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Apr 23, 2010


The Wilderness Society:

A concerned staff member of The Wilderness Society writes: Re. “Greenies see red as Wilderness Society descends into chaos” (yesterday, item 6). Further to the article published on Thursday, 22 April, by Andrew Crook — I was actually present for the “tirade” your reporter suggests Alec Marr “unleashed” on an unsuspecting staff.

In reality, it was less of a tirade than a well-intended reminder (following some fairly petty staff behaviour) that we all make compromises of one sort or another but that our goal to protect Australia’s precious natural environment is what unites us at TWS – irrespective of what you wear, what you eat or, for that matter, what you drive to work.  Sadly, the message seems to have been completely lost on some of the attendees at the meeting if this is now their version of events.

But why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

What yesterday’s cracking yarn also fails to mention is that the National Management Committee of The Wilderness Society Inc is not attempting to cement its power … what it is trying to do – with the support of the vast majority of members — is reform the organisation’s constitution to ensure the collective voice of our membership is heard, not just those few who can attend, and potentially stack, a physical general meeting.

The Wilderness Society has called a general meeting for Sunday, May 2, for exactly this purpose — members will be asked at that meeting to pass a resolution to enable postal voting to elect officeholders.  If this resolution is passed, it will effectively democratise The Wilderness Society Inc and empower members to determine the composition of the Management Committee at an Annual General Meeting which has been called for Wednesday, 30 June.

Why is the ‘Save TWS’ campaign so afraid of empowering our 46,000 members and letting them decide who should govern the organisation?

Given the strength of their convictions you would think they would be more than happy with what’s proposed, so why not put it to the test, eh?!


Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “Come in spinner: the PR campaigns driving Anzac Day” (yesterday, item 3) & “Anzac Day: when commemoration becomes commerce”  (yesterday, item 16). Noel Turnbull and Francis Leach both tackled aspects of Anzac Day in our culture and especially misuse of the day by politicians and advertisers. Several points of fact or perspective they missed are also worth noting.

First, the recent book of essays edited by Henry Reynolds and Marilyn Lake represents one extreme of political debate about Anzac Day, not its intellectual, political or indeed cultural centre. The opposite extreme was recently represented in “Quadrant” by the conspiracy theories of Mervyn Bendle.

Second, politically partisan misuse of Anzac Day, Australia’s military history generally or our current defence force is not the sole preserve of conservative political parties. Labor’s emphasis on the so-called but actually never-occurring “Battle for Australia”, or zeroing in on the Kokoda campaign to the exclusion of all others whether in our region or more broadly, are prominent examples to the contrary.

Third, Anzac Day is a day for veterans and their families, and for general public acknowledgement of the sacrifices they made and often continue to make. It is not, and should not be, a military day. Except for bands, the ADA believes no formed unit of the ADF should march in uniform on Anzac Day unless recently returned from active service overseas (or perhaps every decade or so if commemorating some significant milestone anniversary of that unit in battle).

Fourth, the ADA has been the biggest critic of the politicisation of farewell and welcome home ceremonies for ADF contingents deployed overseas. Our necessarily non-partisan defence force must never be misused to score political points in either perception or actuality.

Fifth, it is a pity that for the other 364 days of the year most Australians do not think much, or at all, about the lessons from past conflicts as to how we can best defend Australia now and in the future.

Finally, several years ago before and after the annual Collingwood-Essendon match former Collingwood captain, Nathan Buckley, whose father is a Vietnam veteran, spoke eloquently about what Anzac Day meant — and in particular why there is no comparison between the sporting field and the battlefield as some advertising spruikers are wont to stupidly claim.

Disclosure: Neil James is a life-long Collingwood supporter and agrees with Francis Leach that Oliver Cromwell is much misjudged.


Tony Kevin writes: Re. “Official: carbon leakage is wildly overstated” (yesterday, item 4). Proceeding from Bernard’s Keane’s concluding rejection of the CPRS — a judgement with which I now agree, though I was still not decided when I put my book Crunch Time to bed nine months ago — what is the best alternative market mechanism to get CO2 emissions down?

Quite obviously now,  it is James Hansen’s model of a carbon tax:  a simple national tax on calculated carbon dioxide emissions, levied once only on entry into the national economy of all carbon-burning fuels, either at the mine or wellhead or port of entry, and refunded immediately and in full to all Australian citizens or permanent residents on an equitable per capita basis (which, incidentally,  means it could not credibly be criticised by Tony Abbott as “a big new tax”).

The over-complex and industry-corrupted CPRS was a folly, it is now clear in retrospect. A Hansen-model carbon tax would be simple, transparent, corruption and special-interest proof, and would have the desired impact of creating real  and quick-acting economic market incentives for reduced carbon emissions practices and technologies,   throughout the production-consumption train. The rate could be varied according to society’s evaluation of the seriousness of the mounting climate crisis,  and how much it wants to spend on decarbonisation of the national economy; and whatever the rate, the proceeds would come straight back to consumers’ wallets.

It is not too late for Kevin Rudd to change trains on this. Let’s just admit it now, the CPRS, like coal carbon capture and storage and free batts, was bad climate crisis policymaking — more about expensive gesture politics than real decarbonisation. I see this clearly now — so should the Rudd government. We need a true decarbonisation policy in Australia — the climate crisis is not waiting for Labor’s election timetable.  Get on with it, Kevin.


Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Tamils vote for independence — and will vote against Labor”  (yesterday, item 5). Antony Lowenstein’s was an interesting read. Allowing for some Green posturing the Tamil community is small, but other aggrieved communities may feel equally strongly about the (more) cynical (than usual) Rudd asylum seeker fix. The rather inappropriately called Sri Lankan Freedom Party was once affiliated to Socialist International and through that to the Australian Labor Party. Biting a (sort of) affiliated party of a hated oppressor would be more than ironic.

John Kotsopoulos writes: I don’t know what the Tamils hope to achieve by voting against Labor.  The boat people issue is being inflamed by the Liberals and they are the ones who stand to benefit from this action.   A bit like a turkey voting for Christmas I suggest.

Billboard politics:

Peter Nevin writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (yesterday, item 7).  Seeing First Dog’s reproduction of a billboard attacking Rudd on boat people in today’s edition was timely, as it followed on something that I had been wondering recently — what photos are likely to feature in this year’s attack ads?

If the billboard is anything to go with, the Libs might be in a bit of trouble on this score.  Even in the obligatory black and white with minor-key discordant backing music, you look at the Rudd picture and just end up thinking about Sideshow Alley.

Vulnerable people:

Justin Templer writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. In your editorial you write: “Looks like it’s back to the future with grubby politicking over some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

In fact the world’s most vulnerable people are the children, the old and the infirm who will never have the money, health or connections to get themselves half way across the world.

Take the orphan child slowly dying of hunger and disease in a cesspool somewhere in Africa. Who is saving her? Certainly there is nothing on offer from the specious, hand-wringing debate we are enduring.

Tony Abbott:

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Abbott and no dole for the under 30s” “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 11). Ah, Tony Abbott is at it again. Chasing after, “dog whistling”, the red neck, dole bludger vote. Just cannot help himself.

Abbott has missed the point that currently there are only a total of 5000 vacancies (adult and youth) in the mining industry and that the mining industry only employs 1.5% of the workforce. Hardly a massive number in order to work test the young unemployed.

Secondly, Mr. Abbott has form in bashing the least fortunate in society. In 2002, when he was Employment Minister, he called the unemployed “job snobs” for not looking even harder under rocks, park benches for non-existent jobs. More recently he called homelessness a lifestyle choice.

His mentor, the late and great Bob Santamaria firmly believed that the real unemployment figures showed that we had a real unemployment figure of 20% chasing about 100,000 vacancies or one job for every 20 plus unemployed.


Miranda Murphy, The Australian Online, writes: Re. “Fashion advice for The Australian” “Media briefs: ACA jumps the gun on MasterChef … 2UE program boss aims for Sky … the really hard-hitting Q&A …” (yesterday, item 19).  We’re more anorak types here at The Australian Online but even we know that use of the term ‘hoodie’ has been extended to refer to a type of person wearing one.

Kate Jackson writes: In the UK a hoodie is also slang for the person wearing the piece of clothing, so The Oz is actually correct in their usage. The term “hoodie” received widespread coverage in 2006 when David Cameron rejected suggestions he wanted people to “hug a hoodie” after calling for more understanding of why young people commit crime. See this BBC story for more. It’s minor detail, but hug a hoodie got loads of coverage while I was living in the UK.

Pedant’s postage stamp:

Chris Harrison writes:  No, Chris Owens (yesterday, comments), maintain the rage. I pointed out the incorrect use of  “for free” instead of the proper “free”.  I was criticised by some and supported by others (Crikey 11 November 2009). It’s you, Don Watson and me against the world!

Climate change:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re:  “Climate pledges fall short” “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 11). I love it.  The supernova of climate “science” is entering its collapse-into-a-black-hole phase while expelling its outer layers of dodgy data, sloppy statistics and, oh, this pesky 12 year cooling trend that 95% of climate models failed to predict, yet Richard Farmer cheerily peddles some new German predictions (climate “science” is all about predictions) of temperatures soaring 3C by 2100.

Well, what a bunch of climate-hysteria loafers those Krauts are.  I mean, 3C?  Pathetic.  I thought we were tracking for at least 5C in the climate-scare game!

Meanwhile, out here in the real world, it is calculated that if the Earth had no atmosphere and were a black lump of rock at its current distance from the Sun, it would be just 8C cooler than it is now.  So the entire atmospheric and ocean system adds just 8C to our average temperature.  Yet a bunch of guys with computer models say that eking up the amount of CO2 in this system from its current 0.038% to, say, 0.045% will crank temperatures up another 3C and BOOM!… Thermageddon.

Give. Me. A. Break.


Apr 22, 2010


The Tasmanian Supreme Court has slapped down beleaguered Wilderness Society executive director Alec Marr’s bid to retain control over the organisation, ruling this morning that a secret AGM attended by just 14 people last year was invalid.

In a short hearing, in which Marr’s umbrella organisation TWS Inc declined to offer a substantial defence, judge Peter Evans also ruled a special resolution passed at the meeting to increase the threshold for constitutional change to 4,500 names was invalid.

Queensland Wilderness Society Campaign Manager Tim Seelig, part of a dissident group challenging Marr for control of the divided organisation, immediately called on Marr and his national committee of management to fall on their swords.

“Alec’s authority and the management committee is now trashed,” he told Crikey outside court. “They should stand down immediately. The state campaign centres are now calling on the committee to immediately stand down so members can properly rule on their future.”

The court was asked to rule on the sparsely-attended AGM in November last year that changed the constitution and ensured the Marr-dominated management committee would serve for another three years. In a move reminiscent of the darkest manoeuvrings of student politics, the AGM was advertised in the mostly-unread Fairfax publication the Burnie Advocate.

Dissidents last night circulated a letter to members and a media release from six campaign centre managers urging members to converge on Canberra for a special meeting on May 2, organised by Marr. The state-based groupings say they have the backing of 95% of the organisation’s 45,000-strong membership.

“We have completely lost trust and confidence in the Executive Director and the national management committee … It’s time for change,” they wrote, highlighting “bullying and poor staff management, wasteful consultancies” and a lack of campaign “direction and accountability”. Marr had originally called the meeting to shore up his authority by allowing a postal vote on its future.

Meanwhile, Crikey can reveal Marr shut down his own email system yesterday to prevent dissidents from contacting members. At 4:40pm, as forces committed to Marr’s overthrow prepared to send out a missive spruiking their intention to roll the veteran campaigner, access to the group’s ‘PHP’ mailing list was shut down.

Marr confirmed this morning that he had ordered the email list be taken off-line, saying the proposed mailout calling on him to resign was “illegal”, an “invasion of people’s privacy” and was designed to spread “misinformation among the members”. Newcastle campaigner Vanessa Culliford, who drafted the letter to members, had “absolutely no legal rights at all” to access the email list.

“We’re a separately incorporated body, and it’s an abuse of the email system,” he said.

But Culliford denied the claims: “the PHP lists are created through the work that state-based campaign centres do. I am simply informing our membership of the views of the state campaign centres … in terms of being abused by Alec Marr, I’ve been working for TWS for a long time so I’m used to it.”

Dissidents say the May 2 meeting to enable members to submit postal votes will now become a referendum on his membership style.

Before this morning Supreme Court ruling, Marr said his proposed changes to the Wilderness Society’s structure would benefit members: “We’ve already agreed to a new AGM. Our biggest problem was the previous AGM didn’t allow enough people to be involved.

“The organisation has overhauled its constitution — we’ve currently got the constitution of a tennis club for an organisation with 45,000 people. It’s completely inappropriate and allows small groups of people to effectively take over without a mandate.”

Acrimony continues to fester in Wilderness Society offices across Australia. One incident, confirmed by three parties, involved a spat over microwaved spaghetti bolognese at lunch time, with the re-heater accused of being a “meat eater” by ecologically-tinged staff.

Marr personally investigated the claims and unleashed a tirade against the complainants, who appeared to be a proxy for the organisation’s split between grassroots eco-warriors and be-suited management focused on business plans.

After the spaghetti eating finance staffer left the organisation, Marr is reported to have unleashed the following tirade: “You don’t have to be a fucking greenie to work at TWS. I’ve got a great big four-wheel drive. But at least I haven’t had a fucking BABY!”

Marr said the comments were “meant to be a joke”.

Tips and rumours

Feb 4, 2010


Former John Della Bosca supporter and ministerial adviser Deborah O’Neill has announced her intention to challenge Belinda Neal for federal preselection in Robertson.

David Jones will be watching Myer’s sales results closely this week as there are a few rumblings within the ranks of the so-called upmarket department store. With yet another “coffee and a sandwich” fashion show (while Myer hosts a nighttime event again), some of DJ’s stable of top designers are rumoured to be knocking on the door of Myer after it took its key designers over to LA in an effort to support them overseas and stamp its fashion credentials as the home of the best local talent. Perhaps some of our Aussie designers will no longer be at “no other department store”

Interesting to see the fallout of the LNP leadership challenge in Queensland. There has been speculation that deputy leader Lawrence Springborg and his long-time adviser Jake Smith were doing some stalking via Beaudesert MP Aidan McLindon. However, it is another figure that was also involved. That third party is McLindon’s own staff member.  McLindon’s adviser has been seen often meeting and dining with Smith, a known culinary aficionado . It seems the stalking horses have been sent in on several levels.

With significant price increases predicted Medibank Private has worked out a nice little earner to minimise the lost revenue from those renewing their cover before the price increases take effect. According to the operator, if you paid last year’s bill using Bpay or POSTbillpay three or less days before the due date, or shortly after the due date, then this year’s invoice is only for six months. There’s no mention of this policy on the six-month invoice. Medibank Private then gets to pick up the increase for the second six months.It does  offer the 12-month payment option but there’s no mention of that either on the renewal invoice. You have to contact them for the annual invoice amount.

Re. the Glover and politicians first names. We ABC people are actually instructed not to use their first names only, but to use full name, or title (Minister, etc). Perhaps Glover is “such a star” these rules don’t apply to him!

Re. the tip in yesterday’s Crikey, the NSW Police Minister is Michael Daley, not Michael Delaney. Whoever sent this in looks a bit dim since they’re correcting Richard Glover for calling him Michael instead of Minister. At least he got his name right!

Over two years ago Triple M (led by program director Guy Dobson) axed its highest rating show Get This. This show out-rated everything on Triple M, and lifted the station three or four positions in the ratings every time it was on. It was also a ground-breaking show, and is still referred to fondly when people discuss the demise of the once great station. Its axing was blamed by Dobson on the required diversion of funds to boost the Triple M breakfast shows. Since then, Triple M has plunged to the bottom of the commercial ratings table, has had numerous failed breakfast shows in  Sydney and Melbourne, but, two years after axing, old broadcasts of Get This are in the overall top 100 podcasts at iTunes. Oh, and Guy Dobson was promoted to CEO of Austereo. Talk about failing up.

Re: internal ructions at The Wilderness Society, check their latest official tweet:

Fascinating isn’t it how Minister Conroy gets his knickers in a twist every time someone makes a few relevant points about his vainglorious internet filter. His response yesterday to Bernard Keane’s article is/was a joke. He seems unable to make his point in a concise manner and then accuses all of us who oppose him for getting the story wrong — when in fact he seems to have major personal communications difficulties. How ironic given his job title. Anyway, we can all spin and counter spin — until the cows come home.

The real questions he needs to answer are:

  • Why is Conroy doing this?
  • Who has influenced/driven him and what do they get in return?
  • What are the real costs/benefits of his scheme?
  • What was actually agreed by his boss?

And before he responds with more BS —  he might like to consider the possibility that someone already knows the answers 🙂