Correction:

Crikey says: A story last week titled Political donations: SA and Tassie rolling in election dough stated that the Tasmanian branch of the ALP had received $33,000 from Integral Communications in 2009-10. This is incorrect. Integral was, in fact, a Labor creditor.

Tugs and Sydney Airport:

Michael Samaras, Manager Media & Communications, Sydney Airport Corporation Limited, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published:

“A woeful response at both Sydney and Melbourne airports on Friday night when faced with torrential rain across Victoria. Many flights were delayed out of Sydney on Friday night due to the weather. When we eventually boarded for departure 90 minutes late (understandable due to the weather), we had to wait an additional 20 minutes for a tug to push us back. The pilot announced that Sydney usually only had one tug operator working that late due to the small number of flights that usually used the airport at the time, and we had to wait our turn. With quite a few delayed flights awaiting departure, it was a long delay.”

Your informant seems to think that the tugs that push aircraft back from their gate are provided and operated by Sydney Airport. In fact, tugs are provided and operated by the airline itself or by a ground handler contracted by the airline.

The criticism should therefore be directed to the organisation that is responsible: the airline, not the airport.

I’d appreciate it if you could publish this clarification in your corrections column.

Media scrutiny of government policy:

Stuart Mackenzie writes: Re. The Lowy Institute’s James Brown (yesterday, comments) regarding the lack of media scrutiny of defence issues highlights the thin end of a much bigger wedge and touches on the same problems that Prime Minister Julia Gillard raised in her speech at the Queensland Media Club in October — problems that were rather laughingly disputed by Malcolm Cole in yesterday’s Oz media section.

The lack of policy scrutiny and debate can be attributed to the coverage of any announcement from the Federal Government being left to the political journos. Their only interest in the political cut and thrust of an issue and indeed this is about all they seem capable of.

Most have a frighteningly shallow understanding of policy across the broad range of government activity — as is evidenced by the inane questioning we are now able to see courtesy of Sky and ABC News24’s broadcasting of media conferences live and in their entirety. When they have exhausted their stock question on the policy area in question, the political hacks descend into irrelevancies like what class of seat will be given to Australians being evacuated from Egypt by Qantas or what the PM thinks of Australia’s latest sporting win.

There would be a significant improvement in policy debate in this country if the reporting of policy announcements  was lead by specialist rounds reporters, with the political hacks reduced to adding a comment or side bar at the end about the political implications. The media effectiveness of a three word slogan or five second sound bite would be significantly undermined by the informed scrutiny of a rounds’ reporter.

Live crosses on TV to the rounds reporter — and not the political correspondent — for analysis would further enhance the quality of information provided to viewers. For example. not only would any decent defence correspondent have asked the questions about Australia’s amphibious capability indicated by James Brown, but they wouldn’t have been distracted by another story outside their portfolio e.g. the floods.

Of course, one can hear the cry now from the mainstream media — but we can’t afford to use more rounds reporters. Well, try cutting the ridiculous salaries paid to many of the “star” political reporters and spreading those savings around. After all, they’ll only be writing sidebars to the policy stories from now on.

KFC and cricket:

Barry Welch writes: Re. “KFC and Cricket Australia: ‘an absolute f-cking disgrace‘” (yesterday, item 4). I recall several years ago during a Boxing Day Test against Pakistan, cricket expert Peter Roebuck , in an attack on every teacher in the country, making the claim on the ABC that “Educators are responsible for youth suicide and childhood obesity”.

As I pointed out in my written complaint to the ABC, this was at a time when a number of high profile cricketers such as Michael Bevin and Mark Waugh were promoting KFC. The ABC responded that they gave him counselling about such commentary.

Leigh Miranda writes: I was waiting for the punch line but you didn’t deliver it: The Federal Govt has recently awarded Cricket Australia a $750,000 grant to help fight childhood obesity.

Peter Fray

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