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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Sunday, 22 June 2008
NSW Stateline implies Minister Hatz is a fatty food friend, especially $2M political donors, hurting our kids?
Mood:  don't ask
Topic: nsw govt


We sometimes feel normal people don't watch NSW Stateline on ABC TV, only wonky tragics, the terminally bored, or dateless. Or all three? Or maybe 1 follows 3 causing 2? Never mind. We never aspired to normality as such. Leadership is more our style, or as Damien Minton, gallery owner, suggested earlier this year "you've always been good at getting in front of things". Well thankyou for that DM.

The point is Nick Grimm - who once conceded he does refer to SAM micro news here on occasion - and the usual compere Quentin Dempster at Stateline (recovering from a little heart corrective surgery according to the 'iguanas' at the Sunday Fairfax Naked Eye column (a week back), are two of the state's best journos. And Deborah Rice is rather nice too as stand in compere (though we often get her mixed up with a doppleganger on Ch10). And they got up on their hind legs with this story:

Extreme Dissatisfaction A medical researcher receives rough justice.

by Nick Grimm and Renata Gombac from the ABC's Investigative Unit.


 Now if Minister Hat did get extremely angry, he will have a coronary about this story because, as they say in the classics, the truth hurts. Some choice quotes, with bold added:

 NICK GRIMM: It all raises questions about the extent to which academic freedom has been eroded at Sydney University under the watch of this man, Vice Chancellor Gavin Brown, who this evening will be celebrating the last day in the job he's held since 1996.

In contrast, not only has Michael Booth seen his promising career destroyed, but years of medical research have been laid waste and the fight against childhood obesity and other health problems has received a significant setback. ....

NICK GRIMM: Not so long ago, Michael Booth enjoyed a high public profile as a Director of the NSW Centre for Overweight and Obesity. He held a coveted senior research fellowship with the National Health and Medical Research Council and he was a regular expert media commentator on Australia's burgeoning public health crisis.

MICHAEL BOOTH (archive footage): And if left unchecked, will probably shorten their lives considerably.

WAYNE SMITH, PUBLIC HEALTH, SYDNEY UNIVERSITY: Michael is a talented researcher. We don't have that many talented researchers and for his career to be at least interrupted and perhaps cut short is a shame for research. .... 

BEN FREEDMAN, ACTING DEAN, FACULTY OF MEDICINE (voiceover): "I have pleasure in informing you that you have been awarded the title of Associate Professor. May I take the opportunity of congratulating you on your appointment and thanking you for your willingness to contribute to the University's activities."

NICK GRIMM: Somewhat controversially, the key finding of the SPANS research was that it's over-eating and not lack of exercise that's the key cause of Australian children getting fatter, contrary to the arguments of the fast food industry. He also had data showing that without urgent intervention, large numbers of young people were likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes.

MICHAEL BOOTH: They were really quite explosive data.

NICK GRIMM: And in April 2006, Michael Booth was asked to discuss these findings at the NSW diabetes summit. He showed Stateline a series of emails illustrating that he first requested and received permission to do so from NSW Health. .... 

NICK GRIMM: Michael Booth soon discovered he was in deep, deep trouble with the Minister. John Hatzistergos had had Michael Booth's report in his possession for eight months but had not yet officially released it.


NICK GRIMM: Documents shown to Stateline reveal that Gavin Brown himself referred the matter that had so offended the Minister to the investigator who would eventually recommend Michael Booth's dismissal, officially for ethical misconduct. ...

 NICK GRIMM: Dr Booth did eventually succeed in forcing the university to conduct a review of his dismissal. In April this year, the university's review committee, which included a retired Supreme Court judge, found that his sacking was unreasonable because he had not been afforded procedural fairness when the matter was investigated. Michael Booth says that's now cold comfort. ....

NICK GRIMM: Stateline isn't suggesting that the Minister directed the actions that led to Michael Booth's dismissal, but it does appear that his anger may have been instrumental in what some might argue has been the university's overreaction to his alleged misdemeanours. ....

NICK GRIMM: Within 24 hours of Stateline advising the university we were doing the story, Dr Booth received a settlement offer from its lawyers. However, the compensation offered falls well short of covering his legal and medical bills, already in excess of $100,000. Michael Booth does not intend to accept the offer. .... 

DEBORAH RICE: We sent the Minister's office an invitation to respond to allegations about his role in the fall of Michael Booth. A spokesman told us Dr Michael Booth has been under investigation by the University of Sydney with respect to allegations of serious impropriety. The matter has not been finalised. .....


One other piece of background: We took an interest in ex Minister for Health, now super minister John Hatzistergos, when he first appeared on the front cover of the NSW Law Society. This spoke volumes to us at least about the creeping annexation of all things State of ALP to be on the lawyer's union magazine cover in matey pose when he is actually the lawyer's boss in many ways - oversight of courts, govt legal business and departments etc. Frankly we felt that front cover was inappropriate lack of independence, though a fair enough subject of reportage of the new man as AG.

(Indeed we reflected recently how lucky we are, at least presently, to have a paralegal temping job through a regular job agency - to our surprise we have 57 words per minute on the keyboard -currently placed in one of the few firms surely outside the pervading ALP influence. We are doing document admin/integrity in corporate restructures - on a strictly confidential basis - strictly, otherwise go to 'gaol' in the Monopoly game sense or even real sense, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Or more likely goodbye practising certificate - disgraced for breach of solemn oath - we struggled mightily to achieve off a low base.

Ironicly for a greenie, it's a job we are probably well suited for, being totally cured of affluenza way back in 1992 if not earlier. If we must work for Da Man, actually a woman, to earn an honest living it might as well be nuts and bolts work on sound corporate process.)

We also took notice of The Hat some many months back in an amusing column by Joe Hildebrand in the Daily Telegraph on state parliament rounds, as alter ego for that organ to Simon Benson. Each ingratiate themselves with either major 'party' meaning Coalition Opposition (Lib Nat), or ALP, respectively, to get their access. Access which means of course stories for you dear reader from each side of institutional power. That's how it's done. Same for Fairfax with say Coorey into the Coaliton at federal level and Hartcher the Rudd Govt. Or something like that.

Hildebrand wrote of the menacing tendencies of 'The Hat' Minister Hatzistergos, who according to Joe had issued a fatwa against him. The article was important, even for the satirical back pages Saturday edition, because by going public JH and editor were calling The Hat's bluff. It was good copy too, and you could hear the Coalition cheering 'their' man at The Daily Blowtorch aka The Terror on.

The Hat presents as a serious behind the scenes kind of guy, but also no slouch with set piece media choreography. He's slender so no obvious physical addictions. He's a lawyer by training if memory serves. He was Health minister in the cracking story last Friday by Stateline but now is Attorney General but also super minister picking up sidelined Education Minister Della Bosca's duties. He doesn't play act in the upper house from our direct observation, distinct from Costa or Della. He gives every impression of doing power paper work or wanting to be back at his desk pulling the wings off bureaucrats and activist academics. But does he have a touch of the 1970ies Greek fascist generals about him?

 The Hat, so says NSW Stateline above last Friday in a 15 minute tour de force, not least via horror backing music 3 times akin to the famous Jaws or Psycho shower scene, is seriously implicated in doing over a child obsesity expert Dr Booth at Sydney University. Raising questions of academic independence, says Stateline (under our old friend departing Vice Chancellor Gavin Brown on around $600K pa, whose people had us evicted for 9 months off campus in a wanton abuse of power reported here:

5 March 2008

NSW Ombudsman helps protect community media 5th estate free speech on uni campus
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: independent media 

Further The Hat sat not on a mat (!) but on this expert Dr Booth's report for 8 months suggesting as we paraphrase it, Minister Hatzistergos was suppressing the potentially financially and politically "explosive" academic research finding that it was over eating by children, and not lack of exercise that was a main cause of obesity. This in turn directly implicates the fizzy drink makers and fast food giants of Super Size fame with their PHD researched tv advertising dollars (refer great documentary The Corporation).

This issue of obesity is indeed big as per reportage in recent days:

Obesity epidemic: We are the world's fattest | NEWS.com.au 

THE obesity epidemic has been drastically underestimated and we're now the fattest nation in the world, a report says.

This is indeed bad: For the economy, for gross national happiness, for health, and if climate threats are as bad as some say, bad for our prospects of survival when the going gets tough. Time to get in training folks to work off the flab - institutionally as per these pathetic power games above, and personally.

Notice this research on donations by The Green Party regarding one big fat food corporate Coca Cola Amatil no doubt via their profound democracy for sale website, in another context of waste management but equally applicable to influence on health policy:

"Ian Cohen recently called for a moratorium on all political donations from beverage companies, particularly whilst a national review of the viability of a container deposit scheme is underway. Coca Cola have donated over $900,000 to the ALP over the last nine years."

Ian Cohen MLC, The Greens, media release NSW Government joins in Coca Cola greenwash 21/05/2008


Coca Cola have donated almost two million dollars to the major political parties in this country over the last nine years,” said Upper House Greens MP Ian Cohen.

“What the developer donations scandal has revealed in NSW is that political donors make donations in order to gain preferential access to and/or treatment from MPs and Ministers.

“He who pays the piper calls the tune. There should be a moratorium on all political donations from beverage companies, particularly while a national review of the viability of a container deposit scheme is underway.

“Voluntary waste management schemes have consistently failed to achieve targets for recycling and resource recovery."

Greens to Coca Cola: “stop political donations, start container deposit” 15/05/2008


One assumes the other big food corporates are making similar donations to the State of ALP? Might this be the root cause of the Minister's anger and indeed sitting on such a report for 8 months? We do tend to think so.

Interestingly CCA PR flack is Sally Loane now, ex ABC, and married we understand to district court judge Robert Sorby whom she reports they met in Canberra when she was in the Press Gallery. Mr Sorby did what exactly? Federal ALP opposition staffer? We have no idea. It appeears he was appointed under the current ALP govt at least as far back as 2001. As far as we know it's all proper and at arms length.

We notice Judge Sorby drawn into this media - law controversy over free press and administration of justice recently. He aborted a trial in 2006 reported on by the SMH's Sexton who is hanging tough in the face of criticism, retracted in confusing form.

The informal political networks run deep of colleagues and mates, innocent or otherwise, including across the sisterhood in the health and Sydney Uni sector (Bashir, Firth, Loane, Burgmann etc all here as per this website for the worthy cause of breast cancer research).


Now we recall Nick Grimm as a gun former 7.30 Reporter. We also recall he is no slouch on legal issues. We think he has nailed the alternatively slick and lethal Hat to the wall. For the sake of children's health here and nationally we hope that the Hat gets the kind of big media blowtorch over the buried obesity expert's report that Belinda Neal is getting over alleged abuse of power, or other arguably more shallow matters.

But that would mean confronting fat food advertisers and retailers who 'feed' the big media, tv and corporate press.

One cannot help but feel proud of the ABC sometimes. Well done NSW Stateline. Dempster may have been physically missing but his Macduff like influence could be felt across the airwaves. Get well QD. Beware the witches!

The Three Witches as portrayed in the 2006 film Macbeth.

Postscript #1

Sent: Sunday, June 22, 2008 11:08 AM

> Dear Sam,
> Regarding your surprise that Hatzistergos should
> appear on the front pages of your conservative lawyers
> union here is a chronology :
> 1. January 2007 - Geoff Dunlevy becomes President.
> 2. March 2007 - election and Hatzistergos becomes
> Attorney General.
> 3. September 2007 - Dunlevy is appointed to the bench
> as a magistrate.
> Mr Dunlevy was very Labor 'friendly'.
> An article by Chris Merritt in the Australian
> newspaper on 30 August 2007, Law Society chief made
> magistrate:

> I do not suggest  Mr Dunlevy was other than admirably
> qualified for appointmnt as a magistrate or there is
> anything untoward in the timing of events.
> BUT they are the historical facts.

Posted by editor at 6:30 AM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 24 June 2008 6:13 AM NZT

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