Sunday, December 26, 2010

C’mon Punter – put your hand up and go

Back in January 2009 I wrote a post examining Mathew Hayden’s comments that the decision on whether or not he should tour England for the 2009 Ashes series was basically up to him committing to do so. I thought that insufferably arrogant and had a look at his last 15 innings to see where he was situated compared to other players who had been given a push rather than been able to say whether or not they were committed to playing.

Here’s what I found:

Matthew Hayden - Average 26.4, Nil 100s, 2 50s, top score 83.
Greg Blewitt - Average 30.9; Nil 100s; two 50s; top score 89.
Darren Lehmann - Average 28.6; Nil 100s; five 50s, top score 70.
Michael Slater - Average 39.8; Nil 100s; three 50s, top score 86.
Mark Waugh - Average 33.7; Nil 100s; two 50s, top score 86.

Then there were two players who jumped before the push:

Justin Langer - Average 33.6; one 100; one 50; top score 100*.
Adam Gilchrist: Average 35.2; one 100; four 50s; top score 102*

Then there were two who were a bit above the average:

Greg Chappell - Average 52.3, three 100s, two 50s, top score 182.
Steve Waugh - Average 53.2, two 100s, three 50s, top score 115. (minus two matches against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh)

Now the reason of course I am revisiting this issue is because of Ricky Ponting. Here’s his last 15 innings:

Ricky Ponting: Average 29.6; Nil 100s; five 50s; top score 77.

His average is worse than all the above bar Hayden and Lehmann. His number of 50s is good with five – the most, but Lehmann also had made five and it came to signify that he couldn’t go on and make a big score. His top score of 77 is second lowest (Lehmann’s 70 is the worst).

Now were he not the captain we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Ponting would be gone. It would be a thanks for your career, but time waits for no man yada yada. Enjoy racing your greyhounds. (Let’s forget this drop him down the order stuff – you do that for younger guys who were tried at number 3 but couldn't cut it – eg Steve Waugh.) image

But as the Captain to dump him, means we need to replace not only his spot at number three (a pretty easy choice given NSW’s Usman Khawaja is sitting there champing at the bit to go, and averaging 52.83), so then I guess we give the captaincy to his deputy, Michael Clarke.

This could be done – there is precedent – Bill Lawry was dumped as captain mid-way through the 19780-71 Ashes series and Ian Chappell took over, and Kim Hughes jumped before being pushed in the 1984-85 series against the West Indies.

However, here we hit a snag. Here’s Michael Clarke’s last 15 innings record:

Michael Clarke: Average 24.8; Nil 100s; three 50s; top score 80.

That ain’t good. In fact were he not Michael Clarke and he came from New South Wales (yeah that’s an anti-NSW dig) he too would likely be bidding farewell to the glories of the baggy green.

Make no mistake, Ponting is not still in the team and captain because of his leadership qualities or because he is such an integral part of the dressing room furniture. It is because the selectors believe there is no one to take his place.

No sure, he might come out in the second innings and hit a big hundred and he can turn to the camera and say up yours to the bloggers of the world, but even if he does I still think he should say, well that just buys me one final chance to say goodbye in Sydney, and then he should depart. The guy is 36. Thirty six! When Greg Chappell retired he was 35. I remembered because he was my absolute idol (my name is Greg after all), and even then I thought him ancient.

Modern medicine is all nice and great, but time does not wait for any man, and if Australia wants to make it ok for a 36 year old to average less than 30 and still bat number 3, then it sets a pretty low bar for the rest of the players. The Australian captain has always been the first among equals – he gets his place in the side because of his abilities as a player, not as a  captain.

If Clarks is not up to it, that doesn’t mean Ponting by default should be (because after all, it’s not like he is a master tactician). Brad Haddin is 33, but he is as safe in his spot as anyone. He has captained NSW, so let him captain for a couple years until one of the younger guys steps up, or at least reaches a level of maturity supposedly required of the position – who knows that person may not even be playing at the moment. 

I have been a Ponting fan for most of his career, but as happened with Hayden, Mark Waugh, Langer, and the others at the end of their careers, when I watch him bat, part of me hopes he fails because I know another innings of 70 odd or more will only serve to convince him that he is good to play till the next Ashes series. And let’s cut the bull, there is no way in hell that can be allowed to happen.

Let’s bid adieu now while we still remember him as one of the greatest batsmen of his generation, and not as the guy who we kept on because there was no one else we thought could do his job.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Quick Thanks

Yes, I know I said I was on holidays, but today I won a Wonkley Award, and that doesn’t happen every day.  This won’t mean much to those who aren't into blogs or Twitter… (in which case I’m not sure what you’re doing here), but it was an award set up by the good folk over at The Notion Factory, and covered a raft of categories, such as Best Political Journalist (won by Annabel Crabb), Best Political Cartoonist (Crikey’s First Dog on the Moon) and Worst Q&A Panellist (Janet Albrechtsen).

In the end there were over 12,000 votes cast, and I think most would agree it was a great success – it really started from nothing, and and it stirred up a nice bit of interest, and some friendly banter between nominees. (The results were even scooped by The Ghost who Tweets which I guess, puts it on a level with Newspoll!) – so well done the Notion folk – hope next year it is bigger and better.  amateur-pol-blog-lite

They had a category for “Best Amateur Political Blog” which I was fortunate enough to win. I also won for Best Amateur Political Blogger, but I have to say, without being too ungracious, I’m not sure how you would split the two categories – it’s a bit like Best Sound and Best Sound Editing at the Oscars – I know there is a difference but each year in my Oscar Pool I just vote for the same film for both, because I can never remember what the difference is. So I’ll just go with the title of Wonkley Winner rather than multi-Wonkley Winner. (Which does sound a tad trumpet blowing).

Thanks to all who voted for me – glad the subtle links I gave on Twitter did the job.

I shall proudly display the winning banner on the sidebar for as long as feels comfortable before I think it looks like I am trading on faded glories. So I would wager sometime around June 2015 I’ll reluctantly take it down…

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Time for a break

I’m going to take an early Christmas break from blogging. I was going to keep going right up till the end of next week, but something happened yesterday.

I reached the “I don’t give a stuff” point.

Actually this point had probably been reached a week or so ago, but I soldiered on, feeling that I should end out the year properly.

But “meh” overtook me.

I realised this when yesterday in The Australian, they kept up their recent anti-wind farm barrow-pushing by giving space to ex-TV Chef Peter Russell-Clarke. So idiotic was this piece that it had an ex-TV chef who can’t even get a gig on Masterchef as a “celebrity” judge telling us of wind farms:

It's an absolutely unique and magnificent area, and to attempt to put one of these things in the ground is bloody ludicrous, apart from the fact that the f..king things don't work," he said. "They are inefficient. They are ugly."

The man who led campaigns for local eggs and dairy produce questions the health effects of wind turbines, while proposing nuclear power as a possible alternative.

"They once said asbestos wasn't bad for you and smoking wasn't bad," he said. "Now they are finding, in fact, that's not true.

"The rest of the world is for nuclear power, and there is no doubt as we increase our population we will need more water, more food, more power, more everything. If nuclear is the way, then let's do it."

Yep “they don’t work” – guess we can leave that assertion unchallenged eh? And it takes a good leap to link asbestos and cigarette smoking to wind power, but Russell-Clarke was up to the challenge. (Good as well that he’s up on the whole medical research aspect and knows they are “finding” that smoking and asbestos is bad).

But I saw that piece and thought, “Oh hell, seriously why bother, the fish are in the barrel and I can’t be stuffed shooting”.

Similarly, yesterday they had that doyen of the Twitter world Geoff Elliot (also their media editor – which I assume means something special, but given just about every single person who works at The Oz is an “editor’ of some kind, you can never be sure) tell us that not only can you be sued for writing something defamatory on the internet including Twitter (I know, shocked I was, shocked!), but that:

if you persistently send messages or continue to try to make contact with someone who does not want to have contact with you, your behaviour could be considered stalking.

Stalking on the internet of course can be very serious if as in the example Elliott gives you have someone stealing your identity and is verifiably stalking you through persistent emails. But on Twitter? Boy, Geoff, if only there was a way I could stop someone reading my Tweets and pestering me. Oh wait, in Elliott’s own paper, in the section of which he is editor, Sally Jackson gives him a handy tip:

Just as most of us would hang up on a hectoring phone call or walk away from someone abusing us in the street, users don't have to tolerate what they feel to be hateful communication on Twitter.

Fortunately, as mentioned here before, Twitter has a pretty good boundary-setting tool: the block function. Blocking prevents another user from following you, sending you an @reply or @mention, or putting your account on any of their lists, although your tweets are still visible on your public profile page. It means that while you might still catch glimpses of Mr or Ms Blocked, fuming in the distance, they can't get close to you.

Did Elliott even read Jackson’s piece?

The other point of course is that an email is private, and so someone flooding your email inbox with stalking letters is not only bloody annoying, it feels a violation of your private space. Twitter on the other hand is public – a person can only send you a private message if you choose to follow them. And if you are really worried you can always lock you Twitter account so only your followers can see you Tweets, otherwise your Tweets are public – there for all to read – those who like you and those who don’t.

But even this didn’t get me out of the “meh-zone”. 

Then there was the US unemployment figures, which had their unemployment increasing to 9.8 per cent, and resulted in this very scary graph from the great people of Calculated Risk:


If the graph is anything to go by, it means it will be around 2 years before the unemployment rate gets anywhere near where it was when the GFC hit. To show how scary this is, just think of this – in March 2007, both US and Australia had an unemployment rate of 4.4 per cent:


But you know, the stimulus didn’t work, we should have let interest rates do more of the lifting etc etc….

The next Australian unemployment figures come out on Thursday, and I do feel a desire to stick around to blog about them – especially as the interest rate decision came out today in which the Governor’s statement seemed to suggest they’re happy with the way things are now, and should be for a while.

But you know. Who can be bothered writing about that? (Answer, right at this moment, not I)

What really tipped me over the edge was yesterday the wikileaks revelation that Kevin Rudd had suggested rather unsurprisingly to Hillary Clinton that in dealing with China, the US needed to be "preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong".

Personally I can’t imagine the US doing anything else if they’re in the “everything goes wrong” period – and also I like that Rudd is actually suggesting to the US that force should be the last resort – a new concept to them I’m sure.

But then Julie Bishop came out and for some totally inane reason wanted Julia Gillard to confirm publicly if this was the Government's view.

Seriously do people in the Liberal Party let this person go near sharp knives? Do they let her use scissors without proper adult supervision? What idiocy. Yeah Julie, it really would be a good thing for the Prime Minister of Australia to publicly comment on the use of force against China. She then according to Malcolm Farnsworth said the she:

has always assumed that everything a person in public life says could become public... should be restrained at all times...”

My God, I can hear them laughing all the way from Beijing. Does she think we have forgotten her wonderful passport forging comments?

TIM LESTER: But aren't there consequences at not doing anything, and isn’t that the problem – if we don’t do anything aren't we effectively putting our imprimatur on the theft of Australian identity?

JULIE BISHOP: Not at all. You would reprimand, you would chastise, you would ask them not to do it again. But it would be naive to think that Israel is the only country in the world that has used forged passports, including Australian passports for security operations. ….

TIM LESTER: What we do?


Yes, she is the model of discretion (though I guess she does prove that she says the same publicly as she does privately).

But even that didn’t get me banging away on the keyboard.

When you are tired of mocking Julie Bishop, well, sir, you are tired of life – or at lest the political-blogging part of it.

And so this is it for the year. It has been a long year, A bloody long year.

I’m so tired I can’t even be bothered doing a greatest hits.

Oh, bugger it yes I can:

  • Here was one of the first articles of mine to get linked – a piece on who had been hurt most by living in the Federer era.
  • Just to prove that, yes I am a nerd from way back, here’s my Top 5 Asterix Books.
  • During the Winter Olympics I wrote a piece on Dale Begg-Smith. It got around 150 hits – easily my record at the time.
  • Remember the Great Health Debate? Of course you don’t. It was going to decide the election. I decided to not bother with the answers and instead had a look at the questions (it was an approach I quickly warmed to).
  • Yeah that BER spending was a total waste, wasn’t it – I mean surely the ANAO Report and the Orgill Report showed that. Err no, actually.
  • Got a spare 30 minutes? You’re a James Joyce fan? You also love politics? Excellent read on my friend as I do Question Time Ulysses-style.
  • Am I ever wrong? Hell no! Take this post wherein I write after the spill: “I’m locking in an increased majority”. Oh.Kay.
  • A couple people read this one.
  • The second post I did after my name was revealed was about Greg Hunt. It is most notable because Greg Hunt left a comment – a comment with some very interesting observations about the media’s actions…
  • My first Friday Night Relaxer looked at some great adverts. These are the most fun to write, and I generally think about them all week.
  • The hardest post I wrote all year was about my cat Scamper. The reaction of so many people telling their own stories of loved pets was wonderful.

Thanks to everyone who has come along to the blog this year and especially those who have left some comments. I know I don’t respond to all the comments – but I certainly read them and consider the points made.

In February of this year when I got to my 400th post I wrote:

By the start of 2009, I was getting probably only around 25 individual hits a day; now it’s closer to 100 (and thanks to a couple links from Crikey, recently it is nearer to 150)

Now thanks to some more links and the odd Twitter link or twenty, there are now around 1000-1300 readers a day of this blog (depending on the day – usually when Parliament sits the number goes higher). I realise in the grand scheme this is not much, but it sure as hell makes me feel appreciated, and I hope you’ll come back in early January when I will be a tad more refreshed and ready to get stuck in the the inanity, the idiocy and the complete disregard for logic that infects so much of our political and media discourse. 

Hope you all have a great Christmas and a safe holiday. See you in the 2011.

Grog (or Grogs, or even Greg as I am sometimes known)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Night Relaxer: It’s beginning to feel like Christmas letters

This weekend, like every first weekend of December for the past 6 years I will be writing our family’s Christmas Letter. Part of me hates myself every time I do it because it means that, yes I have become one of those people who writes Christmas letters. This was something I was sure I would never become.

Really, I’m now that guy? Well yes. Sadly I am.

You see when you are young, not only do you not really care about reading the Christmas letters written by a bunch of married olds with kids, you also don’t have any need to write them.

When you’re young, you’re far too busy to worry about writing down and telling your friends what you did during the year (and anyway most of your friends are nearby and know what you did last minute due to Facebook). And if you’re married with no kids you’re having too much fun doing everything you won’t be doing once you have kids to bother. And seriously who wants to read a Christmas letter that says:

This year Peter and I went out every weekend with our group of friends except for those weekends we stayed home and had nookie in every room of the house and then slept in till noon before getting up to go on our holiday to France.

Ok, maybe I am slightly rewriting the glory of being “double income, no kids”. image

But when you get older, you find you or your friends have gone off to other parts, and yet still you can resist the need to write a Christmas letter – after all there’s Facebook and what have you. But then you have kids and suddenly your aunts and uncles and the uncles and aunts of your aunts and uncles seem more interested in what has been happening in your life – ie your kids. And coupled with this you also feel this weird desire to tell people with whom you haven’t had any contact other than a Christmas Card for 15 years more than just Merry Christmas. Yes you want to tell them about your kids.

And yet it is also a bloody chore. What did we do this year? Did we do anything in April? When did your brother visit, was that this year or last year? No not that brother, your other brother? What did I do this year? I don’t know, you tell me I can’t remember. 

Ah geez. And then there’s the Christmas cards to address…

But once you have bitten the bullet and decided to write your letter, you have to remember that there are traps for young and old players of the Christmas letter game.

Firstly there’s the type who go into slightly too much detail:

This year was a extremely busy one for me. In June I started to volunteer at the boys’ school in the tuck shop. I quickly found that it wasn’t the easy job I thought it would be. Each Wednesday I need to arrive at around 10:18am where I am greeted always by the lovely Irene who runs the shop. She comes from Pinnaroo which meant of course that we bonded straight away given that my cousin Thelma grew up there and I used to spend some of the best Christmases of my childhood there. I haven’t seen Thelma for many years – in fact not since she had the operation on her varicose veins. The tuck shop needs to be restocked every day and my job is to make sure we always have enough bananas and apples for sale. The shop doesn't sell any junk food anymore, and so the kids always seem to like bananas.

John and I this year hoped to take the kids to Queensland for a holiday but the rain in June meant we had to put it off for another year as we wanted to go via Broken Hill and we were told by our neighbour Jenny that the roads out there would be impassable. Jenny’s sister Mildred lives in Broken Hill. In the end we wouldn't have been able to go anyway because little Beatrice came down with a terrible case of gastro that had her spending most of the school holidays on the toilet.

One problem with Christmas letters as well is they can often be written by someone who generally does not spend much time during the year doing any writing and thus punctuation and grammar can be a bit tricky:

Its quite possible that this year, was one of the best years’ of our life’s as we, achieved a life time goal, when for the first time in our life, ever we were able to go to the Devils Marble’s. We both thought it was the best time in our life when, we were there watching, the sun rise over the land, and, saw it’s shadow go over the rocks. We were so excited at finally, being able to do this that Peter and I were literally exploding in delight as we hugged each other to death.   

imageThe there is the unfortunate typo:

The big event for John this year was in August his work was put on pubic display at the local show. Everyone was extremely impressed at his talent. Many of the women told me how envious they were.

Then there’s the one who is a bit excited:

Jenny scored a goal this year for soccer! It was a great moment for her – she tried so hard!! Jack also has really improved his football. His coach says he is a great team player. I spend a lot of time watching his games screaming like a silly proud mum! But then again that’s what I am, so why shouldn’t it???!!!

Bob had his gall stones removed in April!

Now of course the whole point of the Christmas letter is to brag about your kids, but there are limits:

When Miranda came home with full marks for her spelling test, Philip and I were so proud. It was a lovely family moment when we were able to stick the test result next to the certificate she won for coming 4th in the class cross country competition and the weekly prize award her teacher gave her in first term for being such a great help around the class. Philip and I like to keep our dreams in check, but when Miranda graduates with that Medical Degree in 15 years I know all the hard work she is putting in now will be worth it.

Now that the internet has arrived, people are able to do some home publishing, and can make their Christmas letter look like a newspaper (complete with heading such as “The Johnson Family Times”. These letters are usually ones to be wary of – because only a skilled and careful hand will stop them from pretty much repeating every type of letter thus far mentioned.

Some people feel they have so much to say they need to adopt a raft of acronyms which no one else can understand to get all the information in. Thus no one will be referred to by name – initials will do (and of course the author will refer to his/herself by an initial as well just to make it even more confusing):

P’s job this yr has been v taxing. He would love to be able to spend more time with C and G but his boss needs him to work OT 24/7. J has spent a lot of time working on her RG. P on the WE is very good at carting manure around, which was a GH when J planted her new roses. C is often too busy playing PS3 with his BF H, but G likes to help J with the pruning and if P is not OS for W he can also make sure C isn’t always watching TV. C does enjoy visiting Grandma D which is nice now that she has gotten over her bout of DTs.

Other letters sometimes give away more information than the author realises:

John this year has taken up singing, and appeared in a local production of Annie Get Your Gun. He got interested in it through a friend of ours, Jenny, who recently started working for the same company as John. Jenny used to sing professionally and she has been great in helping John get over any stage fright. He has thrown himself into his role, and was out rehearsing almost every night of the week. He came home so exhausted each night, but I could see from the look on his face that he was absolutely loving it. I was so proud watching him on opening night. Jenny tells me he is the only man in the cast she would feel comfortable singing a duet with!

Then there is the letter that focuses on the trivial (generally written by the male of the couple):

Well this year was pretty good for us all. We bought a new TV which we were pretty excited about. It was a 50 inch Panasonic with a blu-ray player that provides full HD. It’s great sitting back and watching the footy. Jill loves it, and she often relaxes on Friday night watching old films, except of course during the footy season when I watched the glorious Collingwood win their way to the flag. In June I lost my job and Jill’s mother died. In July I got an new job. The kids have been doing great at sport – Peter’s kicking skills have really improved and…

Others really don’t have time, so the love is conveyed through bullet point:

  • In February we got a dog. The kids called it Skipper. I renamed it Gilligan.
  • March we went for a holiday to Mildura. Last time we do that again.
  • April and May saw us pretty busy around the house – gardening, re-cementing the driveway
  • June, I backed over Gilligan in the new driveway.

And yet I’ll read all the letters when I visit my parents this Christmas. I’ll catch up with everyone vaguely related to me via these annual drafts of news. You forgive the grammar, the errors, the poor phrasing, the mention of people you have never heard of in a context you couldn't understand. In fact in time you come to know each person’s style, and you would almost be disappointed if they changed and delivered something non-unique.

So if you are writing a Christmas letter this year, I wish you good luck, and don’t worry, once it’s done all you then have to do is write out and address all those Christmas cards sitting in a pile on the table.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Latham doesn’t let reality slip through

Remember how during the election Mark Latham decided, as Mark Latham always does, that everything was about him? Remember how journalists started asking Julia Gillard about things Latham had said that were just his opinions and based on nothing but his conjecture? Isn’t it great to know that things have moved on…


Today Latham wrote his regular op-ed piece in the Australian Financial Review (by the way, it’s amazing how just because it’s in print it gets treated as though it is intelligent, whereas a rant on 60 Minutes is, well, a rant).  The headline was:

PM’s Days Are Numbered

Wow. Guess he must know something. I guess he’s now back into the warm embrace of the ALP – you know, “Yeah don’t worry Mark we know you did all you could to sabotage our chances of winning the election. No hard feelings buddy. Hey by the way, we’re plotting to take down Julia”.

No sorry. It’s all based Latham reading stuff in the newspapers – oh and his absolutely one-of-a-kind level of bitterness insight.image

Look I think The Latham Diaries had its charms. The opening part was an excellent critique of the ALP. But as you read on more and more of it became points of self delusion and bile. Oh dear Matt Price says I have man-boobs, well what do you expect given when I took him to the cricket he didn’t want to drink in the outer like a real man, he’s just another one of those media bastards etc etc..

The further in time he gets from 2004, the deeper into the bile duct he goes. He was friends with Gillard. Since then he has written in the AFR of things she wrote to him in private emails. Ask yourself what you would think of a friend who did that? Would you consider them a person who when he writes of you that he is objective? Or would you think he is a bitter old sad man pining for the fact you won and that when the heat was put on him, he crumbled and was crushed by John Howard?

So what is he on about today?

Take this :

Some time this term of Parliament they [ALP factional bosses] will need to deal with the reality that Julia Gillard is a dud leader and cannot win the next election”.

Oh really? S0 that would be based on what?

Is it based on the fact that the last Newspoll had the ALP up 52-48 and Julia Gillard leading as Preferred PM 54-31.

Or is it based on the fact that her Satisfaction rating is at 46% and Dissatisfaction is at 37% (compared to Abbott’s 42, 45 respective ratings).

Or is it based on the the fact that she is such a dud leader that in the last week of parliament she was the one responsible for, in the opinion of the very Senator whose vote was crucial, saving the day, and getting the Bill passed that separates Telstra?  You know that reform that people had been wanting for about 20 years?

Yes, what an unwinnable dud she is.

Nope. Latham relies on the fact that Graham Richardson wrote a piece in The Australian and Mark Arbib came out in favour of Gay Marriage. He also suggests Gillard cancelled Arbib’s appearance on QANDA the Monday after the election as a pay back for a leak, not at all suggesting that maybe Gillard knew at that point she was doing all she could to woo the 3 independents, and trying to show them that the ALP was not going to fragment and that putting Arbib in front of a hostile audience asking about leaks and the sacking of Rudd and factional heavies was not going to be a good look.

She made a bloody good call that day, and it was only the ABC’s petulance at showing an empty chair that elevated the issue. But as Gillard is fond of saying: “scoreboard” – who is in Government now?

There would not be one member of the ALP who does not think Gillard is the reason they are in Government.

Her negotiations with the Oakeshott, Windsor and Wilkie got them over the line. And by being the one who did that you sure as hell know the independents don’t think they did a deal with the ALP they did a deal with Gillard

Even Latham understands that. He writes:

When Gillard signed an agreement with the independents to form a minority government, she not only kept Labor in office, she fire-walled her party leadership. If the ALP were to change leaders, the independents could legitimately say the agreement no longer applied, leaving them free to negotiate a minority Government with Tony Abbott.

Gee, ya think???

Of course they would break off the agreement. There is not one soul in all of Canberra who doesn’t think so. But does this matter to Latham? Why no. After establishing that no change of leader could take place, he suggests that (wait for it), yes a change of leadership is going to take place. And yep, you guessed it, 37 year old Chris Bowen is going to be the one put up by the NSW Right to roll Gillard.

Yep. And how is this going to happen without the ALP being kicked out by the independent three?  Why because Bowen will “build a strong working relationship with the independents

Please. Short of Tony Windsor adopting Bowen as his son, the independents couldn’t give a rat arse about how nice he was to work with. If he (or anyone) were to challenge Gillard, that’s it. Gone.

And every single person in politics with an IQ above room temperature knows this.

Latham hates Gillard more than poison. She is perhaps the only person in politics he hates as much as he does Rudd (one always hates more the former friend who has succeeded where you could not).

His argument may have had some shred of credibility if it were not the same line being pushed by the Liberal party (see Bolt on Insiders last weekend putting out suggestions that Gillard is in trouble). And putting up Bowen as the next guy? In ten years time, I’m with you. Now? He is 37 years old! Get in line, son.

But sigh, what did we see? Why the front page of The Australian's website for a good portion of the day running with:

Chris Bowen rejects Mark Latham column on NSW Right 'plot' to dump Julia Gillard

Gee, what a shock.

Gillard herself was forced to respond to the article on 4BC.

Ah the media, good to see they’ve learned the lessons of the campaign – let a guy with a grudge make some comments then run with it.

I can’t wait for them to run the “Bowen rejects Mad nut who says there’s life on Mars”... though given NASA’s scheduled announcement tomorrow, maybe they will.


imageSo as a bit of a follow up to Monday’s blog, my friend Julie Posetti was today served with a letter from the Editor in Chief of The Australian, demanding a retraction for tweeting comments made in a public forum some of which the letter admits were actually made. Now I don’t know much about defamation laws, but thankfully I don’t need to. You see Miranda Devine has taken all the guess work out of it. Never mind that lawyers are involved. Devine cleared it all up for us, writing:

There has been extraordinary hoopla on the social networking site Twitter, about defamatory tweets made about the editor-in-chief of The Australian, Chris Mitchell.

Hmm so they are “defamatory tweets” are they? Gee who needs courts, eh?

The sentence has now been amended to read:

THERE has been extraordinary hoopla on social networking site Twitter about allegedly defamatory tweets made about The Australian newspaper editor Chris Mitchell.

Ah, now they’re “allegedly”. Good to see. I guess, as editor of The Australian, Paul Whittaker, would say, “the article slipped through”.

Happens to the best of us (even on lowly blogs and Twitter)…

Monday, November 29, 2010

Surely you can’t be serous? Part Two – Posetti et al

So last week a friend of mine, University of Canberra journalism lecturer Julie Posetti, was threatened with a defamation suit by the editor in chief of The Australian, Chris Mitchell. This all happened because she was attending a journalism conference in Sydney where former journalist for The Oz, Asa Wahlquist, was speaking (it was the same conference where earlier in the week ABC Managing Director Mark Scott mentioned me in a speech, that set off a mercifully brief bit of “grogsgate”). Posetti was live tweeting the event – a thing done by many journalists during press conferences – it is basically tweeting as the you listen. Mitchell took issue with the tweets that Posetti did, because he alleged that the alleged tweets that Posetti tweeted about and which she alleged were what Walhquist said were not what Walhquist said.

Now I wasn't at the conference and I am not a legal expert, so I have no comment on who is right or wrong. I will say though that an audio of the conference has now appeared which suggests, according to the ABC that “much of the information tweeted was actually said.

Personally though, I think the entire thing is utterly silly.

I have had some experience in being the centre of The Oz’s attention, though thankfully no lawyers were involved. But actually my first direct contact with The Oz came not through the whole revealing of my name, but through a response to the blog post I wrote during the election that caused all the fuss.

The post stated (among many other things) that the media had ignored the Liberal’s policy announcement on disabled education funding. Now later in the week Matthew Franklin of The Oz got in touch with me via Twitter (a direct message, so it’s not public) in which he essentially made it clear that he knew I didn’t like him, but that that was no reason for me to misrepresent him – because he had actually written a piece on the Lib’s disability policy.

I quickly did some research and found that he had indeed written one – the day after I had written my post, so it was not completely surprising that I had not referred to it given my inability to see into the future. But nevertheless I did in my next post mention Franklin’s article and actually gave it a fair bit of discussion (yeah I bagged a lot of it, but I also gave him a big rap for being the only one to do a half decent job on it).

I should at this point say that he never asked to know who I was, and the fact that I was just “Grog’s Gamut” made me no less accountable for what I had written – and no less able to correct the record.

Since then he and I actually converse quite a bit on Twitter. I doubt we have ever agreed on anything political or media, but like mature adults we enjoy a good discussion and find enough common ground on Dylan songs and the brilliance of Heart of Darkness to get by. I will still bag his articles if I think he writes something particularly foolish, and he will defend himself on Twitter to me and others. Some others get abusive towards him, but he and I are always civil.

That is how adults behave.

That is how I would have expected the editor in chief of the flagship paper of to behave when he felt wronged by a person tweeting something that may have been read by 5,000 of her followers (less I’d assume – I follow her and I didn’t see the tweets because I was at work and not on Twitter and I, like most people, don’t go through every single tweet I’ve missed in the previous 8 hours when I get home).

But hey, different strokes. I know which way I think is nicer.


It is hard not to see all of this as part of The Australian’s ever more obvious unease with new media – blogs, Twitter etc. The amount of time they spend trying to knock such media beggars belief. And whenever the issue arises you can generally expect Caroline Overington to be sent out to play the role of full forward – especially if it can be combined with a kick to the ABC, as happened last week.

On Saturday, Overington wrote a piece on the speech by Mark Scott at the journalists conference last week, where he suggested that:

Media organisations like the ABC and The Australian need to accept that we now operate in a shared space. That the days when we exclusively controlled the agenda are gone. The space is shared by professionals and amateurs, and smart media organisations will embrace the energy and insight of the non-professionals and use it to ultimately strengthen their offering.”

Not exactly earth shattering stuff – for Overington though it’s barbarians at the gates stuff:

To Diary’s mind, it is actually offensive for Scott to argue that anyone can practise journalism. It’s insulting to people actually trained to do it. Diary in fact wonders what the journalists who work for Scott—there’s about 1000 of them—make of his statements to that effect. Do they, too, consider themselves to be people with nothing to offer the profession that can’t be done by the unskilled and the inexperienced online? That they are no better at gathering news or making contacts or assessing and analysing information, than anyone else?

Whatever Scott may think, journalism isn’t easy. To illustrate the point: there was a time when reporters would send links to one another, perhaps with a short notes, saying: “Great piece.” You could open and read it, and chances are, it would be a great piece, meaning a beautifully written, thoughtful, sympathetic, clean piece of prose, written by somebody whose work had been beaten into shape by an army of editors and sub-editors over years.

See a link to a “great piece” on Twitter nowadays, and you generally don’t want to make the mistake of opening it, because chances are it will be absolute dross, produced by some clown with a cartoon character for a picture by-line, a fake name, no sense of perspective, and a good bit of bile in their gut.

“Great piece!” his mates will crow. “You’ve nailed it!” But actually, it will be rubbish. In short, while most of us can boil an egg, Masterchef we ain’t, and while most of us can apply a Band-Aid, we wouldn’t attempt brain surgery. We can sing in front of the mirror, in other words, but let’s not pretend to be Madonna.

The work of beautiful writers and fearless reporters can’t be done by just anyone, and so we must respectfully disagree with Scott, wherever and whenever he suggests that it can.

The piece was headed:

By Scott, there’s skill involved

And she (and the sub-editor who wrote the headline) is right. There is skill involved in good journalism. Take her media diary today where she wrote about the Julia Posetti issue:

The facts are somewhat simpler: Posetti sat in on a conference where serious allegations were made about Mitchell. Posetti published those allegations without checking to see if they were true or asking Mitchell for a response. That’s the kind of mistake journalists try to avoid, but it does happen. If it had happened on a newspaper, the paper would have to apologise, correct the record, and if damage had been done to someone’s reputation, pay recompense.

I thought that a very interesting comment on what happens with journalism in a newspaper given that back in September it was reported in The Australian of my attendance at the media140 conference:

(was it a sick day, a day in lieu, annual leave, did he clear it with his supervisor?)

Because at no stage did anyone from The Australian check with me to see what was true – it was just a question posed. On seeing the article I immediately wrote on Twitter:

for the record I took a day's annual leave to attend media140

Did The Australian “correct the record”? Well no – there was nothing to correct, you see (they were just posing a question).

But look, that is all just details, facts… I’m not really up to speed on it all – not being skilful enough to be a journalist.

I was also interested to read this on Overington’s media diary today:

Soup’s off at Nine

AS of next week, the famed GTV9 television studios at 22 Bendigo Street in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond will be no more. After 54 years in the building, which was once a soup factory, Nine is now moving to the city’s trendy Docklands, and quite a few people in the industry are heartbroken at the shift. Some pretty big names got started at Bendigo Street: Bert Newton for one, Daryl Somers obviously, Eddie McGuire, the late Graham Kennedy and the late Don Lane. There was an onscreen celebration last Friday, hosted by McGuire and Tracy Grimshaw; there will also be a boardroom lunch hosted by Jeffrey Browne, with former GTV9 heads Nigel Dick, David Evans, Ian Johnson and Paul Waldren expected to attend. And there’ll be a big party at the studios on December 10.

Good yarn. Except a few things:

1. The studios will not be “no more” “as of next week”. The Nine News will continue to broadcast from there until early in 2011.

2. “Bert Newton for one”, did not get started at GTV9 TV studio. As page 119 of my copy of the Graham Kennedy biography “King” by Graeme Blundell tells me, Newton started in TV at Channel 7 in August 1957. He started at Channel 9 only in 1959. If Overington doesn't have Blundell’s book, she could have read it here in a piece by Newton himself on the Herald Sun’s website:

I came here in 1959 after two years at Channel 7. Back in those early days, everyone was learning about television.

3. “There was an onscreen celebration last Friday, hosted by McGuire and Tracy Grimshaw”. Well yes, kinda. There was an A Current Affair program on Friday hosted by Grimshaw that featured a segment with (among others) Eddie McGuire, but as everyone knows, the real on-air celebration was on Saturday Night – that event was hosted by McGuire and Bert Newton.

But these are all just details. Facts, minor insignificant facts, I’m sure everything else in her piece is right... And I am but a poor little blogger, unskilled in the world of journalism. What do I know? Guess, I should just get back to singing in front of my mirror pretending to be Madonna…

Surely you can’t be serious? Part One–Sheehan and The Greens

Seemingly in anticipation and in honour of the great Leslie Nielsen’s passing, the print media in Australia seems to be full of laughs and pratfalls.

Over on the National Times, Paul Sheehan, obviously reasoning that Nielsen’s fame came mostly from parody, decided to write a column so absurd and full of stereotype and lacking in reality that I just assumed it was him attempting to parody what a right wing anti-Greens op-ed piece would look like if it were done by the satirical news-site, by The Onion. But then a friend informed me that, no, I was wrong – Sheehan actually was being serious (and don’t call him Shirley).

Sheehan's piece is an A to Z of the Green's policies. It is also a great example of how to repeat prejudices without reference to facts. All 26 of them? oh geez, I can’t be bothered, but let’s pick out a few highlights for some laughs:

Firstly his thesis is based on the fact that “The Greens” don’t only have policies that are about Green issues:

“It is simply not a party preoccupied with the environment”.

Well hell. He certainly has blown the lid off that secret hasn’t he! I can’t wait for his follow up article that explains that the Australian Labor Party has policies that aren't about industrial regulation. How dare The Greens branch out. They’re just like the Peoples Republic of China which, I don’t know if you know but they aren’t a republic. Damn, I bet the Greens had something to do with that – not to mention that whole German Democratic Republic thing. Bloody hell, why can’t things be what they claim to be – you know like the Liberal Party of Australia.

OK, under A for the Australian Building and Construction Commission, he tells us that The Greens received donations from the CFMEU and they hate the ABCC and therefore obviously The Greens want the ABCC abolished. Sheehan thinks that is the only reason The Greens want it abolished. He never considers that it might be the other way round – you know an organisation donates to a party because that party has a policy that the organisation agrees with. Gee, never heard of that happening before.

C: China. So great is the scale of power plant construction in China alone that even if Australia enforced a policy of zero greenhouse gas emissions, it would make almost no difference to global emissions. Thus Green urgency is based on principle rather than practical outcomes.

Yes, principles are bad. So I wonder if Sheehan thinks that Hawke and Keating should have waited for the rest of the world to lower all their tariffs before Australia did (the analogous argument put forward by George Megalogenis in his Quarterly Essay). Forget that – principles are bad – tell your children. 

D: Decadal Oscillation. A major complication for climate alarmists is a weather pattern known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Decadal Oscillation. Their cycles have been measured for 1500 years. Every 24 to 31 years they alternate global warming and global cooling phases. Australia was due for a cooling phase, and this year's flooding rain is consistent with the onset of a cooling phase.

Ah a little scientific knowledge is dangerous. Let’s first use the Wikipedia link that Sheehan gives us to explain what is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO):

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is a pattern of Pacific climate variability that shifts phases on at least inter-decadal time scale, usually about 20 to 30 years. The PDO is detected as warm or cool surface waters in the Pacific Ocean, north of 20° N. During a "warm", or "positive", phase, the west Pacific becomes cool and part of the eastern ocean warms; during a "cool" or "negative" phase, the opposite pattern occurs.

Now, to Sheehan’s suggestion that it is a “major complication for climate alarmists”.  Well let’s call bullshit on that right now, and go over to the Skeptical Science website (which conveniently has a130 of the usual climate change denialist arguments all list and refuted.image 

Conveniently it has a graph of global temperature anomaly (ie global warming) set against that of the PDO. Rather unsurprisingly because the Pacific Decadal Oscillation oscillates – ie it goes up and down – it has no impact on long term global warming. Sure it has impacts on the short term, but if PDO was all Sheehan and his ilk say it is, those periods when there is a “cooling” the long terms anomaly would go down such that the long term trend would be flat. It ain’t.

Try again Paul.

E: Electrical Trades Union. The union gave $325,000 to the Greens campaign in Victoria during the federal election, including $125,000 to Adam Bandt's campaign.

Yes? And? Was this secret? Err no. Should the ALP be pissed about it  - well yes. But I struggle to find the point Sheehan is trying to make her. I guess he’s just stating facts and letting us discern the reasoning all by ourselves – which I’m not quite sure is the purpose of opinion pieces, but I may be wrong.

G: GetUp! This local clone of a hard-left American lobby group received $1.2 million from the aforementioned CFMEU during the federal election campaign. The money was used for an ad campaign that attacked Tony Abbott personally. GetUp! supports the Greens.

Ok. So The Greens are bad because an organisation Sheehan doesn’t like supports them. By that logic I can dislike Sheehan’s articles on the basis of the fact I don’t like someone who reads his and likes them. This step of logic is very helpful. Catch the Fire and the Exclusive Brethren supported John Howard and the Liberals, so now I don’t need to bother with any of the Liberal Party’s policies during Howard’s reign I can just say: Catch the Fire supports Howard. QED. Cheers Paul. Life is much easier now.

H: Heroin injecting room. Another left-wing obsession, and thus state-funded heroin injecting rooms is a core emotional issue for the Greens.

Oh sigh. Yep those injecting rooms are evil. I mean just look what that socialist newspaper The Australia reported last month:

Since the centre was opened in May 2001 it has been evaluated 11 times by five organisations. The most recent, commissioned by the state government, was performed by auditor KPMG.

"I think early on it was appropriate for this to be a trial," she says. "This was the first supervised injecting centre in the English-speaking world and although there were hopes for what it would do, there was no evidence."

By April this year, 12,000 individuals had used the centre, with staff members supervising an average of 200 injections a day. Since the centre opened, about 3500 people have overdosed on the premises without a single fatality. Ambulance call-outs to the area have dropped 80 per cent and the number of syringes and needles left on the street has halved.

There's no doubt the evidence is strong, says Alison Ritter, acting director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. "There's nothing equivocal about the scientific evaluations that have been done."

Yes, The Greens (and the ALP) support that. Evil. Crush them, I says!

I: Immigration. Also for Incoherent. The Greens want Australia to lower its greenhouse emissions and reduce stress on the environment, but they defeated the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme and their population policy is rendered irrelevant whenever the needs of refugees and asylum seekers are considered.

OK, I’d really like to know just how many asylum seekers Sheehan thinks we get each year. Let’s have some facts:


Settler arrival numbers 

Net permanent migration


84 100 

49 000


92 300 

51 200


107 400 

60 800


88 900 

40 700


93 900 

43 500


111 600 

52 500


123 400 

60 800


131 600 

63 700


140 100 

68 000


149 400 

72 400


158 021 

77 000 

So in 2008-09 we had 158,021 people migrating here. So lets say we get around 7,000 people come here by boat this year (probably more than there will be). That would be around 4 per cent of the total figure of the number of migrants who came here in 2008-09. If Sheehan thinks that amount has ANY significant impact on greenhouse emissions or stress on the environment (let alone the actual issue of migration), then he is a fool – or at least 4 per cent of a fool.

L: Lee Rhiannon. Classic post-Marxist. From a proudly activist Communist family.

Well hell. Run for the hills. You know, I don’t care what Sheehan’s mum or dad were or did. I’ll judge him by his own words, just as I’ll judge Rhiannon’s by her own; maybe Sheehan should do that as well.

U: Urban heat islands. Another complication for climate action alarmists is the general rise in temperatures measured in urban areas, reflecting the huge trend in global urbanisation.

Yeah, real complicated, because of course scientists wouldn't think to consider their data may be subject to bias. Oh but let’s have a look at a graph comparing rural and urban measurements:image

Hmmm. Not seeing a big skew there Paul. Maybe it’s just too darn complicated for me to get my head around.

W: Wild Rivers. Lock up Cape York. Then lock up northern Australia, while Aboriginal communities stew in the feudal squalor of progressive apartheid.

Well I guess that must be so. Let’s not suggest that there is actually a good deal of debate within the Aboriginal community of North Queensland on the Wild Rivers legislation and a good lot of them are not in agreement with Tony Abbott, Paul Sheehan and Noel Pearson. Take Carpentaria Land Council spokesman Murrandoo Yanner:

"It (wild rivers) doesn't prevent Aboriginal economic development.

"There's been 100 applications go through. There's been none put in from the Cape or rejected for the Cape."

Yep apartheid. Pure and simple.

