Barack Obama and Julia Gillard:

Shirley Marsh writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Have you read the stats on the obstructionist tactics pursued by Congress on just about everything Obama has tried to pass through that body?  Up from an average of four to 44 blocks per session.  His Medicare system was based on a one provider — the best and most cost effective and efficient system in the world — knocked back by Congress and watered down into an administrative nightmare. But better than nothing. Sound familiar?

Funny how the John Howard/Tony Abbot mob have mirrored so faithfully the Bush administration, and Barack Obama and Julia Gillard’s team and their efforts to effect real change by introducing collaborative government based on what’s best for the country are being high jacked by the old school militants?

People are sick and tired of the unproductive schoolyard bullying, abusive crap usually provided by Question Time, yet they are still bamboozled by the media slant on things — almost always negative, mocking and slanted in favour of the “Right”. Which of course is not surprising. The “Right” supports the “Greed is good” free market system which created the current GFC. And the media moguls are amongst the most wealthy and powerful group in the world who, naturally, lean towards the right.

The Gillard government, and Barack Obama’s Democrats, acknowledge the value of a free market system — but with the addition of certain checks and balances to ensure the utterly irresponsible and downright criminal practices of the past do not create another financial disaster in the future.  Of course, they are being fought tooth and nail by their opponents. A very unequal battle unless people power comes to the rescue.  Unfortunately this relies on “the people” being properly informed, but with the current reliance on “one byte” sensationalist slogans from the media, which was once a reliable source of information, this could be a mere pipe dream.

I’m an optimist; hopefully people will eventually use their brains, use the internet to inform themselves of both sides of the story, and vote accordingly.

A quick look at history shows us where aggressive action leads; people have had enough; they just have to stick to their guns and support their new leaders. Giving up on them just because the media thinks it’s funny or sophisticated or just money making to deride and ridicule their efforts will merely ensure the status quo is cemented in place. Hopefully the public will eventually wake up to the fact that they are being manipulated!

Les Heimann writes: Two days in succession your editorial has accuses Julia Gillard — this time for being “provincial”. Do not think you represent anyone other than yourself when you seek to belittle; and might I remind you – this is not a country built on class or entirely underserved privilege.

Here, no one is master of anyone and all are equally entitled to their tastes be they grunge or ballet. J’accuse Crikey. Is it the case that your own cringe is being visited on others? I believe so.

Jim Hart writes: In yesterday’s editorial about our PM you inform us that “she’s not the only Australian political leader on the world stage with a monopoly on cringing provincialism.” Please explain how two people can have a monopoly on something at the same time. Or did you mean to say she no longer has a monopoly? Pedants wish to know.

Climate change:

Glen Frost writes: Re. “Rooted: want to stop climate change? Move beyond carbon pricing” (yesterday, item 13). There is a serious divergence of opinion (and therefore policy) between Mr Abbott and UK PM Cameron on climate change. In a recent interviewwith UK’s The Daily Telegraph (a right leaning UK broadsheet), Greg Barker, the UK Energy & Climate Change Minister says he is “100 per cent certain” climate change is manmade, and “we have to move rapidly to de-carbonise our economy”.

Will the UK Minister for Climate Change be chatting with “our Tony” during Mr Abbott’s visit to the UK?

Getting away from the pesky IPCC reports is a challenge, but I think I’ve found the solution for Tony. In the same article, Greg Barker uses a phrase that play’s well to Toni’s constituency — i.e. those who like the “Stop the boats” mantra: the article’s headline is another quote from Greg: “We cannot go on relying on expensive foreign fuel”.

The face-saving campaign for Tony on the topic of climate change can now be that it’s the foreigners fault — after all, isn’t that why the US funded Saddam in the 1970s? To get back at Iran for setting up OPEC and hiking the price of oil?

*Declaration of interest: there are foreigners in the Frost family, and I often listen to their views and comments.

Water allocations in the Murray:

Dave Lennon writes: Re. “Farmers anxious over Murray Darling water cuts” (yesterday, item 4). If the cuts irrigators are sweating on are  a 37% reduction in total allocations from whatever 100% would normally be for them and ruin will ensue if it happens then they are running a false argument.

It has been nearly ten years since the last full 100% allocation in most of the irrigation districts of Victoria  although this year is the exception.

In that time new and better technologies and farming techniques for efficiently using water have been developed and some have been supplied to irrigators  by state government subsidies.

Most of the surviving irrigators have learnt to survive as irrigators on allocations of 30% or even less . Those who did not survive, to put it harshly, left the industry stronger by either selling up or going dry land farming.

As one farmer put it: “my Dad was panicked when he didn’t get 100%, then he learnt to make do with 50%. At the moment he’s set up to get by on 33% and could probably go lower.”

For many irrigators having 63% of current allocation becoming their new 100%  would in fact leave them with much more water than they have been getting by on during the drought and if the reforms add greater certainty to the water supply into the future it is a fair and advantageous deal.

After all, the alternative is the river going belly up — which it is still perilously close to doing and that would serve nobody’s interests.

NBN:

Gary Rice writes: Re. “Coalition objection to NBN opt-out is just scaremongering” (yesterday, item 3). Instead of focussing on the opt-out policy let’s get down to the business end of the NBN. How much am I going to have to pay for 25Gb per month which I currently have on ADSL2? (By the way I don’t have any cable option at present).

Euthanasia:

Guy Rundle writes: Gavin Greenoak (yesterday, comments) asks me to elaborate on the meaning of my remark that individual decisions are “something of a fiction”, and then provides his own — that I’m suggesting that collective political decision making. Then he uses the term “political correctness”, lowering him in everyone’s estimation.  He’s got it completely wrong. I’m not talking about large political collectives. I’m talking about the web of significant relationships within which we all live.

