Literary Adelaide:

Kevin Ormsby, publishing manager of RMIT Publishing, writes: Re. “Literary Adelaide the scene of a journos’ dust-up” (Monday, item 17). RMIT Publishing was concerned to read the report by Margaret Simons on the internecine battles at the Adelaide Review and to see that we have been dragged into an argument not of our making. It should be said at the outset that RMIT Publishing takes the rights of authors seriously and would like to clarify the relationship we have with the Adelaide Review in order to set the record straight.

RMIT Publishing’s agreements with publishers, including the Adelaide Review, are explicit in terms of the publisher’s right and obligations to offer content. Our agreements seek absolute assurances from the publisher that it either owns or has a valid license to offer the copyrighted material; that the publisher is authorised to allow the use of the material by RMIT Publishing; that the publisher has obtained the necessary permissions and licences and that publication by Informit and that by offering content to Informit, the publisher will not infringe any copyright, moral rights or other intellectual property rights, particularly those rights of authors.

The content was not, as reported, ‘sold’ to RMIT Publishing, rather it is a licensing agreement for which royalties are paid to the publisher.The distribution of these royalties is then a matter for the publisher and the individual arrangements they have in place with their authors.

RMIT Publishing has, after internal consultation, suspended the Adelaide Review from Informit to allow the  parties involved to work through the issues and to seek a resolution. Informit is a leading research and information tool widely used in Australian educational institutions and aggregates journals, books, grey literature and magazines.

Articles are indexed and metadata is created to allow for discoverability via the Informit platform and other search engines which allows students and researchers in university, TAFE and other libraries to easily locate articles. Each article also contains detailed citation and publication details, to ensure correct citation and author attribution. Libraries are increasingly demanding articles in digital format with a deep-searching facility to allow for instant retrieval of documents and for curatorial and preservation purposes, all of which the Informit platform offers.

RMIT Publishing works with a large number of Australian and international publishers to provide this valuable Australian library resource. Regional, as well as national content is included on Informit helping make it a powerful research tool for often hard to source articles. Content on Informit is available only to subscribers. The service is sold to libraries mainly in the university, TAFE and government sector and royalties from all sales are distributed back to the publisher.

There is also a pay-per-view or document-delivery service for non-subscribers and details of transactions, and royalties for these are also remitted to the publisher. The publisher is  responsible for any royalty distribution to authors or other stakeholders and, importantly, for the communication of these arrangements to their authors.

As a key player in the delivery of specialised Australian content, RMIT Publishing is committed to  the rights of both publishers and authors and is urgently seeking to resolve this matter with the Adelaide Review.

Wild Rivers not so “wild”:

Richie Ahmat, chairman of Cape York Land Council, writes: Re. “Abbott braving the rapids over Wild Rivers legislation” (14 January, item 10). The extraordinarily distorted rant about the Wild Rivers declarations on Cape York by the Wilderness Society’s Tim Seelig cannot pass without comment. It’s not worth addressing every libellous and malicious charge against Noel Pearson, but the following statement needs a response.

Seelig claims (wrongly) that Tony Abbott and Noel Pearson “cooked up” Mr Abbott’s Private Member’s bill announcement. He goes on: “Abbott and Pearson are suggesting we can only address indigenous disadvantage by allowing unlimited and unrestrained destructive development in our natural environments, trashing our pristine rivers and landscapes in the process”.

Mr Pearson and all Cape York indigenous communities are on record stating they want a river protection system that boasts no in-stream mining, excessive water pumping or new dams. The only difference between conservationists and our communities is we don’t want to be airbrushed from the landscape.

Even the term “wild” tries to sell an abhorrent “terra nullius” message that our communities haven’t existed or lived in harmony with our lands and waterways for tens of thousands of years. Seelig’s “pristine rivers” are in that condition because of the environmental stewardship of indigenous people for many generations.

To suggest we’re about to change those historical environmental habits, and that whitefellas need to now charge in and save our pristine waterways from the very people who have cherished and tended them for thousands of years, is racial paternalism of the worst kind.

Abbott on virginity:

Sky News Contrarians correspondent Luke Walladge writes: Re. “Tony Abbott: that’s the sound of chickens coming home to roost” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane was far too nice about the Opposition Leader’s comments regarding women, virginity and general s-xual purity as defined by the Member for Manly-Warringah.

Abbott is so far out of line you don’t even need the third umpire. He’s not even in shot.

Never mind any historical sins of the Howard Government. This is an official interview, in his official capacity as Opposition Leader and the country’s alternative Prime Minister. This isn’t some off-the-record conversation late at night over a beer, or the expression of a private view in a private conversation.

In his official capacity, the response of, “That’s none of my business”, or words to that effect, should be as natural as a fish swimming. Instead, he sees fit to comment – in his official capacity. And that tells us that he thinks that somehow the s-xual behaviour of consenting adults is the business of the alternative Prime Minister of Australia.

Who out there wants Tony Abbott, PM, nosing about in their virginity?

