ACT Labor:

Kate Carnell, CEO, Australian Food and Grocery Council, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (28 August, item 8). The ACT Labor Party must be getting worried about the upcoming ACT election. Their suggestion in Crikey that I have put my name forward to replace Bill Stefaniak in the ACT Assembly is ridiculous and simply WRONG! It is not something I have even contemplated and I can guarantee I am very happy in my job as CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council. I understand that the Labor Party tabled the Crikey rumour in the Assembly today — they must be desperate for real issues!

US Election 2008:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Rundle 08: We’ve just seen one of the great American speeches” (Friday, item 1). This was the US Democrat week and next will be the US Republican one. The usual polls bounces will occur etc. The US public will have a choice between an Obama team with no executive experience at all versus McCain one with it. McCain’s inclusion of a woman governor Sarah Palin will possibly appeal to women voters who have been annoyed about Hillary Clinton’s treatment. The change of Obama tactics to make his more in touch and human, by toning down the lofty rhetoric suggests that the focus groups are telling him something. His biographer David Mendell wrote Obama represents an “ingenious lack of specificity”.

In fact I found The Economist summed it up better reflecting on his tax and, protectionist stances, weak waffly or opportunistic stances on the Georgian conflict and the Middle East/Iraq generally. Then said,

“Perhaps the most damning criticism of his is that he has never exhibited political courage by daring to take on any of his party’s powerful interests, as his rival, John McCain, has done over many issues, including global warming, campaign-finance reform, immigration and torture.”

Noting that The Economist has supported Bill Clinton as a candidate back in 1992 this was interesting. Some have described Obama as a “gifted fraud” a bit strong. If he becomes president he would be the fifth youngest (after Teddy Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Ulysses Grant all were in varying combinations either former governors or had substantial military backgrounds). Obama is very light on by comparison.

John Taylor writes: So it all came down to this. After a year of primary campaigning and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, what do we get? A young bloke who only rode into town recently and seduced everyone with his silver tongued oratory but who has to beat 150 years of entrenched racial bias to win the prize. Supported by a bloke who has had a couple of goes at the top job and hasn’t lasted past New Hampshire and to boot manages to put his foot in his mouth on a regular basis.

Opposed to them is an experienced senator who aspires to beat Ronald Reagan’s record for oldest president ever first elected and whose only obvious claim to fame is that he didn’t spill the beans after a period as a POW during the Vietnam War and whose health has a question mark. Whose potential vice-president (and this is where it gets really stupid) is described as “a hockey mum”, “a mother of five” ,”an ex-beauty queen”, with the administrative experience of a small-town mayor in the almost non-state of Alaska, before becoming their governor . She hunts (NRA vote) she is anti-abortion (religious vote) and she eats Mooseburgers (McDonalds vote). For God’s sake make her President of the P&C but don’t put her anywhere near the White House.

Really, is this the best they can come up with after this whole exhaustive process? If it is then heaven help us over the next four years when China, Russia, Iran and others will be seeking to turn the world on its head.

George Fisher writes: Why on earth is Crikey so “over the top” about those American elections? You are not usually as silly as the rest of the media, so why do you assume all that showbiz stuff from over there is of such interest over here? We can’t influence it anyway, so why not try to ignore it as best we can? Please rise above all that “foreign” rubbish, we’ve surely got enough of our own!

Mark Jeanes writes: For goodness sake, it’s just the nomination… it’s not THAT important. Could everybody calm down a bit, it’s American politics, not Australian politics.

Fairfax:

Dr Clinton Fernandes, Senior Lecturer in Strategic Studies at the University of New South Wales, writes: Re. “The Fairfax Fiasco II: Profits before public trust journalism” (27 August, item 5). Saturday 30th August was the ninth anniversary of the independence ballot in East Timor. Fairfax journalists were at the forefront of covering the events of those turbulent, dangerous and unforgettable times. At the height of the crisis, with the Indonesian military and its militia thugs going on a rampage against the civilians of East Timor, The Age’s Jakarta correspondent, Lindsay Murdoch, The Sydney Morning Herald’s Hamish McDonald and Louise Williams, and Indonesian-based journalist Zannuba Wahid provided coverage of immeasurable value to the Australian public and the international community.

Decades ago, another Fairfax journalist named David Jenkins began his first overseas posting to Indonesia. Arriving in 1967, he grew in experience to become a highly knowledgeable expert on Indonesian affairs. His landmark 1986 article on elite corruption was a story of international significance. It resulted in a furious reaction by the Indonesian dictator at the time. In hindsight, his article (“After Marcos, now for the Suharto billions”) is regarded as a watershed moment, and even today remains required reading for university students across the nation.

Brendan Nicholson, another Fairfax journalist, has provided crucial coverage of Australian defence and security issues. Much of what the Australian public knows about these matters can be traced back to his investigative reporting. Tom Hyland, foreign editor at The Age, managed to obtain a leaked copy of the Indonesia-East Timor Commission of Truth and Friendship in June 2008. His scoop threw a spotlight on an important story that many people in power had hoped would be ignored. He has also played a pivotal role in The Age’s coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.

