This report came (to me from a reliable source) allegedly from within the SMH. It suggests that on the day Howard announces the election, an SMH reporter will publish a story about Rudd which, it is claimed, would blow him out of the water. Apparently, the Rudd team is using every means to block it, but it is claimed the reporter is adamant that he will proceed, but only on the day the election is announced. Whilst intriguing, it worries me that a respected newspaper could contemplate interfering in the political process by sitting on a story until the point when it could achieve maximum damage.

Mal Brough’s Dept FACSIA is without doubt the most incompetent, messed up show in the country. Senior FACSIA people reckon Brough is certifiable and are basically hiding under their desks until he is gone (defence is the word) if they win. FACSIA’s budget from 05-06 outlined numerous programs and projects for indigenous communities governence, healthy housing etc etc and major infrastructure upgrades through the NAHS program. NAHS was the program that spent $900 million on shoddy housing, (some of which is uninhabitable, most of which is slowly being rectified with state housing budgets) and water and sewerage schemes that never worked. It is a complete shambles, FACS staff cannot get any agreements signed with the states, have no idea what the money is for and the staff turnover is beyond ridiculous. Brough should be called on this, his much-touted CHIP review was a farce, there was no real consultation, the small amount there was was completely ignored, and all his department’s stuff-ups were blamed on poorly resourced, never trained community housing providers. KPMG should be dragged over the coals for such a disgraceful piece of work and for their groveling to Brough.

I heard a rumour in Canberra that the reason the local casino was not able to install banks of new poker machines was that the CFMEU doesn’t like competition. They blocked it, to protect the stranglehold they’ve got on local clubs with pokies. As a union they’re certainly entertaining, but what’s the extent of their investment in the entertainment industry around the country?

Every radio, TV and newspaper outlet went big on the not guilty Palm island verdict yesterday. Hold on, you say, not every one? National Nine News in Sydney didn’t think it a story worthy of any mention at all. Decision by local news director John Choueifate and his line-up man Geoff Maurice. No wonder they’re going badly. It’s not a one-off. There’ve been rumblings of rebellion from staff over Choueifate’s go local at any cost strategy, especially police and state rounds. Long servers and new just want stories judged on their merits. There was also cursory coverage of the Hell’s Angel giving himself up — in Melbourne — after Australia’s biggest manhunt. There was NO coverage of Ch9 Melbourne’s exclusive of crime boss Tony Mokbel’s plans to wed in a Greece jail. Recently the Kerang train tragedy aftermath got light treatment compared to other media outlets. Some of the most powerful and tragic human stories imaginable. Again, not in NSW. Maybe in Sydney they should take the National out of National Nine News

I don’t know if this is exactly newsworthy, but here in Townsville during the Hurley trial, bottleshop owners in the CBD started to refuse service to indigenous patrons on the insistence of the police. One man who is 52 was refused service on the basis of the fact that he had no photo ID to prove that he is of legal drinking age. He was directed to a new poster that apparently the police were handing out to the bottleshops saying “no ID — no service”. As a test we sent in a white woman to buy a cask of wine, and not only was she not asked to produce ID, she was actually offered a special price if she bought two. Same case at another bottleshop — they wouldn’t sell to indigenous people, but our non-indigenous pal wasn’t even asked for ID. So even though the police say that the new crackdown is not supposed to target a particular racial group, that is exactly the way it is being enforced. During the Hurley trial? Pure coincidence, of course.

Former Liberal NSW state director Scott Morrison went quietly when he lost his $350,000 a year job as MD of Tourism Australia. It seems he went quietly in a deal to deliver him the blue ribbon Sydney seat of Cook. Morrison is disliked by locals and others in the party because of his offhand treatment of them during his term as NSW state director. However this has not prevented some members of the party’s nomination review committee which includes colourful Senator Farmer Bill from using every trick in the book to prevent a well-credentialed local from even appearing as a candidate at this Saturday’s Cook selection committee meeting where the Liberal candidate for this year’s federal election will be chosen. There is serious widespread disquiet among party members concerning the recent conduct of the party’s nomination review committee where the party’s rural vice-president Scott McDonald was prevented from contesting the Senate selection process against sitting Senators Helen Coonan and Marise Payne. These blocking tactics of the committee in Cook will produce intensive calls for the overhaul of the party process of vetting potential candidates. Cook locals are furious that a good local candidate is being denied the opportunity to stand in lieu of a parachuted-in candidate to replace the current member Bruce Baird.

Who is paid more: the Prime Minister or an SBS newsreader? Stan Grant’s salary = how many multiples of the Prime Minister’s salary? Stan Grant’s salary = how many multiples of a back-bencher’s salary? Does the taxpayer value Stan Grant above the Prime Minister (or several prime ministers) and a large number of back-benchers?

The morale of SBS staff is rising – controversial SBS programmer Jane Roscoe is meeting with ABC management and is rumoured to be leaving for Aunty’s shores. Roscoe is credited with dumbing down SBS. Roscoe has also pushed for outsourcing rather than in-house production. Movies are scheduled later and later at night while Roscoe champions ideas such as “the sexy slot”. The uncomfortably crude and sexist twist to this pun is mirrored in Roscoe’s programming choices. In chasing an audience for this sexy slot the only criteria is as much female flesh as possible. This has resulted in a line of spurious documentaries on porn, porn stars, and sexual behaviour. All of which cater to a white male mainstream audience well programmed for on other stations. The SBS charter lies forgotten somewhere. It will be interesting to see what changes Roscoe will bring to the ABC if she moves there.



Jane McMillan, SBS corporate communications manager, writes: Jane Roscoe is not leaving SBS nor is she responsible for the policy of outsourcing all production apart from news and current affairs at SBS. The outsourcing of production to the independent production sector is a decision that has resulted in SBS being able to commission more quality local content than has been seen on Australian TV screens for some time now. I suggest you tune in to SBS TV more often over the coming months to catch the award winning Remote Area Nurse, new multicultural drama Kick, hard-hitting drama The Circuit about a circuit judge in WA and police drama East West 101 later this year. The Australian version of genealogy program Who Do You Think You Are? and First Australian Nation (an indigenous history program) will also feature over the next few months. All fulfill SBS’s commitment to its charter and all ensure our audiences enjoy high quality, locally made content, free to air. As for Stan Grant, his salary is a private matter between Stan and SBS. Gross overestimates that have surfaced in the pages of Crikey detract from the fact that Stan is a key part of the SBS World News team and a talented media professional.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey