Melissa Sweet writes: I reported in Crikey last week that the Federal Department of Health and Ageing has spent $2,863,031 from October 2005 to April 2010 on a media management contract held by McNiece Communications. At the time of writing, it was unclear whether this amount included the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s media contract, also held by Kay McNiece and colleagues. DOHA has subsequently advised that the TGA has a separate contract with McNiece Communications with expenditure as follows:  2008/09 – $266,992; and for the year to date (to April 2010) — $223,828.

Fraser vs. Whitlam:

Michael R. James. Re. “Mungo: new ‘Bronwyn’ takes some heat from Rudd’s amateurs” (yesterday, item 10). As a boomer whose first election was Whitlam’s winning election I am glad to see Mungo restate the record on Malcolm Fraser. I assume many of the people, including those on the left, writing warm and fuzzy things about Fraser are simply too young to remember. But as laudable as the things ex-Prime Ministers may do in their retirement, they must be judged on what they did when they were in power.

Even if Whitlam apparently forgave Fraser, I can and never will. That doesn’t mean I want to see him lynched (though once upon a time…) nor humiliated, but it is important that Australians try hard to remember. But every time I read junk opinion of the kind “worst government since Whitlam” or other pathetic attempts at “Whitlamesque” mud-slinging it refires the latent radical in me.

I would rather have the 30 months of Whitlam, along with its chaotic nature, than any other government I have seen in my lifetime. When Fraser managed to scrabble up the greasy pole over innumerable dead bodies, including for a while Australian democracy, what did he then do with his power? Nothing … NOTHING. Kevin Rudd should ponder those exhilarating days of the Whitlam government which changed Australia for the better than any equivalent period in our history (and which is why Fraser did nothing …including not significantly undoing much.)

Whitlam was an exceptional leader who knew what he wanted to do, and set about wasting no time (and no time pondering popularity ratings or endlessly parsing the entrails of bipartisan politics) doing it once he was in power.  Every single Austraian, even those pathetic ignorant sods who throw insults at Gough Whitlam, benefits to this day.


Adam Rope writes: Re. “US Congress links WA oil spill to BP’s Gulf disaster” (yesterday, item 1). Andrew Dodd wrote yesterday that “Perhaps the most alarming link is that the same company, Halliburton, has been accused of stuffing up the crucial cementing on both wells.”

Frankly I’d be more surprised if Halliburton was not involved in the cementing on both wells. Halliburton, in terms of cementing in the oil industry, are — by a huge margin — the biggest player, and are found practically everywhere. I spent over 10 years in the oil business and nearly every rig that I worked on had a Halliburton cement unit built in upon it. Nearly every land rig had Halliburton cement trucks come in to do the cementing operations.

The only places where I didn’t see Halliburton doing the cementing were in countries where US companies weren’t allowed, and Siberia. Basically, in the oil business, Halliburton are cement.

Show me some RSPT:

John Kotsopoulos writes: The outrage exhibited by Greg Angelo (yesterday, comments) is so far over the top as to be comical. Goebbels indeed. I don’t recall a peep from him when Howard put out ten times the advertising in explaining the GST and WorkChoices.

Mr. Angelo should save his outrage for the miners who are using shareholders funds to  pay off the Libs and misrepresent the RSPT while no doubt claiming the ad spend from their taxes.

He  should also take a deep breath and contemplate the absurdity and contradictions of the coalition’s multi-faceted stance.  Abbott says miners pay too much tax, Hockey reckons they pay about the right amount while dear old Barnaby Joyce thinks they should pay more to help improve infrastructure (which is one of the aims of the main aims of RSPT!)

Scot Mcphee writes: Greg Angelo wrote:

So now we have the Minister for propaganda Joseph (Goebbels) Ludwig as the Reich Propaganda Minister approving a propaganda campaign on behalf of the control freak Kevin (Adolf Hitler) Rudd and his “Minister for Armaments”  Wayne (Albert Speer) Swan…. All we need now is for somebody to burn down the Parliament (Reichstag) and “Reich Fuehrer” Rudd can then declare martial law and presumably lock-up and or exterminate his  opponents under the watchful eye of his “Minister for the Interior” Julia (Heinrich Himmler) Gillard.

