Correction

Steve Ahern writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Thursday). While it is accurate to report that I have been asked to appear as a witness in the Blashki case, I would like to correct two errors in your story.

My departure from the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) was not related to Blashki’s court case. I left AFTRS before she did. I refer you to the media statement made at the time. I do not intend to publicly discuss my reasons for leaving AFTRS. If asked in court about this matter I will discuss it there. I do not believe former head of Corporate Services Reza Bilimoria has been called as a witness in this case.

The BBC and Jimmy Savile

ABC Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes writes: Re. “The dead entertainer haunting the BBC and the UK government” (yesterday). Your “London-based writer” Peter Salmon (or possibly, an over-enthusiastic sub) could at least get the name of the current director-general of the BBC right.  He is George Entwistle, not Entwhistle. And he was not, at the time the Newsnight program was dropped last November, the “head of BBC1”. He was director of vision, one of the seven top executives, directly under the director-general, who sit on the BBC’s Executive Board.

He was certainly responsible for all television schedules, on all BBC channels, including the Jimmy Savile tributes. But he had no authority over Newsnight, which is part of the News Division. Newsnight’s boss is the director of news, Helen Boaden, who is not a subordinate but an equal of the director of vision, and who also sits on the executive board.

Oily rags not just at RN

3AW and Channel Seven presenter Derryn Hinch writes: Re. “A memo to my RN colleagues: welcome to the 21st century” (yesterday). I was fascinated by the ABC’s anonymous Radio National scribe reporting on the delusional production staff padding. No surprise. Was intrigued by one comment: “… the new Drive program with Waleed Aly has been operating with a shoestring staff all year”.

What constitutes a “shoestring” at Auntie? In the commercial world, the top-rating Hinch Drive program has two producers. No secretaries or other production staff. Is that a shoestring?

Whose Asian Century?

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Here’s one we prepared earlier: Labor goes back to Asia” (yesterday). Yes, as Bernard Keane says the Asian Century evokes deja vu, but we need to ask why Australia keeps returning to this, why the white papers remain empty rhetoric.

Firstly, it’s not just government; it’s society. Most students don’t want to study Asia, and businesses don’t want to employ them if they do. Australian culture is profoundly orientated to the USA and Britain.

Moreover, for all the talk about “the prospects of proximity”, it’s an illusion to call Asia “our region”. Australia is as close to China and Japan as South Africa is to Europe.  The relationship is about Australia selling raw materials. Australian governments have successively tried to conjure this into something else, but reality stubbornly refuses to shift, despite the magic phrases and the white papers.

Dual national candidates

John Band writes: Re. “The politics of politics” (Tips and rumours, yesterday). The section 44 ban on dual nationality candidates applies only to Commonwealth elections, not state elections, which are dependent on state constitutions.

Under NSW electoral law, anyone eligible to vote in NSW is eligible to stand for election to the NSW Legislative Assembly, other than Commonwealth MPs and Senators, NSW Legislative Council members, and some holders of Crown offices. So (of course, assuming Alex Greenwich is a naturalised Australian citizen), people talking this up as a birther drama are at least as misguided as Donald Trump.

Lost in the language

Jessie Mitchell writes: Re. “More Asian language teaching in schools? Good luck with that” (yesterday). Korean is not “even harder” than Mandarin. The Korean language, including the alphabet, grammar and pronunciation, is known to be among the most straightforward for a new learner — particularly in comparison with other Asian languages. Korean would take a similar amount of time/effort to learn as a romance language such as French.

David Edmunds writes: Dean Ashenden points out that a substantial proportion of students enrolled in foreign language courses in our schools are already native speakers. This fact alone is enough to discourage hard-headed and competitive students from studying foreign languages. It is not possible to compete against these students and the statistical machinations required to generate a year 12 ranking exaggerate the problem.

The only possible solution is to make the learning of a foreign language compulsory, and this would be extremely unpopular. It is also the case that this is only one of about 10 curriculum areas where a case for compulsory inclusion can be made. Incidentally, this is the approach taken by the International Baccalaureate.

Of course, the other problem Ashenden outlined remains, that is, the shortage of qualified teachers and the mobility of teachers. There is no obvious solution to this problem within Australia. The most obvious solution is for Australian students to do some introductory language training in Australia and then to study their foreign language in the source country.

This is hardly going to work for everyone, but even so exactly how this would work for even a small proportion of students is a mystery. The predictable response of business this morning is hardly helpful. The suggestion that language and culture should be represented at board level was met with the same outrage as the suggestion that women may provide some advantage in business.

ALP wheeling and dealing

Rod MacDonald writes: Re. “Penny’s loss is the SDA’s gain: how Wong got rolled” (yesterday). It would appear that nothing has changed on the lunatic fringes of the ALP in decades.

I recall that back in the ’80s the then Tasmanian deputy premier and national president of the ALP, Neil Batt, was placed fourth on the Tasmanian ALP’s how-to-vote ticket and a virtual unknown, John Green, placed first. Despite this factional deal (or probably because of it) Tasmanian voters declined to be fooled and Batt easily retained his seat.

It was not long afterwards that Tasmania introduced a system of rotating candidates’ names on ballot papers (the so-called “Robson Rotation” named after its sponsor, Neil Robson, MP) so that ever since how-to-vote cards at Tasmanian elections have been next to useless.

John Belward writes: The vote is another example of an organisation which is being controlled by a self-centred minority. I concur with the platform of the ALP and support the existence of unions, but the behaviour of small groups which seek to manipulate the democratic process when they act contrary to the demonstrated will of the majority should not be tolerated.

Either the ALP and the unions should act immediately to reform their governance or the two groups should uncouple and reconstitute themselves as separate groups of organisations.

Peter Fray

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