Nine, Eddie and Mr Packer:

Former Nine Network CEO Sam Chisholm writes: I have read the Margaret Simons piece of May 11 and frankly, it is ludicrous. The Program Department commissions and schedules the successes at The Nine Network. They also commission and schedule the failures. Family Feud was their idea. I certainly negotiated Newton’s arrangement with the Network and he has proved to be of very good value, taking into account 20 to 1 and Family Feud, which in my view has done a workmanlike job. Jessica Rowe is an excellent television performer and it should be borne in mind that it is not the fault of any one individual when a program doesn’t do as well as people expect. In so far as Simons’ personal observations about me are concerned, they are offensive and totally inaccurate. When David Gyngell left, Kerry asked me to do this job. As a result, a number of people in middle management were retrenched, the company’s balance sheet was tidied up and we took a long overdue write-off. Net result being annualized savings to the order of $50 million. The retrenchments, write-off and the restructuring of the business were all naturally approved by the Board. Sandra Levy in fact rang me and wanted to work with me. She is an outstanding television executive and to this day I maintain an excellent relationship with her. It is more than a little irritating to read Simons’ snide comments about Bert Newton and Jessica Rowe. She can write what she likes, but both Bert and Jessica have made significant contributions to the television industry and the wider community. They deserve better than this and Simons’ criticisms do her little credit. Simons’ views are without any factual basis, indeed she doesn’t even get close, apart from borrowing Mark Days’ observations. Ín future, it would be worthwhile querying the validity of Simons’ pieces, or at the very least, getting her to check the facts. All in all, a lousy piece of journalism. 

Mark Llewellyn, executive producer, news and public affairs, Channel Seven, writes: Re. “Nine would be better off without James Packer” (Friday, item 1). Dear Crikey, Nine insiders may believe that my affidavit “was written in the offices of Peter Meakin over at Channel Seven” but they would be wrong — dead wrong. I absolutely reject the defamatory imputation that arises. The hand of Peter Meakin — or anyone else for that matter — is not to be found in my affidavit. At the very least, Peter would have been more literate! For the record, I was obliged to present the affidavit after Nine decided to sue me. It was drafted with my lawyer, John Laxon, in his office. It drew extensively on contemporaneous notes taken by me — and no one else. I was prepared to be cross-examined on the affidavit in open court.

Andrew Haughton (former Nine producer) writes: Margaret Simons writes well on compost. She should stick to that kind of rot. Her article on Nine read like a brief from the current Nine management exculpating themselves from that sad network’s decline. Blame it all on Sam!! Her claim that Mark Llewellyn’s “boning” affidvit was written in Peter Meakin’s Channel 7 office is risible and clearly unchecked with either party. Still … it’s the Crikey way. “There’s nobody can talk so interesting as the fellow who isn’t hampered by facts or information.”

Linda Kenton writes: Re. ‘Eddie Everywhere: everywhere but Willoughby” (Friday, item 20). Interesting comment by Eddie (“I’m the chief executive officer”) McGuire on Thursday night’s The Footy Show. And incidentally, is McGuire the only CEO in Australia who feels he has to continually remind everyone of his job title? McGuire stated that Gary Pert’s departure as managing director of GTV9 Melbourne after only five months in the job was acceptable in part because the size of the organisation he joined — PBL — was halved the day after he signed on. This means that either: (a) McGuire neglected to extend the courtesy of advising the selected future MD of Nine in Melbourne (in reality a glorified sales role) that the network’s ownership and management structure was about to change significantly only hours into Pert’s tenure; or, and more likely (b) McGuire didn’t know that that PBL’s ownership and control of “his” Nine Network was about change, and was kept in the dark by his masters. Either way, Eddie’s unintentional admission does little to allay the commonly held perception that he is massively under qualified for the job and a mere figurehead, and that a return to Melbourne as on-air talent is likely to occur as soon as face can be saved.

