Last month, Crikey showed how Kevin Rudd used home court advantage at the Cairns meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum, to silence Pacific criticisms of his climate policies. Now he’s at it again on trade policy.

A meeting of Forum trade ministers, originally proposed to be held next month in Federated States of Micronesia, has been relocated to Brisbane this weekend. Will Kevin, as Forum chair, be hoping that the island trade ministers will be reluctant to embarrass their host on Australia’s push for a regional free-trade agreement known as PACER-Plus?

This is just another unsubtle effort to promote Australia’s trade interests in the region, following the appointment of Chakriya Bowman, the former chief trade adviser to AusAID, as head of the Economic Governance unit at the Forum Secretariat in Suva. No wonder Bowman’s predecessor at the Forum, whose contract was not renewed, has given Rudd a big bucket.

There have been more than a few raised eyebrows at the Gold Coast Bulletin, and indeed in the local community, at the paper’s so-called 100 Most Powerful list published this weekend. Fledgling editor Dean Gould, in the top job since just July 6, has appeared at No.9 in the list.

Perhaps not so unusual, you may think. But the machinations behind Gould’s appearance certainly are. Bulletin staff responsible for compiling the list reportedly received an email from Gould several weeks ago instructing them that he should appear at No.9 in the 2009 list. The stunned reporters found the order strange, but clearly had to comply with the zealous new editor’s directive.

“His opinions and thoughts are widely respected and sought after in the community with members on both sides of the house seeking his take on the political pulse of the city,” the blurb gushes. And so on … The sentiment behind the directive seemed to be, “not too high up the list, but certainly not double figures”.

It’s a big break with tradition at the Bulletin, where in previous years, veteran editor Bob Gordon, did not include himself on the list, preferring instead to have a more subtle sidebar on a range of media figures in the community.

Gould’s appointment as editor was a controversial one — he has never worked at a metropolitan newspaper, having come most recently from regional paper Northern Star, and was a controversial pick over News Ltd veteran John Affleck or rising star Peter Gleeson. Many felt Gould has neither the experience nor passion to run a paper of the importance of the Bulletin to News Ltd (its huge real estate lift out is a huge cash cow for the group).

The staff versus editor confrontation at The Advertiser, Adelaide, is heating up . Since Crikey published its story midweek:

  • Editor Mel Mansell has threatened to sue members of the staff for defaming him.
  • A request from members of the staff for a general meeting on Monday to discuss editorial problems has been flatly rejected by Mansell.
  • A female political writer has been kicked on to general reporting. Mansell accused her of applying to the Rann government for a job as a press sec.
  • The state political editor Russell Emerson has been taken off the round because he has complained to Mansell that only stories favourable to Rann were getting into the paper.
  • John Hartigan was in town midweek — the reason for which is unknown to the troops. He did not show his face on the editorial floor.
  • Following redundancies of eight journalists, artists and photographers in June, there is a rumour there will be more forced departures early in the new year. Several members of the staff are ready to hold their hands up.

Aside from that, all is quiet.

Was that JB Fairfax at the opera on Thursday loudly telling his companion “… of all the boards I’ve been on, Fairfax is the most dysfunctional … “?

Myer 1. Myer is not doing wonders to promote its credentials before  the IPO. On Thursday night I was in Myer at Macquarie in NSW buying an engagement present. A piece of Villeroy & Boch china. I needed assistance with the purchase (value about $300). There was no staff member to be seen. In the same part of the store was the bridal register, where three potential brides were looking for assistance. Again none to be found.

Frustrated I walked over to the other side of the store where I eventually found a staff member. I asked for help, he responded that it wasn’t his section. Myer just lost a sale. As for the three brides, they all ventured off to David Jones at Chatswood (15 minute drive away).

How much is a bridal register worth these days?

Myer 2. Someone should be asking questions of Myer management following its first quarter sales results and why people who are planning to buy in during the float are not being given details. I work at Myer and it’s common knowledge that sales were down for the three months ending September 30. Sales went backwards at the same time that Bernie has been out talking up the business.

We have been told that a decision has been made not to report Q1 sales, so shareholders will not find out the details until next February when Myer reports sales for the first half. Usually we only report each half, but we released sales figures for Q3 last year only because we out-performed David Jones and management wanted to crow.

Sales have been really tough and things have slowed even more since interest rates went up.

Medical researchers around the nation are waiting with bated breath for the “official” announcement of the outcomes NHMRC funding for project grants for 2010. People’s lives, salaries, futures and careers are dependent on this funding and yet the minister is sitting on the results.

In the meantime, universities have been breaking embargo from last Monday (October 12), telling individual researchers in an ad hoc fashion as to whether their grants got up or not. Some have been contacted and others haven’t.

Is she simply waiting for a politically opportune time to make it all official while medical researchers have to sweat?

Hobart Theatre Royal’s Chief exec Tim Munro is sticking to his story in the media that he did not ban Busting Out! based on the show’s artistic content. However, here is the written reason Theatre Royal provided to the producers as to why Busting Out! could not be performed at the venue. Reproduced here, in its entirety:

“We discussed Busting Out at our management meeting yesterday and the majority of our team were not in favour of proceeding with this hire. I gave everyone a brief description of the show, a rundown on the venues across Australia and NZ where the show has already played and after the meeting sent each member of the team a link to the Busting Out website so that they could view footage and see both press and audience reviews. It was a decision based on whether or not this show aligns with our board’s artistic policy and the majority (not all) of the management team believe it is not a good alignment, as such I’m afraid that the Theatre Royal will not be prepared to present this show.”

Given the above, it is hard to fathom how Munro can continue to claim he did not ban the show on artistic grounds?

Followers of the Climate Change debate might be interested to see or hear what the geologist Dr Ian Plimer had to say in his defence on this week’s Ockham’s Razor on Radio National. Dr Plimer spent the first half of his 12-minute talk explaining how what is happening to the earth is quite normal and that compared to ancient times nothing to be alarmed by — indeed, his argument went, carbon dioxide is good for you because it is plant food.

However, he then descended into an extended attack on un-named climateers he claimed were like fundamentalist religious believers (like creationists actually — obviously his new “gotcha” line) and were in the case of the ABC and other “taxpayer-funded” institutions “totally politicised”.

The IPCC, he said, was “a political body”. The campaign to reduce global warming was run by “an ascientific urban religious fundamentalist movement detached from the environment,” a movement that:

… has the elements of failed European socialism and Christianity, imposes guilt on the community, creates a fear of damnation, demands appeasement by selling indulgences to the faithful, and ignores any contrary information.

It demonises dissenters, has a holy book which adherents have neither read nor have the knowledge to understand; it breeds gurus whose mantras cannot be challenged and they make sensationalist claims … and has hints of totalitarianism.

No evidence was offered for any of his assertions as one might expect for a talk of this sort (Ockham’s Razor being the scientific stripping away of argument to the point where the simplest truth remains).

Clearly, Dr Plimer’s position is infused by a sense of persecution and the emotional undertow of his discourse was hardly scientific. According to Robyn Williams, Dr Plimer is off to London to present his “findings” and take on his critics at a session organised by The Spectator .

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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