On mergers

Geoff Edwards writes: Re. “Mayne: NSW council mergers are well overdue” (Monday). I hope that Stephen Mayne isn’t making the mistake of assuming that a background in business is a necessary or even a desirable qualification to be a local government councillor. Yes, as councils amalgamate to become large multi-million-dollar corporations, a higher level of sophistication is required amongst the elected leaders – councils made up of farmers and teachers serving as part-time volunteers will struggle. But business administration is not public administration. A council is there to protect and advance the public interest and this does not equate to the commercial strength of the municipality. To govern well, a municipal authority requires people with a spread of skills and political orientations and with good roots in the community. Talent and experience are not the preserve of the business sector and Stephen doesn’t require me to remind him of the insularity of the self-serving professional director class in business.

I wouldn’t be too complimentary towards Jeff Kennett’s forced amalgamations. They gave the neoliberalisation of our governments a big push along. I was a councillor and Shire President in pre-amalgamation Victoria. Our council was abolished during the Kennett era. While some state-level coercion was probably necessary to hasten the tentative moves that some councils (including ours) were making anyway to amalgamate, we always held that our amalgamation with a pro-development council and more generally the installation of pro-development commissioners, many with little local government experience, had a hidden agenda: weakening town planning controls. Control over development decisions is the Achilles heel of local government and won’t be helped by populating councils with pro-business directors.

On Razer’s pet peeves

Helen Robertson writes: Re. “10 things I hate about 2015” (yesterday). I, like Helen Razer, am irked by the “paleo diet”. Those who invented it and promote it haven’t given a skerrick of thought to what people in the Palaeolithic age actually had available to eat.

Pottery and metal containers hadn’t been invented so making broth would have been extremely difficult. There is a very old technique of heating water which can be done in a hollowed out wooden dish; you put water in the dish and heat clean stones in the fire and then pick them up with a pair of sticks and drop them in the water till it’s hot. However this doesn’t lend itself to simmering a broth.

Studies of Palaeolithic diets in the fossil record and in modern hunters and gatherers shows that starchy yams and tubers and seeds were welcomed, insects and reptiles and small mammals were staples, and, while red meat from large animals was favoured it was very hard to get. Bacon was impossible! People ate what was available in their part of the world, from arctic to desert and sea coast to forest.

Ads on Aunty

John Richardson writes: Re. “Is Michelle Guthrie going to sell ads on your ABC?” (Monday). So, Michelle Guthrie will bring her “business acumen, record in content-making across an array of platforms, a deep understanding of audience needs & corporate responsibility for promoting issues like diversity” to her new role as Managing Director of “our” ABC? As well as “monetising” everything in sight, Michelle will doubtless leap tall buildings in a single bound as well. So what?

This little black duck would just like a response to his letter of complaint addressed to her predecessor: even an acknowledgement would help. But who really cares about customer service when the boss has “a deep understanding of audience needs & corporate responsibility”?

As she leaps out of bed every morning, eager to show “our” ABC how it’s done, maybe Michelle could turn the dial on her digital radio back 50 years and cop an ear-full of the self-indulgent, self-serving pap that is served-up to the dwindling brain-dead audience of ABC Radio South-East, where liberal politicians enjoy free reign to spruik their wares unchallenged; where significant community issues are ignored so as to avoid frightening the natives; where, for many, membership of a knitting circle is what equates to “journalism”.

It’s too late to ponder whether advertising will contribute anything to “our” ABC, Michelle. At the rate that viewers and listeners are abandoning ship, I doubt that any sensible marketer would see any value in using the ABC as a promotional vehicle anyway. What the ABC really needs is someone who is simply prepared to drag the corpse outside and bury it.

Peter Fray

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