Merri Rose:

Deborah Fleming, Exec Producer, Australian Story, writes: Re. “ABC on Merri Rose: not the full story” (yesterday, item 12). In his commentary on Australian Story’s program about former Queensland Minister Merri Rose Bernard Keane accuses Australian Story of conduct, which if true, would amount to corrupt editorial practice … According to Mr Keane, voices critical of Merri Rose were left out of the story “for no reason other than the program makers were apparently determined to offer a hagiography.”

For the record, Australian Story conducted extensive research into the bullying. We spoke (on and off camera) to a wide range of former staffers. Their views were polarised but, to our own surprise , many were actually supportive of Rose. We could have produced an entire program about the bullying issue alone. But it would have left no room for significant new story elements including newsbreaks in relation to Bill Ludwig and the Queensland Racing Board; and Ms Rose’s decision to speak publicly about her imprisonment — and those other of her experiences that she was legally able to discuss.

As it was, our program included the bullying claims and the adverse findings against Ms Rose. The program incorporated an acknowledgement from Merri Rose that some of the bullying criticism was fair — and some of it wasn’t — a pretty accurate synopsis of what our our own research established.

It is one thing to disagree about how Australian Story should have handled this story. And it is perfectly reasonable to expect that people of good faith might come to very different conclusions about how Rose conducted herself as an office manager. It is another thing entirely to falsely claim to know why Australian Story acted as it did and to imply, from a position of obvious ignorance, that those actions were taken on the basis of flawed or even corrupt editorial practice.

We would be very happy to brief Mr Keane, in much more detail than he could probably bear, if he could just be bothered to pick up his telephone and test his own prejudices. He might then agree that he owes us an apology…

US08 election and Guy Rundle:

Luke Miller writes: Re. “Rundle08: Atlantic City, home of the forlorn” (yesterday, item 7). Guy Rundle says he is immune to casinos, but I think he should reassess his self diagnosis and get a second opinion ASAP! The blinking lights of the Atlantic City gambling houses have clearly triggered a near fatal case of fatalism and self-importance (as they would in most of us). But instead of an impending nuclear war as predicted by your angsty correspondent, I would say Rundle is suffering from an acute case of Armageddon ego — where an otherwise intelligent person has the vanity to think the world will end during their own life time — brought on by an overdose of hyperbole and wishful thinking. My remedy — more time on the beach and on the phone to Mum and Dad and less time stalking junkie hookers at bus shelters outside rundown casinos!

Julian Gillespie writes: I wasn’t sure if I was reading something from Jack Kerouac’s crew while being interrupted by Hunter S. Thompson, but I was certainly getting a peep at some of what could be the next great American novel (by an Australian). Guy at times moves ghost-like from one moment in America’s existence to another — all sublimely connected by some type of sickly sweet atmosphere — an immersion into an at times fouled stream of American consciousness so few have wanted or been able to show abroad in years. I’ll be expecting my copy to be signed Guy, cheers.

Keen v Henderson:

Dr Sacha Vidler, economist, writes: Re. “Steve Keen: An invitation to Gerard Henderson” (yesterday, item 4). I’ve never agreed with Henderson on anything before, but he is right on the money with Keen. I worked at the University of Western Sydney in the Department of Economics and Finance where Steve is, and he is no guru in this field. This real estate/debt driven depression line is highly speculative, as well as, obviously, being shameless self-promotion. I’ve found his media performances cringe-worthy and comical, while recognising if anyone took him seriously it could be quite destructive. It diminished The 7.30 Report to provide a soap-box for his ranting. Someone in there should get a second opinion from John Quiggin or another heavy-hitter, before presenting Keen as an expert.

When Rudd appeared on The 7.30 Report the next day, he should have been armed with some good answers to the obvious questions that would arise from the Keen interview — starting with the glaring differences in supply and demand between the US and Australian property markets. His contribution in Crikey yesterday looks shrill compared even to Henderson. If a left-wing “debunking” economist is making a right wing culture war vet look good, you’ve got to ask yourself, “why?”

The Coca-Cola Chronicles:

Garry Muratore writes: Re. “The Coca-Cola Chronicles: Spinning with Big Sugar” (yesterday, item 6). David Gillespie certainly raises some points which Coca-Cola seems to be happy to spin out of existence. What annoys me greatly regarding the current Coke spin is their underestimation of the consumer’s intelligence. I have been an occasional Coca-Cola consumer. I have the intelligence to realise it is a sugar based drink to be consumed in moderation. When my children were younger we considered it an “adult” drink and made sure they had healthy alternatives.

The current Kerry Armstrong claims tend to drive me away from the product as they are trying to make it appear as a healthy alternative of which it is not. If you recall last year Glaxo Smith Kline had a similar PR disaster when the Ribena “More Vitamin C than black currents” spin was debunked by some New Zealand school children. GSK too set up a “facts” website in an effort to spin their way out of trouble. I went to the site and entered a blistering spray on the basis I had fed the drink to my kids and felt GSK had taken unreasonable advantage of consumers by plainly “telling lies”.

At the time I thought that would be the last of my communication with GSK. But to my surprise, my phone rang at 9:30 one evening, I answered to find a British accented gentleman who was the Managing Director of GSK, his call was to personally apologise for the “PR Debacle” and to explain that management were going to listen to consumers and give an undertaking to be responsible in regard to product marketing. My thoughts after the Ribena episode was GSK made a dumb mistake (probably on advise of an agency), when they realised they moved quickly to fix it. Moreover, they had senior staff involved in the recovery programme. It gave me back confidence in both GSK and the product.

Yesterday I went to Coke’s site where they encourage you to “Ask a question about the product”, If you are too shy don’t worry, they have all the questions and answers conveniently on the site for your reference, trouble is it’s the same Myth Busting crap associated with the Kerry Armstrong ad Coke simply don’t get it! I urge any fellow Crikey reader to enter a question as I did: “How much did you pay Kerry Armstrong to lie her a-s off?” Sorry, I meant “to Myth-Bust”. Will Coke’s management take a lead from GSK and admit they have it wrong? I doubt it.

Colin Powell, Basra and the Australian military:

Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Peter Lloyd (yesterday, comments) suggests that “Australian military leaders should take careful note [of Colin Powell’s allegedly tainted legacy in perpetuity] after their own shameful behaviour during the Howard years”. Presumably he means shameful in a politically-biased or morally compromised context and his inference is this was an institutional failing. Rather than casually slinging off at those largely prohibited from defending themselves in public against such vague innuendo, is Peter able to name names or cite verifiable instances where ADF leaders or indeed any defence force personnel behaved “shamefully” rather than correctly in any significant manner during the Howard Government?

The record that has emerged during parliamentary inquiries, etc, is that most (but certainly not all) ADF personnel behaved very well, and as we would have expected them to, even when placed in disgraceful situations by at least one Coalition Minister for Defence (Peter Reith). But this is a very old constitutional problem and professional dilemma in the military of any liberal democracy. There are no easy answers here but certainly one undoubtedly unacceptable alternative is a military who do not feel institutionally or personally bound to obey the lawful directions of our elected government.

The ADF must follow lawful orders no matter how they might disagree with such a decision on an individual political basis or as a group professionally. They must also give governments frank and fearless professional advice when Ministers contemplate doing silly things but once the government’s decision is made it must be carried out if the order is lawful.

Chris Hunter writes: Both Peter Lloyd and Bruce Graham (yesterday, comments) share the view that the US did not commit a war crime on the Basra Road, as postulated by Guy Rundle. Their premise that the Iraqi conscripts were soldiers, not civilians, and therefore were fair game is all very well, but were they really soldiers? I served in Vietnam as a regular, albeit without so much as a brain in my head, but I also served with conscripts whose hearts were simply not in the job. They hated being there and their one aim was to get home alive — they shared none of the sentiments of their supreme commanders, who were fundamentally devoid of human emotions.