These and other Fairfax journalists have been the thin black line standing between the Australian public and the forces of ignorance and obfuscation. It is important to acknowledge their contribution to the vitality of Australian democracy and regional security.

Les Heimann writes: The death of journalism is taking a bloody long time — it started with the advent of the internet, then the freeing up of media ownership rules and now we have the buy outs by corporate raiders. We really are witnessing death by a thousand cuts. The trouble is most people don’t know or care. Who still believes what they read in newspapers, magazines or hear on radio or even see on television? Nothing is what it seems and nothing is what is said. But do the masses care? Brought up on 15 second media grabs, magazine falsehoods, newspaper gossip churn is it any wonder so many people are turning to virtual lives in computer land?

I really mean this — Crikey is symbolic of the solution. Don’t get too swollen on this — I did say symbolic. If the populace wants real facts, real news, really well researched data etc. Well they will have to pay for it. Just like toll roads — the user pays! So subscribe to the news and see/read it on your computer screen. The question really is how long will it take before the big corporates try and take over this medium too?

Peter Costello:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Costello’s testimonial dinner address: exclusive sneak peek” (Friday, item 13). Bernard Keane’s conclusion that Peter Costello is really leaving politics, as he said he would, is supported by Andrew Bolt’s revelation on the Insiders program on Sunday that The Costello Memoirs would sell for $55 a copy with a print run of 50,000 copies. That’s $2.75 million if he’s a sell-out.

However, he is competing in the book market with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare which Dymock’s is selling for only $19.95 a copy. Shakespeare already contains most of Costello’s chapters, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, The Life And Death of King John, The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing and All’s Well That Ends Well.

It seems The Costello Memoirs has an inflated price to match it’s author’s inflated ego and his economic legacy of the highest inflation rate in 16 years. When Brendan Nelson comes to the dispatch box to ask Kevin Rudd why the cost of books in Australia has increased on Rudd’s watch, the PM will just have to blame it on Costello again.

CASA and Qantas:

Brad Hill writes: Re. “CASA Qantas audit suppressed … QF30 ricochet revealed” (Friday, item 2). Ben Sandilands’s article provided a link to the preliminary ATSB report on this matter. In that report, page 21 “cabin safety systems” reads, in part:

“There were 353 passenger seats in the aircraft, 476 passenger oxygen masks had deployed form their overhead compartments, 426 passenger oxygen masks were pulled down (i.e. activated for use).”

How does that work? Were 426 people crammed into 353 seats? Even counting the onboard dunnies, we shouldn’t see 476 passenger masks? Could be that I don’t know much about planes, Qantas overloaded the plane beyond belief, or the ATSB can’t handle primary school level mathematics?

Haneef:

Jody Bailey writes: Re. “Our AFP and the total Haneef c-ck up” (20 August, item 2). The Haneef debacle, and subsequent half-truths and obfuscations from the AFP, demonstrate what happens when a politically-over-funded police force needs to justify its existence. Find a terrorist, any terrorist, and do absolutely everything possible to nail them, no matter how flimsy the evidence. And when the flimsy evidence fails, just keep on fishing and digging: It’s the result that’s important, not justice, you see.

How many billion dollars are going to be spent before they can hold up a single case to legitimise the removal of obscene amounts of money and resources from society that would otherwise buy houses, schools, hospitals and human dignity? Over the last few election cycles those dollars have proven very efficient, though, in buying votes. After Haneef, not for much longer we can only hope.

League tables in schools:

David Hand writes: Re. “A teacher’s letter to the PM” (Friday, item 7). I have some knowledge of the league table issue in Britain. Schools over there have discovered that the single most effective measure they can take to propel their schools up the league table is to stop poor and disadvantaged kids from attending. Even the elite schools are boycotting the tables. To quote the head teacher of St Pauls Boys School in The Guardian on 28 April:

“No school I have ever known has been improved by league tables… What they do is put a brand on a school’s forehead, they bring it into disrepute and they hold a school back. League tables measure the wrong things and encourage schools to divert time and resources away from activities that help children to develop the skills they need for modern life.”

Sports funding:

Peter Angelico writes: Re. “Sports funding in danger of trading gold medals for healthy kids” (Friday, item 17). If my memory serves me well did the AOC negotiate a 100 million dollar payment around the time of the Sydney games? I recall it was tied in with the broadcasting rights and the funding was supposed to be used for training of athletes in years to come. If there was a payment of this nature, where were the funds invested and what are the AOC using the interest earned for and why are they still bleating about lack of funds?

GPs and drug reps:

Walt Hawtin writes: Re. “GP survey reveals heavy reliance on drug reps” (Friday, item 16). I think the role played by writers such as Ray Moynihan and Melissa Sweet in uncovering duplicitous, unprofessional or incompetent behaviour by the pharmaceutical industry and the medical fraternity is very important. I just fail to see how they can possibly justify attacking the thin branches at the edge of the system when the root cause of the problems is related to the structure of health research funding. In short? The bulk of health-related research has been left to the private sector.

The public sector is starved of funding, here and in virtually all other developed countries, so the private sector, left to its own devices, has developed drugs toward turning a profit, simply because they are commercial organisations owned by private and public shareholders.

