CRIKEY: Last Friday, Crikey inadvertently repeated incorrect comments in lobbyists’ Parker & Partners Off the Record newsletter regarding journalist Karen Middleton while reporting the remarks and their subsequent clarification. We acknowledge these comments are untrue and apologise to Ms Middleton if Crikey played any role in perpetuating the false report.

Alan Didak’s shorts:

The Age communications director, Nigel Henman, writes: Re. “Didak goes the tackle in The Age” (yesterday, item 22). We checked that photo of Alan Didak thoroughly and our pictorial team is satisfied that the photo was a straightforward depiction of the player. The blurred hand in the foreground appears to have thrown a flesh color onto his shorts. Crikey also made a false allegation about The Age cropping the photo for its online version. The position is this: at 10.30pm on Monday night the story was moved down in terms of priority and the photo became a horizontal shape, not a vertical one. This is normal. It was only moved because of the priority of story and was not cropped for any other reason. If Jane Nethercote had bothered to check with The Age she would have found this out.

WiFi and WiMAX:

Richard Farmer writes: Luke Mawbey (yesterday, comments) might think WiFi and WiMax are so different that we should not be concerned about the BBC Panorama program on WiFi but I notice a group of lawmakers from the ruling and opposition camps in Taiwan have urged their government to impose strict controls on the erection of WiMAX base stations, which they said pose a great risk to the health of those living nearby. See the report here on main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Wang Yu-ting and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) counterpart Tien Chiu-chin issuing the call at a news conference after government authorities recently revealed a plan to allow for the establishment of WiMAX (worldwide interoperability for microwave access) base stations. Wang and Tien asked the National Communications Commission (NCC) to review its planned opening of WiMAX base stations and demanded that it not issue licenses for base stations before WiMAX safety has been fully assured. According to the two legislators, WiMAX base stations will be more powerful than cell phone base stations in transmitting electromagnetic radiation, posing an even greater health threat.

Paris on the Gold Coast:

An eagle-eyed reader writes: Re. “Fun in the pun” (yesterday, item 24). Never mind the subs’ work on the headline, pity the pic shown of Paris Hilton on the Daily Tele‘s website — the “sensational Hawaiian picture” — was taken on the Gold Coast in 2004 by Nathan Richter of the Courier Mail.

East Timor:

Robert Johnson writes: Re. “East Timor parliamentary elections: Fretilin cut by half” (yesterday, item 14). Damien Kingsbury’s article could be interpreted as giving several unwarranted impressions or inferences. First, comparisons between Fretilin’s electoral showing with that of the 2001 elections is barely comparing like with like, even if it is convenient in talking down Fretilin’s popularity to the extent of claiming its “resounding defeat”, when it seems likely to remain the highest or second highest polling party, in the face of united institutional opposition from the church, foreign governments, the Presidency, etc. (Commentators usually discount Fretilin’s 2001 results as unreasonably high until, it seems, it can be used to show a subsequent huge “fall”.) Second, it is incorrect to infer that East Timor’s recent national elections were due to Dr Ramos-Horta replacing Dr Alkatiri as Prime Minister, as if Fretilin wasn’t fully committed to the scheduled conduct of those elections. Third, to view an anti-Fretilin “government of national unity” as instrumental in returning calm to the country could conceal the potential support by many of the forces of recent disruption for such political change, but hopefully will not lead to a new political leadership somewhat captive to such thuggish and divisive interests. This is perhaps reminiscent of the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua in 1989, when it was voted into opposition – despite being the single most popular party, and due to a clumsy coalition of smaller parties united by what they opposed (a Sandinista government) rather than by what they supported – by an electorate worn down by the threat of continuing violent opposition whilst it remained in government, popular support notwithstanding. I agree with Kingsbury’s confidence in East Timor’s constructively evolving political system, but it is certainly premature to support his apparent view that a coalition government equates to one of “national unity” or of an end to unrest. 

The Coles sale:

Roger Fry writes: Re. “Market savages Coles and Wesfarmers” (yesterday, item 2). I’m not surprised by Stephen Mayne’s comment that the Wesfarmers 34 page presentation did not convince the market. It would have bored the audience sh-tless. You’d think that a company with $4 billion in cash to add to its offer would buy some advice on how to put over a message that was persuasive. But what was done – in what appears to be a PowerPoint presentation — breaks almost every rule in the book. Rule One – have one clear message and hammer it. Rule Two – substantiate the message with 2-3 points, with examples. Summarise and say what’s next. Pass out a handout with the detail afterwards. Rule Three – don’t use PowerPoint. People can’t read and listen at the same time. It seems to me that speakers think the more they put into a slide presentation, the better it is. Think of convincing speakers – Churchill, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Hitler, and Lincoln. They’re only human beings like Mr Goyder of Wesfarmers. But he didn’t present ad lib the way they did. Can you imagine them using PowerPoint?

Michael Barrett writes: Wesfarmers plunder of Coles goes further than you have indicated. Coles have come off second best in competing with Woolies, so they have to do things differently and a lot cheaper. It’s not just simply putting Coles real estate into a Bunnings properties structure. It’s about adopting the whole Bunnings model and cutting one link out of the supply chain. For all re-developments and new developments in new population areas, it will be the “box on the block” model all the way where there is a smaller or at best no central warehouse to worry about and suppliers have to direct deliver into each store across Australia. Hence for starters around 5% cost hits the bottom line or gives them a nice price advantage over Woolies.

Terrorism, doctors and bombs:

John Parkes writes: Re. “London, Glasgow, Brisbane: UK terror links to Queensland” (yesterday, item 4). I note a couple of things, firstly in yesterday’s Crikey, is an analysis of the description of the recent “bombings” in London. It has to be said that their failure demonstrates certain ineptitude on the part of the perpetrators. Then we are told that a person who has been working as a doctor here in Australia may be linked to this bunch of amateurs. We can only hope he was better medicine than at being a bomber. While that comment is made light-heartedly, we should remember Dr Patel, and his alleged incompetence. Combine that with my recent experiences with doctors who have trouble making themselves understood in English (and understanding the patient) is it time that all of these overseas trained doctors were looked at more closely to assess their competence and whether this country should devote more resources to training Australian-born (and I make no restriction on racial or ethnic ancestry, only place of birth) students to be doctors in this country? Here in SA only a year or so ago we had the spectacle of the Government trying to appoint a foreign-born specialist to a country hospital only to have the scheme fall apart because he failed an English language test. Surely it is time the Government opened the purse strings to the Universities and we trained our own children rather than relied upon importing other people’s children and giving them careers.

Joe Boswell writes: Mike Martin asks (yesterday, comments) if there are any explosives experts among Crikey readers. I’m only a major accident safety professional, but I’ll have a go. Mr Martin is very dismissive about the potential for an explosion from a car packed with LPG cylinders. He correctly states the necessity for an oxidizing agent in order to achieve combustion, but falsely concludes that no explosion was possible with the devices like those planted in London. As well as apparently not knowing that there are explosions that do not rely on oxidation, he also seems ignorant of the phenomenon called Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapour Explosion (BLEVE). Look it up on Google. There are also some video clips on YouTube, though often with cylinders far too big for a car. This one shows the consequences of an external fire on a large LPG vessel and includes a helpful voice-over. Since Mr Martin says “LPG in a gas cylinder doesn’t explode,” perhaps he can explain what happened there.

The MacBank-Fairfax merger:

Keith Williams writes: Re. “The massive MacBank-Fairfax cross-media merger” (yesterday, item 1). Andrew Dodd is not quite correct here when he states that Fairfax “is now committed to radio as well as newspapers”. In fact Fairfax are relinquishing their nine provincial stations in SA and Qld to MMG in the deal. It takes the MMG owned stations to about 93.

High and dry:

Mark Byrne writes: Matt Brown, former chief of staff to Robert Hill, corrected (yesterday, comments) Irfan Yusuf’s misrepresentation of Guy Pearse’s claims. It is of note that Brown did not contradict anything written in Pearse’s book High and Dry. Mr Brown, it’s what is not contradicted that is so telling.

A bit more truth in reporting:

Chris Hawkshaw writes: John Goldsworthy (yesterday, comments) gave us this: “Certainly interest rates climbed to 11% in the Fraser era but under the Hawke/Keating Government they climbed to 17%. It is time we had a bit more truth in reporting I believe.” It sounds like he’s referring to mortgage rates, but John leaves out the detail that mortgage rates were pegged at 11% by the Howard/Fraser government. Who knows what heights housing rates would’ve tested if Howard had let a free market have its way during his recession of that time? Yeah, truth in reporting would be a good idea. I am, however, intrigued by the frequent citing of 22% interest rates under Howard in 1980-81. I’ve never been able to find a reference to them in Reserve Bank stats or the ABS. But then I may not know what to look for. Can a Crikey reader point the way? I’d love to see it there in black ink.

The 21 millionth citizen:

Jason Scullin writes: Re Cathy Bannister’s assertion (yesterday, comments) that citizenship ceremonies occur only around Australia Day and Harmony Day. I can’t comment for other council areas around Australia (although I imagine they are similar) but the City of Sydney (where I became a citizen) holds an average of two citizenship ceremonies a month. With 103,350 people becoming citizens in Australia in 2005-06 versus 265,922 babies being born in 2006, I imagine there’s a pretty good chance the 21 millionth citizen will be an adult. I’ll leave it to the statisticians to work out the exact odds!

Helen Razer and Princess Diana:

Mark Perica writes: Re. “Diana, Queen of Media Tarts” (Monday, item 19). I love a good post modernist as much as the next bloke but someone should tell Ms Razer that the sun is well and truly over the yard arm on post modernism. Helen has post modernist Tourette’s syndrome. She cannot write a review or opinion piece without referring to a simulacrum, a signifier, Foucault, or the discipline of cultural studies. Seriously she needs a new “hermeneutic device”. I could acknowledge her material as funny if there were such a thing as an author.

Roslyn Pike writes: Helen, in answer to your question what were William and Harry thinking? Quite clearly they didn’t have a thought between them. They did not utter one unscripted word. Every word was carefully; almost laboriously read. They obviously have received some education; they can read, but they could not make someone else’s words sound like their own. They are probably not gormless as well as thoughtless; they are probably both OK but not able to exercise any control over their lives. Poor lads.

The Stuart Highway:

Andrew McMillan writes: I question Greg Hughes’ comment (yesterday, comments) that the Stuart Highway “was sealed by the Seppos in WW2”. My understanding is that the Darwin Overland Maintenance Force Road – as it was then known – was sealed between Larrimah and Alice Springs by the Country Roads Board of Victoria, a process begun in August 1942. Between Larrimah Siding and Tennant Creek – a distance of a thousand kilometres – they were upgrading a dirt road carved out of the scrub in ninety days between September and November 1940 by state road construction departments from Queensland, NSW and South Australia. The Yanks upgraded the track between Larrimah and Katherine in 1942.

Gary Owen:

Tim Warner writes: Regarding the use of the tune Gary Owen as a backing for the Army ceremonies as raised by John Parkes (yesterday, comments). The Gary Owen has a long history far beyond the link to Col. Custer and the US 7th Cavalry. The tune is a traditional Irish melody which became popular in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars, and then revived during the Crimea War. George Macdonald Fraser (writer of the Flashman books) has postulated that the 7th Cavalry picked it up due to the number of Irish ex-British Army soldiers. The tune is still associated with the Irish regiments of the British Army and with cavalry regiments. The Australian link is therefore obvious – we have a large group of Irish descendant citizens, and our units have doctrinal and training links with British regiments.

Peter Haydock writes: What ridiculous tosh turns up the Crikey comments section. Now we have John Parks telling us that Army Reserves shouldn’t be associated with the traditional melody (Irish I think from memory) Gary Owen because it was the favourite marching tune of poor old, politically incorrect Custer. If this is to be the standard by which the Army’s marching music is selected and rejected it will present some novel dilemmas. What if it turns out that Hitler used to whistle Colonel Bogey or Lenin bashed out March of the Gladiators on the family goanna? And who knows how many mass murderers may have been partial to Waltzing Matilda? Jeez, get a life John. It’s a good tune and, anyway, Custer suffered enough at the Little Big Horn without your two cents worth.

Glenn Dyer:

Jason Atwal writes: To Adam Paull (yesterday, comments) who responded to my thoughts on Channel Nine, I may have been able to explain myself better. The point I was trying to get across was that Glenn Dyer only ever seems to attack Nine and leaves the others alone. Maybe it is time he gives the same to the other networks.


CORRECTION: “1987 redux: Paying top dollar for media companies, Fairfax buys into radio” (yesterday, item 26). Adam Schwab wrote: “SBC’s assets include… various regional Channel Nine and Ten affiliates” … “the bulk of the stations being bought by Macquarie Media are Nine and Ten affiliates”. The only Nine affiliate SCB had was NWS 9 in Adelaide which it has already sold to WIN.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 18: “But the Queensland angles – and the start of his Dame Nellie Melba long goodbye – has put Peter Beattie in the Number 3 slot.” “Angles have”, or “angle has”, but not “angles has”. Item 20: “Fairfax will become a more conflicted media company that either News Ltd, PBL Media, Seven or Ten.” Should be “than”, not “that”. Item 27: “If a foreign private equiteer isn’t leveraging its investments so that the interest bill pretty well matched by the profit …”. There’s a verb missing in that second clause – “is matched”, perhaps?

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