Ten sets the record straight on Warnie text:

Network Ten’s head of corporate communications, Margaret Fearn, writes: Re. “Thumbs ready, set ….” (Yesterday, item 24). Your article published yesterday refers to an item that screened in Ten’s Early News. Alas, we don’t actually have Shane Warne’s mobile phone number (much less his “sent messages” file), so our graphics team came up with the next best thing: a mock-up.

Government advertising:

Tony Thompson writes: Re. “The Government’s bulging ad, sorry, information budget” (yesterday, item 1). Can one of the organisations that do the polling on the election outcome divert their resources for one week and poll people to see if people actually read, watch, or listen to Government advertising and further whether it will affect how they vote. I like to think that I am reasonably intelligent and politically savvy but I do not take any notice of government advertising. How many people are like me and just turn off to Government advertising / information campaigns?

Darren Saunders writes: Having just missed out on funding for our work into new cancer treatments in this years NHMRC medical research grant “lottery”, it is at least comforting to see government advertising telling me how much they support innovation. My very rough maths tells me that they could have paid for 3 years worth of research by our team for the price of approximately 5 minutes worth of prime time TV ad slots… value for money?

Freedom of information:

Brett Galbraith writes: Re. “McKinnon: FOI review the worst of politics” (yesterday, item 2). The changes have nothing to do with a political stunt before the election – they are totally about making life easier for themselves when they are in opposition! This is a sign that they have already conceded this election thus they want to change FOI so that they can attack the Government (Labor) with greater ease when they are in power. Thus Labor don’t really want them to happen. Do you really think that the Libs would be pushing this if they thought they will win?

Stephen Woods writes: If Michael McKinnon is so worried about FOI, why is it that we hardly see any news stories or reporting about this important issue on his own media outlet? We are constantly being informed about Channel 7’s ratings this year, but I suspect little of this success is from courageous reporting. Instead we are deluged with what can only be described as trash TV reportage (Today Tonight, anyone?). So clearly, in spite of all the bile spilt in these comments section about how Crikey is biased in one way or the other, or how a certain writer or contributor is bringing Crikey down, here we have a Channel 7 Editor using this arena to inform and educate the public. This is a massive vote of confidence in Crikey if ever there was one.


Niall Clugston writes: Crikey’s editorial yesterday discusses various “dictators”. None of the three examples are actually dictatorships: Burma is ruled by a military junta, Iran has a complicated religiously based authoritarianism, and while Mugabe may be a dictator now, he clearly wasn’t in 1980. Pedantry? No. True dictatorships are rare at present – Pakistan, which Crikey didn’t mention, being one – however the world is full of repressive regimes of varying kinds and degrees, all happy to rebut suggestions that they are literally “dictatorships”. The same sloppiness is used to defend shredding civil liberties: Howard isn’t Hitler, therefore it’s OK. Simplistic sloganeering advances no discussion.

John Blakefield writes: Whilst Burma is controlled by a “hunta” of army officers, and Zimbabwe’s current president got there by a pretty shonky electoral process; the Iranian president [ex mayor of Teheran] was elected through an election that was relatively OK. He is a lot of things [crazy, unpredictable, etc.] but he ain’t no dictator.

Cathy Bannister writes: Oh goodie, I’m pleased to be informed by Crikey that the dictators of the world are under pressure (if only internally). Does that mean that Kim Jong II and the Chinese Government will let the press report freely in their respective countries, and that unnamed assassins will stop irradiating or shooting nuisance Russian journalists?

Overexposure for Rudd and Howard:

Christopher Ridings writes: Re. “The Tuesday Top 20” (yesterday, item 10). While it may be exciting for John Howard and Kevin Rudd to receive almost equal billing in the news, they are for me running the risk of overexposure. With the media falling over themselves to feature them doing everything except the weather report, why are they censoring out any mention of Lyn Allison, Leader of the Australian Democrats? Is this gender discrimination, as the late Janine Haines used to point out in her time as leader, or do they think that, like Basil Fawlty, if they don’t mention the Democrats they might get out of the proprietors’ hair and fade away?

Hicks and Gitmo:

Barry Everingham writes: Re. “Let’s not forget Gitmo” (yesterday, item 18). Greg Barns knows full well the Howard government got Hicks out of Gitmo because of the forthcoming elections. Ruddock et al did nothing to help the hapless guy while he was there. I wrote to the Australian head of state in London last year, outlining the concern of many of her loyal Australian subjects regarding the treatment of Hicks by her Australian prime minister and her other Antipodean ministers, including her attorney general and foreign minister. Her Majesty was more prescient than I realised. In her reply she pointed out it was not matter she would intervene (if our head of state couldn’t, who the hell could? I pondered) but she did instruct my letter be forwarded to the British foreign minister, not Lord Downer of Baghdad and Kabul. She may be foreign and she may be non-resident but she sure has her royal ear to the ground and she got the message about our Alexander.

The fate of the Myer building in Hobart:

Simon Coburn writes: Re. “Hobart’s chance to lead the world in civic imagination” (Monday, item 15). As a consultant in an architectural firm I couldn’t agree more with Guy Rundle’s comments about the history of architecture and the fate of the Myer building in Hobart. I doubt there are many individuals or organisations that would prefer that it be replaced with “a box with a few glass frou frous”. However, modern management is in the thrall of the business case and if the value of something can’t be quantified in a spreadsheet, then it is normally ignored. Which is how we finish up with tilt-slab buildings. Rundle rightly points out that Taswegians value(d) the building. But how to quantify this? Let us imagine we are now preparing a business case for its replacement – firstly, what is the original building worth to its neighbours, Hobartians, Taswegians and tourists compared with a tilt-slab building? Secondly, how would an investor expect to recoup this value? Volunteer labour? Higher rates? Sales tax? A surcharge on all goods sold in the store? As investors, none of us expect nothing for our money so we should not expect others to do so either. The trick is to design the business case so it incorporates value other than simple economic value but also creates ways to pay for it. As for world leadership in civic imagination, there are already some inspiring examples of business cases developed by local councils around Australia (such as Banyule City Council in Melbourne) for the value communities place on social and environmental assets such as the amenity of the Myer building in Hobart. I hope Hobart can draw on some of these precedents.

Operation Wickenby:

Peter Hill writes: Re. “Labor to review Operation Wickenby if elected” (Monday, item 12). About 25 cents of every dollar spent by the Tax Office goes towards its “active compliance” programs, of which there are many. And for every dollar spent on audits and investigations, the Tax Office aims to collect exponentially more in tax and penalties, like 10, 20, 50 times more. One reason self assessment was introduced last century was to significantly improve that ratio, by shifting the cost of actually assessing every single return, for little extra tax, to the compliance function. Literally, spend the money where it gets the biggest bite. There is no way the Tax Office can cover all bases with the resources it has or will ever have. For the 2006-07 year, the Tax Office currently estimates it collected about $4,500 million in extra tax through its compliance activities. Note, collected, not just assessed but fought over. Big bickies in any currency (except Zimbabwe). But Operation Wickenby is unique in that it is targeting only ONE specifically-identified promoter firm based offshore and its associates. In last year’s Budget, extra funding of the project to the tune of $305 million over 7 years was announced, along with the expectation this amount would yield extra of $323 million over 4 years. That’s not your average rate of return on taxpayers’ investment in the project, indeed it’s comparatively rank. If Operation Wickenby was only about the numbers, or the tax, it would also be unacceptable from a tax administration viewpoint. But it’s not just about the tax. It’s sending a message, partly carried by every high-profile person who “goes down”. The deterrent factor is at play – highly priced, value yet to be determined.

A sad state of affairs for a so-called “boom” state:

Rebecca Le May writes: Re. “Are we headed for a major airline crash in Australia?” (21 September, item 4). My husband and I were on that utterly scary mayday flight to Perth last year and what astounded us to find out from reading the full report into the matter was that while the plane itself had computer-aided landing technology, Perth airport does not. Considering this airport is situated in a fog-prone area, it is sheer luck that a major crash has not already happened. It’s an embarrassingly outdated facility in many respects but the fact basic safety technology is lacking is gobsmacking. Being close enough to the ground to be able to read street signs during two aborted landings is quite a frightening experience, as one can imagine. Hats off to the pilot for managing a successful landing without the kind of on-the-ground support one would expect in an advanced economy. A sad state of affairs for a so-called “boom” state.


John Taylor writes: Re. “Falling in love with Twenty20 cricket” (yesterday, item 23). Irfan Yusuf might be a convert to Twenty20 cricket but I’m with Gideon Haigh. Obviously, this is a “Manufactured for TV” game which will succeed in the sub-continent where a billion cricket-starved consumers are ready to watch, time slots being right. But if we’re going to participate, why the hell would we go in with an almost full strength Test side in a game made for park cricket bashers? Before the next time, let’s look around for six strong young blokes who bat like baseball players, four bowlers who can keep the ball on the pitch, up and reasonably quick and Brad Haddin to keep and marshal the troops. Betcha they’d do better than Ricky and the current lot.

The Rugby World Cup:

Patrick Baume writes: I just couldn’t let Rob Moston’s comment about the Rugby World Cup (yesterday, comments) go unchallenged. Not only was the first game of the tournament an upset with the host nation losing to Argentina, but there have been numerous entertaining and very close matches, including Georgia v Ireland (which Georgia deserved to win), South Africa v Tonga, Japan v Fiji and there’s plenty of pearlers to come this weekend – England v Tonga, Scotland v Italy, Wales v Fiji, Argentina v Ireland. It has in fact been an outstanding performance from the “minnows” and easily the most interesting Group stage of any of the 6 RWCs so far. I humbly suggest Mr Moston just plain hates rugby and haven’t watched a single game (apart from five minutes perhaps of one of Australia’s games) nor even bothered to look up the scores.

Steve Johnson writes: Rob Moston is half-correct in his comments relating to the Rugby World Cup. The games certainly are a bit one-sided, just as they are in every multi-nationally contested sports competition. The summer and winter Olympics, FIFA World Cup, FIFA European Cup, Cricket World Cup and Twenty20 competition, you name it, all pretty dull stuff in the earlier races and fixtures. So it must take a pretty dull sports fan who bothers to criticise a competition like the RWC before the excitement of the final series has even begun. Unless you are a fan of a parochial little one-country sport like AFL of course. Right, Rob?

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

Inoculate yourself against the spin

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today to get your first 12 weeks for $12 and get the journalism you need to navigate the spin.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey