Looks like someone (Australian Olympic Committee perhaps) is fishing for some very specific information about people’s reaction to the Beijing Olympics. I’ve just done an online survey with Sweeney research asking me a range of questions from the predictable (which sports did I watch and through which media) to some very specific, occasionally offensive and some quite un sportsman like questions including “which Australian Olympic performance most disappointed you?” (with a long list of performances which included Silver and Bronze medal winning athlete’s names), a question that listed the Australian medal haul and then “overall how did you feel Australia performed?” and “which do you rate higher in terms of greater sporting achievement — Michael Phelp’s eight gold medals or Usain Bolt’s two gold medals?” (whatever that was supposed to show).

Now while I guess I wasn’t surprised to be asked if I could remember any of the sponsors names or ads and I was happy to give my view on the coverage I found some of the questions were clearly designed to enable the AOC to go and ask for even more cash to fund a select few athletes win gold (because it clearly considers even a silver medal performance a disappointment.) The questions that really gave it away were those that asked whether I agreed or not that: “Reduced Government funding of Australian sport is starting to be reflected in the performances of our Australian Olympic athletes” and “I support the Government placing additional funding in Olympic sports if it results in Australia winning more Gold medals” and of course “I support the Government placing additional funding in Olympic sports if it means Australia beats Great Britain in the medal tally at the London 2012 Olympic Games”.

But I really loved being able to answer this question strongly in the affirmative “Social and human rights issues surrounding Beijing and China have tainted the Olympic Games experience for 2008.” Shows that the IOC/ AOC hierarchy can’t escape one of the consequences of their decision — that they just oversaw the staging of a huge media event in a country that doesn’t have a free or fair media and certainly lacks respect for basic human rights. And they clearly don’t even see the irony.

One of the casualties of NSW Deputy Premier John Watkins’ resignation is his very well-regarded media adviser Andrew Heslop. Heslop joined the popular Deputy Premier’s office at the beginning of the year after being headhunted from Melbourne and has proven to be major asset to the government. In June he stood in front of the United Nations to talk about the development of his Australian brain-child, Neighbour Day. Before becoming a full-time political flack Heslop served time with the Red Cross in Melbourne and London. He started the Neighbour Day concept (last Sunday of every March) in 2003 when the remains of a lonely elderly woman were discovered on her sofa in suburban Melbourne — two years after her death. This year he cracked the big time and gained the endorsement of every Premier and the ACT Chief Minister along with the Lord Mayors of Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Darwin. What’s more impressive is that he has funded it all out of his own pocket for six years — and has the Australian of the Year nominations to prove it. Word around Macquarie Street today is that he’s heading to television.

I have worked recently in the NT, and support the recent comments of my NT colleagues. Your readers may wish to be informed about the parlous state of mainstream medical services in the NT as well as in remote communities. Some of the problems are political and quite farcical, a bit like the disastrous intervention e.g. Katherine District Hospital is currently unable to evacuate seriously ill patients after 5pm, as the runaway is closed, due to wallabies! They have fenced off the runway, but not removed the wallabies — an ongoing saga over the last year or more. The hospital are understaffed already, and if a seriously sick patient needs evacuation, they have to manage from 5pm to 8am. This is placing lives in jeopardy,and contributing to the high turnover of medical staff.

Yesterday the most entertaining story in WA was former Liberal leader Matt Birney speaking on 6PR radio on how the Libs had been assisted by overt support from the West Australian newspaper. The West attempted to defend itself in its Inside Cover column by saying that they had received a single email from a suburban reader accusing them of bias in the opposite direction. But in case you were in any doubt of their editorial position, the West yesterday printed a spoof Liberal Party advertisement showing how easy it would be to twist Premier Carpenter’s words if the Libs were to choose to undertake negative campaigning. It is amusing to imagine who will be more angered by this hasty and ill-concieved piece — the ALP, the Libs or the Electoral Commission.

Interesting gap in the bio of AFL Commissioner Sam Mostyn provided in Sports Minister Kate Ellis’s media release announcing her “Expert Independent Sport Panel”. No mention is made of Mostyn’s six year gig (2001-2007) at IAG as Group Executive Culture and Reputation. Sure, no one wants to be associated with a corporate stuff up but those of us who laboured in “Samland” as her Division was known think it is a bit rich just to leave out six years of your working history! Most of us don’t have that luxury with our CVs.

Hmm. A new director appointed to Art Gallery of Western Australia. Lemme count the ways: male (check); Phd (check); international recruit (check); preferably European (Italian, double check); scholar in some obscure area that has no relevance to the collecting strengths of the institution (Islamic Art, whoah, WA’s hit the jackpot — triple check that). De ja vu? Lemme further count the ways: male; Phd, international recruit; not European, but gives the distinct impression that he is; scholar in neoclassical taste (what the!) = Dr Gerard Vaughan, Director, National Gallery of Victoria. Male; Phd; international recruit; not European but married to one; scholar in antiquities = Dr Timothy Potts, ex-director National Gallery of Victoria (mmmm, I wonder what legacy he left at the Kimbell Art Museum — Sumeria (cough)). Is there no one in Australia good enough to head the AGWA? Is there no one internationally that is not a male Phd scholar specialising in some obscure area? I wonder if the WA powers that be did as a good a job as they think they did? Perhaps Dr Carboni will break the mold? Who knows, but somehow I don’t see WA as really the place to spearhead the renaissance in Islamic art.

Next Tuesday is D-Day for the two floating neighbours of the MV Cape Don at the Old Coal Loader Wharf at Waverton in Sydney. A month ago NSW Maritime agreed to review its decision to banish the historical lightship to a buoy in the middle of Sydney Harbour but the old, and also historical Manly Ferry, the Baragoola and the defunct floating restaurant, Rose Bay Afloat, were not so lucky. They face eviction by September 9. While “For Sale” signs may be the only option for the two vessels, restoration volunteers at the MV Cape Don have doggedly continued their project. NSW Maritime had tried to break their will by demolishing part of the wharf, cutting into the steel walkway, erecting barbed-wire fences and padlocking gates but denial of wharf access only made them more determined. A new runabout donated by members enables volunteers to access the ship by water while they patiently wait for NSW Maritime to complete their engineering surveys of the wharf and consider the value of protecting an important part of Australia’s maritime history.

Peter Fray

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