Publicly-owned and funded universities are forced into selling their intellectual property to the highest bidder — pharmaceutical companies in many cases — so they can continue their research. This would be quite self-evident to Moynihan and Sweet.

So even though the vast majority of pharmaceutical industry executives are actually very good, altruistic, well-educated people, who chose pharmaceuticals over industries like financial services or energy because they genuinely feel they are making a positive difference, they nevertheless work for and are paid by commercial organisations.

Either Moynihan and Sweet don’t understand this, or they deliberately ignore the facts because bashing the pharma industry with tales of hordes of medical reps peddling undue influence over gormless ranks of GPs actually provides them with a livelihood! If this is true, the irony is extraordinary.

So when Ray Moynihan describes himself as an investigative health journalist, perhaps he ought to do some of the real digging and bigger-picture thinking that his grand title conjures up.

Also, if Ray is going to reference his articles, how about ensuring that his links are not to papers that are authored by him and requiring payment in order to read (see ginger group). It smacks of self interest and seems hypocritical when it is presented by Crikey as a piece of genuine journalism.

The Don:

Chris Hunter writes: Re. “Our Don Bradman” (Friday, comments). Perhaps there is a different way of viewing the Bradman legend. I was at the Victoria Park races in Adelaide some years ago with my son. We were in the bookies ring considering a bet when my son whispered to me, “you’re standing next to The Don”. Without being too obvious I eased back a little and briefly studied this legendary character.

Unlike my son who had met him, I wouldn’t have had a clue who he was, and neither it seemed did anyone else in the vicinity. Of course, everyone was in the serious business of trying to pick a winner, as indeed was the man himself.

He was shorter than I’d imagined, portly, and wearing a rather drab suit. One thing that struck me was that his hair was slightly over the collar at the back, like he needed a trim. People bustled all around while he stood in an island of concentration, studying his form guide. If ever a person lacked apparent aires and graces it was this man. He certainly didn’t stand out in the crowd and I’m sure this was exactly as he wanted it — just another punter.

Niall Clugston writes: Colin Chilcott and Dave Walker (Friday, comments) are right to say that Don Bradman’s stature was magnified by the Great Depression – but why use the same distorted lens now? Who still reveres or vilifies NSW Premier Jack Lang? Bradman’s enduring fame is all about Australia’s obsession with sport.

As for Dave Walker’s view that “From the outset Australia has been born on adversity”, this merely illustrates another national pastime: narcissism. Australia is truly the lucky country, and the suffering that its people, apart from the Aborigines, have endured in the past two centuries pales into insignificance besides that of many other people around the world. Even many convicts found a better life out here. And so Australians have the luxury of playing games.

Carbon dioxide:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Contrary to assertions by Matt Andrews and Stephen Morris (Friday, comments) I am not a patsy of the oil-industry and I reject that raising such arguments amounts to “barefaced dishonesty”. My point was that carbon-dioxide is not a pollutant. The only adverse effect a rise in CO2 concentrations may have is the increase in temperature posited by the global-warming hypothesis.

I then went on to say that the evidence for this hypothesis remains pretty thin. Nor did I “cherry-pick” data when pointing out the cooling period of the past 10 years — a temperature trend that was predicted by none of the IPCC’s models. There was also a cooling period from the mid 1940’s till the mid 1970’s and the overall rise in the past 100 years was a less than terrifying 0.7C.

I would further point out that the world was warmer during the Holocene Optimum and the Medieval Warm Period without triggering global catastrophe, so saying that recent temperatures are the highest ever recorded is only true because accurate measurements didn’t exist until 150 years ago (which was also, incidentally, when the Little Ice Age ended).

If global temperatures don’t make a comeback soon then the global warming hypothesis will be in tatters, which would be wonderful — right?

Eddy Groves:

Adam Schwab writes: Pugnacious Crikey reader and Eddy Groves-fan, Warwick Sauer, seemed unhappy (Friday, comments) at the treatment meted out to the failed childcare tycoon. Sauer claimed (Comments, 29/09) that:

“…in July, when Eddy Groves declined to take his salary in cash but instead took ABC stock options which were exercisable at $1.15, Schwab cried rat and said Eddy was defrauding shareholders by taking options that he knew would make him millions when the share price went skyward. Given ABC’s share price is now 54c and is likely to go much lower when it recommences trading, will Mr Schwab retract those accusations?”

While Sauer is to be commended for his close reading of Crikey, the fact that ABC shares have continued to tank since Groves’ option grant does not make the issue any less appalling. The fact remains, Groves stood to earn millions if the ABC share price returned to even a fraction of previous levels.

If ABC shares recovered to the level where significant shareholder, Temasek first bought in, Groves would collect upwards of $30 million. That Groves is such a poor CEO the shares have continued to drop is no defence of the grant.

Interestingly, Sauer formerly worked for the Brisbane office of mid-tier firm, Dibbs Abbott Stillman (formerly Dibbs Barker Gosling). Dibbs’ Brisbane office were the long time outside legal counsel to none other than ABC Learning Centers. Perhaps Warwick was just going into bat for a client of his old firm.

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

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW