The University of Sydney:

Andrew Potter, director, corporate media relations at The University of Sydney, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Despite being employed at the University of Sydney for almost 25 years, the anonymous professor hasn’t learnt much about the way it works.

The vice-chancellor does not and cannot award  himself a bonus. All decisions on any bonus payments for the vice-chancellor and the senior executive are made by the independent HR and remuneration committee of the university’s governing body, the  senate.

For the record, the vice-chancellor and the senior executive have stated they will not accept any  salary increases in 2012. Meanwhile the NTEU is claiming salary increases of 28% for academic staff over the next four years.

Australian Communications and Media Authority:

Tom Burton, Australian Communications and Media Authority, writes: Re. “ACMA squibs again: how Nine got away with pokie propaganda” (yesterday, item 13). Before David Salter lectures everyone else on media accountability he should address his own major error in yesterday’s article on the Nine Network’s broadcast of criticisms of proposed poker machine reforms.

Salter is 100% wrong when he says the ACMA found the broadcast did not constitute a political matter.

As the second paragraph of the accompanying media release said: “… the ACMA found that although the remarks were ‘political matter,’ (but) they were not broadcast at the request of anyone other than Nine and therefore did not need to be ‘tagged’ with particulars such as the identity of the person authorising the material.”

Salter may have evidence to the contrary, in which case let’s see it.

In the meantime, his invocation to ignore the evidence and the law, so as to come up with an outcome he would personally prefer, is nothing short of extraordinary.

Fairfax:

Andrew Elder writes: Re. “Hywood’s Fairfax rally: ‘we can no longer afford to work in silos’” (yesterday, item 2). What can we learn about Fairfax from its “Culture and Values” diagram?:

  • Audience/customers aren’t central (implied in the term “centricity”), they/we are peripheral.
  • Commercial focus starts and ends with audience/customers, but is mostly about something else (including the diametric opposite of whatever audience/customer is about).
  • Independence is directly linked to accountability, when in practice there is a tension between the two that the diagram and related bumf doesn’t fully explain.
  • Working together is not directly linked to innovation.
  • Accountability and transparency are not linked directly to the peripheral audience/customer.

Those in the audience/customer category who want transparency and accountability will have to fight their way past an apparently solid core of integrity (“we are always right about everything we do”), values (“We publish whatever we feel like writing about”) and independence (“If you don’t like it, you can rack off”), which is solidly in line with the traditions and practice of Fairfax and the mainstream media.

Polls:

Martyn Smith writes: As one who has never been asked his opinion by a pollster I’m mailing to ask if you’d like to do a Crikey Clarifier on them. These polls are conducted very often and their results duly examined and reported with the same reverence as the ancients did when viewing the entrails of unfortunate animals.

Like the ancients we “moderns” act on the published results.  There have sometimes been suggestions that some politicians craft their policies according to the polls, in fact that if they don’t do so they are both undemocratic and unAustralian — very naughty.

I’m not suggesting the polls aren’t accurate: I’d just like to know whether, for example, Newspoll asks only readers of News Ltd for their views, whether the various pollsters use same group of people to ask for their opinion and especially I’d like to know exactly what the questions were.

When publishing a poll, why don’t the pollsters publish a list of the questions? Can you please satisfy my curiosity?

Carbon tax:

Joe Boswell writes: Re.”Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 12). Concerning the carbon tax, Richard Farmer was critical of Labor ministers who “promise to block in the Senate any repeal effort by a future Coalition government. Not a good idea that demonstrates a very perverse view of democracy”.

Since Senators as well as MPs are elected, the Senate can block the House of Representatives with complete legitimacy. This is the whole point of having two chambers. Of course, it is a nonsensical arrangement, but this “perverse view of democracy” is embedded in the heart of the constitution.

Anyone who supports real representative democracy should prefer a unicameral legislature. It’s the only reasonable to way to ensure the demos will get just what it votes for each time. As H. L. Mencken explained, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Republicanism:

Colin Ross writes: Niall Clugston (yesterday, comments) is too kind when he calls Australians conservative, I would call them timid. On November 11 1975, my wife and I caught an evening ferry from Ostend to Dover after four months travelling through the byways of western and eastern Europe.

On the rare occasion when we saw an English language newspaper, there was no mention of Australia and the political machinations taking place. After finding a comfortable pub in Canterbury, I went down to the bar to find the locals glued to the TV. On hearing my accent, one turned to me and said “perhaps the colonial can tell us what is going on, how can your governor-general sack the PM?”.

This was a Tory group, and yet they all said if the Queen tried to sack their PM, there would be a march on the palace and she would be lucky if she remained on the throne. They said the authority of Parliament over the monarchy had been established centuries ago.

Hence, 37 years later, I am still bemused that we lack the self-confidence to divest ourselves of a foreign monarch as our ultimate head of state.

Lathan v Henderson:

Robert Manne writes: How many errors of fact and interpretation can Gerard Henderson make in a few hundred words (yesterday, comments)? Not only does Henderson suggest, here and elsewhere, that Mark Latham should be the only parliamentarian in recent history to refuse his superannuation entitlement.

Latham has told me that the figure Henderson invariably uses to slur him is actually wrong. Henderson claims that the many Media Watchdog errors Latham has exposed are explained by the pressure he is under to complete his column each week. Not only would Henderson mercilessly mock anyone other than himself making such an excuse. Who exactly is forcing him to write his dreary, obsessive, repetitive and remorselessly negative blog at such speed?

Henderson denies he quit The Australian Spectator because he could not accept from a fellow columnist the kind of criticism he dishes out to others every week. He claims, rather, that he only quit his column because of a principled unwillingness to appear in a magazine that also published Latham.

There are two problems with this argument. Henderson only discovered this principle after he was lampooned by Latham. Moreover he appears quite willing to appear on Sky News despite the fact that it employs Latham as a political commentator. Henderson claims he had no chance anyhow to answer Latham’s criticisms. Is he suggesting that Tom Switzer, the editor of Australian Spectator, had refused him a right of reply in his own column?

Peter Fray

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