Gunns not dead yet

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “Flanagan: Gunns’ demise lifts a darkness over Tasmania” (yesterday). Richard Flanagan succumbs to his own euphoria when he writes:

“… the naked pursuit of greed at all costs will in the end destroy your public legitimacy and thus ensure your doom. Gunns was a rogue corporation and its death was a chronicle long ago foretold …”

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It would be nice if that were so, but there are companies all over the world, usually involved in resource exploitation, bribes, tax concessions, transfer pricing, tax evasion, buying governments and more that are doing very well indeed and delivering dividends and increasing share value over many years. (Bhopal, Thalidomide, Trafigura, most tropical logging companies.) Although a company such as Gunns can operate amorally because the decision-makers and shareholders find it convenient, even essential, to ignore the ethical implications of their interests, the fact is such companies’ actions are the cumulative result of individual actions and individual decisions (or lack thereof).

Gunns’ is not a living entity and cannot die. If everyone who had received money or advantage from Gunns since it went rogue (all money, not just profits) were forced to repay every cent to the community and the environment, then, perhaps, the metaphor of Gunns’ death would be apt. But not before. And the governance structures and the memes of amoral corporate capitalism would survive to continue unimpeded, plundering the environment, enriching the few (who have names, addresses and bank accounts) and destroying human lives.

Gunns leaves behind large plantations of genetically engineered Eucalyptus nitans that have been designed to live outside the natural forest processes and produce toxic leachates, leading to soil degradation and, without proper management, extreme fire risks. Will Mr Gay and other Gunns shareholders be paying for the maintenance and remedial work that will incur novel costs for centuries?

Travel writing worries

Mungo MacCallum writes: Re. “Travel journalism junkets: are you getting the true picture?” (yesterday). Larry Schlesinger quotes travel editors lamenting that they have to accept freebies because they don’t have the budgets to pay their own way. Fair enough, but it does not explain why they reject articles from those who do pay their own way when they are submitted.

I have had many knockbacks from editors, including Susan Kurosawa, for what others tell me are properly researched and amusingly presented accounts of my own wanderings. And I have often later seen pieces based on the same idea from staff (or at least regular) writers who have been the guest of someone or other. Coincidence or nepotism and cosy arrangements which, as Schlesinger implies, look just the tiniest bit corrupt? Still, it’s not as bad as the motoring pages.

Radio plays and book readings still have their fans

Grace Pettigrew writes: Re. “Radio National cuts staff, programs” (media briefs, yesterday). “RN manager Michael Mason said: “Radio plays and book readings have, for many years, faced declining audience numbers, while remaining an expensive activity for the network …”

Really? How much does taping a book-reading cost? I would do it for free. There is an ABC studio nearby. Just let me know, and I’ll bring my own book and earphones.

My old mate Mabel really enjoys the ABC book-readings and the radio plays. I doubt that she follows the plot, or remembers what happened last week, but it’s the mellifluous narrative voices in the background of her living room that makes her feel as if she is with a family of friends. No small thing, that, for old Mabel, but I’ve no idea how you would put a dollar cost on it.

We might think we own the ABC, but so much of its production work has been cleverly contracted out over the years that there is no way any longer of directly asking, when faced with another program deletion, “well, how much did that cost, then?” It’s all commercial-in-confidence now. None of your business, Australia.

Tanner and the true political enemy

Martyn Smith writes: Re. “Crikey says: what’s the answer, Lindsay?” (editorial, yesterday).  This reminds me of a story I read in a book by Fred Daly (father of the Australian parliament, November 1972-1975).  To the best of my recollection Fred said that a newly elected Labor MP sat down next to him and gazed across at the Coalition. He said that it was good to be facing “the enemy” at last. Fred said that he replied to him, “You are looking across at the opposition; the enemy is sitting behind you”.  Many a true word is spoken in jest.  In the present case I’m not sure whether Lindsay Tanner has shot the ALP in the foot or in the back.

John Falconer writes: Lindsay Tanner comments about politicians in his book that “everyone exaggerates about everything ALL (my emphasis) the time”. Is he exaggerating?

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