Look I don’t particularly care that Sheehan is a right wing opinion writer. Heck I’m a left wing one (though not as left as people might like to suppose). I’m not even a Greens supporter (I’ve had a few goes at them on this blog) – though yes a few of my friends are Greens.

I certainly have  some agreement with some of Sheehan’s attacks on the Greens’ economic polices (some), but really is this the best he can do? His criticism is on the same level as me writing an article about why Sheehan is a useless journalist and writing: “S for Sydney Morning Herald: Sheehan writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, it has a awful website with stupid automatic video adverts.”

A bit of intelligence in an argument is all I ask. State your points and defend them with facts, not just state your points and either defend them with supposition or not defend them at all.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

On the QT: And now the end is… near

This was meant to be the last sitting day of the Parliament.  It won’t be, due to debate about procedure and debate – or as Lyndal Curtis nicely put it on Twitter:

Both Chambers of Fed Parliament now talking about what they'll talk about. #thisyearwillneverend

Annabel Crabb also described the process beautifully:

This is all a bit how's your father. Senate doing a suspension of standing orders to debate a motion that has not actually been disclosed

Here’s what was going on in the Senate this morning:

Motion to suspend standing orders to enable Senator Ludwig to move a motion to give precedence to a motion to vary the hours of meeting and routine of business for today.

Commenced 9:31 AM
Agreed to Senate divided: Ayes 34; Noes 32

Motion - that the motion to vary the hours of meeting and routine of business may be moved immediately and have precedence over all other business today until determined

Senator Ludwig moved that the question be put - agreed to (Senate divided: Ayes 34; Noes 32)
Commenced 10:14 AM
Agreed to Senate divided: Ayes 34; Noes 32

Motion to vary the hours of meeting and routine of business

Points of order were raised and the President responded
Commenced 10:27 AM

Motion to suspend standing orders to enable Senator Brandis to take note of the President's response

Senator Ludwig moved that the question be put - agreed to (Senate divided: Ayes 34; Noes 32)
Commenced 10:35 AM
Negatived Senate divided: Ayes 32; Noes 34

Motion to vary the hours of meeting and routine of business

Senator Ludwig moved that the question be put - agreed to (Senate divided: Ayes 34; Noes 32)
Commenced 10:54 AM
Agreed to Senate divided: Ayes 37; Noes 35

Motion to suspend standing orders to allow Senator Brandis to move a motion to amend the variation to the hours of meeting and routine of business

Senator Ludwig moved that the question be put - agreed to (Senate divided: Ayes 37; Noes 35)
Commenced 11:27 AM
Negatived Senate divided: Ayes 35; Noes 37

Motion to suspend standing orders to enable Senator Macdonald to move a motion to amend the variation to the hours of meeting and routine of business was ruled by the President as out of order
Commenced 11:48 AM

Senator Macdonald moved to suspend standing orders to take note of the ruling
Senator Evans moved that the question be put - agreed to (Senate divided: Ayes 36; Noes 34)
Commenced 11:50 AM
Negatived Senate divided: Ayes 34; Noes 36

S0 it was 12:14 before the Senate actually got round to discussing any actual business

All this is because the Opposition does not want to vote on the “No. 1–Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2010”. This is the Bill to split Telstra – something that the Liberal Party is actually in favour of. The Liberal Party are hoping to filibuster long enough to delay the vote on the Bill till next year – thus allowing them to say the Government doesn't deliver on promises.

As I write the bill is in committee going through a raft or amendments. They’ll be back tomorrow and the House will be back on Monday to (hopefully) vote on the Bill.

It is the type of bullshit that makes people look at the Parliament and think, why do we elect these arse hats?

Unfortunately due to a variety of  reasons (mostly to do with being a Dad!) I haven’t been able to catch much of Question Time today. It doesn’t matter because today some policy actually got announced (once again by Senator Conroy). This was to do with the anti-siphoning list for sport on TV.

Rather amazingly he has come up with a list that the Free TV broadcasters, Pay TV operators and the AFL and NRL are pretty much happy with.

Free TV are happy because they are allowed to now show sport like AFL games and Australian Open tennis on their multi-channels. Pay TV are happy because it looks like they’ll get 4 AFL games and possibly 5 NRL games a week. The AFL and NRL are happy because they don’t need to just sell to the Free-to-Air stations, and thus can get a nice big broadcasting deal.

The new list is actually two lists – Tier A which is all the culturally vital events – Melbourne Cup, Test Matches in Australia, AFL and NRL Grand Finals (but not the NRL State of Origin). One Day Matches are still on this list which marks it as a tad out of date, but no matter, Twenty-20 matches are, but only those involving Australia in Australia, so if a decent Twenty-20 champions league takes off in Australia that won’t be on this list.

These events are “required be shown first on a free-to-air broadcaster’s main channel (with concessions to allow coverage of overlapping events, or where an event overlaps with the news).”

The events on this list must also be shown live: “they will mandate live coverage of all marquee listed events and permit only minimal delays in coverage of regionally significant events”.

The second list – Tier B has events like the Olympics, Wimbledon, normal AFL and NRL games etc. These events are those which “free-to-air broadcasters may premier on a free-to-air multi-channel”.

The events on this list must be shown within 4 hours – so yes, non-Rugby League states might still get the State of Origin at Midnight.

This policy doesn’t mean we will now see all the tennis from the Australian Open, nor does it mean the end of coverage being cut to go to the news. Yes they might show them on their multi-channel, but they’ll only do that if what they would have been showing on their multi-channel (Go! GEM, 7TWO etc) would not rate as well as (for eg) the tennis. All stations care about is ratings. The rest is just background noise. So I don’t trust that this will suddenly lead to us seeing a lot more sport live. After all Channel 7 during the Beijing Olympics got Matt White to lie to viewers about the fact that they were not showing Steve Hooker winning the Gold Medal in the Pole Vault live – and that had nothing to do with the anti-siphoning list – it was just because they are crap broadcasters who treat viewers of sport with contempt (as they did again this year for the Bathurst 1000).

But let’s be a little bit optimistic. At least Conroy has come up with a list that makes some degree of sense – unlike the old one that had events like the French Open tennis on it.

I leave the Parliament year with some long viewing (about 30 minutes) but it is well worth it. It is Lindsay Tanner interviewing George Megalogenis on the impact of polls and the 24 hours media cycle on politics. It is great viewing.