFL deal; footy on Channel 31 next year?” (yesterday, item 21). I hate to agree with Andrew Demetriou’s comment “Last time I checked I couldn’t get Channel 31.” He’s spot on! I am out in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and due to poor reception many of us have switched to digital set top boxes and receive signals from various UHF repeaters throughout the Dandenong Ranges. The trouble is Channel 31 is not transmitted on these repeaters due to lack of funding. If Senator Coonan really understood what Australians want with free to air TV she would allocate funds for 31 and any other community or independent TV station to get free access to the digital spectrum, rather than tinker with existing laws which gives existing players a de facto handout of many billions of dollars. Why can’t surplus AFL matches be broadcast on the available digital frequencies, no doubt that will drive the move to the new spectrum without the need for Senator Coonan to throw $20 million at convincing us to turn off the old analogue TVs.

Bjorn Bednarek writes: Thanks to Jay Hewatt in the comments yesterday, I know that Crikey still doesn’t have informed writers for its sports section. The football World Cup coverage was horrible, and most articles about sports that I know something about have been inaccurate, misleading or at least missing the point by some margin. Any temptation I had to renew my (lapsed) subscription is gone. Crikey, drop the sports coverage entirely or improve it. At the moment it is just bad padding.

Michael Winkler writes: Re. Jay Hewatt’s comments regarding my piece on LaDainian Tomlinson’s brilliance – Tomlinson has scored 22 touchdowns so far this season; the four players Hewatt claims as his equals – Larry Johnson (KC), Frank Gore (SF), Chester Taylor (MIN), Tiki Barber (NYG) – have 23 touchdowns combined. The figures don’t lie.

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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