Mixed Bag

Some ticks and crosses for recent political events:

Julia Gillard visited India to reassure the Indian people that we want their students here, we’re serious about protecting them, and we’ll shut down any bogus educational organizations.  This is a smart move.  It’s a good example of Customer Service – how to turn a bad situation around by listening to concerns and doing something about it. The Indian government responded by inviting Australian universities to set up branches in India.

XNSW minister John Della Bosca resigned because he got caught having an affair.  John Della Bosca’s personal life is irrelevant.  The comments in the media about him missing planes because of his secret relationship are lame.  The bottom line is whether or not he’s doing his job effectively or not, whether the NSW tax payers are getting value from his efforts, and whether his actions and those of his government are taking his state in the right direction.  If you want to remove a government minister due to incompetence, that’s fine – it’s politics.  But resigning, or getting kicked out because you had an affair is stupid.  What sort of precedent does it set?  If we want to get rid of a government now, do we forget about policy debates and performance indicators, and just take the easy way out and dig through their dirty laundry.  This is grubby journalism, and stupid politics.  And NO I don’t support NSW Labor, or their politics.  But Della Bosca should still be a cabinet minister today.

Victorian minister Tim Holding was rescued from the Victorian Alps after two days being stranded on a mountain top.  This is great news, and a good example of emergency services getting the job done when needed.  Yes, he should have taken an EPIRB and probably should have taken a couple of mates with him, but despite that it’s good to see healthy active political leaders getting out and exploring the world, and surviving calamities.

XACMA refuses to ban junk food ads.  The Australian Communications and Media Authority is toothless, and without gonads.  They are incapable of doing anything courageous if it threatens the profitability of commercial broadcasters.  Australian Commercial Media requires more regulation, not less.  They intrude into every area of our lives.  Most of our chubby little kids are addicted to the junk they serve up.  Getting tougher with them won’t harm them at all.  All commercial media has to compete in the same environment.  Television advertisers still have to advertise.  I just think they should have a few more boundaries so they learn to behave properly.  The bottom line is that Australian Media can’t or won’t regulate itself.  The Government needs to bite the bullet on this.

√XA bet each way for the Gorgon Gas project.  It’s a good outcome which is a result of the efforts of both Labor and Liberal governments, past and current in WA and Federally.  It injects billions of dollars into the Australian economy.  BUT, environment minister Peter Garret was pretty much sidelined by the whole process.  The project was announced and feted BEFORE Garret had given his approval as environment minister.  Regardless of what the spin-doctors say, it shows that he’s considered irrelevant by the major players, and that the environment comes second when large amounts of money are involved.

XWayne Swan has left the spending tap on, money is splattering everywhere, and our current account deficit is blowing out.  Yes, our economy has benefited from economic stimulus, but Swan forgets that the stimulus doesn’t need to be a blunt instrument.  The Australian economy is growing, but Swan needs to be aware that the extra cash is boosting imports, and hurting exports.  If our current account deficit continues, we’ll be staring at Paul Keating’s “Banana Republic” in the not too distant future, with a $300 billion foreign debit too boot.

Get out of my face!

I hate TV ads.
I have trouble at the best of times shifting my attention from one thing to the next. Just ask by dear wife how difficult it is for her when she comes into my office while I’m halfway through thinking somthing through.
When I’m relaxing in my favourite chair in the lounge room wathcing a show on TV, the last thing I want is some stupid corporation interrupting the peace, trying to sell me something I don’t need – be it hamburgers, debt, pain killers, or white goods.
If I want to buy something, I’ll go and get the facts by checking some web pages, talking to people who’ve bought similar things, or just makeing a few phone calls.
The last thing I want is some twisted manipulative message from a company that paid a fortune to butt in on my peace and quiet with some inane advertisement extolling the virtues of their snake oil, targetted at some idiot with half my IQ, a quarter my common sense, and ten times my apparent desire to base spending on the propaganda I see on the TV screen.
(Yes, that sounds elitist and it is. Advertisers target their ads at a lower than average intelligence level of about late primary school, and assume if they tell you to buy something often enough, you’ll be stupid enough to buy it. Well… are you? Is that how you’re going to reward someone who invades your lounge room in the middle of your favourite show?)
Guys – just get out my face!
In fact, I’ve bought a couple of PVRs (Personal Video Recorders) – the Beyonwiz DP-S1 and the Topfield 5000. Both of them have a wonderful product called ICE TV installed which lets me know what TV shows are on and when – up to a week in advance. All of this lets me pause the TV, and skip over ads. So now, when some imbecile tells me how cool McDonalds, or “SUPER” A-Mart is, I just tell them to *#$%# off, press the red button to skip ads, and keep watching my show. (You have no idea how satisfying it is to blast TV ads away at the press of a button).
So here’s my prediction. Everyone will end up getting a PVR with ICE TV, and skip over ads. TV will become a less attractive medium for corporations to peddle their wares. TV broadcasters will lose advertising revenue, or try and devise more insidious ways to push ads in front of your face, which will devalue the medium even more.
It’s at this point that the guys at Think TV will try to convince you how much you need advertising on free to air TV.
Which is a load of rubbish.
I’d rather pay a TV broadcaster to show stuff on TV, provided they didn’t insult my intelligence with ads.
Or even better – watch the ABC. What a wonderful institution. Intelligent shows, no ads, no dumbed down news or current affairs.
But regardless of whether you like ABC or not, whether you’re prepared to pay for your TV or not, the forces of evolution are at work in the TV world.
And it’s my fervent hope that TV advertisers, those parasites who invade our living rooms, will go the way of T-Rex, Eohippus, and the Dodo.
And I for one, can’t wait to dance on their graves.

More than Mutual Media Masturbation


Kevin Rudd and Channel Seven’s “Sunrise” have been caught red handed telling porkie pies about their plans to stage a fake “dawn service” at Long Tan in Vietnam on Anzac Day to fit in with prime time TV slots in Australia.

While Kevvie and Kochie might be permitted a bit of mutual ego stroking on prime-time, the problem is the mess they’ve made while they were doing it:

Rudd tried to convince us he knew nothing of his discussions with “Sunrise” to stage the fake service. Emails then came to light which proved Rudd’s claims to be false.

He then tried shift the blame to his staff for the “oversight” – grossly hypocritical in the light of the charges of “Sergeant Schultz” behavior that he leveled at the Government over AWB (“know nothing, see nothing, ask nothing”).

Most Australians have to put up with wankers from time to time, but it’s a bit much to expect us to tolerate hypocritical, lying little wankers.

Makes you wonder what he’ll come up with next.

Well said, Bill!

Full marks to Bill Leak for his witty cartoon about Indonesia and West Papua.

A similar cartoon in an Indonesian newspaper portrayed John Howard and Alexander Downer as amorous dingoes. Most people either smirked about it or wrote it off as a pretty lame joke.

But Bill’s cartoon has got a lot of people running for cover, with Downer “disassociating” himself from it, opposition counterpart Rudd calling for a stop to the “cartoon wars”, and numerous Indonesian commentators getting very worked up.

There’s no need to get so upset.

The Indonesian media opposed Australia’s actions over West Papua and criticized that decision.

Similarly, many Australians are skeptical of Indonesia’s actions in West Papua, and are openly critical about it.

Debate between international neighbors about issues of mutual interest is a healthy thing. It would be a much less desirable situation if this sort of debate was stifled to try and appease those sensitive souls who are offended by criticism.

The debate serves a vital role – governments at home and abroad are held accountable for their actions.

If Bill Leak can have a bit of a laugh about it while contributing to the debate, then good for him!

John Doyle – Comedian and Genius

The Andrew Ollie 2005 Media Lecture was presented by John Doyle.

For those of you who haven’t seen him, Doyle is “Roy Slaven” – part of the comical duo, Roy and HG.

Although John Doyle’s lecture was very funny in parts, he delivered an incisive appraisal of the state of our world, with some intelligent suggestions on what could be done about it.

The text and mp3 download are available at:

If you ever find yourself questioning things like the “Dumbing Down” of commercial media, the future of the ABC, the facile nature of Talkback Radio, and the decline of the skeptical thought process, then you’ll appreciate what Doyle has to say.

The Virus of Ideas

Ideas are like viruses.

They spread from person to person. If a person is infected they can pass the idea on to someone else.

Some people are immune to some ideas. Others are susceptible to them.

Ideas change the people they infect. They can turn someone into a political activist, a religious zealot, or a suicide bomber.

Some ideas (like some viruses) can cause much damage. Consider the AIDS virus, or SARS.

Epidemeology is the study of the distribution of diseases. It is an advanced science and is vital for containing the spread of infectious diseases. It teaches us how to prevent infection, and how to treat those who are infected.

I think that we need an “Epidemeology of Ideas”.

It is moot whether a particular idea is “dangerous” or not. I don’t want to be drawn on which ideas are “good”, “bad”, “dangerous” or “helpful” because each person will have a different opinion depending on their point of view.

But a society may feel threatened by the spread of a certain philosophy. For example, western societies feel threatened by terrorism.

The usual response to this perceived threat is to increase surviellence, military presence, etc – trying to prevent terrorist acts.

I think this is akin to doctors trying to stop a runny nose, or reduce a temperature. It’s dealing with the symptom rather than the cause.

We need to ask more probing questions such as:

  • How is the destructuve idea communicated from person to person?
  • What makes someone susceptible to such an idea?
  • How do we prevent people from being infected by such ideas?
  • Once infected, how do we remove the infection?
  • Can someone not infected with such an idea still spread it? For example, someone who doesn’t beleive in a certain philosphy might promote it for their own personal gain.

These questions raise more alarming questions about human rights, freedoms, democracy, freedom of the press, etc.

I’ll try and explore some of these questions in my future postings.

Phillip Adams Dreamtime

“Dreamtime” by Phillip Adams in the Weekend Australian is a classic.

I don’t agree with Adams on some issues. I agree with him on much more, even though I come from a much more conservative viewpoint than he does.

More than most journalists in Australia today, I think he has earned the right to be heard and respected.

Phillip Adams has a heart as big as Uluru. He writes with a compassion and wit that can’t be denied, but without any soppy sentimentalism. Like a loyal friend, he never tells you what you want to hear – he tells you the truth as he sees it.

Give us more people with this sort of integrity. I don’t care if you disagree with me about something – just tell me the bloody truth. I’ll respect you for it, and always will listen to what you have to say.

Spin doctors, and propagandists deserve the skepticism they receive. If you want that sort of tripe, watch Fox, listen to Laws or Jones, or some of the other cold leftovers they serve up on talk back radio. Like candy for the mind, it will rot your brain.

But if you want to work a bit harder, read Phillip Adams. He won’t dish up policies from thinktanks. He’ll just talk to you straight from his heart.

Phillip, thanks for sharing your dream this weekend. We’d be lucky if even half of it came true. I’m sure we could negotiate which half 🙂