Stephen Mayne writes: Re. “Who pays the CEO’s wife 770k and then seeks re-election?” (yesterday, item 18). Yesterday’s story about Murray Goulburn’s contested board elections incorrectly said long serving director John Vardy was the incoming chairman. In fact the new chair will be Philip Tracy, an accountant who has only been on the board since 2009.

The story also claimed that the scandal over the $770,000 in payments to the CEO’s wife blew up after the 2010 AGM. In fact, it became public before the November 24 AGM but after voting in the close run contested board elections had closed. These points have been corrected in the online version of the story.

Kindle winners:

Crikey writes: As if a subscription to Crikey isn’t inherently valuable enough, there’s a reasonable chance you could pick up your very own Amazon Kindle 3G+Wi-Fi, too. We’re giving away 10 over the next 10 days. Monday’s winner is Lucinda Fairrie — congratulations. Nine to go — get your entry in today.

The Australian Literary Review:

Luke Slattery, editor of Australian Literary Review, writes: Re. “Rundle: a Review review reveals an enduring legacy of not much” (Friday, item 16). Guy Rundle’s comment piece on the demise of the ALR is a ripping good read, in a cheap and nasty kind of way, yet it is completely unscarred by reality.

He writes that my first edition as ALR editor “lived up to everyone’s fears” and notes its “split cover featuring Michael Costa’s snarling attack on the Greens …” Wrong. This was the December edition of the ALR — my third. And as for its “snarling” quality, that’s surely a joke, right? I mean talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

In fact the first ALR edition — the commissions were all mine — gave a plausible eye-witness account of the killing of Aborigines on the Queensland frontier in the 1850s and was, in the context of the academic debates on this fractious question, a left-leaning piece. This is significant. For Rundle goes on to state that the ALR under my editorship reflected the “Oz right-shift” and excluded “anything left of Martin Ferguson”. And he is wrong about this.

I worked hard to maintain a pluralistic editorial stance. Here are just a few of the writers I used on a range of topics: John Keane, Judith Brett, Tom Griffiths, Geoffrey Garrett, Geoffrey Robertson, John Armstrong, Tim Soutphommasane, Philip Jones, Damon Young, and Vrasidas Karalis. All of them to the left of Martin Ferguson! In the last two months alone I’ve published a boosterish piece on the green economy (Peter Newman and Cole Hendrigan) and a tough critique of CEO’s perverse salaries (Amanda Wilson).

In fact I’ve just received a slap on Gerard Henderson’s website for running a left-wing journal “channelling the ABC”. I could console myself that I must be doing something correct if I’m getting sledged on the left and sledged on the right. But I’m not really interested in the kind of ideological pugilism that passes for debate in this country. I’m just asking for accuracy in Crikey’s commentary on my custodianship of the ALR.

Rundle goes on to fly a rather colourful kite about my hostility to postmodernism, claiming that my “prejudices against vast swathes of theoretical and critical work done in the universities over the past three decades made it dull, backward and achingly worthy”. This is really high-grade foolishness, and I suspect that deep down he knows it. The way to fashion a seriously dull and worthy journal of ideas is to fill it with academic theory, which is why it never gets a look-in at journals like the New York Review of Books.

Nevertheless I certainly did try to embrace new and less mainstream ideas and anyone reading over back issues of the ALR will find essays on “neo-vaudeville” (Elizabeth Stephens), silence v noise (Kate Crawford), the theory of error (Mark Dodgson), design and freedom (Damon Young), while the literary reviews from writers such as Melinda Harvey, James Ley and Emmett Stinson were subtly infused with new critical trends. Should I have run more of these more abstract pieces? I’m not sure. But it’s certainly incorrect to claim that I spurned them.

I am dealing with the immensely sad business of winding up a journal whose ideals I believe in, and for which I worked hard. To read that Rundle wants to take credit for its demise — and the consequent narrowing of opportunities for a number of writers both inside and outside the academy who got their first taste of broad public exposure in the ALR, is sickening on first glance yet hilarious on reflection. Do his delusions of grandeur know no bounds? To think that a group of the nation’s most senior intellectual leaders is going to be influenced by the egotistical burblings of your resident clown.

Elizabeth (“neo-vaudeville”) Stephens, Acting Director Centre for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland, recently wrote me on hearing of the ALR’s impending closure and she asked that her comments be made public. So here, in conclusion, they are:

“That there should be any question regarding the ALR’s future seems inconceivable to me.  In the first instance, as the Australian equivalent to the Times or London Reviews of Books, the publication plays a vital role in Australian cultural life. Secondly, however, the ALR plays a more specific role central to the Go8 universities’ core goals, providing an outlet for publication to a general audience — and hence public engagement.  In the case of my own recent article, I was receiving positive email feedback from around the world even before the start of business the day it appeared. That article has been linked extensively throughout professional and performance communities, and was probably read by more people before lunchtime than everything else I have written put together.”

Partisan media:

Glen Frost writes: Re. “Is there any benefit in partisan media?” (yesterday, item 8). A clear difference between the US media dynamic and Australia, is that Australia has a large publically funded national broadcaster (ok, international now, what with that web sites, and the Aerobics/News Channel for Asia) with a “guarantee of service” (i.e. legislative charter requiring at least 1 ABC service to 99% of the population).

Let us not forget the efforts our dear elected politicians go to in lobbying for additional funding to get extra ABC services to our/their electorates (e.g. Triple J for the yoof) for every triennial funding period.

It is ironic that whilst some inner-city right winger is slamming the ABC and asking for cuts, their regional and rural counterparts are begging the government for extra ABC services for their information poor electorates. Proof yet again that we live in a divided nation — divided by access to media as well as the infrastructure to deliver media diversity.

Code of conduct:

Chris O’Mara writes: Re. “Cracking the code and regulating the wild west of online media” (yesterday, item 15). I think the big issue is the relevance of the Press Council. The Press Council is funded by the very publications it is supposed to regulate. Hardly an independent body with powers to enforce regulation. Put simply if a publisher disagrees with a Press Council decision, the publisher can choose to ignore the Press Council and the ramifications are — nil.

What is needed is a body that has the authority to investigate, enforce regulation and has the power to inflict penalties when required. A single body such as ACMA is the only transparent way forward for both Press and online regulation. The Press Council is a spent force that has failed to impose itself on the publications that fund it.


Craig Snyder writes:  Re. “Essential: we’ll cop a carbon tax with compensation” (yesterday, item 4). Jason Whittaker takes a curious approach to reading survey results. He states that “… Essential also quizzed its panel on terrorism and security. Most believe the world — and Australia — is less safe now than it was 10 years ago.” To support this the total not safe figure is 36%. However, the largest group 42% of the total felt that Australia’s security was about the same.

I expect News Limited to beat up a threat but not Crikey!

Manne and The Oz:

Mungo MacCallum writes: Re. “Rundle: a collector’s piece for the ages, The Oz on Manne” (yesterday, item 3). I was present at the Byron Shire Writers Festival when Robert Manne explained to Weekend Australian editor Nick Cater that he was reluctant to write for the Murdoch press because he did not want to give it legitimacy. I share Manne’s misgivings but for reasons which have as much to do with taste as ideology.

To contribute to the Weekend Australian I would have to head my copy: for Nick Cater. Just say it aloud and you will appreciate the problem.

Peter Fray

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