Media Watch Dog:

Gerard Henderson writes: Re. “Rundle: Henderson’s Media Watch Dog. Epic fail.” (Tuesday, item 16). Just a brief correction to one of the howlers about me in Guy Rundle’s piece last Tuesday — since it has obtained some currency. I wrote my last column for The Age in April 2005. Catherine Deveny commenced as an Age columnist in February 2007 i.e. almost two years later. Consequently, Rundle’s claim that Deveny “replaced” me as an Age columnist is completely false. In fact, Tony Parkinson filled my slot. Mr Rundle’s personal attack on my (disabled) dog Nancy will be addressed in the next issue of Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog.

Net censorship:

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Re. “Rundle: there is no bigger issue than net censorship” (yesterday, item 5). Every time an attempt is made to access a site that is on the internet filter’s banned list, the response from the ISP will be different to normal.

It will not be a difficult task for anti-censorship activists to poll likely segments of the internet space on a frequent basis, searching for the fingerprint of the filter’s response. Voila! A reverse-engineered list of banned sites, published widely.

So rather than locking nasty sites into a dungeon and throwing away the key, the internet filter will in effect greatly assist in the creation of an “elicit Google”. Now, that’s on a so much bigger scale than the Streisand Effect (i.e. trying to ban something risks making it notorious) that it needs a new name — a Conroy.

Vice-President Wikimedia Australia Liam Wyatt writes: There is no technical, administrative or legal relationship between Wikipedia and Wikileaks. Furthermore there is no relationship with the Wikimedia Foundation — the non-profit that operates Wikipedia.org.

Both websites run on the same software (from which the confusion may have stemmed). This software, called Media-Wiki, is also administered by the Wikimedia Foundation Inc. and is freely distributed online for anyone to use.

Thank you for your understanding.

Queensland’s oil spill:

Lloyd Lacey writes: Re. “Special report: how oil spill spin put the skids under Anna Bligh” (yesterday, item 2). Should we believe that the master of a large ocean going vessel is unable to monitor the level of fuel in the ship’s tanks and observe if the falling level exceeds the consumption by the engines? And if there were to be an incomplete reporting of the facts, should not the master, with direct access to the status of his vessel and an obligation to report it accurately in the case of an accident, be held accountable?

So what could possibly motivate minimising an oil leakage report should a vessel be racing to round Cape Moreton to reach shelter from an approaching Category 4 cyclone? Perhaps a full damage report might have seen the vessel denied access to the port and required to ride out the cyclone at sea? And with what consequences? The safety of the vessel? Further loss of cargo? Even greater spoiling of the coast line perhaps? Somewhat of a devil’s choice for both the captain and the port and maritime authorities, one could think?

Andrew Crook blames the Queensland Government for not relying on the uncorroborated reports of the media when it had information direct from the ship’s master — who had a legal responsibility to report fully and accurately, both to the maritime authorities and the owners. How has the media assisted its credibility, trustworthiness and reliability in interpreting evidence of oil slicks when day after day, in print and on air, it has peddled questionable interpretations of a set of cheesy photographs?

And what of Crook’s critique of the response. Crook reports both four-to-six metre waves and “calmer conditions on Moreton Island”. Where would those calmer conditions be? Ashore? Just how would vessels safely deploy booms across bays and inlets on the weather side of Moreton Island in the face of four-to-six metre swells where Crook reports oil was “washing relentlessly ashore”. It’s a gripping narrative — pity it defeats the criticism. Now, if only the spill had occurred on the lee side of the island, or in the river, or in Crook’s bathtub then maybe his solution would be feasible.

In the heightened circumstances of an election campaign, this confection of a report might be understandable from a partisan publicity machine — but it certainly doesn’t represent considered interpretation of a serious environmental incident with potentially disastrous impacts on coast line, wild life, fisheries and tourism.

Fake Stephen Conroy:

Telstra spinner Rod Bruem writes: Re. “The rise and fall of Fake Stephen Conroy” (yesterday, item 6). Duncan Riley clearly believes if he repeats a myth often enough it becomes fact. Once again he falsely claims that one-time Telstra employee Tom Reynolds was sacked from the company in 2006 for something he wrote in his blog on company website nowwearetalking.com.au.

As editor of the site at the time, I can only state on the record yet again that this was not the case. I can’t recall Mr Reynolds ever writing anything for his blog that would cause concern. Calling for “more open communications” is hardly profound and certainly not grounds for dismissal. Mr Reynolds was terminated for reasons unrelated to the blog.

