Utegate, Turnbull, Grech et al:

Roger Connolly writes: Re. “Rundle: Turnbull’s already gone” (yesterday, item 2). How much more interesting your daily output would be if you had one person writing, just someone, who wasn’t a Liberal basher and got stuck into Labor. What would Crikey do if there was no Liberal opposition in Australia to ridicule? Publish a daily commercial for Labor governments maybe — there would be no need to call them Labor any more, just “governments”.

What do you REALLY get out of your belief that a right wing (whatever that means) political party is all bad? Is it a belief in more power to you personally if we have a one party system? Close your eyes and imagine Rudd suddenly switches sides and you wake up tomorrow with Rudd and Swan leading a Liberal government. How would you feel towards them? Well, there’s your answer.

Like it or not, Crikey, balance sells. It’s too easy to run an endless gang war against the Libs, much harder to put arguments for and against both sides scrupulously, but much more rewarding in every way.

Take a good hard look at what is happening in Iran, Crikey, and ask yourself “Could that happen here?” Think outside your square If you go on attacking everything the Liberal party says and does and dismissing as useless nobodies, every elected Liberal member of Parliament as Guy Rundle did yesterday, and go on doing that until there is no opposition party apart from the Greens, then I guess you will be partly responsible for whatever happens to Australians in the future.

Don’t forget that pendulum. Once it swings way to the left, it invariably swings just as far back to the right, and vice versa.

Be careful what you wish for, Crikey.

Michael James writes: Guy Rundle has perfectly nailed Malcolm Turnbull. It explains most things that are otherwise somewhat mystifying. The disinterest in the Republic debate. Ignoring the no-brainer strategy of waiting out Labor’s first re-election while rebuilding the party etc. But Malcolm Turnbull has jumped the shark.

The questions are whether he gets to finish the current season before being dumped by the network, and whether next season the Libs go for repeats of old familiar faces or employ the bomb-plot strategy to eradicate the current tired faces and bring in some new blood or a special guest star, maybe a dependable bit of skirt and cleavage?

Or do the whole Dallas thing and resuscitate a previously-believed deceased/missing-in-action — Brendan! The ratings would shoot through the roof, well at least for the season debut until the comedic routines became too predictable and it all was too excruciating to watch, even on TiVo where you can fast forward the boring bits.

But no, this Liberal Party is a dead parrot sketch, and all it would need to complete that picture is to, say, bring back Pistol Pete.

David Long writes: Nodding to Alfred Whithead’s famous observance that “fools act on imagination without knowledge, pedants act on knowledge without imagination” I pedantically point out to Guy Rundle in his otherwise entertaining spray at Malcolm Turnbull that 1) Nick Minchin’s erstwhile screenwriter father and infamous logger of jungles is named Devon, not “Denver”, 2) Ivan Goff wrote Mannix not Matlock — neither Paul Cronin’s version nor Andy Griffiths’ — and 3) the Republican referendum was 1999, not 1998. And none of it is Swedish or Finnish, which must be a relief to the often-sloppy Guy.

David Horkan writes: My recollection of the 1999 referendum is that a majority of voters in every State and the Northern Territory voted “No”. The ACT was the exception. I am confused by Guy Rundle’s comment that “a majority voted for the Republic”. I may have missed something, so I would be grateful if he can enlighten me.

Richard Davoren writes: Re. “The question now: is Malcolm Turnbull telling the truth?” (Yesterday, item 1). There are further questions that Bernard Keane should ask. I worked in Government for 40 years, both in Federal and State, at a level above Mr Grech.

Question 1. How is it that a relatively junior officer can send briefings directly to the Treasurer via his home fax? In my State Government Department, nothing would be sent to the Minister without it first being signed off by the Secretary and then forwarded via the Ministerial Liaison Office. Material like that sent to Wayne Swan, directly, that could be used as evidence to implicate the Minister in some impropriety, would never see the light of day in my Department. There were matters that perhaps the opposition should not be aware of and these briefings were either verbal, or classified as “Cabinet in Confidence” and buried in concrete, almost.

Question 2. Were these faxes meant to inform or implicate? Given that a supposedly shady deal was in progress, the last thing the Treasurer would want is a pile of faxes confirming his involvement. If indeed Grant was his friend as claimed, although it is hard to imagine becoming a friend with a car dealer you once bought a car from, then all Swan needed to do was ring Grant and ask, “how’s it going mate”?

If the answer to the Question 1 is “that’s policy”, then some 50-100 (my guess) program managers at the level of Grech would be firing faxes at Swan. Given that Swan had some other distractions, such as the forthcoming budget, resolution of the global financial crisis as it affected Australia etc, etc, any material of a minor nature would have been scanned by his support staff, then binned.

My guess is that these faxes were sent as part of a grand scheme to stitch up Swan. They may never have been read and they shouldn’t have been sent.

Martin Gordon writes: Most of the media coverage of the favourable treatment of car dealer John Grant has run the Government line about one email (whilst forgetting there are many emails). The headlines appear like smokescreens over critical facts. And so it was with Joel Fitzgibbon too in the beginning!

In virtually all media reports the journalists report a paragraph which describes that Treasurer Wayne Swan had given favourable treatment to Mr Grant based on emails itself released, and that Treasury understood that Mr Grant was “no ordinary constituent”.

It is amazing that a minister (Swan) would receive a home email/fax advice of the progress of a particular constituent’s case, and the head (Ken Henry) of a significant agency (Treasury) apparently. The level of interest in Grant and a few others seems astonishing. The case against Swan is still substantial, so why do the collective “media” appear to be better at doing the governments work rather than its own?

Barry Welch writes: In F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the narrator, Nick Carraway, opined “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy. They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made.”

Thus will Australians, and particularly Liberals, remember the now mortally politically wounded Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey, with Julie Bishop thrown in as an afterthought.

Mick Callinan writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Wow — was the description of Turnbull designed to sound exactly like Latham — “…is a man with a long-established reputation for impulsive hot headedness, a man viewed by many in his own party as something of a risky, volatile experiment … headstrong, impulsive, heedless of advice, possessed of dangerously unfettered self-belief.”Or was it mere coincidence?

John Taylor writes: May I be so bold as to suggest a small amendment to today’s editorial. Delete “Turnbull”, insert “Latham”, revert to 2004 and what have you got? Bibbity-bobbity-boo!!!

Peter Rosier writes: Cheeez, John Shailer (yesterday, comments), talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous. Only a fool would have fallen for the fake e-mail without doing quite a bit of research … an ambitious fool fell for it in a headlong rush to score what he hoped would be a major political coup. Who made up the faked e-mail is irrelevant when it comes to the wisdom of deciding whether to rely on it. But to suggest that it was a Labor confection is at best, well, being kind, rather like blaming the stable hand for the horse dung.

David Havyatt writes: Your correspondent Rod Raymont (yesterday, comments) asks the appropriate question, what exactly was the role of Steve Lewis. More importantly, who was his source? As it wasn’t a genuine document does the ethics of protecting his source apply? I would hope not!

The economy:

Julian Gillespie writes: Re. “Signs of life in commodity exports, says ABARE” (yesterday, item 24). The Federal Government’s “professionally independent agency” ABARE (the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics) released its June quarter report on Australian commodities yesterday. Buried down at page 273 is their economic growth forecast for our economy for 2009-2010 — a contraction of 0.5% — and that should be viewed as a Federal Government forecast.

Now ABARE is a solid organisation but this pretty damn important news, so why is ABARE releasing this data and not the Australian Bureau of Statistics or Mr Swan?

This has the smell of more government debt all over it — perhaps why the forecast was softly released via ABARE overnight?

Media Monitors:

Karina Silva, Senior Group Communications Manager, Media Monitors, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 8). Yesterday’s Crikey item was incorrect in saying that there will be only one full time and one part time role in Adelaide, Canberra, Brisbane and Perth Media Monitors’ offices. In fact, we will have 28 employees in Canberra, 14 in Adelaide, 12 in Brisbane and 7 in Perth and over 350 roles in Melbourne and Sydney who will continue to provide expert and comprehensive service to our over 4000 clients in Australia.

The redundancies announced to staff last week involved 47 full time roles and 56 part time or casual roles. The restructure predominantly relates to the press production area of the business and the centralisation of production was made possible by the move to digital capture technologies across print and broadcast in recent times, and precipitated by the current economic downturn.

Fire management:

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “13 ways to avoid another Black Saturday” (yesterday, item 15). Frank Campbell’s article is a welcome breath of fresh air and the best I have read since the fires. Not all fires will be as fierce as the February 7 fires. “Stay and defend” is a reasonable strategy in almost all circumstances, providing the stayers/defenders are not idiots who think thongs and stubbies are fire fighting clothing and sloshing water from plastic boxes is fire fighting. T

here are some people who simply should not live in the bush. You can pick their houses a mile off and you can usually smell them (fly-spray, deodorizers, volatile disinfectants, inflammable plastic carpets, inflammable plastic curtains etc.). They are trying to recreate suburbia in the bush and it comes as a shock when the bush presents an unexpected side of its nature.

The bush is not just bell-bird sound effects and space for a ride-on mower. To live in the bush you have to be part of it, not reject it in your behaviour, thinking, landscaping etc.

The Pacific Islands:

Nic Maclellan writes: Re. “Latin America is important to Australia — here’s why” (yesterday, item 16). Greg Barns wrote: “…there is one black hole on the planet as far as Australian media outlets are concerned and that’s Latin America.” Could I suggest another? The Pacific Islands! Not one daily newspaper in Australia has a full time correspondent dedicated to covering the Islands region, in spite of what’s going on in Fiji and PNG, Nicolas Sarkozy’s forthcoming visit to New Caledonia, the effect of the government’s 5-15 per cent climate target on the low lying atoll nations etc etc.

News Limited owns the Fiji Times and the PNG Post Courier — the two biggest papers in those countries — yet they never use journalists from those papers to inform the Australia public about developments in our region. The ABC and Radio Australia do a great job covering day-by-day events but the commercial media have dropped the ball.

When the Parliamentary press gallery follow Kevin Rudd to Cairns in the first week of August, with Australia hosting the Pacific Islands Forum for the first time in fifteen years, I fear that the only story that will get coverage is whether Frank Bainimarama drives a ute.


Cathy Bannister writes: Re. “Why indigenous Australians need their own pandemic plan” (yesterday, item 5). Yes, there needed to be a stronger pandemic plan for indigenous Australians, as there should be for all vulnerable groups. Damn shame no-one noticed until people started dying.

The BBC:

Kate Jackson writes: Re. “Media briefs: Utegate premature evaluation… Mental health jokes in ads unfunny…” (Yesterday, item 21). Regarding the Media Brief on BBC America. BBC America is a commercial channel. It’s owned by BBC Worldwide and BBC Worldwide is the commercial arm of the licence fee funded BBC.

The BBC Worldwide website says:

BBC Worldwide manages seven operating businesses – Channels, Sales & Distribution, Content & Production, Magazines, Home Entertainment Global Brands and Digital Media. Throughout its operations, BBC Worldwide maintains the values and integrity of the BBC, combined with all the commercial skill and acumen, flexibility, knowledge and strength of a major global corporation.

BBC Worldwide’s profits are delivered back to the BBC, supplementing the Corporation’s licence fee funding.

Wikipedia says of BBC America:

The network is not subject to funding from the UK licence fee by law: the BBC cannot fund any of its channels that are not available in the United Kingdom. As this is the case, the channel carries advertisements.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey