A correction:

Crikey: Re. “Media briefs: Fennessy brothers jump ship… Fairfax hires more managers” (Thursday, item 30). An Item in last Thursday’s media briefs headed “Fairfax: why retain editorial staff when you can employ more managers?” Should have referred to News Ltd. The error was the writer’s.

Employment:

Louise Crossley writes: Re. “34,700 Australians lost their jobs in March” (Thursday, item 1). The really shocking thing about Thursday’s unemployment statistics is that they represent the toll on thousands of individuals whose working lives have gone from 24/7 (equivalent to more than 100 hours over a week) to zero. Surely bosses, unions and government can find a more sensible intermediate position between these two extremes?

We know we cannot return to a rampant growth economy — business as usual — when/if we struggle out of the GFC. We need to achieve something more akin to a steady state economy — and as Herman Daly so sagely observes, there is a world of difference between a failed growth economy and a steady state economy.

So if we need to find an alternative to exponential economic growth — and certainly climate change makes it plain that the environment cannot stand a return to BAU — then why not use the opportunity of the current recession to wind employment down instead of out? Why not experiment with 24 hours over three days and see how this improves the quality of life?

After all the constant refrain of the more than 100 hours a week crowd is the desire for more quality time with their families.

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Crikey still missed the point that there are three official ABS surveys of unemployment and inexplicably only comment on one ABS employment/unemployment survey — the “Labour Force” survey. The other two ABS surveys on employment/unemployment are: “Persons not in the Labour Force” and/or “Householders Survey”. When you read these last two surveys you realise that the real unemployment figures show that we have a real unemployment level of 2 million plus chasing around 100,000 vacancies.

Crikey needs to explain why it doesn’t mention these surveys. Is it slackness or are you obeying an official or unofficial “D” Notice? Additionally, how can Crikey claim that we only have around 700,000 unemployed but have a total of 1.75 million on one of the six dole payments?

Doesn’t the latter figure make a mockery of the monthly “Labour Force” figure and consequently the articles?

The National Broadband Network:

Lee Wilkinson writes: Re. “Crikey Clarifier: National Broadband Network” (7 April, item 16) & “Crikey Clarifier: National Broadband Network, Part 2” (8 April, item 12). Hey, a couple of comments on your clarifier articles from a self-confessed nerd and someone who has worked in Telecoms for 15 years.

In article 1: You forgot to mention VDSL2 — this is ratified for use in Australia and has already seen some deployments. Basically VDSL2 is the end-game where copper is concerned. Physics means you can’t go any faster than VDSL2 specifies. If there was a FTTN deployment with the copper being cut, the deployed technology on the last few hundred metres would definitely be VDSL2. You can get up to 100Mb/s over several hundred meters of standard copper.

In article 2: Your paragraph on Shannon-Hartley missed an important fact — Telstra has been upgrading their network speeds without replacing all the radio equipment. How? Better modulation schemes allow more data to be transmitted over the same radio spectrum. That’s how it’s possible to go from the original 3G speed (384kb/s down to a handset) to 21Mb or more without changing hardware.

Also your paragraph on where contention starts — it starts at the other end of your ADSL service. That is, right at the DSL multiplexer you are attached to is where contention starts. ISP’s contend from that point on their own internal networks, and then even more so on their external links.

Otherwise well done, like your NBN coverage — when NBN finally gets here we’ll get to meaningful service-based competition rather than just selling Internet access.

Geoff Russell writes: Re. “Essay: Our children’s standard of living is at stake” (Thursday, item 9). Peter Cox wrote: “Under public ownership less than half the population had broadband exceeding 12 Mbps leaving over 4 million people without a high speed broadband service.” Does that mean we only have 8 million people in Australia? Or does he mean households?

Is it really true that half the households in Australia have ADSL2+? I do. But very few of my friends do, and most of those work in the IT industry. They want ADSL2+, and would love to pay for it, but happen to live in places where they can’t get it for all sorts of weird reasons. At work of course, they have ADSL2+, sometimes multiple machines, 2-3 monitors per desk. So just how is the 4 million calculated and by whom? Are all these office connections masquerading as dwellings?

On the other hand, most of my non-IT friends don’t know what they’ve got and either don’t care or are permanently pissed off because however fast it is supposed to be, it is always about 10 times slower. Imagine selling a car and telling people it uses 1 litre per 100km when it really uses 10 … and much more in traffic.

I guess I’m just a broadband penetration sceptic!

