Dad no fan of Stephen’s filter. As the prime minister vows to support Stephen Conroy’s internet filter, ALP insiders in the ACT have been having a chuckle over Stephen’s dad’s views on the matter. Bill Conroy has reportedly been a strong net filer dissenter inside the North Canberra sub-branch of the party, suggesting the communications minister will face more than the occasional blue over the dinner table as the Orwellian proposal begins to be rolled out.

…still, he’s no Twit. Stephen Conroy is the government’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. On telecommunications he is outstanding, having not merely achieved more in three years than his predecessors over the past 20 but actually reversed a lot of the damage they did. When it comes to new media, however, he transforms into a snarling, confused beast, hell-bent on beating up anyone and anything online that won’t co-operate with his plans to impose censorship and prevent it from competing with traditional media.

According to departmental sources, the minister’s unhappiness with all things online extends to Twitter. At a departmental function Conroy was overheard sounding off about Twitter and his dislike of it. “Who cares what someone had for breakfast?” he demanded of some hapless functionary. Evidently Conroy won’t be following his prime minister into the social media space any time soon.

…but somebody forgot to tell Tony. A tweet from the sustainable population minister this morning…

8-07-2010 1-02-52 PM

The mysterious and luxury world of Glencore. Some of these mining companies and their mates here and offshore are taking Australians for a ride. They conned everyone on the resources tax, browbeat the government into submission and suborned sections of the media (and got rid of Kevin Rudd). Now the secretive of them all, Swiss trader and investor Glencore that controls Xstrata, is going to snare a cool $77 million tax free shortly, courtesy of the taxpayer.

Glencore not only controls Xstrata, which was very vocal in the tax brawl, but it also controls another miner, the smaller Minara (which used to be Anaconda when controlled by Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, of Fortescue Metals fame). In fact Glencore saved Minara after it ran into terrible problems under Forrest’s management. It’s a WA lateritic nickel miner and processor. Glencore owns 70% because no other shareholder wanted to finance it.

Yesterday Minara said it would return $111 million to shareholders because of its strong financial position. The payment will be 9.5 cents a share, so no wonder the shares jumped 5 cents to 71 cents yesterday. Glencore gets 70% of that $111 million and Minara advised shareholders the payment will be “‘deemed a taxable dividend under a ruling by the Australian Tax Office”. No matter which way we turn, the buggers have their hands in our pockets. Minara would have been talking to the tax office while Glencore and Xstrata were rattling the stick at Canberra over the resources tax. No wonder Glencore’s Swiss HQ is in the very tax-friendly Canton of Zug.

The Weekly advertorial. Has the much-touted hard-news journalist gone over to the dark side? In nearly 80 years the Australian Women’s Weekly has never had an advertorial on the cover. Now, a nine-page advertorial for L’Oreal, masquerading as an appeal for ovarian cancer, has made its way onto the cover. A strange move for editor-in-chief Helen McCabe, who prides herself on being a seasoned journalist with news savvy and political nous. Hard news, the thin end of the wedge, or merely a lack of imagination?

Fairfax’s business nous. Crikey published (Tips, Wednesday) that the Fairfax Community Network will change its Melbourne titles from September onwards. Your report said the Frankston Independent will become the Frankston Weekly, and the Dandenong Journal will become the Dandenong Weekly. Fairfax has yet to register trademarks or business names for any of these new titles. It has also let some of its older intellectual properties lapse. Nor has it even registered the business name of the Moonee Valley Weekly, which it started three weeks ago, incorporating the Community News.

Such is the panic created by the new opposition, Antony Catalano’s The Weekly Review, FCN executives are neglecting the sheer basics of business. Meanwhile, the latest Circulation Audit Bureau figures show The Weekly Review‘s competitor, ailing Fairfax glossy The Melbourne Weekly, has slashed 6000 copies from its print run to save cash — from 115,091 to 109,813 in the most recent audit period — leaving advertisers flummoxed.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey