Melbourne University:

Dr Fay Anderson, Senior Lecturer, Australian Centre, School of Historical Studies, The University of Melbourne, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” Friday, item 6). My colleague, Richard Trembath alerted me to the Tips and Rumours section and the piece entitled “Academics MIA”. As the other person on the project team I would like to offer several clarifications.

The project has resulted in a book entitled Witnesses to War: The History of Australian Conflict Reporting, which will be published in April 2011. The delay was partly caused by the publishing schedule. The Australian Research Council (ARC) do not fund projects with the sole aim of producing one book and our grant outlined related academic and public initiatives.

These were all achieved including the publication of book chapters and academic journal articles, presentations at conference papers, the organisation of a two-day national symposium in Canberra in 2009 featuring some of Australia’s most prominent foreign correspondents, the creation of a comprehensive database of over 800 Australian journalists, interviewing over 40 correspondents and compiling surveys with another 90. The grant supported Dr Trembath for three years, while I worked as a full-time lecturer for the duration of the project and since its completion.

Your contributor is also misinformed about the ARC’s reporting guidelines and our responsibilities. It is mandatory that all funded projects submit yearly reports about the progress and expenditure of grants; the ARC received our annual reports until 2010 when the project was completed.

Accountability is recognised in the academic community and I would expect that basic fact checking is a duty of good journalism. The publication date for the upcoming book and the details of all ten published journal articles and book chapters that have resulted from the project, can be found online.

Richard Trembath writes: A friend has drawn my attention to this item in your Tips and Rumours section. She described it as malicious, I prefer the term catty or even bitchy. And incorrect.

Crikey published:

“Academics MIA. In 2005 a team of Melbourne University academics was given a federal research grant of $220,000 for three-years to produce a history of Australia’s war correspondents. Well, its 2011 — six years later and still nothing has been published. Maybe accountability is not a recognised word in academia?”

As one of the two person team who received this grant I can assure you that the history will soon be published. In April this year in fact. I am surprised that you have missed some of the advance publicity as it has been in all the Fairfax publications.

Witnesses to War: The History of Australian Conflict Reporting will be published by Melbourne University Publishing. That fulfils just one of the goals of the grant. The other objectives have been fulfilled too. These include a wide range of academic publications, book chapters, conference presentations, newspaper articles, radio discussions and talks to the wider public.

For example, in the winter of 2009, a very large public symposium was held at the National Library of Australia in Canberra in which we brought together just about every living foreign or war correspondent in Australia to talk about their work to the wider public. That was widely disseminated through the media. A very popular undergraduate course at the University of Melbourne has been established on the basis of our work.

Another of our efforts was to provide a record of the interviews we had carried out to the National Library as a permanent database for future researchers. Our partners in this project and the University of Melbourne and the Australian Research Council have been more than pleased with our work.

I may add that though we theoretically finished our work in mid-2008 a lot of the research had to be undertaken since then as Australia’s engagements in the Middle East and East Timor continued. For that research we have not received a cent which affects me as I am only a casual employee of the university. We also had to seek a publisher willing to undertake the task of presenting the public with our work.

Yes, there is accountability in academia — a simple answer to your question. Go to the Australian Research Council website to find out what accountability means in this context.

As a final point, it takes some time to write a book, find a publisher and get it out to the bookshops. Online columns may be a bit easier.

A Queensland flood Royal Commission:

Craig Iedema writes: Re. “Queensland floods: what shape will a Royal Commission take?” (Friday, item 1). I am somewhat surprised by calls for a Royal Commission. As near as I can see the handling both before and these events has been handled very well from the Queensland government.

I can’t really see what a Royal Commission would add. Maybe a recommendation for some flood mitigation on the upper Lockyer Valley but that is about it. I can’t see that its cost would be justified.

Phylli Ives writes: I don’t see the point of having a Royal Commission — you can’t reverse the Southern Oscillation Index.

Peter Coom writes: In view of what’s happening with the weather around Australia and now Brazil  I’m waiting for Tony Abbot to confirm that climate change is still crap…

NSW state election:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” Friday, item 6). Your tipster’s scoop on the NSW state election seems a bit shallow.

So Liberal candidate John Sidoti is leafleting Drummoyne? So are his colleagues, including in safe seats. Whether a bumf blitz in the holiday season is a brilliant strategy remains to be seen. I suspect most voters are recycling the pamphlets without even registering the party that sent them. I doubt this is a sign of the “the Liberal Party’s confidence and campaigning resources” or Labor’s despair.

The ALP’s hope of an improbable victory, or at least a respectable defeat, rests on a swinging attack during the campaign, like that unleashed against Peter Debnam. Sussex Street is keeping its powder dry and, as the electricity retail privatisation attests, filling its war chests. If anything, the Liberals are nervous.

David Williamson:

Drover’s cat writes: Re. “Who’s aspirational now? Williamson’s Party as vapid as the times” (Friday, item 13). Geez Jason Whittaker, no need to sugar-coat it. Obviously you ain’t never seen no light on any hill; maybe you should move to Maroochydore where the other Noosa-haters live (and the LNP reigns supreme).

And I think Kerry O’Brien might have something to say about your suggestions he’s retired, but let’s leave that up to him.

Meanwhile, I’m off to see the show.

Robyn Deane writes: Perhaps the problem with the new David Williamson play is more to do with where he lives. Some, and I stress some not all, Noosa residents have very elitist views and have a very strange mix of conservative political views and environmental protection which are more to do with protecting property values and keeping the tourist dollar flowing in.

Glenn Beck:

Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (Friday, item 10).After quoting some of Glenn Beck’s frothing, Richard Farmer asked, “I wonder how outrageous you have to get to be removed from a News Corporation payroll?”

Ask instead how outrageous you have to be to get on the payroll. Beck is providing exactly what his bosses want from him. He’ll only go when they find someone worse.

Susannah York:

Andrew Haughton writes: In all the obituary notices about the English actress Susannah York mention is made of her appearances in A Man for All Seasons and They shoot Horses Don’t They?

No mention is made of her starring role in Tim Burstall’s film Eliza Frazer shot on location in Australia in the 70s. This suggests that our media is (a)prone to just picking up wire stories and (b) run by teenagers.

Peter Fray

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