As strange as it may seem, putting a uniform on and grabbing a gun doesn’t change much. You are still a father, a mother, a daughter or a son, with all the attendant responsibilities — the uniform means damn all, war is a kind of masquerade ball, a mad dance, a crazy jig of death if you will. That rag tag “target rich” army, slaughtered from the relative safety of the air, was given no opportunity to surrender — it was “show time” — it was hideous — it was criminal — it was aimed at one result — to keep the American Dream alive. Yuk.

Britt Lapthorne:

Polly Tembel writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 13). I thought Richard Farmer’s commentary on the issue of government assistance provided to Britt Lapthorne’s family was particularly unfair and insensitive. Surely if your daughter is murdered in Croatia the least the Australian government can do is provide some assistance. Richard Farmer obviously does not appreciate the agony that something like this would be. This paragraph is particularly unfair:

The Lapthorne family is clearly very skilled at the public pressure business and have attracted considerable media attention as they try and find out what happened to Britt. Good luck to them and I hope they eventually find out the cause of death and that a villain, if there is one, is brought to justice. But I must say I find some of their comments quite over the top. I don’t think our Government should have even sent a Federal policeman to Croatia just to appease a grieving family and to give the television networks another angle for a story that attracted them.

If a small amount of our taxes are spent on assisting a family in true need then so be it. Seems very churlish to complain about this. I hope that Richard might reconsider his statements.

John Robinson:

Rob Kbak writes: Re. “NSW Labor swears in Rt Hon “Robbo” MLC” (yesterday, item 14). Alex Mitchell has once again rewritten history in favour of his Little Golden Book view of politics. While John Robinson may be remembered fondly for his efforts to secure Kevin Rudd’s victory through Your Rights At Work, he has this year played a major role in tearing apart NSW Labor. His rigid stance against privatising electricity has left NSW in the economic black hole in which it currently exists.

He should be hanging his head in shame and taking a large chunk of responsibility for the worst by-election results in living memory, but instead he is rewarded. Robbo is the latest out of touch unionist or party official to fill the Upper House benches – a place where public accountability is non-existent, because none of the members represent a community.

Radio National:

David Lenihan writes: Re. “Radio National” (yesterday, comments). ABC’s Director of Radio, Sue Howard forgets the basics of good professional radio as she attempts to dismantle RN. Perhaps she could utilise her time in a far more beneficial manner by ensuring her local radio stations actually are local and not links with other areas, as is more prevalent in the Goldfields area of late. Also it’s obvious she has lost all interest in ensuring her on air presenters at least attempt to speak in a manner as befits the National Broadcaster. Frankly some of her on-air staff give the impression they have never been given pronunciation guides, or near enough is good enough, is the current standard. Obviously the training of announcers is not high profile as long as they can push buttons and open their mouths regardless of what comes out.

Incidentally it would assist Ms Howard’s understanding of these matters if she took time to record a few of the presenters without actually sending out a memo beforehand warning them. While the graveyard shift for example can be a pain, it’s hardly too demanding given the average length of a shift. The tendency there to slip in commercial content, burble on about nothing and conduct interviews in a style that obviously didn’t come out of a training course, is very enlightening. The habit of talking over ones guest, interrupting, long drawn out questions, no sense of composition of the i/v etc etc.

First Dog on the Moon election badges:

Sallie, a First Dog on the Moon fan, or quite possibly just a badge fan, writes: We think you’ve undersold these masterpieces. We would have paid $13.50 for one, and having a very hard time deciding which one, discovered we get all eight! Hooray!

First Dog on the Moon responds: I agree, and I think we will be putting up the prices of the badges after the 5th of November. Buy your badges here.

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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