The RSPT campaign has reached the “Godwin” stage, and having invoked the Nazis, the thread is over, Greg Angelo having lost the debate. Can the Government now please legislate the new tax? Surely the opponents of the resource tax can do nothing about it now they’ve lost all their credibility on the issue!!!

Rudd’s principles:

Denise Marcos writes: Re. “Rudd advertises his lack of principles — and his panic” (yesterday, item 2). Initially I was dismayed to hear of the $38M advertising blitz. But, on reflection, any government would be remiss in not pursuing a means whereby Australians benefit from a more equitable deal for our minerals.

Mining magnates griping about a threat to their expanding billions are hilarious — their propaganda deserves no traction with the electorate. Frankly, I prefer to see taxes plunged into this cause rather than Joint Strike Fighters.

New Matilda:

David Havyatt writes: Re. “Post-New Matilda … where to, and what are the lessons?” (yesterday, item 13). It seems that the e-zine business model is missing one clear option for better utlising its resources.  The debate seems to be about how much to pay authors, and the traditional lefty mode is to pay everyone the same.

In the e-zine model, especially one where you need to pay, but possibly only one where you need to “register” it is possible to get immediate direct and targeted information about the content that readers like.  I haven’t seen any model that has a content rating button on the stories, and where they exist in other parts of the web the focus has been on customizing the user experience.

We’ve seen lots of use of “comments” fields — though I personally prefer the process of the comments section on the next “edition” — mostly cause I prefer reading the e-mail than going to the website (PS another problem with New Matilda — the e-mail was only headlines — I want the bulk of the story).

Isn’t it time for performance based pay linked to readers’ evaluations?  You still need to pay retainers and to occasionally buck the trend of the readers.  They call it “audience development” in the theatre.

ABC and Fairfax:

Glenys Stradijot, Campaign Manager, Friends of the ABC (Vic), writes: Re. “ABC gets into bed with Fairfax … and news is the winner” (25 May, item 4). In Margaret Simons’ article she wrote of the benefits of media organisations collaborating in investigative journalism. She is right. It makes financial sense to share costs and can result in important public information being more widely reported. It may even result in the exposure of a matter which there would otherwise be insufficient funds to investigate.

Nevertheless, there is a downside. Joint media operations run contrary to the public interest for media diversity. Australia already has a dangerously low level of media diversity. It needs more news sources, not less.

Furthermore, there are serious risks for the integrity of the ABC if partnerships with commercial media companies were to become more than an occasional practice:

  • Decisions on content go beyond the probity of individual journalists to the political and corporate interests of the bodies that employ them. A strong incentive for the ABC to share costs with a commercial outlet could result in compromises – from the selection of matters to be investigated, to program content, presentation and promotion.And what would happen if media outlets of questionable independence which are considered by governments to be reputable, or so powerful they cannot be ignored, come to regard themselves as being entitled to their share of the public subsidy which collaborations with the ABC deliver to the private partner? Some influential commercial media players have already made clear their interest for ABC services, like news, to be put out to tender.
  • Add to the business interests of the commercial media, the hostility of some governments to independent broadcasting and the apparent commitment of governments of both major political persuasions to scale back the public sector. The next step to full-scale outsourcing would not be far removed. Former Coalition Minister for Communications, Senator Alston, commenced a process that made funding for the ABC dependent on the broadcaster outsourcing much of its television production. Despite a change of government, the ABC now produces no local television drama in-house.The experience of the seriously under-funded SBS points to what happens to the level of government funding for a public broadcaster when it demonstrates a willingness to resource its activities (if only to a minor extent) with income from commercial sources. If government took a similar pecuniary approach to an ABC sharing costs by increasingly operating on joint projects with commercial media, the result would be less funding available to the ABC to undertake investigative journalism.

For the same reasons that the ABC should not be funded through advertising revenue, it should generally not enter into joint operations with commercial media outlets. The future of investigative journalism would be better served by the national public broadcaster being rebuilt and fully funded to engage in the independent journalism for which it is rightly respected.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey