Shooting down Crikey’s stats

Andrew Leigh, Federal Member for Fraser, writes: Re. “Cause for alarm? Australia has more guns, but they’re less dangerous” (yesterday). I appreciate Crikey‘s care with statistics, so it’s worth mentioning an error in Jemimah Clegg’s piece on the Australian gun buyback. Reporting on a paper by public health expert Philip Alpers, Clegg writes “Australians imported more than 1 million guns since the 1996 shooting tragedy”. In fact, as firearm importation statistics show, the 1 million figure is for the years since 1988/89. If we look only since the buyback (1997/98 onwards), the figure is closer to half a million firearm imports. To be fair, many other media outlets made the same reporting error, and few picked up on the fact that — as Clegg noted — the rate of population growth at least matches the rate at which we’re buying more guns.

The new Guardian on the Yarra

James Burke writes: Re. “Guardian at the gates: Oz play bad news for Fairfax” (yesterday). The Guardian’s Oz venture may be bad news for Fairfax, but what isn’t? I’ve been boring people in the pub for years, holding forth that if Fairfax wants to survive, it should seek a merger with The Guardian. As usual, Granny’s been too slow.

It’s great news for media consumers. The aggravations of Fairfax’s falling standards in news delivery (no offence to the many still doing brilliant work, but the trend is undeniable) have been exacerbated by its need to obey the political rules of an increasingly conformist Australian media.

The Guardian doesn’t live in perpetual fear of a hostile takeover by fascists, so isn’t obliged to devote column space to the corporate mendacity of the “think tanks”. Like Fairfax, it does publish some provocative pieces by the ideologically deranged, but at least these are not (usually) the same neo-liberal, neo-conservative or neo-racist pillocks who dominate the existing Australian media.

It was a particular insult that, having sacked so many talented journalists, The Sydney Morning Herald retained the services of Gerard Henderson. “Backchat” would have made a great TASS censor back in the day, but his obsession with deviations from the party line by ABC talkback hosts has resulted in a body of work unmatched in simultaneous hysteria and tedium.

The Guardian will surely hire some Fairfax alumni. They can continue their fine work, as their former colleagues wither under the tyranny of Rinehart and Singleton, in the short remaining life of Australia’s most venerable news company.

Life on the dole

Cath Smith writes: Re. “Dole around the world: how does Australia stack up?” (yesterday). I am confused. The UK, German and Canadian social security systems have realistic housing benefits while here in Australia, benefit recipients are condemned to rooming houses and places far from employment due to our housing component being so stingy.

Yet now we are told that Aussie taxpayers are more generous to people on Newstart. Try telling that to an unemployed sole parent hoping to survive in private rental costing $330 a week with $80 left over to pay all food, transport and utilities, plus back to school costs for her children.

Boil the Lance

Steve Walz writes: Re. “Video of the day” (media briefs, yesterday). If Lane Armstrong is truly interested in making things right, surely he cannot be seen to have profited financially from his drug-cheating.

So, here’s an idea: he can agree to liquidate all his assets, put the funds in a trust to be administered by an official appointed by the government and distribute the rest as best as possible to all those harmed by his cheating. He can get a job at WalMart like everyone else.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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