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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Margaret Simons' blog breaks new editor story at Fairfax flagship
Topic: independent media

Is it in the newspaper today?

Marg broke the story here as far as I can tell:

Peter Fray to Edit the Sydney Morning Herald

Following Alan Oakley around is getting to be a habit for Peter Fray, who is to be the new editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, replacing Alan Oakley who walked a few weeks ago.

Fray, 46, will start in his new job mid-January. Before editing the Canberra Times - a post he has held for only 10 months - he edited the Sunday Age for two years, succeeding - Alan Oakley.

An email to staff from Lloyd Whish-Wilson, Fairfax Media?s chief executive and publisher, NSW & ACT Metropolitan Publishing, confirmed the appointment today.

The other candidate mentioned in dispatches was Mark Baker, who was Fray?s predecessor as editor of the Canberra Times. Baker was interviewed.

It is not an easy time to be a newspaper editor, and a Fairfax editor in particular.

More on what it means tomorrow.

Posted by editor at 2:30 PM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2008 3:08 PM EADT
Bloggers unhappy with Santa Conroy's Christmas present of net filter plan
Topic: independent media

Would this image of arguable child abuse be filtered by the proposed Australian internet filter? Presumably the intention would be not to. Or maybe it would? It was sent to us by an activist/artist woman in our networks.

Did you laugh? It's a pretty awful series of pics maybe by anti Christmas types. Or anti Coca Cola given Santa used to be in green. Or defiant DINKs? Or just people with a rich sense of humour? On one level the image is a very witty comment on a silly tradition in western society that is seen as harmless and innocent - the cute baby pic of child on Saint Nicholas's knee. Inevitably taken in shopping centres. All part of the Coca Cola consumerist indoctrination from the earliest age one presumes. What could be more western and mainstream than that?

The thought of net censorship crossed our mind given a controversial case of a guy in the news recently who uploaded a borderline bad taste video of roughhouse 'play' with a child. We really don't approve of that unless like they are world class acrobats or something. It's bound to end in kids getting hurt.

Which brings us to the big serious argument over the management of the web in a civilised society: Here's a good roundup by Glenn Milne of News Corp

Too many holes in Rudd Government internet filter | The Daily ...23 Nov 2008

Received yesterday:

Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 8:36 PM
Subject: The Internet Filter - A Bad Idea.
Hi everyone,

Normally we do not allow political topics here on the forums as people tend to take sides and it can end in arguments. However on this occasion I think we can *all* agree that the plan to filter the internet is a very bad idea.

If this filter is implemented, it may change the internet as we know it. It may change blogging as we know it. Asher Moses reported - Entire user-generated content sites, such as YouTube and Wikipedia, could be censored over a single suspect posting - this means sites like Blogger and Wordpress.com could also be censored.

There will be no way for people to opt out of the filter, it will slow down the internet significantly, and recently Senator Stephen Conroy has admitted in a blog post that the government intends to use the filter to filter peer to peer and bit torrent traffic as well.

We have a post on the forums with more information and things you can do to express your thoughts and feelings on this subject to politicians. We also suggest writing a blog post to inform your readers about the proposed plans.

As I say, normally we do not get political but this is a serious issue that may affect us all, and we feel it is important to inform our forum members of the latest developments, provide a thread where you can discuss it, and provide ways you can take action if you feel as strongly as we do on this topic. The thread can be found here -



The Aussie Bloggers Forum Team.



Postscript 29th Jan 2008

Up until now SAM hasn't got too exercised about the net filtering plan. We are equally concerned about child safety. And perhaps because there is a critical mass of concern being democratically expressed so we can coast on the issue.

SAM has a longer term concern. Two way cameras as a compulsory installation on home computers or networked through private homes. Just like Orwell's 1984. Interesting to note bus drivers in the last Sunday press reacting industrially to 'spy' cameras on them in their driver's seat as oppressive intrusions, that interferes in their concentration on the road. Mmm. A taste of civil liberties battle to come? Similarly Police reacting to being filmed in high stress raid situations. With reaction to that concern by citizen journalists. It's a very fluid area of public policy with the shadow of prescient George Orwell's 1984. What a man he was. If only medical science had been up to nurturing away from an early death.

Posted by editor at 1:02 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 29 December 2008 9:09 AM EADT
How to beat big oil, big govt and big auto ..... with a bicycle trailer and exercise
Topic: ecology

It's a bicycle kind of holiday break. We are onto our 3rd new bike project in as many weeks as well as a somewhat oversized bike trailer cut down from old sign board assembly. See picture above. No rego, no petrol, no parking fees. Quite alot of exercise and careful navigation and load management.

With bike trailers 'it's all about articulation". That is where the trailer pivots on the bicycle to steer safely, and sufficiently low centre of gravity to avoid bouncing. This big trailer is surprisingly versatile with small turning circle. This is our third model in 12 months and a serious beast. Children are amused and curious especially with furniture on board. It's a great conversation starter - did you make it (not really it's a conversion), is it heavy (not bad with gears, just take it slow), you could fit a fridge on that etc.

We've made two serious trips from Marrickville to Bondi Junction and back with 'stuff', and the last load was a whopping 46 kg in weight not including the trailer itself. Yes we were tired due to both the heat and weight despite the very low gears making it all doable. On the other hand our fitness is bouncing back after a day or two as well. Also our 5 plus years experience in Sydney delivery driving work has added alot of value - to track the back streets and ridgelines that one ignores in a van but become your life and soul on a bicycle with a heavy load.

We were shocked one early morning with big trailer in tow to find we arrived in Bondi Junction from Marrickville in only an hour with plenty of energy in 'the tank' which is actually quite comparable with car travel time but no petrol costs.

Ideally our trailer would be a foot narrower at the side of the road. Currently it is not at all suitable on main roads with fast traffic. Luckily we are sufficiently knowledgeable of secondary roads, lanes and Centennial Park bike circuit etc to still navigate safely. Since taking the picture above we have added a rear mirror ($3 bargain from The Bower) to the right hand side handle bars which is perfect for managing rear approaching traffic. We have also removed the heavy wire cage replaced with light weight plastic bread trays and milk crates.

We are becoming surprisingly proficient in stripping and rebuilding bikes, learning via the web a shrader (car) versus a presta (high pressure) tyre valve. Also we are becoming quite religious about vitamin E cream on the hands making degreaser and soap that much more effective after every workshop session.

And speaking of workshops there is this great community social capital venue here which we will be checking out in January 2009 called The Bike Club. Their congregating times are Monday evenings apparently with more details here showing their old location in Forbes Ave Newtown and now 1 Phillip St Waterloo:

Header image

Nunnery Bike Workshop - Fix, Build, Hang out, or Talk about Bikes at our Workshop!

Take your pick!The Nunnery Community Bike Workshop, at 1 Phillip St, Waterloo, collects abandoned bikes and parts to create working bikes to put back into the community. This bikes are put together by you, the community, with help from others who come. It is also a place to fix up your bikes with the tools and parts available. Come and learn to fix bikes, show us how to fix bikes, fix your bike or a friend?s, or just come and have some tea and coffee. Everyone is welcome!

To see the latest happenings and news at the workshop, go to our Discussions and Events page.

Here are some other successful bike trailer models we've seen around the place. And we understand you can even buy them at K-mart these days. Now that's a surprise.

Posted by editor at 10:56 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2008 12:02 PM EADT
Rudd Govt choreography on Dr Haneef case post Mumbai, echoes Howard govt hard line at APEC 2007?
Topic: aust govt

Picture: Silent vigil outside Sydney Supreme Court 5th Sept 2007 for civil liberties case to rally against W Bush prior to internationally significant Asia Pacific Economic Forum with world leaders attending, and just prior to November 07 federal election in Australia. The politics of terrorism, security and civil liberties were very high during this phase of national politics in parallel with the Dr Haneef Case which hit the news from July 2007.


Where is our celebrity PM Kevin Rudd, who couldn't keep his hands off the climate change white paper to the detriment of Minister Wong? Who gazumped his minister with a pre booked launch at the National Press Club?

In one word Mumbai. That is, Rudd is not there, but it is the terrorist slaughter only weeks ago by Islamist fanatics in India that explains why Rudd is ducking this high profile case of "wrongful arrest" of Indian doctor Haneef to quote Peter Faris QC in the news today. Or was that wrongfully charged (more like it in our view).

In reality despite the large scale of this controversy and the full engagement of relevant Green MP Senator Scott Ludlum on the civil rights aspects, and broadsheet press today, and ABC in all forms, what we are really seeing is a 'take out the trash' form of media management.

Picture: 8th Sept 2007 rally, David Marr journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald front of the paper again today on the Haneef civil liberties case.

This is a phrase borrowed from the West Wing TV series (with link to episode profile to follow asap).

1-13 (13) "Take out the Trash Day" Aaron Sorkin Ken Olin January 26, 2000


The title refers to the Friday press briefing wherein the White House releases information about several sensitive stories, thereby preventing discussion and reducing any probable impact in the media.

Donna: What's take out the trash day?
Josh: Friday.
Donna: I mean, what is it?
Josh: Any stories we have to give the press that we're not wild about, we give all in a lump on Friday.
Donna: Why do you do it in a lump?
Josh: Instead of one at a time?
Donna: I'd think you'd want to spread them out.
Josh: They've got X column inches to fill, right? They're going to fill them no matter what.
Donna: Yes.
Josh: So if we give them one story, that story's X column inches.
Donna: And if we give them five stories ...
Josh: They're a fifth the size.
Donna: Why do you do it on Friday?
Josh: Because no one reads the paper on Saturday.
Donna: You guys are real populists, aren't you?

A clue is found in the high circulation tabloid Sydney Daily Telegraph or rather absence of the story at all. Their front page is a child in a polka dot dress for Christmas. It's the holiday season folks. No one cares. They should but they don't.

Picture: Witty protester asserting right to protest against W Bush 8th Sept 07 rally during APEC, Sydney CBD.

The federal ALP Govt know that people have gone into holiday mode. As do the news savvy tabloid editor. As if to rub salt into the wound of this civil liberties agenda Sydney CBD had a well publicised public safety drill yesterday with an emergency siren around midday amongst festive shopping crowd. The subtext was Mumbai of course. Choreographed by the state arm of the same federal ALP machine in power nationally the day the Haneef report was released.

What we have dear reader is a Haneef report the federal government sat on for a month and released along with a raft of other policies (Education, Homeless, Infrastructure, Afghanistan) all in the wake of the Emissions Trading Scheme White Paper which really did crank public anxiety and will continue to do so.

Picture: A particularly impressive banner at the anti Bush rally 8th Sept 2007 sought to be prevented by NSW security agencies as a potential terrorist threat.

In real politik terms we have the security authorities here doing what appears to all the world as racial and religous profiling of Dr Haneef. Add to that a loose familial or social relation of the hapless Indian to fanatics in Scotland, one of whom died of self inflicted burns in a thankfully incompetent terrorism attempt and you may well have reasonable grounds for arrest or questioning.

And remember all the conventional security agency 'wisdom' about guilt laden middle class Muslim professionals, especially medical folks, over the death rate of 'their people' in various war torn places across the world 'caused by the West'. Not least the 2IC of Al Qaeda, qualified surgeon Dr. Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri. All egged on by a federal govt led by ex PM John Howard desperate to win an election just as he did with the infamous racialised 'children thrown over board' lie on their record back in 2001.

Picture: Another example of state security arguably going over the top from Sept 2007.

In the innocent Dr Haneef case there is the ongoing detention and charges which were eventually dropped for lack of evidence. Even so in the wake of the slaughter in Mumbai the civil liberties lobby have been overtaken by circumstances. This writer has no doubt Haneef was positioned by the former federal govt in mid 2007 in a racialised white supremacist type appeal to the electorate in the highly politicised lead up to the federal election. A replay of the Tampa/children overboard affair if you like. Dog whistling to the swinging 5% 'One Nation' voter demographic that almost lost PM Howard the election in 1998.

PM Rudd and NSW ALP are also mindful of the same redneck swinging vote too. The Haneef stuff up in power politik terms is not really about ABC listeners and watchers, or broadsheet audience generally of a moderate thoughtful disposition. It's all about the politik of terrorism after Mumbai and 'taking out the trash' at Christmas time - no one is to be held responsible career wise for the Dr Haneef farce in any severe way. No apology, rather compo lawyers at 20 paces for damaged reputation. It's also a big win for federal police commissioner Mick Keelty dodging 'a bullet' (metaphorically speaking) to his career.

Barrister Keim has been busy saying in the quality media something like 'its a very bad report for Keelty and the Australian Federal Police'. This may well be true, but it's also a wet lettuce.

Picture: Different Police Force, same story? Here it is NSW not Federal Police, caught deliberately breaching their own rules by failing to wear identity tags, at anti Bush rally APEC 8 Sept 07. A symptom arguably of the same problems of cowboy mismanagement of state power in issues of public safety and perceived terrorism threat.

Posted by editor at 8:20 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2008 11:40 AM EADT
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
New tenancy protection for renters in a falling market is probably redundant
Topic: aust govt

We notice the letters page in today's Sydney Daily Telegraph building on coverage as per their sister paper here:

Rudd plan makes evictions harder | The Australian 22 Dec 2008

LANDLORDS could find it harder to evict tenants under a Rudd Government plan to combat homelessness.

The Government's $7.3 billion package to halve homelessness by 2020 also includes a brokerage fund to provide mortgage top-ups and extra security for victims of domestic violence.

The joint Commonwealth-state Road Home white paper, released yesterday by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, sets ambitious legislative reforms and interim targets to 2013.

It aims to reduce the rate of homelessness in 2013 from 53 to 40 per 10,000; more services and specialist workers.

"A country like this should not have this problem. As a nation we can do a lot better than that," Mr Rudd said.

About $6.1 billion of funding was previously announced but Mr Rudd and the states yesterday pledged an extra $1.2 billion over four years - which the Government said would help create up to 10,000 jobs.

A key plank is keeping people connected to family networks and in their homes.

The Government will review the impact of without-grounds termination clauses on homelessness in state legislation and the lack of legislative protection for boarders and lodgers.

Legislation in many states allows landlords to evict tenants even if they have not breached their agreement, which lobby groups argue enables retaliation and discrimination.

"Most state and territory tenancy legislation permits without-grounds termination of a tenancy agreement by a landlord," the white paper said.

"As a result, a tenant may be legally given notice and forced to leave their rented home through no fault of their own.

"In such a circumstance, people become homeless if they are unable to find other housing that is suitable or affordable."

The review has been welcomed by Tenants' Union of Queensland co-ordinator Penny Carr, who said without-grounds evictions would remain in new Queensland legislation to be enacted next year.

"We think the introduction of just-cause evictions would be a major step forward," Ms Carr said.

She denied investors would be markedly impacted by changes.

The Commonwealth and states will also jointly sponsor a brokerage fund to keep victims of domestic violence in their homes.

It will help pay for installing deadlocks, screen doors, security lighting and home alarms, plus fund short-term subsidies or mortgage top-ups.

Well the writer is a renter in Sydney for 18 years already. As a result we don't have any negative equity in a house in a falling market. We don't have any property settlement in a divorce (or a divorce for that matter) and we haven't paid one red cent in oppressive interest under the yoke of a lending institution. Though our credit card debt is another question. As one activist with terminal cancer said once - thank God I didn't waste my time with a mortgage. We also have alot of flexibility and freedom with where we live.

But the thing about this latest legislative stroke to calm the concerns of renter voters by the federal government is that it is the market above all that tends to threaten renters. And given the investment market has just hit a wall with alot less motivation to demolish/renovate and jack up rents, or just churn tenants with an increase in rent with every change over. Literally the global financial crisis, crash in the share market, super savings, and reduction in discretionary spending means that there is a seriously depressed property market. As a result renters are alot less at risk - at least that's our impression. There is significant corroboration here:

financial crisis

21 Oct 2008 Is There a Recession Brewing in Our Housing Bubble? | newmatilda.com

The next phase of the economic crisis could be a crash in Australian property prices, writes Ben Eltham

"Auctions fall despite grant boost" read the banner headline of The Sunday Age.

"Melbourne's property market yesterday suffered its worst day in at least four years, despite yesterday being the first auction day when prospective buyers had access to the increased first-home buyers grant," wrote Chris Vedelago and Peter Weekes. The Australian reported much the same thing, although there was an increase in Sydney.

Could this be the beginning of the end of Australia's house price bubble? If it is, we should all be pretty concerned.

Paul Sheehan certainly is. In a breathless article for Fairfax, he quoted BNP Paribas strategist Hans Redeker saying that the Australian current account deficit could "spiral out of control".

It couldn't happen here, could it? Well, yes actually. After all, it's happened before: in 19th Century Melbourne.

1880s Melbourne was a wonder of the world. Driven by a booming mining sector and a white-hot property bubble (sound familiar?), the southern city grew into one of the largest metropolises in the British Empire ? and for a time, one of the richest. For a few years, "Marvellous Melbourne" had the world's tallest office building and some of the most expensive real estate on the planet. This was the famous Land Boom of the 1880s, which culminated in a speculative frenzy amazingly similar to the US subprime mortgage bubble of 2002-2006.

As Michael Cannon wrote in his history of the boom, The Land Boomers, "under the loose banking and company laws of the time, [so-called Land Banks] were able to take savings deposits, issue shares, float loans, discount promissory notes and other commercial paper, and in general perform all the functions of an established bank."

Cheap money flooded in from Britain, land prices soared, while rental yields dropped to 2.5 per cent ? in other words, it would take 40 years of rental earnings to pay for a property.

Economic historians today consider the colonial Australian banking system as a model of free market deregulation. In the words of two historians from Belfast University, "it had few legal barriers to entry, no branching restrictions and ... no credible restrictions on assets, liabilities or bank capital, nor legally established price controls."

Surprise, surprise: it turns out that this was not a good thing. The Australian colonies' unregulated banking system produced a property bust and banking crisis that looks eerily familiar in our own time. As land prices plummeted, borrowers defaulted, taking banks and building societies down with them.

Between 1891 and 1892, 20 major financial institutions failed and investors lost more than L20 billion. Confidence in colonial banks collapsed. After a brief respite, a full-scale banking crisis ensued in 1893 when the Federal Bank collapsed, followed a few months later by the Commercial Bank of Australia and 10 other institutions. Of 65 building societies operating in Victoria in 1885, only three survived by 1893.

With no central bank or national government, Australia had few available policy options. The result was a devastating economic depression: Australian GDP fell 17 per cent and it took nine years for the economy to recover to 1891 levels. Some economists think the 1890s depression may have been worse than that of the 1930s.

Could it happen again? Let's hope not. But drawing on the recent experience of other nations' property sectors, a property bust and ensuing recession is all too likely.

As I have remarked here many times before, Australian house prices are highly over-valued. In 2007, house prices in cities like Sydney and Perth briefly reached an astonishing nine times median incomes ? among the most over-valued in the entire world.

You can do the figures yourself: if you're a young couple on a combined income of say $90,000, even a relatively "cheap" house in a capital city ? say $500,000 ? is still going to set you back five and a half years of your total income. Factor in tax and other living expenses and you can see why so many home buyers are experiencing what the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute calls "housing stress".

The result of this asset price bubble has been unsustainable levels of household debt. The Reserve Bank of Australia's household finance statistics tell us that Australian households now hold debts equal to 160 per cent of disposable income ? higher even than in the US. Unsurprisingly, RBA Governor Glenn Stevens thinks that consumers may be reaching their borrowing limits.

This huge debt burden is one reason why house prices must fall, and soon. Like their US counterparts, Australian households simply can't keep borrowing and spending indefinitely. Inevitably, balance sheets must be repaired as consumers begin to save again. In the long-term, this is a good thing. But in the short-term, this means much lower consumer spending ? something that Gerry Harvey says we're already seeing.

As consumer spending drops, so does growth. The economy slows, and unemployment rises. Higher unemployment eventually means more mortgage defaults.

Another looming problem is directly related to the credit crisis. Houses, remember, are nearly always paid for with mortgages. And some types of mortgages will be harder to get as the international funding sources for non-bank lenders dry up.

