Tom Burton, Australian Communications and Media Authority, writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. The first sentence of yesterday’s edition asserting this was the ACMA’s first press conference in six years is wrong .

As your writers who follow the media and communications sector know we have regular press conferences, door stops and media briefings. For the record the last formal “press conference” was the release of our Reconnect the Customer Report mid last year.

Andrew Crook writes: Yesterday, in my eagerness to insert an Anthony Albanese reference into a story on Screen Australia (item 3), I got my Connollys mixed up in paragraph 12.

Bob made Rats in the Ranks starring (kinda) the off-screen Albo, while Robert made Balibo and is involved in the upcoming Tim Winton adaptation The Turning. Thanks to the dozens of film types who got in touch within minutes to point out the howler.

The future of Labor:

David Edmunds writes: Re. “Rundle: time to work out what a Labor Party is for” (yesterday, item 1). The Labor Party started in the 19th century to address the power imbalance between employers and employees, and the fundamental philosophy of support for “working Australians” still pervades what Labor does.

In 2007 it had to revisit the issue after John Howard introduced WorkChoices, but really since Gough Whitlam’s government Labor has taken a much wider view of the advancement of conditions for “working Australians”.  Gough started the globalization of the economy with his tariff reductions. This hurt, as so many economic changes do, but he was right.  We saw the same story with the Hawke and Keating governments when they moved to a tighter integration with the world economy. The alternative, the Argentine solution promoted by the Perons did not turn out well.

Julia Gillard runs a very standard social democrat government. The social agenda which includes for example, a rejigging of health arrangements, a lot of new money for mental health, and the work towards a national disability scheme is precisely in the mould of our post war Labor governments.

The Labor government believes that Australian workers need an advantage in a globalized world, and the mechanism chosen is the standard social democrat one of improved productivity through better skills and education and improved infrastructure. The story, as always, is about opportunity.

The problem is that this agenda does not provide quick results and for some inexplicable reason polarizes people, but it is very consistent with traditional Labor goals.

From time to time other means have become part of Labor ideology, for example socialism. These have really been the means and not the end, so have been rejected when they appear not to work. So, when Anna Bligh sold coal trains in a recession in order to find funds to boost the economy, this is entirely consistent with Labor goals. After all, privately-owned ore trains have been operating in WA since the 1960s with no apparent problem, and it has been a very long time since the ownership of the means of production was a debate in labor circles.

It is hard to understand exactly why this is not clearer to people such as Guy Rundle. Obviously Labor has a problem explaining what it is on about, but it does seem that a lack of polling success tends to feed on itself and become the story, rather than the underpinning Labor initiatives and goals.

James Burke writes: Thanks to Guy Rundle (and Geoff Gallop, and John Quiggin, and others) for pointing to the essence of the ALP betrayal of party, state and people: privatisation.

As Rundle pointed out, privatisation may have legitimacy if it is taken to an election and supported by voters. Then it can be justified as a compact between government and electorate, however much that compact relies on ignorance, delusion and sheer stubborn stupidity. (Lyle Lanley may have sold the monorail, but every Springfieldianite was culpable.)

But when a government embarks on privatisation of profitable entities or essential services without an electoral mandate, it’s really nothing better than organised theft. And with so many Labor henchmen going on to jobs with the Big End of Town, it’s no wonder that “corrupt” is now the adjective most voters in Queensland and New South Wales associate with the party.

It’s a pity that the preferred alternatives are so corrupted as to blatantly exhibit their utter deference to their paymasters, and their willingness to sacrifice any public good to the short-term profits of ruthless corporations. I guess people are so sick of being stabbed in the back, that being stabbed in the face is refreshing.

Niall Clugston writes: Let’s not forget that in the lead-up to the Kevin ’07 election the Coalition was warning of the risk of “wall-to-wall Labor”.

What’s happened to the ALP is not a historic demise, but a coincidence of unrelated forces, as temporary as an eclipse of the sun. Seats swiftly lost can be swiftly won at the next election.

Kyle Sandilands:

Vincent Burke writes: Re. “Sandilands and the ‘fat slag’ — vitriol, but not incitement” (yesterday, item 2). It’s not just the piss-weak response of ACMA to Sandilands’s offensive on-air comments nor the failure of Austereo to do the right thing and sack him.