Do you really choose where to live, what career to pursue, etc as some starkly individual choice independent of those — partners, children, parents, close friends — whose lives you are bound up in? Of course not. Many of your decisions are made in terms of the overwhelming needs of the other — or what you believe their needs and desires to be.

My argument with voluntary euthanasia — and the manner by which it makes self-extinction a straightforward process — was that a decision may be made by the terminally ill in terms of the suffering that their suffering is causing others. In which case it’s not really a free choice — and the VE process makes it less so.

It’s the existential difficulty of unassisted suicide that affirms it, in these circumstances, as a freer and more autonomous choice – because the absolute singularity of the act is maintained. In that sense, VE should be resisted as blurring genuinely free choices.

That said, the law on assisted suicide for those physically incapable of ending their own lives when they wish to, is in obvious need of reform.

Kerry O’Brien and The 7.30 Report:

Dr Mark Hayes, now a Lecturer in Journalism at the University of Queensland but once the researcher and occasional reporter and associate producer of the then Queensland edition of The 7.30 Report between mid-1987 and mid-1990, clarifies a few points in yesterday’s column: Re. “Life after Red Kerry: what’s the future of ABC current affairs?” (yesterday, item 16). I enjoyed your column in Crikey on the ABC’s current affairs television post-Kerry O’Brien, and your points about the ABC shutting down weeknight state based current affairs years ago are well taken.

Many years ago, I met the then recently retired Brian Johns, the former ABC MD who shut down state based weeknight current affairs TV, and I had a go at him about it given we met in Brisbane. He was very apologetic about closing the ABC’s weeknight state based current affairs output, but explained the shut down by reference to budget restrictions.

The Queensland edition of Stateline, with no budget, almost no resources, and few reporters, is a sad but worthy shadow of what Queensland ABC TV can do, and used to do.

I am also reminded that closing state based current affairs TV coincided with another significant departure from ABC TV current affairs too. Very soon after, if memory serves even later that night or a day or two later, after fronting the final NSW edition of The 7.30 Report, Andrew Olle, may he rest in peace, succumbed to an undiagnosed and terminal brain tumour. May Kerry O’Brien enjoy a robust and healthy semi-retirement.

Which brings me to your recent column in which you write:

“Imagine what the Queensland Fitzgerald inquiry in Brisbane in the 1980s would have been without Quentin Dempster and producer Mark Hayes, who re-enacted the evidence using actors each night? I think the inquiry would have been closed down. Yet a national program could never have devoted that kind of time and resources to a state-based story.”

While I appreciated your kind and generous comments regarding Quentin and myself, I must correct you by indicating that I was not the producer of the Famous Daily Re-Enactments of Fitzgerald Inquiry Evidence. To be sure, I played a significant role in helping pull them together, working very closely with Quentin to do so. But I had no formal role as sign-off Producer of those memorable stories.

I wasn’t formally the Producer of the Re-Enactments, and never claim that I was, or claim I did anything other than what I did to assist them getting done — worked very closely with Quentin and our studio and support crew to do what I could to streamline, fine tune, and get efficiently working the needed systems to get the damn things done, to air, and to interstate 7.30 Report editions ASAP.

The foregoing is by way of a correction to your otherwise, as always, insightful and thoughtful column.

I am in process of finally writing up the full story of the Famous Re-Enactments for an investigative journalism conference Auckland University of Technology is hosting in Auckland in early December, 2010.

My paper is entitled “After the Blockbuster – Reporting on the Fitzgerald Royal Commission”. On the basis of my research into documentary, docu-drama, and related genres, I have come to the conclusion that what we did really was unique and genuinely ground breaking, not that we had any idea of that at the time.

Finally, all we wanted to do was report on the Inquiry accurately, with impact, and in ways which didn’t bore our audience, and ourselves, witless, and thence, as you opined, by neglect or lack of imagination, inadvertently contribute to a public loss of interest in the Inquiry which could then be exploited by the Forces of Darkness.

Roy Ramage writes: My old man once told me that if I filled a bucket of water, placed my arm in it to the elbow, then withdrew it, the amount of water that spilled over would be the amount I would be missed after departing any organisation. Ego deflating, but indicative.

There are many who can fill Kerry O’Brien’s shoes and some will do it better and probably with less left tilt.

The who, what, why, when, where and of course how — are the root of our need to know. What Kerry excelled at was leading the witness, e.g. “you would agree…” and long diatribes setting the scene for the question. Any newbie can ape this and use the raised eyebrow for emphasis.

Like lawyers, our newbie should try to ask questions to which the answer is known. Meanwhile on a scoreboard, perhaps floating in the background could be each question and answer running under software, indicating the truth or accuracy of the answer giving say, a mark out of ten. It could be a green light for a good answer or an amber light for opaque or spin retorts. The camera flicks from the “guest” to the score. It could also display a Google search of the question.

The interaction enjoyed by Q&A signals that full use of social media is effective. Viewer participation could be encouraged via twitter especially if the tweeter has inside knowledge. If you want to get the young involved — work on  stories with an angle that will cost them money, deny them a house or ruin their health and communicate it via tweet medium and perhaps Facebook. Give them a separate section covering their areas.

For starters a list of what the banks have borrowed since the taxpayer guaranteed them and when the estimated $100 billion needs to be repaid. Who are the lenders? Are they 90 – 180 day bills with no guarantee that they are invested in Australian equities? We know what the government debt is, lets list the private debt.

The young have every right to know that their lives are going to be more complicated and expensive and it is better to be forewarned rather than keep ignoring the issues. It is the ABC’s job  to remain the foundation of that knowledge dissemination as the commercial stations continue to dwell on weight loss, product recalls, new pills, poor renters and advertisements presented as news.

Peter Fray

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