What about the turtle picture?! We journalists love a survey. They make such an easy story and don’t the PR people just know it. Like the good folk at the contact centre company Strike Force Sales. They trotted out a little press release about how their researchers tested the online contacts for 460 Australian organisations that employ 100 or more people. Specific product queries were manually entered into every organisation’s web form or email to simulate a genuine customer enquiry. After seven days, the researchers had not received responses from 59 per cent of the businesses. On average, those that did respond took an average of one day and 8.5 hours to get back to the “customer”. Almost half of the automated email responses promising a real reply were never followed up. One of the country’s most read websites, news.com.au, gave the story a run and, as you can see, they have sucked me in as well!

But at least I am claiming to have a legitimate reason for the story reminded me of my own experience with the email contact system of the ABC that I used back in April and wrote about at the time. It involved a little question I had about a picture of a turtle chewing away on a plastic bag.

So away I sent this form:

I have yet to receive a reply.

The nonsense continues. According to The Age, the most read story on the SMH site this morning was Starbucks closes 61 shops, cuts 700 jobs while the SMH site itself had Hundreds out of pocket as eBay trader goes bust. What goes on at Fairfax? Can we believe anything they say?

Easily conned on spirits. Family First Senator Steve Fielding is easily conned which is not a good sign for the way Australia will be governed for the next three years. The good Senator whose support Labor needs to pass legislation which the Coalition opposes wrote an op-ed piece in the Herald Sun yesterday morning where he took the funny figures of the spirits industry about spirits consumption at face value.

“Data released by the Liquor Merchants Association of Australia”, he wrote, “has shown that the alcopops tax has pushed sales of standard alcohol drinks up by a staggering 21 million. It confirms what Family First thought would happen all along — that taxing alcopops would simply push people to buy the cheaper spirits and mix them with a soft drink themselves. What this means is that people are using a spirit high in alcohol content and probably generously adding it to their soft drink. And that means they’re pouring more grog down their throats, not less.”

That data which the Distilled Spirits Council of Australia is peddling around is just a hoax. If the new arrangement actually was resulting in increased sales you can be certain the industry would not be pushing for a return to the old taxation system. Senator Fielding should not be so naïve. The real scandal he should be investigating is why the previous Liberal-National government gave the alcopops peddlers a preferential excise rate in the first place. Labor has simply restored the status quo.

I have been at various times a liquor retailer, a lobbyist for brewers, a spirits importer and a partner in a Barossa wine making business. At the moment I am none of the above. Still, I know industry spin when I see it.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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