I notice from on-screen promotions that Channel 7 have decided to retain his services for Australia’s Got Talent. They are even using him in their main promotion for the program. All that counts are the ratings, it seems. Shame on them all.


Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Bitter resentment remains at abolition of ABCC” (yesterday, item 11). Ava Hubble’s piece said Dave Noonan of the CFMEU:

“…warns that the inspectorate will retain the power, although modified, to force building industry participants to answer all questions put to them at an inspectorate inquiry. The International Labour Organisation, as well as the Australian Greens, have pointed out that as a result of this power, members of the construction industry are denied the ancient legal right of silence — a right accorded to every other sector of the Australian workforce — and even to the suspects of the most dreadful violent crimes.”

The critical distinction between suspect and witness is frequently forgotten when discussing the so-called right to silence. English common law, since adopted by Australia, developed this from the 17th century on the grounds the prosecution should prove its case without forcing confessions from the suspect by torture or threats. It does not apply to a witness who is not a suspect. The oath routinely taken by a witness in court makes it clear the witness must not refuse to answer questions.

Many legal authorities conducting investigations and inquiries have powers to compel a witness to answer regardless of whether the answer could incriminate the witness, provided the witness is given immunity from prosecution and the answers are truthful.

The Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act 2005, as made, provides the powers to require evidence from a witness and with it immunity from self-incrimination, e.g. Sections 52 and 53.

This is all quite ordinary. The claim that “every other sector of the Australian workforce” has the right of silence is plain nonsense. The various Commonwealth and State agencies that enforce OHS laws, for example, can compel witnesses in much the same way. Perhaps someone should be told.

There is no general right to silence. There never was.

Phone hacking:

Sam Cox writes: Re. “Fresh hacking claims as more Murdoch dirty laundry aired” (yesterday, item 16). Glenn Dyer wrote:

“Why this is important is that apart from The New York Times report in September 2011 on the hacking scandal, this will be the first major media attempt to explain the scandal to the US.”

The phone hacking scandal was (loosely) the basis of a Law and Order SVU episode last year. Season 13 – Episode 9 “Lost Traveller” — Where a kidnapped boy’s family is given hope he is still alive only to discover a shady BRITISH reporter has been hacking into the boy’s voicemail.

Anzac Day:

Jackie French writes: Re. “Come in Spinner: what the media must know about Anzac Day” (yesterday, item 15). I also need to give a declaration of interest: I’m the author (with Mark Wilson) of A Day to Remember, a recently released history of the evolution of Anzac Day.

A decade ago I thought I knew what had happened on that first day of landing. Now, as I continue to read  diaries and letters from that time, made available as the authors’ descendents find them in linen cupboards or boxes of books, I realise that there may never be a definitive account of  25 April 1915. No  firsthand accounts give the same story, but they speak in a tone which is surprisingly similar to our clichés. No revisionist analysis can temper the voices from the past. And yes, the Anzacs were ‘bronzed’. Why doubt it? They had, after all, been under the sun in Egypt and at sea and training.

I suspect that everyone  who watches the Anzac Day parade has their own personal remembrance, whether it’s  of  ‘Pa’ or countries lost or those who suffered. Perhaps that very diversity is  at the heart of our modern Anzac day ceremonies, whether they be the official RSL ones or the many informal ones held by schools and community groups. Anzac Day is, very simply, the day that we remember.


David Hardie writes: Re. “Follow the Power: Assange’s privilege … opera attack … Google on big biz …” (yesterday, item 20).

Considering the number of “festival” or special event performances that fall outside the restrictions placed on Opera Australia by the MEAA have risen steadily (and not just during Lyndon Terracini’s tenure as artistic director) it is somewhat lazy to attack this restriction.

However this is a sideshow. If there was one person who had the power to change “the game” it would be the artistic director of Opera Australia. The number of singers who leave Australia through lack of domestic opportunities is far greater than the number of singers flying in the opposite direction. Where is the plan to develop talent? Where is the plan to retain talent? What has Opera Australia done to encourage the wider practice of opera in Australia?

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