Gatsby subsidy appalling 

Phillip Adams, Radio National broadcaster, writes: Re: “Film industry subsidies” (yesterday). I did NOT support the huge handout to Gatsby. And I was appalled by the Ozcars’ cultural cringing to Baz’s bloated and essentially American film. I spent many years getting  Australian film-making up and running — in line with the opening paragraph of my one-page report to Gorton that led to its revival: “we hold these truths to be self-evident … it’s time to tell our own stories, hear our own voices, see our own landscapes  and dream our own dreams.” Where does Gatsby fit into his?

I have not commented on film politics for a very long time — but let the record show that I was always (and remain) opposed to Australia becoming a back lot for US productions.

Entitlements a rort

Richard Pennycuick writes: Re. “Crikey says: a new age has its limits” (yesterday). One entitlement that has long annoyed me is that former prime ministers have offices, and presumably people to staff them, at our expense. I regard this as a rort, because they are private citizens. I feel similarly about travel entitlements and other undeserved perks for past politicians. On that basis, conservative confected outrage at such SPCA conditions as shiny tin allowances strikes me as hypocrisy of a very high order. It would be interesting to watch our Beloved Leader um and ah his way through a question about whether and why he will expect an office when he leaves office.

The day the muzak died

Robert Johnson writes: Re. “Should we save ugly buildings? Heritage verses aesthetic value” (Wednesday). In the late ’80s, I spent some time working in what many considered an “ugly” new building in Pirie Street, Adelaide, but which I recall was much nicer once you were at your desk on the inside looking out. I can’t recall thinking the same of working in the office tower of the Hoyts Cinema Centre in Bourke Street, Melbourne, which Alan Davies wrote of Wednesday. The important heritage feature that can’t be saved of that centre, in my memory of working there circa 1971-72, is my first exposure to muzak — in the office, as a Taylorist practice. For a then small and “elite” (or at least mysterious) group — computer programmers — it was nothing but the latest and “best”, and management was not impressed when I and a colleague found and disconnected the muzak source (I think we at least managed to then get the volume reduced to virtually inaudible in our work area).

Two other Melbourne CBD buildings that I worked in at the time are of greater heritage interest, in my view. The commercial arcade at the rear of the Southern Cross Hotel complex nearby included my then-employer’s mainframe computer (fully 16KB of memory, as I recall) operating with flashing lights to the amusement of the public — perhaps the only computer then on public display in the CBD. (Increasingly, the small number of mainframes were located in the St Kilda Road offices of the computer manufacturers, which were the only companies that could afford them.) The other building — with happier memories for a computer programmer in a much-earlier life — was the still-impressive T&G Building on Collins Street, with its internal light wells that gave most employees access to natural light. A memory of the T&G Building (from which we were moved to the Hoyts complex as the company built new premises in North Melbourne) is of taking the chance to enter undetected the T&G boardroom on the top floor, where it was possible to open a section of the wood-panelled wall and get onto the roof for spectacular views.

I’m inclined to agree with Davies’ conclusion that the Hoyts Cinema Centre complex may have some historic importance but not enough to warrant its preservation, especially in a CBD of so many important and beautiful (to this beholder’s eye) structures.

Peter Fray

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