Employment statistics:

Pamela Curr writes: Re. “What full employment means: the workforce in 1974 and now” (Friday, item 4). I work in an area sharing space with an employment program. One of our Volunteers was telling me yesterday that 10 or 20 years ago (unsure) the definition of employed was 20 hours per week. It may cast some light on the subject if we knew what the definition was in times past and when it changed because we know that it is one hour in a week and you qualify as employed for ABS stats. These are an interesting set of figures when we look at the diminishing numbers in health and community services and government admin compared with 30 years back when the population was smaller. No wonder we are such a cranky impatient stressed out lot — we are not being served!

Phil Teece writes: Today’s segment on employment data in 1974 compared with today makes interesting reading. It also shows starkly how simplistic the “lowest unemployment for 30-plus years” mantra really is. The data show that in 1974 all but 10% of workers had a full-time job. Now 30% of workers do not. We should avoid comparing apples with onions.

Cathy Bannister writes: Thomas Hunter’s comparative employment statistics would be much more meaningful if they were expressed as a proportion of the population at the time rather than absolute numbers. While it’s interesting to think about the relative sizes of different industries, expressing these as whole numbers could be a little misleading.

The Tony Blair legacy:

Tony Kevin writes: Re. “Special. So f-cking special: The Blair decade” (Friday, item 2). Guy Rundle on Tony Blair was a masterpiece of passionate, morally committed political analysis — and unerringly on target regarding the UK as it is now. I hope Kevin Rudd and the ALP read it as good advice from a friend. Rudd has to get there first, and I pray every day that he will. But once he is in the chair, the history of Blair as prime minister offers awful warnings to be heeded.

Emily Crawford writes: Spot on Guy Rundle. Surely to describe Britain as “special” is some kind of gallows humour. On almost every scale the Brits do worse than their European counterparts — except of course for the all-important economy. I’m living in a “deprived” part of north London, round the corner from the infamous Finsbury Park mosque, and it’s pretty obvious that Blair-ism frittered away its opportunity to achieve substantial and lasting progressive change. At individual program level there have been important improvements (like Sure Start children’s centres) but taking a wider view, Britain is a divided, dysfunctional and deeply unhappy nation with creaking infrastructure that’s shabby round the edges and where the level of latent aggression adds hassle to daily life. Saying Britain’s special is massive self-delusion.

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Many commentators have got it wrong in claiming that Blair was elected three times. For example, Blair’s New (Class) Labour Party only won the last election with 21.6 per cent of the vote of those eligible to vote, but, because of the “first past the post” voting system and non-compulsory voting, obtained the majority of seats — clearly a minority government in terms of popular approval, if ever there was one. Having said this, Blair’s minority Government was no more or less “legitimate” than Thatcher’s, Bush’s or indeed any “first past the post” so called “elected” government. Additionally Britain’s real unemployment figure is 15%, not 4%, as claimed by Blair in his departure speech. The official unemployment figures exclude the incapacity benefit (IB) recipients who were placed on the IB instead of unemployment benefits as a way of artificially lowering the number of unemployed. The Employment Department issued quotas to Job Centre managers to keep unemployment down. The National Audit Office has spotted this political chicanery, but too late. By 1995 there were more than 1.8 million long-term IB claimants. They are still largely on the IB benefit. The Brown government may well want to reduce the number of IB recipients, but what is the point? There are not enough jobs and all he would do is to swell the number of people on the dole. Then the dole recipient figures would make a mockery (not hard) of the laughable monthly unemployment figures, which is really 15% of the workforce, not the claimed 4%; about the same as in Germany or France, which for some reason Britain scoffs at.

David Le Claire writes: The story on Blair complaining about Oxbridge entrance favouring fee paying schools obviously doesn’t know about the NSW system where the school work counts for half the marks! But wait for it, the mark is weighted according to the school you go to: the higher the rest of the school, the higher the rating. Good luck to anyone, even a genius, getting a high mark from poorer public schools.