Sam Mangenwa writes: The “real” facts about Telstra and the Fake Stephen Conroy were actually “real” wrong. From Mike Hickinbotham’s blog:

Last night I said that Telstra hadn’t shut down Leslie’s Twitter account. This was based on the advice of my colleagues. It’s factually correct, though it’s also true that Leslie’s senior managers independently told him last night to stop.

PR triple speak.

The banks:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Banks call time on first home buyer party” (yesterday, item 3). Glenn Dyer points to tougher equity practices by the CBA. On this not only is the CBA on the right track but so are all the other banks that want more evidence of borrower “bona fides”. It is really rathe naive to think of this as “an economy stopper”. Afterall wasn’t it toxic loans that led to the mess in the first place?

Isn’t it now all about reducing the loan junkies dependence on someone else’s money? It is absolutely right and proper — and good business too — for bankers to go back to fundamentals. Even in the face of the free marketeers who still want to chase someone else’s fast buck.

If anything banks should demand an equity level of at least 25% from would be borrowers with a default clause if equity falls below that level. The banks action will not slow down the economy; more likely build a strong foundation on the “new economy”.

News Ltd:

Chris Johnson writes: Re. “Pauline Hanson: Crikey’s Press Council complaint” (yesterday, item 4). John Hartigan must be highly depressed. Last week Sunday Tele editor Neil Breen maintained News Limited’s sub-standards by publishing fake Hanson photos. On Tuesday former Daily Telegraph editor David Penberthy (hired as a young gun by Piers Akerman) stayed apace in his blog by living up to the words of Hartigan on moving the Pen into a:

 …new role unlike anything News Limited has done before and unlike anything else in Australia.

David and the team being recruited to support him will carve out a provocative and surprising editorial presence across three platforms with content tailored for print, online and television on both national and state by state issues.

Yeah. We were dumfounded. Penberthy asked readers to blog online about his article centred on the non-existent seat of Port Jackson abolished in 2007.

Perhaps Gary Linnell can tell us who edited that one?

Ruddbank:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Turnbull’s Ruddbank stance riles party donors” (yesterday, item 1). It’s a crying shame that Bernard Keane has played the press gallery’s favourite game: when a party or individual takes a position of principle, attack he/she/it for their lack of skill at the political game. So what if Malcolm Turnbull’s opposition to funnelling money into the commercial property sector upsets some Liberal Party donors?

Perhaps, if those who seek to interpret politics for us shut up, ordinary punters will support him and give him the mandate to ignore others who think they have purchased the right to define policy?

Turnbull’s early opposition to Rudd’s spending spree is looking more insightful every week, with the cupboard now bare and the worst yet to come.

Perhaps it upsets the partisan Keane that the “conservative” Turnbull is more principled and open-minded than the tedious little public servant from Brisbane?

Golden handshakes:

Ava Hubble writes: Re. “Government holds the line on golden handshakes” (yesterday, item 11). O, tempora, O mores ! Yesterday, amid ongoing reports about the breathtaking sums that failed executives are carrying off, a spokesman for an Australian employers group argued on the ABC’s The World Today against a five percent increase in the loading paid to kitchen hands and other casual workers to compensate for the fact that they are not entitled to benefits like sick pay or termination pay.

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “How the government profited from detainees’ misery” (yesterday, item 7). Anyone who has seen The Reader and remembers the trial of the Kate Winslet character will have an awful feeling of déjà vu when they read the exchange between Mr Hamburger and the GSl officer:

MR HAMBURGER: We have got that evidence of people attempting banging and calling out, wanting to stop for a toilet break and get fluids, urinating on the floor where they have to actually sit and we have got two people in the front of the cabin ignoring all of this, seemingly, just driving.

GSL OFFICER: We were not told to do anything else, we were just told to drive. The order said drive, there was no pit stops as such, we were just told to drive.

And:

MR HAMBURGER: Thinking back you can’t, just thinking of yourself, did you think this is a bit tough on these people?

GSL OFFICER: I was told to do a job and I did it and that is what I did, I was told to drive from here to Mildura.

Just following orders is all Ms Winslett’s character answered when asked why she left all the prisoners locked in the burning church.

She then asks in a rather puzzled fashion” what would you have done?”

Plus ca change

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Peter Fray

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