Melbourne City Council:

CRIKEY: In Neil Mitchell, town hall kingmaker” (yesterday, item 11) Crikey incorrectly stated that Greens candidate for Melbourne Lord Mayor Adam Bandt had “ploughed in masses” of his own money into his campaign. That is incorrect — the money came from the Greens party and some fund-raising. The error was made in subbing.

Adam Bandt, Greens candidate for Melbourne Lord Mayor, writes: Re. “Neil Mitchell, town hall kingmaker” (yesterday, item 11). An otherwise spot-on article about the policy-free nature of the Melbourne Council campaign was marred by an error: whilst estimates are that the Labor/Liberal combinations together spent the best part of a million dollars on the campaign, it’s wrong to suggest that I “ploughed in masses” of my own money.

For a start, you can’t spend what you haven’t got: unlike most other candidates, I am a resident (not business owner) and certainly not independently wealthy. And we’d already disclosed our campaign budget on 20 November, well before the election: “Mr Bandt later told The Age his budget was $33,780 and that money had come from his party and some fund-raising.”

Earlier this year, The Greens sought in State Parliament to amend the funding laws to require candidates to disclose their campaign budgets before the election. Labor and Liberal joined together to defeat the proposal. And as Crikey says, Melbourne’s wealthy “power set” now will certainly be popping the champagne corks: it’s what comes from being able to spend the cost of a house on a campaign. The Greens’ campaign was a grassroots one, based on door knocking, volunteer activity, an interactive website and old-fashioned things like policy launches and actually turning up to public meetings and debates.

It got us a great result: second place on primaries and a doubling of our vote since the last Council election. And sooner or later, even a gerrymandered electoral system, six-figure campaign spends and Labor-Liberal collaboration and preference swaps won’t be able to hold back the rising Green tide.

Melbourne Uni:

Christina Buckridge, Corporate Affairs Manager, University on Melbourne, writes: Re. “Tips and Rumours” (yesterday, item 7). The “music business” is not being well-served by a mean-minded individual who uses Crikey‘s “Tips and Rumours” section to make a series of malicious, anonymous attacks on the University of Melbourne, its staff and its Faculty of Music. Music at Melbourne can’t be all that bad.

More than half the students at ANAM have come via the Faculty of Music — so, if selection to ANAM is truly national, that’s surely a great tribute to the excellent teaching of the Faculty and its staff. And it is difficult to give credence to a rumormonger who hides behind a cloak of anonymity, claiming to be “fearful” of making their views publicly known. Why on earth would that be?

The tobacco industry:

Mike Daube, Professor of Health Policy, Curtin University of Technology and President, Australian Council on Smoking and Health, writes: Re. Bede Fennell (yesterday, comments). Anyone who works in “public affairs” for tobacco companies is knowingly promoting the interests and sales of a product that is lethal when used precisely as intended. Bede Fennell, Head of Public Affairs at British American Tobacco, is the latest in a long tradition of PR people desperately trying to seek credibility for a discredited and disreputable industry, promoting Australia’s leading drug killer. His company is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in Australia, and millions around the world.

The Director General of WHO has pointed out that for BAT and other tobacco companies developing countries “represent vast new marketplaces” where their activities “will result in large increases in illness and death”. And then he has the nerve to suggest that Professor Simon Chapman’s complaint about BAT’s use of his name in their promotional materials is simply “airing some very personal grievances with our company”. Mr Fennell’s claims to want a community that is “better informed” will lack even a skerrick of credibility until his company stops promoting its lethal products here and overseas.

Mr Fennell asserts that I criticised Mission Australia “simply because they do not share (his) view of the world”. Rubbish. I criticised Mission Australia because of their public association with his company, which is “among the world’s most successful drug peddlers”, while expressing public concerns about drug abuse. And his claim that I have “publicly intimidated” Mission Australia is a bit rich as a description of a short letter to Crikey.

Mr Fennell also implies that my membership of the Government’s Preventative Health Taskforce should somehow curb my criticisms of tobacco promotion (describing me flatteringly but inaccurately as a “Federal representative”), although my comments in Crikey were clearly made from my role as President of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health. The Taskforce’s statement that “vested interests such as tobacco companies will do everything in their power to discredit or dilute prevention programs” has been borne out yet again.

I recognise that promoting lethal products is a hard task, only to be carried out by those without an ethical radar. The World Health Organisation has recommended a complete ban on all forms of tobacco promotion. Mr Fennell would do better contemplating why he works in direct opposition to the WHO’s recommendations than criticising those who seek to reduce tobacco’s death toll.

Simon Chapman writes: One can only marvel at the gall of BAT’s Bede Fennell in his weaselling justification for continuing to tell people he’s inviting to his consultation that he’s invited me too, after I politely told him what he could do with his invitation weeks back. Bede, next week I’m having a party. I’ve invited Bill Clinton, the Pope, Bono and Barry Obama. Will you come too? Yes, I strongly oppose smoking bans in wide open spaces.

But as I pointed out, I fully support smoking bans in close-up outdoor alfresco dining, which is what you are writing to councils opposing — using my name to help your lame arguments. For a long time people in tobacco control have thought of tobacco industry people as like cockroaches: they spread disease and don’t like daylight, preferring to run their campaigns via lovely sounding groups like the Butt Littering Trust, which BAT fully funds. Bede, please come out into the light as often as you can. It’s a wondrous sight.

Australian hospitals:

Maurie Farrell writes: Re. “Menadue: COAG’s billions are a wasted opportunity for health” (yesterday, item 4). Menadue speaks of 200 avoidable deaths in Australian hospitals every week. The latest numbers of hospitals in this country I could find were approx 748 public (2000) and 577 private (2007). One avoidable death in every six or seven hospitals … every week. I’m sure the figures could be spun around and the larger hospitals have four or five and the small country hospitals maybe none? However we look at it, these figures shocked me. Menadue seems to have a handle on the problems we have in the health system. His track record with Qantas and some other corporations suggests he is perceptive, concerned and capable. We should be paying more attention to what he says.

Short-selling:

Pete Wotton writes: Re. “Short-selling: not as evil as fund managers would have you think” (yesterday, item 25). If I were to sell a house or a car which I did not own, then I would be guilty of fraud. But if I sell a stock or security which I do not own, it suddenly becomes legal and respectable. Somehow the logic escapes me.

Victims of crime:

Jenny Ejlak writes: Re. “Crime victims have never had it so good” (25 November, item 19). I would like to see every criminal defence barrister in this country made to spend just one 12 hour overnight shift for Lifeline’s Victims of Crime service. It was the years I spent as a volunteer Lifeline counsellor that led me to have some insight into the devastating, lifelong impact of certain types of crime. Childhood s-xual abuse, s-xual and physical assaults and long term abusive relationships are not over for the victim when the offences cease. The impacts change lives. Ruin lives. Destroy lives.

The pain and suffering that is shared with an anonymous counsellor at the end of the phone is not like anything I have been privy to in any other area of life. It is the hidden pain that we don’t see when people put on their “mask” and step out into the world each day to pretend they are okay. It has been years, but some calls haunt me still. Victims of such crimes have rights because they bloody-well deserve them. Victims do not “have it easy” and I find any notion that they do quite offensive.

Bugg’s reflections on victims’ rights quoted here merely acknowledge than in recent decades there have come to be “basic principles of justice” for victims. It’s about time. I realise that there will always be a minority of people who abuse the system and embellish their pain for vexatious reasons or personal gain. But equally there are those who work the system to escape conviction. Conviction rates for r-pe, for instance, are notoriously low. Our justice system is not always just. But victims are not the only ones who benefit from an imperfect system.

I am also aware that many perpetrators of crime were once victims themselves. Often s-xual and physical violence tragically has generational impacts. But surely this is even more reason to support victims so that their pain and hurt does not turn to anger and revenge, making them criminals as well as victims. Blaming the victim helps no one.

Slack corporate regulation:

Jim Green, nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, writes: Re. “Morgan Stanley surprises with Oz Minerals stake” (yesterday, item 4). Crikey carried three items yesterday on the economics of BHP Billiton’s operations. Why so little on other aspects of the company’s operations? At its AGM last Thursday, CEO Marius Kloppers said the company will not relinquish the legal privileges contained in the Roxby Downs Indenture Act. This 1982 legislation largely exempts the Roxby Downs (Olympic Dam) uranium/copper mine from South Australian environmental and Aboriginal heritage protection laws and also curtails the Freedom of Information Act.

Kloppers said that the proposed expansion of the mine requires the certainty that only an Indenture Act can provide. Perhaps so, but that’s no excuse for slack environmental and Aboriginal heritage regulations. BHP Billiton proposes digging a pit of about 20 cubic kilometres, increasing uranium production to 19,000 tonnes per year, increasing water consumption to 150 million litres daily, and increasing radioactive tailings production to 70 million tonnes per year. Yet the company wants to retain its wide-ranging exemptions from the SA Environment Protection Act and the Natural Resources Act.

Haven’t events in recent months taught us a thing or two about the perils of slack corporate regulation?

Alcohol advertising:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Top scientist calls for complete ban on alcohol advertising” (yesterday, item 16). Professor Michael Good asks how we can diminish alcohol consumption, before suggesting a ban on advertising. Surely torture or a spell in a gulag would have a higher and more immediate success rate?

Becky Freeman writes: It’s not hard to understand Professor Michael Good’s view that alcohol advertising should be banned when you see ads like the photograph below “plastered” around shopping malls.

Australia:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Australia’s not the bomb they’d have you believe” (yesterday, item 19). Bloody beaut film actually. If you like Baz Luhrmann type movies you should just lap up Australia. Luhrman is a director who tells his stories genuinely using “moving pictures”. He is as unique as Stanley Kubrick. Yes, unfortunately it still is the case that some of our art and movie critics carry that Australian cringe.

Luhrmann is the genius in this offering — his writing, his concept his direction. The story line is no stronger (or weaker) than Crocodile Dundee. The overall presentation is far superior. The movie is not about challenging the mind or puzzling the senses; it’s all about pure entertainment and this it does brilliantly without pause for its entire length.

We should be proud of this offering and our Aussie knockers should let their boomerangs fly back to their nether regions. Five star entertainment.

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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