Michael O’Hara writes: Re. “$43 billion? Crikey readers on what they’d do with the Ruddstra cash” (Thursday, item 12). Three ideas for this $43b burning a hole in political pork barrels all over the country…

  1. Pay off every credit card balance in Australia. Incredibly, the figure was something like $43billion in February last year. This will relieve people who have least access to credit, easing some of the financial worry in the country. Those people are most likely to use their credit to go out and make new purchases. Retailers rejoice! The interest rate paid on all that debt will reduce to Government bond rates (in effect), reducing Australia’s interest payments to the rest of the world (albeit indirectly).
  2. $43billion would be enough to change the direction of a country. Why spend it playing “catch-up” in some computer game? Establish a perpetuity trust that uses annual earnings to fund alternative energy research and development in Australia. Imagine what we could do with a few BILLION dollars a year in funding for the next forever
  3. Buy into the United States fund that purchases all those toxic assets from US banks. With US Government leverage of about 6x (and US guarantees!), we could turn that $43b into $258b invested AND IF the US comes out of the current credit crisis with its financial system intact — we’ll all make a killing! How happy would we all be to see the US pay us out $1 trillion in five years time?! This has the added advantage of reflecting the national character on gambling and, the odds are better than a Melbourne Cup sweep!

Marion Diamond writes: Cubbie Station, a hammer and a nail.

Simon Jenkins writes: I would buy the best possible broadband system for everyone, wait a minute that’s what we are getting isn’t it?

Australia’s rivers:

David Thackrah writes: Re. “Murray River a toxic open drain — why don’t we care?” (Thursday, item 4). So, we open the floodgates of funding to build an NBN gadget which is infrastructure. It is a “beyond this parliament” project. Fine. In the meantime Adelaide and satellite town Murray River water users plus Melbourne with receding water supplies, are completely dropped over the cliff.

The Murray Darling Basin people have issued a “drought report” that says the Olde Murray is just a “toxic drain” — evidently the flooding in Queensland has not run south far enough. That is about eighteen months of floods from the past two years experience living in Adelaide.

My proposal is to trap monsoon rains where about 65% of the rainfall on Terra Australia falls, and pipe it south, plus watering parts of central Australia on the way. See Goldfields water scheme in Western Australia as an example in miniature.

I do not think de-salination will make up the deficit of rain over the southern parts of Terra Australis — Adelaide has virtually has no rain (on the plain) in 2009. Melbourne must boost its’ dams for the future. I admit Ernie Bridges thought of this before I did. He was a member of the W.A parliament, lived in the Kimberley’s, he believes in the economic potential too.

Rob Chataway writes: Re. “Locking up Qld rivers will kill Aboriginal economy” (6 April, item 16) My wife subscribes to your news commentary and I think it is generally pretty good. The views of your writers seem thoughtful and intelligent — apart from one that is, your naturalist Lionel Elmore. Lionel seems to want primarily to cause a bit of a stir with his writing by taking a controversial position on various topics.

The most obvious recent one is the wild rivers legislation in north Queensland. Those of us who know a bit about rivers and riparian areas appreciate the real significance of this legislation and a lot of what Lionel wrote was unsubstantiated nonsense. May I suggest you get as informed a reviewer on environmental issues as you do on other news issues or you risk losing your credibility. Thanks.

Dymocks:

Sheryl Gwyther and Michael Gerard Bauer write: Re. “Dymocks: throwing the book at parallel importing” (Thursday, item 5). Just want to let you know that the Petition from Dymocks was the last straw for many authors — here in Brisbane we’re holding a peaceful protest on Thursday 16th, out the front of Brisbane’s Dymocks city store, with our own petition and leaflets.

We do not feel antagonistic towards the staff of Dymocks, Borders, A&R and the department stores — it is a difficult situation for all concerned because many of these caring staff support and love children’s books and their authors.

But our continued existence in this industry is threatened by the push to take away the protection of the PI restriction law.

Moira Smith writes: Jeff Sparrow reckons Dymocks shouldn’t be “dumping discounted or remaindered overseas books on the Australian market”. Get real. Books have been far too expensive in Australia for years. Whether written/published/printed here or overseas. And now with the rise of Amazon it’s easy to buy new or second-hand books over the internet … sometimes for a second-hand book the postage costs more than the book, but it’s still a bargain (for Australian readers). And you can get what you want rather than the “best sellers” Dymock’s et al are pushing this week.

It’s not about the cultural development of our children (for those that have them), it’s about what WE (whatever age) want to read NOW. And let’s face it, most of the books we buy and read were NOT written in Australia.

No, I didn’t send a submission to the Productivity Commission. I didn’t even know they were looking at the issue or wanted feedback. If they canvassed the nation’s real readers and students rather than the 268 individuals or businesses who wrote in, I bet they’d get a different result.

The Beatles:

Ivy Jane Gardiner writes: Re. “Beatles remastered mines a whole new seam of riches” (yesterday, item 27). As a fan of The Beatles, I’m quite looking forward to these remasters as the ones done in 87 are not so good. But regarding the mono vs. stereo debate, one has to look at the technology The Beatles were using at the beginning of their career. The first couple of albums were recorded on two track, and I think from Help onwards they used four track tape. This complicates things in the mixing.

The early records did sound better in the mono version compared with the “stereo” releases for the American market. Usually with these stereo mixes, the instrumentation was panned hard left and vocals hard right, which is quite disconcerting if one listens on headphones. The interesting thing in regards to the mono mixes of most of their records, as The Beatles started paying interest in the recording technology they spent more time with the mono mixes, for example the mix of Sgt Peppers, the mono mix (which I do have the LP of) is a couple of seconds longer and sounds quite different.

I would love a decent remaster of the mono albums to be honest, to hear them as they were initially heard, but unfortunately in this life, everything always seems to need to be flasher and newer.

Alan Lander writes: I sincerely hope EMI will resist the temptation to fill the original CDs with so-called “bonus tracks”. These horrors range in their nastiness. The worst I have come across is on the beloved Alan Parsons Project CDs where some very bad rehearsals are passed of as “bonus tracks”. If I could saw them off I would.

As for digital enhancement, again I hope EMI is careful. Music from back in the 60s and 70s actually involved the use of musical instruments and real harmonies, the sound of which is generally better on vinyl. Much of today’s pop music is “Microsoft Music” and it suits the CD format well: there are no instruments involved in its making, unless you count some bow-tied nerd looping a few noises (“bass”, “drums”, “brass”) through a keyboard, and adding in a few off-key screeches from a half-naked female (for MTV of course).

Public trust journalism:

Neil James, Executive Director of the Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “Democracy and the near-death of public trust journalism” (8 April, item 4). Eric Beecher is quite correct. As a national public-interest guardian organisation the Australia Defence Association is naturally a strong supporter of the need for well-resourced public trust journalism as a foundation for informed public debate in any democracy. But Eric does not discuss the other major factors hampering such journalism such as failing journalistic standards and, just as importantly, the unwillingness of journalism as a profession to acknowledge and fix this problem.

While resourcing constraints obviously contribute to failing standards (less time, less or more junior journalists employed, using generalist journalists for specialist tasks, constricting circulations, etc), much could be rectified by the profession of journalism acting as a profession and better policing its professional standards.

In the ADA’s area of public-interest, national security, much of the media coverage is generally nothing short of appalling. Misquotation or quotation out of context is common. Uninformed “comment” shoves aside reporting of the facts. Facts and terminology are frequently reported inaccurately, offensively (sloppily describing wounded soldiers as merely “injured” for example), free of context or historical background and with a sensationalist slant or any sense of proportion being absent.

Political bias or other deep-seated prejudices are also unfortunately common, especially in parts of the electronic media. There are unfortunately very few mainstream journalists dedicated exclusively to covering defence matters. Only four of them (in three of Eric’s “heavy lifting public trust journalism newspapers” and in AAP) have serious credibility among the broader national security community. Even then, while respected, all are essentially political journalists. None of them has any personal defence force or diplomatic experience or specialist academic or professional qualifications. None have been war or even foreign correspondents in the traditional sense.

Few journalists seem willing to acknowledge that coverage of defence matters would be assisted by practical expertise and relevant professional knowledge, yet specialist expertise and qualifications are common and readily recognised as necessary among journalists covering business, economic, scientific and health care matters.

Finally, and Crikey is also prone to this, too many media organs and journalists have a prominent glass jaw about corrections and criticism. Complaints about misquotation, bias or unprofessional lapses are dismissed or even denied. Letters seeking to explain or correct misreporting are not published or censored when they are.

Fixing public trust journalism needs a much broader approach than just better resourcing, or increased diversity, of quality media organs.

First Dog on the Moon:

Greg Williams writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (Thursday, item 6). And no doubt, in the interest of even handedness, First Dog will do a rip-roaring send up of the words of Mohammed, during Ramadan … To the accompaniment of a squadron of pigs flying overhead!

Funny how craven gutlessness comes to the fore when the target isn’t likely to issue a fatwa demanding Mr First Dog and his publishers be a little bit killed in order to focus their minds on their transgression!

Outvoted:

Luke Whitington writes: Re. “Splitting hairs to flog off NSW’s prisons” (Thursday, item 14). Alex Mitchell wrote in Thursday’s Crikey: “They outvoted the two left-wingers on the committee, lawyer Cameron Murphy, son of the late Lionel Murphy, and James Shaw, son of the former Supreme Court judge and NSW Attorney-General Jeff Shaw.” They also outvoted me, Luke Whitington, the third left-winger at Thursday night’s meeting. I am the son of Richard and Jennifer Whitington, if that helps. All the best.

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Peter Fray

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