Department of Human Services:

Hank Jongen, general manager, Department of Human Services, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (August 25, item 8).Your “Tips and Rumours” piece about executive salaries at the Department of Human Services is incorrect.

Senior Executive Service officers have their remuneration determined individually by the secretary consistent with the Public Service Act, and there is no automatic, across the board increase.  There is an annual performance review process and any salary adjustments are at the discretion of the secretary. Those SES officers awarded pay increases for the 2010-11 performance cycle were generally in line with the 3% rise being offered in the proposed staff enterprise agreement.

There have been no changes to the uniform conditions of service for SES officers since July 1, 2010.  These were based on the wider staff collective agreements in place at the time and will be reviewed when the new staff enterprise agreement is completed.

Nine News and the fake cross:

Greg Baxter, director, corporate affairs at News Ltd, writes: Re. “Video of the Day: Nine News channels Frontline” (Friday, item 7). I don’t condone the live cross that wasn’t but why don’t Nine, Seven and Ten sack every reporter, producer and news anchor that has been a party to a live cross that wasn’t live over the past quarter of a century. There’d be so few on-air people left we’d be watching radio.

This has been going on for 30 years. When the Live Eye or whatever each channel called it was the hottest thing since Alan Wilkie’s radar weather map, the networks have been crossing “live” to footage recorded earlier that day. I remember walking behind a camera at Central Station in the ’80s and then seeing myself live an hour later when I got home.

While all those guilty or complicit are falling on their swords, perhaps the ABC could explain why it no longer uses the “super” “file footage” to denote footage that was taken earlier, sometimes years before, to illustrate a story. It used to do this and then stopped, presumably because most of what it ran to illustrate a story was either old footage or a confusing combination of old, newish or current material. So confusing for the poor old viewer.


Andrew Whiley writes: Re. “Fairfax, BlueScope and Gunns should have declared much bigger losses” (Friday, item 1). Stephen Mayne is wrong to attribute the problems facing BlueScope to “inflexible work practices”. This follows his comments on ABC 774 advocating cuts to wages and conditions for steelworkers as a way forward to help overcome the impact of the high dollar and raw material prices.

Productivity at Port Kembla is among the best in the world for an integrated plant of around 5MTPA capacity. The workers are among the most highly skilled in the country. Those that are left at the plant have been through more than two decades of restructuring, productivity and efficiency drives and constant cost reduction and quality initiatives.

Mayne joins some other financial journalists who have lazily run this line to help account for the difficulties facing BlueScope. Makes for good copy. Saves them having to do some basic journalistic legwork, research and give themselves a  modicum of acquaintance with the realities of steelmaking in this country since the great upheavals of the 1980s, before putting pen to paper …

Is this an example of “inflexible work practices”?

Climate change:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “‘The dinosaurs are nice’: Phelps v Australian Museum over climate change” (Friday, item 5). Crikey journalist Amber Jamieson in a biased, poorly argued and meandering piece defends Frank Howarth, director of the Australian Museum in Sydney, who editorialised in the museum’s official publication Explore magazine about “shrill climate change deniers” and then shared his personal view that the media should stop giving attention to those who disagree with his view on the contribution of CO2 to global warming. In a perfect example of irony, he tells us that he is “extremely concerned about the excessive politicisation of the carbon debate in Australia.” Right on, Frank.

I downloaded the media pack for Explore. Unsurprisingly the pack suggests that Explore is what one might expect of a publicly funded museum publication:

“Explore continues a rich tradition of the museum’s magazine spanning 90 years. Our purpose is to inspire the exploration of nature and culture with feature stories that go behind the scenes at Australia’s first museum.”

No mention of personal diatribes against “climate change deniers”. Quite the contrary. The beautifully illustrated sample article, displayed as a content example for potential advertisers, explores the difference between moths and butterflies, discussing “Ditrysian Lepidoptera with mesal fusion of the dorsal laminae of the secondary metafurcal arms”.

Frank, you might notice that this example is of an objectively scientific nature — at no point does the author (Dr David Britton) adopt a shrill tone and impose his personal preference for butterflies or moths on his readers. Don’t you think that it would be fair to say that many taxpayers might be concerned that you are abusing your position in using a taxpayer-funded magazine to propagate your personal views? Stick to the butterflies or get another job, mate.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey