The iPad killed the newspaper star:

Matthew Horan writes: Re. “Beecher: exhilarating iPad will help kill newspapers, not save them” (yesterday, item 1). Eric Beecher says the “exhilarating iPad will help kill newspapers, not save them.” Not so sure either way — The Australian has made a good start, even though their app lacks not only interactivity, but John Durie and the other “premium” columnists I actually want to read.

But it’s better than Fairfax who aren’t even there yet, despite having half a year to get ready. However, the iPad browser allows you a pretty good read of their web pages anyway (as it does the Oz — with columnists!). Apparently there’s going to be no AFR app, which is probably a good thing, considering the awful AFR website — great content, especially Dealbook and Street Talk, but possibly the most god-awful interface known to geekdom. I mean really, really terrible.

However — Eric, before you can begin pontificating, you really need to get a Crikey app. Actually, what would be really nice is a daily Crikey email that can be read on a mobile device, like my iPhone. ‘Cause right now, I have to scroll through about 30 lines of code until I actually get to the first article. Then another 10 lines of code and so on.

It’s a plea, perhaps, rather than a criticism. It’s not worth having all this great new tech if nothing runs properly on it.

So the iPad may be the death of old media and the making of the new — but you need to get your own house into order before you’re allowed to make a judgement.

Gabriel McGrath writes: Hey Rupert, that iThing you keep talking about…. “It’s not the Messiah, it’s a very shiny toy!”


Jane McMillan, Manager, Corporate Communications, SBS Strategy and Communications, writes: Re. “Brown dismantling subtitling piece-by-piece: SBS insider” (yesterday, item 15). In response to your article 15.Brown dismantling subtitling piece-by-piece: SBS insider from yesterday’s edition of Crikey.

In terms of quality, the SBS sub-titling unit has indeed won international plaudits. That Australian audiences are some of the world’s most comfortable with sub-titles can be directly attributed to SBS television’s long history of broadcasting sub-titled content. That commitment to sub-titled content continues and this year SBS will be broadcasting the highest levels of sub-titled content in our history with an increase in sub-titled content on SBS TWO.

In order to deliver this content, SBS must ensure its Sub-titling Unit is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. SBS recently undertook an independent review of the Sub-titling Unit which included international benchmarking. The review clearly established that there was scope to undertake sub-titling at SBS in a more efficient manner, without diminishing quality.

The SBS Sub-titling Unit was also found to have significant over-capacity — meaning the Unit does not have the right mix of staff languages to meet the programming needs of SBS ONE and SBS TWO. This has resulted in many highly skilled staff undertaking duties other than sub-titling for much of their time (e.g.: closed captioning). This has long been a source of dissatisfaction for Sub-titling Staff which was communicated to both Management and the company conducting the review.

It is untrue to say that management wants to outsource the sub-titling unit. The review recommended full-outsourcing of the Sub-titling Unit which SBS has rejected. SBS has instead opted for expansion of the current model to include in-house, external and brought in sub-titling. Measures are also being put in place to improve sub-titling processes and to update technology.

These changes, while difficult, help to provide SBS with language and capacity flexibility to suit the programming schedule.  Comments along these lines have been previously supplied to Crikey intern Matt de Neef on three occasions.

Taxing the miners:

Kevin Cox writes: Re. “Fair exchange? Trashing Labor’s credibility on ads earns it … 14 days” (yesterday, item 8). I do wish the mining industry would stop bleating about the resources tax. The regime that the government has introduced is an opportunity for resource extraction companies to rapidly increase shareholder value.

The simplest way for the mining industry to eliminate ALL tax is to invest the extra money they receive so that they transfer the tax liabilities away from resource extraction to resource enhancement. It is a very easy exercise for an extractive company to invest in upstream processing facilities and remove all their liabilities for tax while increasing shareholder value.  This is not possible with a royalties based system.

A company extracting fossil fuels can spend their profits to remove all tax liabilities by building renewable energy plants so that the investments are counted as costs and hence tax deductible.  If companies do this then shareholder value will sky rocket, the government will be pleased, Australians will become richer, and presumably the voters will respond accordingly.

So my advice to the government is to spend their advertising dollars telling companies how they can eliminate their tax liabilities.

Phylli Ives writes: The truth about the mining tax. In the olden days the Spanish conquistadors got rich by plundering the gold and minerals from South American countries like Peru. For conquistadors read today’s mining corporations; and for South  American countries like Peru, read Australia.

The mining corporations are very willing to get rich at our expense, but the Coalition seems to be happy for them to do that.

Like the gold in Peru, it will soon all be gone, and Australians, like the Peruvians, will be the poorer.


Gavin R. Putland writes: Re. “Letter from Zimbabwe: ongoing illegal evictions of farmers” (yesterday, item 11).  Of course it was intolerable that the land of Zimbabwe, on which all Zimbabweans depended for life and livelihood, was monopolized by a minority of the population.

The simplest remedy was not to redistribute the land itself, but to redistribute its VALUE through taxes, transfers and public expenditure — by raising public revenue from the rental value of the land, leaving labour and capital untaxed.

The land would have remained in the possession of those who knew how to manage it.  They would have managed it better than before, because the fruits of their good management (as distinct from the market value of the land) would have been free from tax.

There would have been no unemployment, because there would have been no tax on hiring, no personal income tax cutting into wages, no consumption tax reducing the value of after-tax wages, no wage-fixing authority demanding that employers compensate workers for the effects of income tax and consumption taxes, and no central bankers claiming that they had to raise interest rates to create unemployment to counteract the inflationary effects of taxes and centralized wage-fixing.

Infrastructure would have been exemplary, because public expenditure on desirable infrastructure would have paid for itself through uplifts in land values caused by the infrastructure.

But of course all this would have been unacceptable, because taxing away the rental value of the land, notwithstanding the economy-wide benefits flowing back to the landowners, would allegedly have been tantamount to expropriation.  And we couldn’t have that, could we?

Malcolm Fraser & Gough Whitlam:

David Lodge writes: The fact that Michael R James (yesterday, comments)  overlooks both the very large and real failures of the Whitlam government which precipitated Fraser’s blocking of supply is one thing, but to claim that such failures and the absolute disregard for actual (not perceived) parliamentary and democratic procedures counts for little compared to Fraser’s wasted opportunities deserves a serious rebuttal.

Michael, you can laud Whitlam as a visionary leader as much as you like (which he certainly was) but you cannot, for even a second, justify his fanatic disregard for little parliamentary details such as bypassing the loan council and Executive committee to not only bypass the parliament in regards to loans not his much forgotten attempts to seek loans from the National Australia bank to  fund the salaries for public servants.

Whitlam’s failings were many, and at the end of the day, he could have avoided the constitutional crisis. However, the fact that those of your ilk continue, 30 odd years later, to ignore the election result of 1975 says the most.

Fraser, with many failings and just as many wasted opportunities, at least managed to keep government open and accountable. But then again, you radicals don’t respect such minor details, do you?

Dale Mackie writes: Re. “The inside story on Fraser’s resignation: Abbott appealed to him to stay” (26 May, item 1). No wonder Malcolm Fraser has jumped ship.  No decent human being would want to return to the draconian system of the Howard years. Pity Abbott cannot have an original thought to help solve this global crisis.  Surely not all members of the Liberal Party are this silly and incompetent. We hope for some humanity and commonsense but not holding our breath.

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