A Crikey correction:

Thomas Hunter writes: Re. “Bastard Boys II: What the critics say” (yesterday, item 12). Yesterday we attributed the following quote to Chris Corrigan: “I think the Government gets off very lightly, given that they concocted the whole scheme and John Howard personally signed off on it. We have the cabinet documents, and he signed off on the sacking of the entire workforce.” Apologies to Mr Corrigan. That comment was in fact made by Greg Combet.

Bastard Boys:

Dr Graeme Orr, associate professor of labour law, University of Queensland, writes: Re. “Has the ABC defamed the bastards?” (yesterday, item 4). Greg Barns thinks Bastard Boys was at once “boring and predictable” and yet full of “liberties with the truth”. Did Greg predict how it would stray from “the truth”? The film recounted the essential story. The only “boring” bits were the excess of gratuitous family/relationship scenes, included on the condescending assumption that female viewers expect such. Sure, it is uncomfortable to see oneself re-enacted: but are producers meant to give each character a power of veto? What’s the gripe? Corrigan was portrayed as having immense sangfroid, standing ultimately alone. He certainly had all the best quips. Coombs – and Burnside – were portrayed as hugely amiable. Combet managed somehow to be a saintly socialist and a foul-mouthed pragmatist: a mixed portrayal which won’t do him any political favours. That leaves Kelty, who was reduced to a bit-player caricature: poor history, but hardly defamatory.

Philip Carman writes: In my view, no one in their right mind could possibly sue the ABC for defamation as they all came out of Bastard Boys either better or no worse than they started. As for Chris Corrigan – anyone who’s met him would agree that he was portrayed (by the wonderfully likeable Geoff Morrell) as a guy with a sense of humour (true), fond of the ideal and prepared to admire a fellow idealist, even as an adversary (arguable). He also came out looking far prettier than in real life and almost the second hero to John Coombs. His kids would be proud of the portrayal of him and their mum, just as John Coombs’s family would be glowing under the light of their almost-canonised patriarch. Only Messrs Reith and Howard and a few of the unionists were unsympathetically portrayed and despite that being almost impossible, is hardly the stuff of legal proceedings. Boring and predictable drama? Not to this pinko capitalist who was down there on the Fremantle wharf, arm in arm with the MUA and their families … after doing a hard day’s work providing tax planning and investment advice in his day job. I shed a tear or two as I recalled the sheer bastardry of some of the protagonists (and some of the press) and the genuine mateship that was forged by others. It was one of those times that will never be forgotten by those who were there and this effort at dramatising it was a very fair (and enjoyable) job done in difficult circumstances. Bring on the repeat and the DVD!

Gus Kernot writes: I wasn’t going to watch Bastard Boys because I didn’t think I needed to rehash that complicated episode. I sampled the first few minutes and was hooked. Having read comment from the various interested parties, I offer a view from my suburban couch. It was all too complicated back in 1998. There were so many people pushing their barrows. We knew something was wrong but we couldn’t tell who was telling the biggest porkies. The wharfies with their rusted on and blatantly unreasonable work practices. Way beyond any repayment for any historical injustices. The Federal Government and its fellow travellers. A good bit of “whatever it takes” mixed in with sometimes irrational, union hatred. Corrigan. A lonely commercial operator stuck between intransigent unions and unsympathetic banks. But also discomfortingly linked to muscle men and guard dogs. The story was riveting. I was reminded of all the conflicting emotions I felt reading the paper and watching the news at the time. It was a real yarn and my memory tells me it got the guts of the story. I don’t much care that Mick Kelty’s character was a bit “lite”. I don’t really care who might have said precisely what to whom on which day. The producers did a great job of reminding us of a very uncomfortable part of Australia’s recent past. Like the current crop of anti-terrorism laws. Like the children overboard. Like the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. This was a chapter in our history where our present Government was prepared to play fast and loose with truth, democracy and fair play. Sure we like the result but where do you draw the line with “whatever it takes” .

Greg Angelo writes: Being unaware of the broadcast time of Bastard Boys I turned to the ABC on Monday to watch my regular Four Corners program. Expecting a “docudrama”, I watched with some interest tinged with incredulity at some of the characterisations. I now see from comments from Bill Kelty and several others that their role in the dispute has been grossly misrepresented. Furthermore, the ABC producers have identified it as a drama and not as a documentary. The ABC has clearly missed the point. In writing a drama about a significant event involving real people it is clearly extracting a benefit for the writers at somebody else’s expense. Misrepresenting real characters in a real event for dramatic purposes is inexcusable. Positioning this program in the regular timeslot of Four Corners documentaries adds insult to injury. Bastard Boys will join Amadeus as a blatant misrepresentation of real persons and events for commercial gain, and as a consequence damaging personal reputations. Unlike Salieri in Amadeus, at least the real characters involved in the waterfront dispute can voice their disapproval. Perhaps the term Bastard Boys should be applied more appropriately to the ABC writers and producers, rather than to the characters in the drama.

Michael Beacom writes: One piece of information that, as far as I am aware never emerged during the time of the events portrayed in the Bastard Boys or in the dramatisation itself, was the interest that international capital had in destroying the MUA. My understanding is that monies were channeled through a certain Dr Doom (Marc Faber), a Hong Kong investment adviser, who, while he had some publicity at the time of the actual events, had organised international investors to finance the off-shore training of the alternate workforce for the Melbourne docks. I believe that this has never been adequately investigated. Perhaps there is a journo out there who may follow this up?

Peter Wildblood writes: Seeing the Bastard Boys reminded me of an incident I was tangentially involved in during the first year of the Howard Government. An old colleague and friend was then a senior executive with a large multi-national computer (mainframe) supplier. He contacted me about some work he wanted me to do (as a human resources consultant). My friend had, it transpired, been to Canberra, on a routine “sales” trip to present a talk on IT Futures to Cabinet (I think it was … senior ministers, certainly) — simply presenting his [company’s] view of where the future of “computing” was headed, no direct sales context at “top of the mind”. One ‘senior minister’ took him aside after the presentation and asked “was his company interested in taking over all the Government’s [mainframe] computing”. My friend answer was “yes he was” and talks proceeded for some nine months or so before “the unions” got word of it all and “put a stop to it”. My role was apparently to “manage the unions” once the scheme had been put in place; needless to say, I was not involved in the discussions. I only had two contacts on the matter with my friend; one to ask for my interest in assisting with it and the second (at my request) some six months after my first discussion, to tell me that the “plan” had foundered for the reason mentioned. I did not ask though my assumption at the time was that the most likely “senior minister” was Reith, with Faye or Minchin a close second. Maybe it was Howard, I thought after seeing Bastard Boys. Maybe they were just “in training” for confronting the MUA?

Finding Madeleine McCann:

Christopher Ridings writes: Re. “Searching for meaning in the hunt for little Madeleine” (yesterday, item 22). The frightening experience of the missing Madeleine McCann can only recall for some Australians the Beaumont children still missing from Glenelg beach after over 40 years, not to mention other disappearing young people since. I don’t think enough public warning is given to world-wide human trafficking where kidnapped victims are smuggled out of the country to a place of a different language where they are powerless to find their way back and remain permanently under others’ control. It is possible that Australia itself could be used as a country where non-English people are smuggled and used as enslaved victims. In all the publicity the tragic reality of dislocating human traffic has not been sufficiently raised.

The Budget bounce:

Andrew Lewis writes: Re. “Thanks for the Budget, but we’ve already made up our minds” (yesterday, item 10). I’m not surprised, but heartened to see no Budget bounce (yet) for Mr Howard. It will be interesting to look back in eight months or so to see who was right. Paul Kelly’s apparent belief that it will have a belated but significant effect is hard to believe. Me? I’m fairly sure that the majority of Australians have had a gutful of the values-less and vision-free politics practiced by Mr Howard. My theory is that like for Paul Keating, a large part of the electorate has stopped listening. We are all waiting with our baseball bats at the ready, not quite sure whether to savour a slow and agonising death or to wish for the quick kill. Paul Kelly will be able to save face because the actual election result will almost certainly fall within the range of 48%-52%, as it nearly always does in Australia. The question that must be asked then, if the opinion polls are saying 41% — 59% or thereabouts, how many people are kidding themselves (or the pollster) when they respond to a polling questionnaire?

A cliche too far?:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Rudd repays the favour” (yesterday, item 11). Yesterday’s political bite-sized chunk highlights Kevin Rudd’s love of the “bridge too far” cliche. Now I’m not sure if Kevin is a keen student of Operation Market Garden, or the Battle of Arnhem as the relevant sub-section is known, but the relevance of the phrase escapes me. The battle involved the dropping of Allied paratroopers onto a series of bridges in Holland in 1944. If successful the rampaging armies of the US, Britain and Canada would have spent winter with a bridgehead over the Rhine River, the last great natural obstacle before Germany itself. All but the last bridge were relieved by advancing British troops, according to plan, but at Arnhem bridge 2nd battalion, the Parachute Regiment, was forced to surrender after a heroic defence against two elite Waffen SS armoured divisions — whose presence went unnoticed  or ignored — by those planning the operation. So, when Kevin says the Government has gone “a bridge too far”, he is either describing the Government as audacious but unlucky, or else he is casting the Liberals in the role of the plucky British tommy (played with wonderful restraint by Anthony Hopkins in Sir Richard Attenborough’s cliche-coining film), fighting bravely while surrounded and assailed by powerful, malevolent and unwanted fanatics. Why he has to get the “bridge” in there is just one step beyond my understanding.

The ‘thick and rich’ of university funding:

Stephen Matthews writes: Re. “Howard’s universities advantage the ‘thick and rich'” (yesterday, item 2). Thanks to Prof Thornton for her valuable insights into the compliant and docile citizenry who have allowed this Government to foster universities for the thick and rich. I work in recruitment so I’m exposed to the ignorant hordes of overseas-born university graduates who regurgitate course materials (for the thick), obtain their degrees and are left to fathom in vain why they are unemployable in the discipline of their choice. What is most pleasing about the Treasurer’s $5billion Uni Endowment Fund is that now we can hope for some genuine quality research-activity at our universities.

Brad Ruting writes: Margaret Thornton does point out an interesting quirk of the Budget, where the HECS contributions for all university courses were increased –except for the accounting, administration, commerce and economics category. Perhaps this is the cynic in me, but could this have something to do with Peter Costello wanting fewer economists and accountants out there poring over his seemingly good-for-everyone budgets and picking out the faults?

The Fairfax/Rural Press merger:

Gail Eastaway, editor, The Monaro Post, writes: As a shareholder (through an employment plan) and ex-employee of Rural Press, John Fairfax’s letter to shareholders on the completion of the Fairfax merger (8 May) confirms that which we ex-employees always suspected … that JB doesn’t know what actually happens in his company. He states “…what has been and continues to be a wonderful company. It is only wonderful because of its people … They have a reputation because of those at the reception desks, those attending the presses, the accountants or clerical staff, the sales people (and, gee, guess who is least important) the journalists”. If Rural Press’s people are SOOOOOO important to them why have 13 (of a possible 15) people left the Cooma office since August 2006. Why has that office had three sales teams sign on and leave since September 2006? Why is it that if all ex-employees of Rural Press formed a club, we would very likely fill the MCG? Mr Fairfax’s letter also states he will miss the tea and scones “on the lawns of our North Richmond site”. That sort of sums up JB’s outlook doesn’t it? Roll on more independent newspapers…

Kangaroos, methane, et al:

Tim Thomas writes: Geoff Russell (yesterday, comments), is correct in saying that the energy loss in cattle feed via methane production is 2% to 8%. The 25% figure I quoted yesterday came from a press release (Texas A&M University) regarding work from Dr Floyd Byers, not the actual publication referred to by Geoff. Hydatid infection comes from the dog that ate the kangaroo that grazed on the infected pasture. According to the DPI, humans cannot be infected by eating hydatid cysts, only eggs. So wash your hands after patting the dog, even if you are only eating the side salad and not the steak.

James Thompson writes: Tom MacLouglin (yesterday, comments) has either misunderstood the mode of transmission of hydatids or he is deliberately attempting to mislead the public over the risk of eating kangaroo and other red meat. I agree that hydatid cysts are a potentially serious parasitic disease of humans. However, humans are at risk from the ingestion of hydatid tapeworm eggs, laid by tapeworms living in the gut of farm dogs, dingoes or foxes that had fed on cattle, sheep or kangaroos. To avoid human infection with hydatids, after handling dogs wash your hands before eating and worm your dogs regularly. Eating red meat does not result in hydatid infection. Tom should have paid more attention during his zoology degree.

Bolt, Williams and a century between friends:

Jim Hart writes: What’s a century between friends? In revisiting the debate about sea levels, Richard McGuire (yesterday, comments) suggests that Robyn Williams took the phrase “in the next century” to mean in the century following this one, ie. the 22nd century, and that Andrew Bolt wilfully misinterpreted it to mean “within 100 years from now”. That’s a difference of some 93 years. My reading of the full transcript suggests they were both talking about the immediate small-c century but it hardly matters since they would never agree anyway.

Stefanovic and morning television:

John Spehr writes: Re. “Karl Stefanovic: protected parrot?” (Monday, item 24). For me, the issue is content. I watch from 6.20 to 6.45am while eating my cornflakes. I always watched Nine pre-Sunrise, and switched to Seven due to my bad local reception for Nine (Sunshine Coast hinterland). I stuck with Seven because the show was as good, and Kochie’s package of demeanour, humour, enthusiasm and intelligence appeals. However, success killed them at my place because the show is now saturated with ads, promos and what I call “coming-ups”, ie. “Coming up after Seven is Fred…”. They even started giving a Queensland-only weather report here, in lieu of national, so they can squeeze more ads in. I fluked the one-hour news on Ten, (6am until 7am) about three months ago and stayed there. If you watch for 20 minutes or so in that hour you’ll know if WW3 started while you were asleep, who’s winning the one-dayer in Mumbai, and enough general news to get you through until you hit the ABC in the car on the way to work!

Oops:

Ronald Webb writes: Re. Richard McGuire (yesterday, comments) … “as Bolt inferred in his Herald Sun article”. Mr McGuire, surely you mean: implied. (One infers something from an article).

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 5: “Biographers, as Oscar Wilde feared, add a new terror to death.” Wilde said many wonderful things, but that’s not his. It was said in the mid-19th century of Lord Campbell, who was notorious for his Lives of the Lord Chancellors, although the line apparently dates to the previous century: see the discussion last year at The Literature Page

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Peter Fray

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