Andrew Bolt and climate change:

Grant Burfield writes: Richard McGuire (Friday, comments) states, “That either Flannery or Williams would make the statements attributed to them, a six-metre sea level rise in 30 years and a one-hundred-metre-sea-level rise this century, quite frankly beggars belief. I don’t know if either Flannery or Williams have responded to the Bolt article. If they haven’t they should do. The exchange between Williams and Bolt was supposed to have occurred on radio. A transcript must exist somewhere.” Richard, a transcript does exist. Not surprisingly, it’s on the ABC Science Show website. An excerpt: “Andrew Bolt: I ask you, Robyn, 100 metres in the next century… do you really think that? Robyn Williams: It is possible, yes.” I could refer to scientific journal publications that point out that if every last piece of ice on earth melted it would not go within cooee of raising sea levels 100 metres, but it would be pointless. The debate is apparently over, no further correspondence will be entered into, and if Robyn Williams says it is possible that sea levels may rise 100 metres, then I suppose we should just flagellate ourselves and accept it as a given.

Trevor Kruger writes: The climate-change naysayers such as Andrew Bolt seem to be favouring the tale of the “boy who cried wolf’ approach. In their efforts to discredit the opposition, they miss the crucial point of the story — the wolf did come, eventually.

Adrian Kitchingman writes: Re. “And from the Grassy Knoll” (Friday, item 5). For a decent examination by on the “lack” of scientific quality and clarity in this “new” research take a look at this web page. I know those who are ideologically sceptical don’t like scientific details but give it a go some time, you might be surprised. If there was new research conclusively refuting anthropogenic global warming then I doubt the first place we’d see it is in Crikey’s “Tips and Rumours” section. In the meantime, keep trying.

Paris and the “online broadloids”:

John Peak writes: Re. “We’ll always have Paris: the online broadloids” (Friday, item 22). Looking at the online front pages displayed in your item, and reading them more closely than I would usually do on the newspapers’ own sites, what struck me was that little disclaimer underneath the Age’s pictures of Paris Hilton: “Photo: composite image”. Now, “composite image” could mean that bits and pieces of different photographs of Paris (or anyone else) have been digitally combined to produce the one we see. I looked very closely, I couldn’t see that there had been any such tinkering — or indeed that there would have been any need for it. But there is another interpretation of “composite image”, and perhaps The Age really does understand its readership. Perhaps they do need to be told that Paris Hilton, whatever else may be true of her, does not suffer from some ungainly kind of two-headedness — that what they are looking it is, in fact, two photographs! But then, I wonder, given a readership that would need to be told that, why call it a “composite image”? Why the tricky terminology? Maybe it’s Melbourne thing.

Air traffic controller fatigue:

A British air traffic controller, 15 years’ experience, writes: Re. “Air traffic controller tells: we’re asleep on the job” (Thursday, item 4). I read with interest the articles concerning fatigued air traffic controllers. Here in the UK, in the early ’90s, a committee was set up to look into fatigue and the regulation of ATCOs’ hours (Committee for the Regulation of ATCOs’ Operating Hours — CRATCOH). Their findings became law under the Air Navigation Order as the Schedule for the Regulation of ATCOs’ Operating Hours (SRATCOH) and can be found here, Part D, Section 2. One of the reasons behind these regulations was to remove the possibility of management applying undue pressure on an individual to work when fatigued, and another was because the controller personally is not always the first to recognise that they are fatigued. It is much better to put down this sort of legislation before an incident, rather than have to apply it in response to a tragedy.

Polling and elections:

Russell Bancroft writes: Re. “Senate polls, predictions and crystal balls” (Friday, item 11). In response to Christian Kerr’s comment about the possible make-up of the Senate post-election: unless he deliberately wants a double-dissolution trigger, PM Rudd simply needs to hold off a Senate vote on any controversial bill until after July next year. Shouldn’t be too difficult. But all this assumes that the Greens, should they have the balance of power, will support an ALP government more often than not. Why should this assumption be made? The Greens in Victoria, who hold the balance of power in the Upper House, have voted with the Opposition on numerous occasions. A Rudd government may find itself relying on the Liberal and National parties to support legislation.

Brett Galbraith writes: Re. “Labor still way in front” (Friday, item 6). You are providing a lot of stories on different polls but you never talk about what is happening out there with polling for the Greens and Family First. It seems to me that they will be fighting for the balance of power at this election in the Senate and I haven’t heard a whisper about it? Surely this is a huge story. Steve Fielding’s record for Family First shows that he doesn’t bat for either Labor or Liberal which would make Family First a “balanced” choice for the balance of power. They only just missed out on a second seat in Tasmania at the last election and this time are up against Bob Brown who has never got a quota and is likely to get no help from the preferences this time around either. Also it would be interesting to know how many old Labor voters who swung to Green under Beasley will swing back under Rudd leaving Bob Brown starved of votes? Imagine the humiliation to the Greens if their leader was beaten by Family First?

John Bevan writes: Sorry to burst Diana Simmonds (Friday, comments) paranoia, but the Australian Electoral Commission always does a roll review exercise about six months out from a federal election. If she thinks it occurred “just before” an election I think her memory is a bit selective.

The tax cuts:

Leeanne Bland writes: Re. “Your tax cut: a sanga and shake. Or a sock” (Thursday, item 13). I dislike Costello and Howard as much as the other 48 per cent (or so) of the population that didn’t vote for them, but I was offended that Crikey would run such a dismissive story on this tax cut. I’m with Tennessee Leeuwenburg (Friday, comments) when it comes to the $16 weekly tax cut. My partner and I both work, so that will be $32 extra a week coming into our household. It won’t make us vote for them, but with fruit and veg and grocery prices squeezing our family budget at one end, and petrol prices squeezing it at the other, the money will make a big difference.

Saying sorry:

Bill Gemmell writes: Re. “Howard still chokes on the S-word” (Friday, item 10). Senator Rachel Siewart, in her stalwart advocacy for a national Sorry Day, might do well to reflect on one of the central exhibits of the Apartheid Museum near Soweto in South Africa. The display comprises a concrete room filled with a hundred suspended loudspeakers, each repeatedly broadcasting the apparently sincere and heartfelt “sorries” of past perpetrators and/or tolerators of the apartheid regime. The point is made by the fact that each of the speakers is suspended on an individual weighing scale to show that spoken platitudes, no matter how often and/or sincerely they are repeated, have no weight whatsoever in the real world.

Virtual child s-x, Warcraft and the thought police:

Paul Gilchrist writes: Re. Where’s the harm in virtual child s-x? (Thursday, item 18). Charles Richardson copped a bit of anger over his argument on Thursday that virtual child abuse could be excused. I don’t think this is fair, since this type of counter-argument is a good way of analysing an issue, and in fact there were interesting reponses on Friday. As I see it, the responses boil down to: (1) society should not be seen to accept it, (2) it could lead to real child abuse, (3) such fantasies are harmful to the potential paedophile, even if they are virtual. In my opinion, these are all valid arguments, including number 3, which I think is the response of traditional Christian (and probably other) ethics. It was a good debate, and an example of the reasons I do pay for Crikey.

Michael Crook writes: Well done, Charles Richardson, you certainly fired up the thought police this time didn’t you (Friday, comments). One wonders how much your critics contribute to the reduction in all forms of violence against children; not much I suspect. But that is an assumption, what is not assumed is the level at which child violence appears to be accepted in our society and, indeed, physical abuse and incest are fine old Anglo-Saxon and indeed Catholic traditions. Here in sunny Queensland, that bastion of Christian conservatism, the last three years have given us new child abuse notifications to the Child Safety Department of 40,000, 26,000 and 33,500. Generally about half of these are worthy of opening a case file, so that is about 50,000 actioned new child abuse cases in three years. There would probably be more if the department wasn’t 30% understaffed. The last time I looked, active child abuse cases in NSW numbered 216,000. To my way of thinking that is an epidemic. There are a number of reasons for these figures, and while not all are from the lower socio-economic groups it appears that a lot of people on the bottom rung have been left behind by our “good” economy and are under continuous stress from financial pressures such as spiralling rents. How does this relate to Charles? His critics and our commercial media claim thought is a crime, while steadfastly ignoring the real crimes day to day that our children suffer.

