The News Limited campaign:

John Penny writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Crikey suggests that “the blunt and sometimes nasty coverage in News Limited papers of the government in general, and Julia Gillard in particular” could be motivated by, inter alia, “visceral editorial decisions made mainly by middle-aged male editors”. Is there, for example, some bias against having a woman as Prime Minister.

Sexism may be a factor, but the slanted political campaigns of News Corporation subsidiaries are usually aimed at installing a government that will further the commercial interests, and power, of the Murdoch empire.

I remember especially the article (“Their Master’s Voice”) published in the Guardian after the Bush invasion of Iraq. The Guardian asked why all (170 or so) Murdoch papers supported the invasion. Since the decision to invade was based on false information, the editors were either all incompetent, or slavishly following the company line. In his book, Rupert’s Adventures in China, Bruce Dover used a term like “anticipatory compliance” to describe the unanimity of Murdoch’s editors. At the time of the Iraq invasion, News was pursuing a favourable decision, eventually successful, from the Bush administration in relation to the takeover of cable network DirectTV.

For Australia in 2010, we must ask why a Coalition Government would be much better than Labor for the commercial interests of News. Some possibilities are:

The Labor Government is likely to award the contract for Australia TV to the ABC rather than to Sky News, which is owned by News. Your article suggests how important that contract would be for the company.

Rupert Murdoch was for some time on the board of Philip Morris. Do links remain? The Labor Government’s proposals for plain packaging of cigarettes are anathema to the tobacco industry. Both Coalition parties take donations from the tobacco companies, and would be much more disposed to support the interests of Big Tobacco.

Labor’s National Broadband Network should make redundant the expensive satellite system used for Pay TV in Australia, and allow a range of much cheaper alternatives to Foxtel, which is run by News Limited.

The News papers ran an aggressive campaign against the “mining tax”. The Resource Rental Levy is an attempt to get more for Australians from a mostly foreign-owned mining industry. Even with its level much reduced by compromise, the levy would fund Labor’s NBN. That is, Australia can have a high quality nation-wide broadband network simply by getting foreigners to pay more for Australia’s mineral resources. The extreme character of the “anti-tax” campaign run by, especially, The Australian, means that Australians should ask the question: Are there links between stakeholders in News Corporation, and resource companies operating in Australia?

Crikey subscribers may be able suggest other ways in which a Coalition Government would serve the commercial interests of News Corporation

We have a foreign-owned media empire attempting to determine, in its own interests, what sort of Government Australians can have. Ordinary Australians can counter in only one way: Stop buying their papers — and make sure the editors know why.


Vincent O’Donnell writes: Re. “The broadband battle: what will they really deliver?” (yesterday, item 4). Two centuries ago, railway engineers chose broad gauge and iron rails rather than wooden rails and narrow gauge that were then the norm, as they planned the expansion of railways from haulage in mines and collieries to a national communication network.

Certainly, wooden rails were cheaper and narrow gauge easier to construct and allowed the speed of a galloping horse, but they had vision. Engineer George Stephenson signalled his vision when he named his locomotive The Rocket.

And the railways drove the development of hitherto unforeseen technologies: the electric telegraph — the first commercial use of electricity; the anomalous behaviour of long telegraph cables, especially undersea cables, led to recognition of capacitance, inductance and resistance as electronic factors; also the observation of photoconductive effects, and the recognition of semi-conductivity, the basis of the transistor and the solid state laser.

We face on 21 August the choice between iron rails and wooden rails in broadband policy.

Every fibre optic cable is a parallel universe of radio communication spectrum, multiplying, many times over, the natural spectrum that is hugely congested. Once installed, fibre is cheap to run, cheap to maintain and hugely reliable, with bandwidth and data speeds far beyond WiFi and satellite services.

There are good reasons to punish the Labor Party for aspects of its stewardship of the nation, but to favour the Coalition and its wooden rails broad band proposal, is to punish the nation, not just the Labor Party, and deny our children a place at the technological table of the 22nd century.

Peter Wotton  writes: Let me get this right! The Liberals want to give away tons of money to a wide range of internet service providers in the hope that the market will cobble together some sort of high speed web access.

The Labor Party wants to invest a lot more money in a system which will provide state of the art access speed. Additionally at some stage this investment is  to be recovered.

We appear to have a choice between Father Christmas or a sound investment in upgradable infra-structure.

Murray Stirling  writes: I live at a point where ADSL is not available because I am on the cut-off point with respect to distance from the supply. Despite asking what these new Broadband promises mean, to people like me and there would be many I am unable to get a responsible reply. Are they going to run a new Fibre system to enable me to have ADSL?

Despite asking this question, no one is able to say anything of what will happen. Despite a lot of talk, there does not appear to be a plan or guide line as to when if ever my BROADBAND will be improved. Having to use wireless is not very good, you get very little download/upload and what you do get is very expensive.

Not much good if you are a pensioner as I am its becomes too expensive.

The Murray:

John Hunwick writes: Re. “Murray-Darling Basin policies: bullsh-t detectors in overdrive” (yesterday, item 10). For far too long the “balance” between agriculture and the environment regarding the availability of water has been at the expense of the environment. There MUST be a period in which the environment has first claim to get it back on its feet.

Failure to take this path in the hope for a “balanced” approach will only prolong the agony of the death of all concerned by a thousand cuts. It seems that the inclusion of “ecologically sustainable development” into legislation (at least here in SA) has not brought with it the recognition that all future actions must be ecologically sustainable and THEN the social and economic issues sorted out. Why?

Any other approach is business as usual and a future no one would really wish onto their grandchildren.

A Green Senate:

John Taylor writes: Re. “Richardson: how the Senate will inevitably turn Green” (yesterday, item 9). Charles Richardson may be correct and the Greens may hold the balance of power in a future Senate. I say  “a future senate” because it will not be the Senate that rules immediately after August 21. The Senators elected at this poll will not take their seats until 1st July 2011, almost one third of the way into the term of the new Government.

So if  Labor is returned to power, they will face the same obstructions they have for the past term. It seems to me that with each passing election (none of which is three years after the one before), the Senate is getting more and more out of sync with the Lower House.

I did ask the question before but could you please have one of your experts (possibly Antony Green) please explain how we get the House and Senate back to something like reasonable proximity if we keep having election cycles less than three years.

Book retailing:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Closing the book on retailing? Publishers nervous at giant’s health” (yesterday, item 3). In Tom Cowie’s piece about the tough market in retail books and, in particular, the travails facing the Borders and Angus & Robertson chains, there is not one mention of the threat to local book retailers posed by international online book sellers such as The Book Depository or Amazon.

Ironically, it was the great debate about restrictions on imported books that first made me aware of the significant savings to be made by ordering online and, since then, our family have bought almost all of our books online from The Book Depository.

More than that, a significant proportion of our friends and work colleagues are doing the same. This must be hurting local booksellers.

A hearty correction:

Dr JJ Carmody, School of Medical Sciences (Discipline of Physiology), University of Sydney, writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 15). Crikey is incorrect in saying that the ABS classification of “Diseases of the circulatory system” means simply “heart attacks”.  This term also includes strokes and a myriad of other circulatory problems.