Australia Network:

Dave Lennon writes: Re. “Media briefs: Maiden, Crikey fan … NT News piss-take … Sky for Oz Network …” (yesterday, item 17). Speaking as a former employee of the original Asian TV service, Australia Television, and a prime mover in an ultimately unsuccessful bid team to get the licence for what is now the Australia Network when it was first offered by the Howard government in 2000 (a front page story  in The Australian actually had us winning the bid before cabinet decided against it and approached the ABC to reconsider its decision not to tender for the service), I’d like to buy into this issue.

This current process has become politicised  to a point where a cogent decision is impossible.

Whether that decision is between SKY or the ABC or the issues that will be caused between DFAT, who’s budget will fund the service, and Stephen Conroy’s people, who will decide who gets it, this process has been compromised to a point where abandonment is the only wise option.

My advice to the cabinet would be simply this: delay the decision for at least 12 months, leaving the service with the ABC in the meantime.

In that period revisit both the aims of the service, what its future goals should be and consider the actual shape or character of an ideal entity to run the service in the future.

Neither the ABC, nor Sky, are, for different reasons, ideal “corporate” vehicles for this important and, let’s not mince words here, disproportionately influential service.

A third way would be the best way.

The problem is that at the moment that third way doesn’t exist — the government needs to create a process that will bring it into existence.

I would like to make it clear there is no self interest here. The experience of creating a bid back in 2000 was sufficiently debilitating that I have no desire to curtail my retirement.


Andrew Lewis writes: Re. Niall Clugston (13 October, comments). I picked up Niall Clugston on this once before, I’ll bet he remembers, and feel obliged to meet him again.

In Thursday’s comments (yep, I’m late again) he derides your editorial lauding the Greens because “they voted down Kevin Rudd’s CPRS”.

As I argued before, while technically true, this is deliberately misleading, as Niall seems to have a blank spot about the fact that the Coalition also voted the CPRS down. If the Coalition voted for the CPRS, the Greens vote would have been redundant.

Now no doubt he would respond with who crossed the floor from the Coalition. However, while going after the party of the Greens he seems to negate the parties of the Coalition, the majority of whom stuck solid, and yet he states that he would like the Greens to be judged like any other party. What, like the Coalition, who you seem to absolve of any responsibility?

Further, the CPRS was a dog, replaced now by a much better dog, but still a dog, but Niall almost concedes that point. The interesting thing about this, which I refuse to believe someone as astute as Niall would miss, is that the CPRS was specifically designed to wedge and embarrass the Greens. Even at the time it was barely decipherable whether Kevin Rudd had any commitment to the actual policy or was using it merely as a political tool to try and corner the Greens.

History shows that in fact Rudd didn’t have quite the necessary commitment to the policy that one might expect of the great moral challenge of our age. History also shows that this lack of commitment almost certainly cost him his public popularity, his job, and the Labor Party a clear majority.

I love it when politicians are too smart for their own good. I love it when a wedge tactic comes back and bites the wedger on the bum, and this was seriously deserved of a party and executive that thought it was oh so smart.

By the way Niall, I think what happened was the Greens made a principled stand. It’s hard to know because nobody in living memory can ever recall it happening, but there are rumours that may have been the case.

What goes around comes around, and by sheer serendipity the lucky country got lucky once again. Good government by accident. You couldn’t write this stuff.


Andrew Crook writes: Marcus Ogden (yesterday, comments) wrote that I seemed to be “unaware that Andrew Wilkie’s original pokies reform proposal to Julia Gillard was for maximum $1 bet machines”.

It is true that Wilkie originally backed low-intensity machines over pre-commitment, but it’s also true that he has since supported the dual approach proposed by Labor.

As Wilkie noted in his own press release on Friday, “I’m pleased to see their policy dovetails with my reforms, which include mandatory pre-commitment on high-intensity machines and the roll out of low-intensity machines with $1 maximum bets that can played outside of mandatory pre-commitment.”

It is simply wrong to suggest, as Ogden has, that Wilkie would prefer a policy that didn’t include mandatory pre-commitment technology.

In fact, in his presser, Wilkie welcomed the Greens’ commitment to “ultimately” support its introduction.

Occupy Wall Street:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Is there a reason to protest Wall Street in Australia?

Well, Australia has slipped through the tentacles of the GFC so far — which explains why only a few hundred are protesting — but the reality remains that we are enmeshed in a world economy where bad financial decisions in the US leave a trail of wreckage from Iceland to Greece. When they’re not safe, we’re not safe.