Senator Conroy on Labor’s broadband proposal:

Senator Stephen Conroy writes: Re. “Shock: Conroy reveals policy detail worth $200 million” (yesterday, item 9). It is disappointing to read the piece by Ms Simons. Ms Simons contacted my office on Monday 17 September seeking information about an announcement I made in a speech I gave in Brisbane on Friday. Although inquiring about the timing of this announcement, at no stage did she request a copy of the speech. This is not the first time Ms Simons has quoted my office without my permission. The new announcement in my speech was in fact an inquiry into the price of broadband. I have attached a press release with the details which was sent out at 2pm on Tuesday 18th September. While some people who attended the function may have good memories, Ms Simons does not. The details of the ten innovations centres, with a cost of up to $200 million, was first announced by Jenny Macklin in June 2006 in a white paper, and confirmed by Kim Carr on 24 April 2007. This announcement has been mentioned by Kim Carr on at least 10 occasions since that date, and I first mentioned them in a speech to the Australian Computer Society on 25 May 2007. While I commend Ms Simons’ assessment of the merit of Labor’s proposal her “scoop” is anything but.

Crikey, where’s the balance?:

Peter McDonell writes: Re. “And in more good news for the Howard Government…” (Yesterday, item 3). The ongoing and unrelenting bias against the Howard government, and the Prime Minister, does you no service. Not only have your biased critics enjoyed ten years of “never had it so good” times, the fervor of anti government support barely mentions the prospect of this country, and Kevin Rudd, being dominated by union management. (Union management – an oxymoron if ever I’ve heard one). Hasn’t the penny dropped yet? Perhaps your columnists should read the recent comment by Paul Sheehan (SMH, 17 September, 2007): “A Rudd Labor government would create the greatest concentration of union power in Australian political history. Labor governments would control all eight states and territories plus the federal government. Rudd’s cabinet would be loaded with a dozen former union officials and not a single business creator. His government would have three former ACTU presidents. Three more union heavies, Greg Combet, Bill Shorten and Doug Cameron, would have arrived via safe seats. A union lawyer, Gillard, would be deputy prime minister. All the union heavies have maintained a disciplined relative invisibility, allowing Rudd to run a presidential campaign. They are silent because the stakes are so great, the prize so large. They can afford to wait. Rudd is only one, they are many.” Now to the demography of your readers; those people prepared to pay for a newsletter giving some objective comment to balance the rest of the media – notice the word “balance”. Not only are we not getting balance, I believe you will find that this results in a sharp drop off in subscriber renewals, as many of your current readers vote with their feet. How will this affect your business? Will a Union come to your rescue?

Wheat losses compounding losses:

Sue Bradford writes: Re. “Wheat prices jump as winter grain outlook slashed” (yesterday, item 26). One under-reported effect of the drought and rising wheat prices concerns the plight of farmers who prudently (they thought) locked into forward contracts when the year started off looking good. Now, having locking in at $200 plus per tonne they are seeing current prices grow to over $400. Most would only have contacted a proportion of their estimated yield, but as that yield drops the percentage of what they do harvest comes closer and closer to the tonnage committed, and the less of their wheat will be free to attract the super prices. Worse trouble looms though. If their own crop fails totally they will have to buy in wheat to fulfil that contract and so on top of the enormity of lost sowing costs, they must buy in grain at a huge price or pay a huge penalty to the grain companies. Losses compounding losses.

A non-core backbencher: 

Gary Carroll writes: Re. “Abjorensen: Howard the backbencher would make history” (yesterday, item 10). Yes, Howard to step down and see out his Parliamentary term as a backbencher; is that a core, or non-core, promise?

Fact or opinion on Iraq:

David Christison writes: Re. “France’s angel of death talks tough on Iran” (yesterday, item 19). Your travelling correspondent, Guy Rundle, wrote, “…the Iraq invasion, surely visible now as one of the great crimes against humanity of our times.” Do we take this as historical fact or should it be labelled as opinion?

Constructing Fear:

Shannon Walker writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). The Constructing Fear documentary by Joe Loh was launched in Parliament House a couple of months ago and is currently being shown by different community groups and other organisations around the country. Information about screenings can be found on the Constructing Fear website – www.constructingfear.com.au. For some reason the website link in Crikey didn’t work yesterday.

A rock solid mail out:

Margaret Bozik writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). Regarding the tip about government mailouts to safe seats only. The Howard propaganda brochures on talking to children about drugs, etc was delivered to homes in Kooyong, a rock-solid Liberal electorate.

20 knots top speed isn’t quick:

Nick Ryan writes: Re. “‘Prison hulk’ shame: the deadly price of protecting fish” (Monday, item 5). 20 knots top speed isn’t particularly quick you know – Hobart’s Incat boats will do the best part of 40, can hold a lot more than 30 poor fishermen and have been used by both the Australian and US navies. By contrast Triton is a one-off, built in 2000 as an evaluation vessel for a British Navy replacement project that was canned in late 2005. She was then sold, did some work as a multi-role survey ship until Customs came calling in Dec 06. Fitted with two .50 cal machine guns you wouldn’t say she is exactly armed to the teeth either…

Rove is the new Brandis:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Anjanette Parker (yesterday, comments) wrote: “I found Rove McManus totally out of line with the comments on John Howard. Will never watch his show again.” Given the past sentiments expressed by Jeff Kennett, Peter Costello and Senator George Brandis, who famously described Howard as “the Rodent”, can I assume that Ms Parker’ no longer votes Liberal?

Defining journalism:

James Walker writes: Re. “Moves to define “journalism” in the eyes of the law” (yesterday, item 21). Interesting that according to Andrew Dodd the Australian Law Reform Commission wants to raise the legal bar for media defences against breaching people’s privacy, but at the same time lenders want to reduce privacy for borrowers to lower than a limbo stick. Backed by barely camouflaged spin by Veda Advantage, which collects credit histories, lenders want to include “account balance or payment history” in credit reports. Whose privacy is affected more if a few celebs chased with cameras or the 14.5 million identities in Australia whose detailed financial history could be accessed by any lender/ insurer in the country?

Mike Smith writes: Yesterday, Andrew Dodd wrote: “That might be fair enough. But what about a program or website that is set up to inform but is not classified as news, current affairs or a documentary? In every day language, this would be described as journalism but under the proposed rules may not get an exemption under the Act.” What about a site run by an Australian, but hosted in the USA (example blogger.com)?

The NT intervention:

Mike Hughes writes: David Lodge (yesterday, comments) asks “Better still how do remote communities anywhere in the world exist autonomously with decent living standards? These are all questions that the left has absolutely no response to and that’s what irks me.” Perhaps it’s because David Lodge has little understanding of cultures where the singular nuclear family McMansion 4wd experience is not sought after but where the land and community ties are predominant. The reason why Aborigines exist in the NT in large numbers is because they were effectively quarantined from the land grab and disease spread of white settlement. Now it seems we want that land too… What irks me is those on the right have little or no explanation to why this intervention wasn’t properly conceived, designed to be sustainable, or why the permits need to be yanked as part of it. Or indeed why their precious government didn’t act for 11 years then, when they did, waved a report to justify it even though the report writers themselves said the intervention was next to useless if it didn’t follow their recommendations.

Bruce Graham writes: David Lodge asks “What other western country openly gives free money to one race or group of people based on their location?” All of them David. Take the USA: every resident of Alaska gets an annual handout (from the oil revenues – it’s not just a joke from the Simpsons movie.). Then there is all of Europe. It’s called farm policy there, and it’s why France has so many pretty country towns that tourists like to visit. Japan, ditto. Did you think that those idyllic manicured Japanese rural scenes paid for themselves? Canada puts large amounts of money into remote indigenous communities. Last I checked, a good way for a doctor to emigrate to Canada was to offer to work in one of them – some things are the same the world over. Right or wrong, a social policy of supporting isolated towns is something voters seem to like. Why do we do it? I don’t know, it’s just the vibe. But I don’t recommend calling anybody in Alaska “left wing” to their face, and I’m not expecting the new conservative government of France to change the status quo either.

Chris Hunter writes: David Lodge wants to know “what other western country openly gives free money to one race or group based on their location?” Answer: England to Buckingham Palace.

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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