Now I must declare a bias; I’m neither married nor a virgin. But then I’m not a candidate for Holy Orders either. If we are to believe Abbott’s account in Battlelines, he was “…not as celibate as he should have been” during his own stint in seminary. You’d think he’d have learnt the very low value of attempting to enforce edicts that run counter to all human nature and instinct.

Watching Abbott, you sometimes get the feeling that he’s caught between his humanity and what he feels to be his duty. Like a disciple of Torquemada or a village detective…”Look son, I don’t want ter do this any more than you do, but it’s the law, see?”

The excuses being trotted out about his being a parent of teenage daughters, Julia Gillard’s lack of the same quality or any other superfluous nonsense is simply a smokescreen for the panic Liberals feel every time this bloke opens his mouth. Sure, he might be a straight shooter…its what he’s aiming at that’s the point.

George Brandis knows all this, I suspect, and was just trying yesterday to turn the debate off a point he knows is a loser. Does he really, honestly expect anyone to think that Tony Abbott knows more about being a teenage girl than Julia Gillard? (Christopher Pyne, admittedly, might be a dicier proposition). Besides which, I’m reliably informed that young women don’t always choose to take their father’s advice on managing their virginity. I’m not sure why reproducing that advice in Women’s Weekly would increase its chances of being heard.

Deep down in his soul, Tony Abbott really believes that it’s the Government’s business to interfere in moral right and moral wrong, from Australians for Honest Politics, to RU-486 to Bernie Banton to now.

Hands up if you agree with him.

I thought so.

John Goldbaum writes: The voting public supports our media and we want politicians who are “authentic” and “honestly answer questions” because we want to know the truth about them and we don’t want to be conned. It is our democratic right to reject those whose values we don’t want imposed upon us and which don’t represent our views.

Tony Abbott has reaffirmed his beliefs about s-x being wrong outside marriage. The implications are that heterosexuals should marry in their teens in order to satisfy their strong sexual desires and that homosexuals shouldn’t ever have s-x because he doesn’t want equal marriage rights to be extended to them.

There was no need to drag Malcolm Turnbull’s daughter into Tony Abbott’s quicksand and there is no basis on which to speculate that Malcolm Turnbull holds similar views about virginity.

On the other hand, it is entirely reasonable to ask Abbott’s wife for her views and to ask his daughters whether they are still virgins. They forfeited their rights to privacy by willingly posing for the photo to boost Abbott’s political appeal to women.

Moira Smith writes: I strongly object to Bernard Keane describing Marion Le as a “human rights advocate” in inverted commas. Ms Le fully deserves this title, as evidenced by her tireless work for asylum seekers and refugees.

She won the Human Rights Medal in 2003 and an Australia Day award last year. In 2003 the judges said “She has given so much of herself in a voluntary capacity to individuals and families, and has applied the lessons of those experiences to seek broader systemic solutions in policy and legislation. She has provided help to many and acted as an example to many more; she has not only spoken out but she has acted, consistently and courageously, to make human rights a reality in the lives of so many”.

Ms Le has been on many visits to refugee camps all over the world and detention centres (including Nauru) often at her own expense, and some years ago even travelled in dangerous and remote areas of Afghanistan to help prove the case of clients who had been accused of lying to get a visa.

Anyone who was present at the ANU when she showed photos of her visit to Afghanistan and described the plight of the people she found there will never forget it. If Bernard Keene thinks what Ms Le says is ‘mind-numbingly tedious’ and ‘predictable’ perhaps he’s just fed up of hearing the truth about the complexities of immigration issues, which Ms Le as an immigration lawyer is eminently qualified to comment on.

School league tables:

Jackie French writes: Re. “One size doesn’t fit all: NAPLAN tests just not cricket” (yesterday, item 13).  It seems most commentators are confusing two issues:

  1. Should we have a national literacy and numeracy test with public outcomes?
  2. Is the present test an effective one?

Criticising the present test doesn’t necessarily mean there shouldn’t be one, just that it needs to be changed. I admit bias here: I am dyslexic, and contacted by many who are desperate for help within the public system.

The present system makes it too easy for some schools to ignore learning difficulties. Many teachers still subscribe to the view that if a student can’t read by the time they are 12, then they must be ‘unteachable’, rather than accepting that different teaching methods needs to be used, depending on the needs of the student.

Bruce Graham writes: Trevor Diogenes is a great read, and sometimes I feel his pain.  Presumably he is Diogenes of Sinope (the cynic, rather than the biographer). I take exception, however, to the assertion that “More and ore importance is placed on year 12 results”.

In 1979, in Melbourne, my destiny came down to 5 written exams, and a practical music exam. Thirty minutes playing music I had been practicing for 18 months. Ninety minutes of multiple choice physics. Essays on books I had read so many times I can still quote. Mathematical proofs.

Questions and images that stand imprinted in my mind through the sheer force of the hypomania that leaves a clarity only otherwise achieved in a car crash, or on a high mountain summit (or by athletes, but I have never had that experience).

And all this was what demonstrated my suitability for the study of medicine.  These days, my dear alma mater has a complex interview process and — surprise surprise — finds candidates well coached, who have clearly practiced for the new test.

Trevor: it was ever thus. And as for those in whom the testing is culturally unsuitable? Yes, the system fails them, but no more than it ever has. Just possibly, this failure will become more transparent to the public. That might be a good thing.

China bans Avatar:

Rod Metcalfe writes: Re: “Chinese censors pull the plug on Avatar” (yesterday, item 16). Let me get this straight. The Right in the US (and copied by Miranda Devine) believe Avatar promotes a leftist point of view.

However, a Communist nation believes Avatar is unsuitable for their audiences because it promotes US militarism (a Right Credo?). The movie doesn’t appeal to me but it must be doing something right to offend all of the above. And despite what Miranda and others have to say, it seems to be pulling in the crowds.

Tim Vines writes: I have enjoyed reading how Crikey‘s contributors tie James Cameron’s latest mega flick Avatar to their various views and agenda but I take umbrage with Peter Craven for his description of Avatar as having an ‘idiot post-Matrix plot’, along with his attempts to get us in on his joke about ‘wait for it – “unobtanium”‘. Unobtanium’s name is not a joke; it’s a deliberate choice. It’s use in the film is only as a “MacGruffin”, that wonderful Hitchcock term for a plot element which usually serves no purpose but to drive the plot. Indeed, Unobtanium is a familiar term in films with the (appalling) film The Core featuring a ship made out of the material.

As for the “idiotic post-Matrix” premise, consciousness transfers are a staple of the ‘Soft’ sci-fi genre to which Avatar belongs. The science of how an Avatar works doesn’t need to be spelt out. In fact, the less said the better. The film’s characters never attempt to explain the ‘science’ behind the machines but say enough for the audience to accept them while suspending belief.

Over explanation of dubious science has ruined many a sci-fi film before. To adopt a more serious approach would alienate many in the audience who came for a spectacle. ‘Hard’ sci-fi literature (a la Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke), which featured mathematical equations and ‘the whiff of the laboratory’, is a turn off to many people seeking a good, escapist story, with a trendy eco-message to boot.

A wonderful anecdote illustrates the disjunction between the demands of hard sci-fi purists and the general public’s desire for a good old space romp.

Curious how the teleporter in Star Trek’s USS Enterprise could accommodate Heisenberg’s theory of quantum uncertainty and armed with a copy of the Star Trek Technical Handbook a Trekkie probed “How do the Enterprise’s Heisenberg Compensators work?” to which the lead technical advisor replied “Very well, thank you.” Avatar’s plot includes both the ludicrous and the possible. I enjoyed it for both.

The only two questions I was left with after watching the film was how an avatar could communicate with its host instantaneously over distance and, more importantly, whether I’d be able to get a discount the next time I watched it if I brought my own 3D glasses?

Racists (Southern) Cross the line:

Pru Sheaves writes: Re: “When racist bastards (Southern) Cross the line” (yesterday, item 14). The Southern Cross has long been a symbol of exclusion and racism in Australia. The rioters at Lambing Flats, who drove nearly 3000 Chinese miners off the gold fields in June 1861, murdering many and looting their camps, did so under a Southern Cross banner, inspired by the Eureka banner. Wikipedia has a short summary and the banner and a more detailed history can be found here.

Michael, I’d suggest more due diligence when you get your next tattoo.

Great Firewall of Australia:

Ben Aveling writes: Re. Melanie Farris (comments, yesterday)  There are many ways to transfer information over the internet. The firewall will only block public web pages, not ‘private’ web pages, or VPN or P2P or other private channels.

The sort of material Melanie Farris wants to see blocked is not carried on public web pages and it will not be stopped by the firewall.  What will be blocked is stuff that is legal in much of the world but not here, such as information on how to commit suicide.

Pretty rich of the Fin:

Chris Harrison writes: Re “The Fin’s run-of-the-million promo is nothing of the sort” (yesterday, item 4). The Financial Review neglected to add to its promo prize that the winner could also be amongst the first to witness the Maldives as they sink slowly into the sea as the result of climate change. To actually be part of history is surely an irresistible incentive!

VCA sign no lie:

Arion Potts writes: Re: “Media briefs” (Monday, item 18). Looks like the VCA folks were right. While clunking along on a tram this arvo, I had ample time to notice that the sign has been repainted and the letters stuck back on.

First Dog and Madonna:

Jim Hart writes: Re: “First Dog on the Moon” (yesterday, item 6). Rather than being Like A Virgin, the thought of confronting Tony Abbott makes me  recall the Tubes’ classic single Don’t Touch Me There.

The smell of burning leather
as we hold each other tight
As our rivets rub together
flashing sparks into the night
At this moment of
surrender darling
if you really care
Don’t touch me there

Peter Fray

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