The RBA's 1 per cent cut in interest rates and Kevin Rudd's top-up of the first homeowner's grant will loosen the constraints somewhat, but there is already evidence that the credit crunch is constraining housing starts. The Master Builders Association's Wilhelm Harnisch recently told The Australian that "even some of our biggest building members, despite having been major clients of the big banks for many years, are now being told there is just not enough money to go around."

In the long-term, this might help prop up house prices by constraining supply. But in the short term, tight credit will depress house prices because customers who can't get a mortgage will be unable to buy homes. Perhaps this is one reason why Kevin Rudd's economic stimulus package included a special bonus for home-buyers purchasing new constructions.

As we've seen in the US, UK, Spain and Ireland, when property bubbles deflate, they can do so rapidly and damagingly. But here in Australia, the majority of property analysts still believe we will escape the fate of Florida and Nevada. Are they right?

One argument popular among real estate analysts is that there is a still a significant lack of housing supply, which means prices shouldn't fall too much. There is some validity in this point ? Australia built far fewer houses during its property boom than the US did. But even a shortage of properties won't stop house prices declining rapidly if demand drops off a cliff. And if home owners default, foreclosure sales will depress house prices. A vicious cycle can ensue, as the US experience demonstrates.

If Australian house prices do crash, we will certainly have been warned. University of Western Sydney economist Steve Keen is perhaps the most prominent property bear out there ? but not the only one.

Famous doom merchant Marc Faber said in July that an Australian house price bust "could be larger" than America's. Morgan Stanley economist Gerard Minack has been consistently pessimistic about Australian property all year. As he told Tony Jones on Lateline in March:

"You've got a lot of borrowers out there that have never seen a recession ? they always assume they can service their debt, and they've never seen house prices fall and so they think 'I can make a lot of money by buying a second house or a third house'. Once we see some job loss, once we shatter that illusion that house prices don't fall, then I think you can see substantial losses as indeed you've seen in part of Sydney already."

No wonder the housing industry is "pessimistic". Perhaps we should all be.

It appears the federal government are craftily surfing the market for voter perceptions perhaps more than substance. The one caveat we have on this interpretation is the upward pressure on rental cost of shelter from record levels of immigration in major cities like Sydney. A colourblind observer can easily demonstrate this does make significant pressure on rental accomodation.

There is a significant real politik aspect to the coverage of this issue in the letters page of the notoriously right wing small business/small minded audience of the Sydney Daily Telegraph aka Liberal Party newsletter. It's a lesson the high polling PM Rudd might like to consider - familiarity breeds contempt. Like a popular kid who becomes the butt of jokes for being so narcissistic. Ominiously Rudd was portrayed as Napoleon in a large graphic in the rival Fairfax yesterday.

Rudd is generally thought of as a younger model of ex PM Howard. It's a resonating stereotypical theme in Australian politics not least on the recent emissions trading scheme pre emptive buckle to big dirty business: Highly political, slick, cunning, scattering the critics across the divided spectrum. And maybe unifying them in disgust? One thing about Howard losing the election in November 2007 is that he went from being seen as popular to be seen as a smart arse. Australians are too keen on smart arses. Howard himself was warned about the same phenomena in 2001 about his government being seen as "mean and tricky". Too clever for their own good or ours. Too successful. Too popular. There is a grain of wisdom after all in the 'cutting down the tall poppy syndrome' for failure to grasp everyone is on someone else's shoulders. It's just another good reason why Rudd should take a holiday as superior politician and contemporary Barak Obama is shown playing golf in Hawaii in the press today.

There is a cost in rolling out a new policy every day of a holiday season. Familiarity breeds contempt.

Posted by editor at 7:45 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 December 2008 8:27 AM EADT
Respected journo Chris Masters holds forth
Topic: big media

These holidays makes time to catch up on stuff, not just rebuild bicycles using an amalgam of 20 different makes and models.

One such will be via the abc Fora website of the speech by abc retiree and arguably crusty Chris Masters. A guy who sold us this computer reckons he knew Masters from those fraught Qld days. When, legend has it, the ruthless corrupt Nationals under Bjelke Peterson, and their murderous agents, managed to taint the ALP/Liberal Opposition with their own share? This latter aspect is somewhat of a taboo subject which deserves a bit more nuanced and determined resportage of it's own to supplement the now famous "Moonlight State" by esteemed Masters.

Our former tech knew Chris Masters but not in a happy way unfortunately. And we have lost contact with the tech now too for about 2 years now. A bit like the Cable Guy, not that we've seen the movie.

We look forward to the lecture by the miracle that is the internet. Not quite the same as being the audience but nearly as good, as here:

Chris Masters 153

Chris Masters On Being A Journalist 21 November 2008 15:00

At the beginning of this week, veteran journalist Chris Masters filed his final story for Four Corners, the ABC current affairs programme he's worked on for 25 years. In this candid conversation with the ABC's Mark Colvin, he reflects back on an illustrious and award-winning career.

Chris Masters has won many Walkley awards, including the gold for his 1985 story "French Connections", about the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, but his most famous story is probably 1987's "The Moonlight State", which blew the lid on entrenched corruption in the Queensland police force and government. This report was one of the catalysts of the Fitzgerald Enquiry into police corruption.

He has written three books, the most recent of which, "Jonestown", an unauthorised biography of Alan Jones, became a bestseller in 2006, when it was published by Allen and Unwin.

The topic reminds us of this string by media commentator Marg Simons that we dropped in on there too while crikey.com.au are in recess:

Are All Bloggers Journalists? I don?t think so?

Then we will go searching out First Australians on SBS.

Posted by editor at 5:53 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 December 2008 6:31 AM EADT
Reflections on a grieving (?) Andrew 'Boy' Charlton, Australian swimming legend
Topic: culture

File:Boy Charlton.jpg

It's summer holiday time in Australia and that means water. Beach recreation. Boating. Even watering the vegetable garden in the cool of evening. Like most coastal Australians this writer has experienced all of these our whole life too.

Appropriately the ABC tv national broadcaster has replaced it's normal Monday night scheduling with outdoorsy shows with one about portraiture of sporting legend "Mr Charlton" , another about wild water rafting and kyaking in Butan.

Andrew i??Boyi?? Charlton

Andrew 'Boy' Charlton

Screens Monday 22 December

In the summer of 1924, at the age of 16, Andrew Charlton raced and comprehensively beat the then swimming world champion Arne Borg at Sydney's Domain Baths. A young country finally had a world sporting hero to call their own - a 'boy' wonder of the pool.

But as suddenly he had arrived at the peak of world swimming, embarrassed by the adulation, he turned his back on fame and possible fortune to become a jackeroo and realise his dream of being a man of the land.

Through family interviews, historic Newsreel footage and the intimate findings of his biographer, we will uncover the soul of this extraordinary but simple man to paint a portrait that reflects his superhuman physique, yet humble inner self.

There are some really sad aspects to the traverse of 'Boy' Charlton's remarkable life story. One that he died at 68 of a heart attack from emphysema due to a life of cigarette smoking. Another that he shunned his fame and mass media compared to the sporting "heroes" of today. In his day he held many world records. A pool in Sydney is named after him.

But the most sad we suspect was his mother's death when he was only 13 - a long illness that he witnessed. And it's this we suspect that hold's the key to 'Boy' Charlton's personality. The show last night suggested he got solace from swimming. True enough swimming laps or body surfing has the sensuous feel of a woman caressing one's body. Soft, wet, powerful, and yielding. Interesting too that dream analysts refer to the ocean as symbolic of one's emotional world.

What does seeing your mother die slowly do to a young teen? My intuition is that he felt dreadfully powerless. Also that he was grieving his whole teenage years. Poor kid. He certainly doesn't look happy.

The Bill Leak show last night dwelled for a moment on a certain expression of the youth emerging from the victorious race against Arne Borg. It's in the picture 2nd above. He was hearing no doubt the wildly cheering crowd, and his eyes are tracking the camera barrel, with not a hint of celebration or even happiness at beating the best the Old World had to offer. He's not even very puffed. Unlike in the pool in the race it was no doubt an "overpowering" public and media reaction.

Reaction to such celebrity takes many forms. It can be confronting. It can be thrilling and an ego boost. It can bring money and influence and 'friends'.

Apparently he was rowed around the pool on display. He was carried aloft on the shoulders of a crowd at Manly ferry wharf. Literally powerless in the crowd surf. Poor Andrew. A sports reporter said he was deeply embarrassed.

We do wonder if the reaction of the crowd and media may well have felt in his boyish emotional state like another overwhelming force on that scale of life changing events ..... namely loss of his mother. Was it the only other overpowering force he had the emotional equipment to compare with? By some confused cross wire of the emotions the 'joyful' experience reinforcing the grief stricken one? He was only 16 when he beat the world's best. Young men mature slower than girls at that age. If our guess is right then no wonder he never enjoyed the popularity and adulation - because the overpowering aspect bespoke a terrible loss.

So it seems he needed a situation that was in it's way big but different - like jackarooing outback, his own 10,000 hectare farm, or surf swimming - that he could still manage to control. None of the crowd or the adulation would bring back his mother. It was nothing compared to that. Medical science was a long way off yet too.

Poor bastard. It's not an entirely rational response to public acclamation but then high emotion doesn't follow orderly rules either. One hopes that at least in his private moments he felt real pride at his achievements away from the public glare when he had time to reflect on an incredible chapter in the history of the nation. And his role in it.

An aspiring youn bloke, a family friend recounted his dream to an older Mr Charlton - his dream to be an Olympic champion too: "You can't make a living from it" came Charlton's gentle response. Or did he mean: 'You can't make your mother live with it'. No indeed there are some things fame or even money just can't do. Ask the ghost of billionaire Kerry Packer RIP.

Who doubts Andrew Charlton would have traded all the world records and boat trips to Europe and celebrity and adulation in exchange for a hug from his living mother.

Here's to a sporting prodigy and man of the land Andrew Charlton, his mother's son. At least that's our interpretation of a remarkable life.

Posted by editor at 4:45 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 27 December 2008 10:19 AM EADT
Monday, 22 December 2008
Pressure likely to get up PM Rudd over emissions white paper
Topic: aust govt
Sent: Monday, December 22, 2008 2:13 PM
Subject: Seen it yet?

Dear Tom,

The response has been incredible. Over $120,000 raised in one weekend for our new ad on climate change featuring the return of John Howard.

If we can get to $160,000 we'll be able to buy every available regional market across Australia, and if we get to $200,000 we'll be able to purchase blanket coverage across the nation - and hit Rudd's woeful climate policy for six.

If you haven't seen it yet, it's not too late to be part of this! Check it out and chip in to make waves this summer:


Our contacts in Canberra tell us this ad is pushing all the right buttons, but that we need to apply pressure in rural and regional areas. It's marginal seats in these areas that play most heavily on the minds of this Government when considering climate change.

A donation of $20, $50 or $100 can help this vital climate message reach every corner of the country. We've pencilled in new slots in Newcastle, Tamworth, the Gold Coast, Lismore, Taree, Coffs Harbour, Canberra, Wollongong, Albury, Shepparton, Ballarat, Bendigo, Gippsland, the Sunshine Coast, Rockhampton, Toowomba, Cairns, Bundaberg, Townsville, Mackay, Launceston and Hobart.

If we hit $160,000 they'll be ours, but the clock is ticking - we have only a few days to put this message on the lips of Australian families as they sit down to discuss the year that was. Can you chip in today?


It's moments like this when the GetUp movement is at it's best. Not so long ago there were literally only a handful of Australians who had the power and the money to air political TV ads. But together you and I can wield that power. Get behind this ad today and show Kevin Rudd that his meagre 5% climate targets just won't cut it.

If there's one match we must win next year - it's the battle to fight climate change. Help start us off on the right foot today by getting this message out to the nation.

Thanks for making this big,
The GetUp team

PS - If you missed yesterday's cricket, South Africa scored a surprise upset in the first test. This is going to be the most exciting summer cricket series in years and cricket ratings are going through the roof. Help put our ad on air when the whole nation will be watching.


GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations. If you'd like to contribute to help fund GetUp's work, please donate now! If you have trouble with any links in this email, please go directly to www.getup.org.au. To unsubscribe from GetUp, please click here.

Authorised by Simon Sheikh, Level 2, 294 Pitt St, Sydney NSW 2000tracking

Posted by editor at 4:51 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 22 December 2008 4:57 PM EADT
Sydney press confirms climate is the thing despite federal govt's best attempts at diversion
Topic: aust govt

As much as the PM Rudd and his government roll out education, shelter for the poor, and defence announcements (no increase in soldiers to Afghanistan) it is clear from today's broadsheet press that prominent opinion continues to address the flawed Emissions Trading Scheme. No doubt the global financial crisis alters both the rate of emissions and the Australian govt priorities in terms of preserving employment but that doesn't change the reality of an irresistible political pressure to effectively address climate change and the immovable object of heavy industry intransigence.

Here are a few articles today:

* [Fairfax] Sheehan: Rudd's posturing gives polluters green light.

* [The Australian, sledging the green movement and yet still on topic] Muddle-headed greens channelling Thoreau Today's protesters see themselves as part of a noble tradition of civil disobedience, regardless of the issues.

A political discussion covering this can also be heard here:

* Saturday 20 December 2008 Political Panel Geoff Gallop Director, Graduate School of Government University of Sydney Dr Sharman Stone Member for the federal seat of Murray Shadow Minister, Immigration and Citizenship Max Walsh Deputy Chairman Dixon Associates

A perspective from business (including guy from my old firm Baker & McKenzie a long long time ago):

* Saturday 13 December 2008 The business of climate change As the UN Climate Change conference draws to a close, the Rudd government is expected to announce its emissions target for 2020 early next week. What will the emissions trading scheme planned for 2010 mean for business, and how is the global credit crunch affecting green investment?

Martijn Wilder Partner, Baker & McKenzie Responsible for the Australasian arm of the Firm's Climate Change and Emissions Trading Practice Andrew Grant Chief Executive, C02 Australia

Quality science discussions on the global warming issue can also be found on abc radio national here:

* Saturday 06 December 2008 [audio and transcript here] Solar variability and climate What do we know about the cycles of the Sun and what does that tell us about climate change and global warming? / Professor Marvin A. Geller Atmospheric Scientist Stony Brook University, New York.

[Prof Geller was brought out to Australia to address the National Conference of the Australian Institute of Physicists]

* Terrestrial Carbon Terrestrial carbon is found in trees, soil, and peat and the vast majority of terrestrial carbon emissions come from deforestation and the degradation of forests and peatlands in the tropics of developing nations.

The Terrestrial Carbon Group is working on an innovative plan to make terrestrial carbon economically appealing to these nations./

Ralph Ashton
Chair, Terrestrial Carbon Group, Further Information For a link to the Terrestrial Carbon Group, For a link to a presentation by Ralph Ashton, and Warwick McKibbin at the Lowy Institute


No doubt there is more solid science on the abc science show of recent times too:

20 Dec 2008 Steven Chu energy secretary for Obama Steven Chu, Nobel Prize winner in 1997, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has been chosen as President elect Obama's energy secretary. He spoke with Robyn Williams in 2007 on implications of the growing climate problem. Guest Steven Chu Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

13 Dec 2008 The question of global warming, Boost for biodiesel potential,

Posted by editor at 3:35 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 22 December 2008 4:41 PM EADT
PM Rudd to 'halve homelessness' by 2020, as climate refugees flood Australia by say 2015?
Topic: aust govt

Whether by design or coincidence the Sunday press coverage of PM Rudd's 'white paper' on homelessness means his government sounds like Bob Hawke in 1990 making his famous and wrong claim 'no child will live in poverty' by from memory 10 years timeline. Echoes of the same egotistical assertions and hubris?

One recalls wearily that any government funding package sounds big over 12 years - in this case $6.1 billion on this social welfare policy as per page 1 Sydney SunHerald (Fairfax).

What we believe is going on, right or wrong, is that the Rudd Govt are piling on any number of potential PR announcements to offset and drown out the widespread condemnation of the emission trading scheme (ETS) policy. This was the most sensitive election related posture and will cause the most serious backlash. Both broadsheets here in Sydney - The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian - on Saturday led with the Govt's own policy architect Professor Ross Garnaut rejecting two major planks being unjustified bailouts to dirty industry, and a weak target setting a poor example to other countries. One only needs to recall that 193 other countries have similar or even smaller total emissions as Australia, and will see 5% as both pathetic, and a useful excuse too.

The great irony is that with security experts across the developed world agreeing that climate refugees will become the biggest concern in the future - imagine Shanghai or Bangladesh being swamped with tens of millions on the move - Rudd promising anything on homelessness by 2015 let alone 2020 is a tragic joke. Just last week some 70,000 PNG nationals were made homeless on the northern side of the country by big seas and king tides. That's a foretaste of the homelessness to come under dangerous climate change.

But still the Rudd Govt piles on seemingly more desperate or gimmicky PR. We notice the Naked Eye (Fairfax) yesterday column again with a "daisycutter theme" coming through. That is PM Rudd 'stealing' the limelight off Minister Penny Wong on the ETS. Of even more staff from his office and other ministerial offices bailing out as worn out cannon fodder.

It does seem that the history of politics is speeding up in this internet age. Rudd is already at the phase of NSW Premier Carr in 2003 after 8 years in government where his green credentials had turned biege, only to retire under force of devastating polls by 2005. And Bob Hawke in 1990 with his infamous and arrogant 'no child in poverty' speech after 7 years in power. Rudd has been in harness as PM for 12 months. And things are only getting harder, not easier like the climate. Just ask the insurance industry.

This is the Green Party MP Milne with some chapter and verse:

Saturday, 20th December 2008

Rudd Carbon Plan Unravelling: Urgent Review Needed

The Australian Greens say the growing discontent over the Government's
carbon trading scheme - including the Government's own advisor Professor
Ross Garnaut - now means it's imperative that an immediate review be
held of the scheme's targets and design.

Australian Greens Climate Spokesperson and Deputy Leader, Senator
Christine Milne, said today's blunt assessment by Prof. Garnaut
condemning compensation for big polluters as 'over the top', echoed
other damning assessments from economists, scientists and
"The scheme is unravelling rapidly as the experts assess the detail and
find it to be environmentally irresponsible, economically inefficient
and actually disastrous for Australia."
"When the Prime Minister announced the scheme it was not only scientists
who were aghast but economists who couldn't understand why the
government would reward the biggest polluters with 'over the top'
compensation that will end up costing taxpayers unlimited amounts into
the future."

"Australians want to know why the government has decided that
multi-nationals like Rio Tinto and Blue Scope Steel deserve this level
of corporate welfare."

"They also want to know how Woodside's Don Veolte managed to persuade
the government to be so generous to the LNG industry when, as Prof.
Garnaut says, there appeared to be no clear principles or criteria
behind the decision."

"The whole point of an Emissions Trading Scheme is to reduce emissions
by putting a price on carbon to drive a change in consumer behaviour at
the lowest possible cost. But by giving away 97% of the funds in
compensation, the government has dampened the price signal."
"To drive a clean energy revolution we need not only to roll our
renewable energy but also to strengthen the existing grid, improve its
efficiency by making it an 'intelligent grid', and to extend it to areas
where geothermal, solar thermal, large solar arrays and wind, can be
located. Under the government's scheme there is no money to transform
the grid."
"Equally concerning is that the proposed cash compensation to households
will not be a sufficient driver to boost the manufacturing of renewable
energy and energy efficiency technologies, or to encourage the hundreds
of thousands of green-collar jobs needed for this transformation."

"This flawed scheme will instead lock-in the coal industry and lock-out
the renewable energy sector until well after 2020, when it is clear that
the government is pinning all its hopes on its pipe-dream of carbon
capture and storage."

"With the Climate Institute and the Australian Conservation Foundation
joining the Greens in condemnation of the scheme, and with the growing
concern among economists, it is essential that the government admits
that it has got the scheme completely wrong and immediately review its
weak targets, and its shocking bias and generosity to the big

Posted by editor at 6:09 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 22 December 2008 6:57 AM EADT

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