The live export industry:

John Crosby writes: Re. “Live export industry’s solution to ‘animal activists’? More PR” (9 June, item 1). Your article on live export industry’s solution was highly inaccurate. The “hybrid” organisation is not increasing but a reducing one. We used to have the AWB, and the dairy industry and a number of others. MLA is one of the few left of that structure. However, it is quite an effective structure when focused on its goals. It is Meat and Livestock Australia, not Meat and Livestock Association as you have used in the second paragraph.

It is essentially a marketing organisation and covers animal welfare where that has marketing impacts. Generally animal welfare is covered by legislation and regulation and is handled by industry participants who actually handle animals. Livecorp is different in that it was set up specifically to deal with improving the performance, including animal welfare of the live export trade.

The industry has actually done extremely well in the area of improving animal welfare outcomes over the last 15 years. Losses aboard ship have dropped from about 2% to about 0.1%, a 20 fold improvement to the point where animals are less likely to die on a ship than in the paddock under range conditions. the same can be said for feedlots, particularly the better ones used in the Australian trade of live animals.

There is a perception that animals get off the boat and are held for a few days and then slaughtered. This is not so, particularly in Indonesia, where they are fed from 350kg to 500kg, a process taking around 100 days. This is not covered in your article but is important in understanding why the process of improvement started with the ships, moved to the feedlots and is now focused on the slaughter facilities.

You make great play about more money being spent by Livecorp on PR rather than on animal welfare. That is a function of the market for each. Publicity in Australia is expensive and the audience is extremely diverse, plus the media require Australian wages rather than those prevalent in Indonesia. The audience for animal welfare improvements is by comparison tiny. About 30 exporters, a similar number of ships and feedlots, and 100 plus abattoirs. The cost of the changes is in the main born by the industry players, not be the MLA or Livecorp, although there have been some subsidies for equipment and training to encourage improvements. This comes from the market development portion of funding which is the largest and is overlooked by you.

The industry needs to spend its precious resources on communicating with the wider community, and do it much better than at present. To not do so is to risk the entire trade. That also means the Australian abattoir trade as that will be the next target if the live animal trade is damaged.

The extra amounts necessary to provide the other side of the argument to the sensationalist way that animal rights activists can get away with is a direct cost of sloppy, ill researched articles like yours.

Clive James:

Luke Slattery, Editor — Australian Literary Review, writes: Re. “Media briefs: Age of treason … Oz’s Moran-ic error … Mangos falls from Sky … ” (yesterday, item 15). Contrary to the impression conveyed by Guy Rundle I should point out that I wrote the article about Clive James’s illness with his approval.

The story was prompted by, and drew attention to, a long and generous essay on James’s later poetry published that day in the Australian Literary Review. James was not in hospital when my piece was written. In fact I commissioned a fresh photograph of him == again with his complete consent == taken in his study.

Rundle seems to think there was no possible public interest aspect to the piece. I disagree. It was picked up by mainstream media organisations around the world. I happen to know that James regarded this aspect of the story — its viral afterlife — a “pest”. But he was not unhappy with it as a piece of journalism.

Rundle’s piece for its part is built on a paradox: it is apparently fine for the “gentleman” Stephen Romei to write in this newspaper that James has leukemia, yet strange that I should follow with some details of James’s struggle with the same illness, obtained for purposes of publication with his explicit consent, and used to promote a long essay about his work.

Solar thermal technology:

Peter Wotton writes: Re. “Parkinson: pride and prejudice on solar scheme” (yesterday, item 18). Giles Parkinson wrote:

“Dr David Mills developed his unique solar thermal technology at the UNSW, but was forced to pack up and go to California to seek investment backing and government incentive.”

I understood that Dr David Mills developed his unique solar thermal technology at the University of Sydney, not UNSW as reported in Crikey on Monday. Certainly it was on the roof of the Physics building at Sydney Uni where Dr Mills first showed me prototypes of his system. UNSW was the leader in  photo voltaic systems, not solar thermal.


Steve Pratt writes: Re. “Lord Monckton participation ruffles feathers at mining gabfest” (yesterday, item 3). Andrew Crook refers to Perth’s Burswood Casino as “salubrious”.

The irony of referring to a casino as “health-giving; healthy” (Oxford English Dictionary) is not lost when this story is followed — almost immediately — by one that starts, “It’s not uncommon to watch belligerent gamblers being marched out of Crown Casino by security after one too many bad bets. Boozed-up punters are regular fixtures on the gaming room floor despite laws banning gambling while drunk”.

There ain’t nothing healthy about a casino.


Derryn  Hinch writes: Re. “Last Bets: a gambling palace through the dealer’s eyes” (yesterday, item 5). Your student journalist Esther Ooi says she “unintentionally spent more than three hours wandering through the gaming room floor” at Crown. That’s a lot of wandering. How long did she intend to spend? Didn’t her feet get sore?


Guy Rundle writes: Sinclair Davidson, prominent neoliberal, economic rationalist, RMIT professor, chides me for getting the trains from Altona wrong (yesterday, comments). In a dig at his snide laughter at people from Altona campaigning against service cuts I noted that they were “protesting the withdrawal of train services that now requires them to change trains twice to get to the city”.

Davidson then wrote:

“For his information it takes three trains to get from Altona to the Melbourne city loop, not two as he inaccurately reported on Friday.”

Yes, Professor, it does take three trains. And in order to take three trains, you must change trains twice. Ah well. At least he’s not being relied on for expert economics opinion anytime.

Peter Fray

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