Mike Smith writes: To all those who believe that things done in the virtual world translate to the real world, I challenge you to quote some statistically meaningful research that proves this. Statistically meaningful does not mean a report of “a” player who goes on to commit a similar crime — this is down in the noise level of coincidence. As I mentioned before, I play Warcraft, and I can assure you that killing something in the virtual world there does not in the slightest translate to a desire to do this in the real world … assuming the creature or person even existed. Fantasy. Reality. Two different places.

Palestinian Media Watch:

Anna Berger writes: Robyn Webb (Thursday, comments) wrote in response to the use of a Mickey Mouse look-alike cartoon figure to teach hate and Islamic supremacy and glorifying so called suicide bombing — mass murder of civilians by another name. Webb is critical of PMW (Palestinian Media Watch) for doing exactly what it was set up to do — to report on these messages of intolerance and bigotry put out by various arms of the Palestinian government-controlled media. That this cartoon is aimed at very young children is both cynical and frightening. It is clearly aimed at recruiting future “jihadists” by glorifying a culture of religious intolerance, hatred and death that comes very close to child abuse. It makes me despair of the possibility of peaceful co-existence between Muslims, Jews and Christians in that tiny part of the world in the future. Fortunately, it seems that worldwide outrage has forced the Palestinian Authority government to shut down this Hamas children’s program indoctrinating youngsters with Islamic supremacy and hate messages. While reason and tolerance have won out this time, I fear that Itamar Marcus will continue to stay very, very busy monitoring and reporting on the large umber of hate messages with which the Palestinian authorities are poisoning the minds of their own people.

Kangaroos, methane, etc:

Tim Thomas writes: Geoff Russell’s comments contained several errors (Friday, comments). Kangaroos are more efficient at producing meat than sheep. True, kangaroos are not ruminants, but nevertheless efficiently ferment cellulose in their foregut. Some but, not all kangaroo species, are less efficient than sheep in processing dry feed, but make up for this by having a much lower basal metabolic rate. In addition, kangaroos have a higher muscle to body weight ratio than sheep and although farming kangaroos is impractical, and in my opinion undesirable, that is not the question. If (wild) kangaroo meat is available in your supermarket, as it is in mine, then eating it lowers your contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gases. Roo shooting might not be much fun but then farming is also full of tough, unpleasant work. There is nothing more boring than preparing the ground for broad acre cropping, which includes the risk of lung damage from dust as well as exposure to a variety of chemicals, among other dangers. On all counts replacing, at least partially, ruminant meat with macropod meat would be environmentally beneficial. As to the efficiency of ruminant digestion it is interesting to note that the production of methane represents a loss of about 25% of the energy present in the animal’s feed.

Apple going green:

James Massola, Assistant Editor – Eureka Street, writes: In comments on Friday Rob Keniger wrote that “a small number of devices used this additional connector”. I would argue that the iTrip and the iPod microphone, while only two such devcies, constitued particularly important and popular accessories. As makes clear  – the iTrip is one of the most popualr accessories of all. In response to David Menere, I do not intend to particularly pick on Apple. Nor did Greenpeace – in fact, I rather like Apple computers, and I am also aware that other manufacturers need to change their practices. However, according to the Greenpeace site, it took Apple nigh on three years to respond to Greenpaece’s requests. So any bad PR they received was as a result of their own inaction. Finally, in repsonse to John Boyce, you are right, my skull is bony.


Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 17: “Fretilin will probably receive around 30% of that vote, likely giving them the largest plurality.” Sorry, “largest plurality” is a tautology. The group with a plurality just is the group with the most votes (or seats, or whatever).

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