September 29, 2012


Independent Media Inquiry

[In 2003, the Coalition] Minister Alston … made 68 complaints of bias in the ABC’s reporting [of the second Iraq war].

An internal investigation found that two of the 68 complaints were substantiated.
An independent panel found that 17 of the complaints had merit, although there was no evidence of anti-Coalition bias as alleged by the minister.
[The] Australian Broadcasting Authority found that 21 of the 68 complaints were substantiated, but did not accept the complaint of systematic bias.

At the time [there was a funding] disagreement between the [government and the ABC.]
The minister said that the complaints were not connected with this [disagreement but that if the] parliament thought that the ABC had lost the plot, they could be defunded. …

[There] is no suggestion that the minister’s complaints caused the ABC to ‘tone down’ its reporting, even though its budget was a matter of intense debate between the ABC and the government of the day.
(p 124)

September 25, 2012

Democracy, Industry Structure and Performance

Independent Media Inquiry

[R H Crossman, one-time] editor of the New Statesman and a former minister in the Wilson Government in the United Kingdom whose diaries were the source for the popular BBC television series Yes Minister, put it most dramatically when he wrote in 1965 that power had shifted from those who controlled the means of production to ‘those who control the media of mass communication’ …
(p 52)

[The dilemma is] how to accommodate the increasing and legitimate demand for press accountability [without]
  • [increasing] state power …
  • [inhibiting] the vigorous democratic role the press should play or
  • [undermining] the key rationales for free speech and a free press. …
(p 53)

[The] Australian press is in no immediate danger of collapsing.
The main media companies appear to be reasonably capable of dealing with the pressures facing them at least over the medium term.
(p 101)

September 22, 2012

Media Standards and Laws

Independent Media Inquiry

There is considerable evidence that Australians have a low level of trust in the media as an institution and in journalists as a professional group …
[Levels] of trust in different media organisations and different types of media vary.
The most trusted by far is the ABC …
These trends have been consistent over many decades.
The [Australian Press Council], which the newspaper industry established to oversee standards, has been in existence for the best part of four decades. …

[There is evidence that journalism's role as a watchdog of democracy] has become compromised by the media’s own material interests [e.g.] about one-third of working journalists say they feel obliged to take account of their proprietor’s political position when writing stories.
(p 123)

Trust [or lack thereof,] appears to be allied to perceptions about accuracy and bias.
Television — and especially ABC television — is more widely perceived to be accurate than other media.
Newspapers are generally not perceived to be as accurate.
Similarly, with perceptions of bias: the picture is mixed, but generally television and radio are seen to be less biased than newspapers.
(p 124)

September 21, 2012

The Conversation

Green Army: Communications

Stranded Coal

John Quiggin: Professor of Economics, University of Queensland

[Thermal] coal prices [have declined] over the past four years, from US$140 per tonne to US$70.
At this price, most new coal projects are uneconomic, and many existing mines are not covering their extraction, transport and shipping costs. …
If low prices are sustained, investments in these projects will be lost.

Mines with lower production costs, say US$40 a tonne, will stay in business.
[However, the rate of return at US$40] per tonne of coal, which would have been US$100 four years ago, has now fallen to US$30.
So while the price of coal has fallen by half, the value of the coal reserves has fallen (in this example) by 70%. …

The G8 (the predecessor of the G20) committed to an ambitious [Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)] program in 2008, proposing at least 19 projects by 2020. …
[So far,] only a single large-scale CCS plant is in operation, and many projects have been cancelled or suspended. …

{[There] is no large-scale sequestration technology available for the foreseeable future.}
[And even if there was, CSIRO has estimated that CCS] involves the loss of as much as 30% of the energy generated. …
A 30% reduction on current coal prices would render even the most easily extracted resources almost worthless.

(The strengthening economic case for fossil fuel divestment, 30 November 2014)

A Great Big New Tax on Everything

Neil Perry: Research Lecturer, University of Western Sydney

The government predicts a 10% increase in electricity prices from the carbon tax which adds $3.30 per week on average to household electricity bills.
Food and beverage prices have been estimated to rise by around $1 per week while the CPI increase is about 0.7% in the coming twelve months after which the effect of the carbon price on price increases virtually disappears.

These figures pale in comparison to the higher household electricity bills, food prices and CPI due to higher network charges.
And of course the government has not compensated households for these increases as they will for low-income earners dealing with the effects of the carbon price.

(Carbon Pricing: A minor shock compared to recent electricity price increases, 5 June 2012.)

Yes, Prime Minister

John Keane: Professor of Politics, University of Sydney

[Tony Blair recounts] his discovery that a pack of top journalists … had been left stranded at a London underground station clogged with New Year’s Eve revellers [on the last night of the millennium. …]
Tony Blair:
Please, please, dear God … please tell me you didn’t have the media coming here by tube from Stratford just like ordinary members of the public.

Charlie Falconer:
Well, we thought it would be more democratic that way.

Tony Blair:
What fool thought that?
They’re the media, for Christ’s sake.
They write about the people, they don’t want to be treated like them.

Charlie Falconer:
Well, what did you want us to do, get them all a stretch limo?

Tony Blair:
Yes, Charlie, with the boy or girl of their choice and as much champagne as they can drink. …

Deterring People Smugglers

Sharon Pickering: Professor of Criminology, Monash University

[From a criminological perspective] the idea that an illicit market, such as people smuggling, can be dealt with through enforcement-related strategies and broad deterrent messages has serious limitations.
Historically, the most effective approaches to reducing illicit markets have been found through regulatory measures and harm minimisation approaches, not deterrence.
There is simply not enough evidence that deterrence works to justify the expense and potential harm of its implementation. …

Deterring irregular border crossings does not necessarily decrease border related deaths.
Evidence suggests in some contexts deterrence can simply displace deaths to another site, or changes the demographics of who dies. …

Rich Man, Poor Man

Mike Pottenger: Lecturer, Statistics & Political Economy, University of Melbourne

Our data (above) showed that BHP CEO earnings fell from around 40 to 50 times average Australian earnings in 1900 to as low as 6 to 7 times average earnings in the late 1970s before rising in to 50 to 100 times the average Australian earnings when measuring just salary and bonuses in the last decade (and 150 to 250 times average earnings when including long-term incentives such as share options). …

Comparisons with data on the top five non-executive directors of Australia’s top 100 companies and with data on average CEO remuneration across Australia’s top 100 companies showed broadly similar trends. …

While BHP executive pay tracks the company’s share price and market capitalisation reasonably closely, the rise in remuneration preceded the boom, and grows almost 7% per annum faster than the mining sector’s gross value added.

(Exec pay in Australia — do the rich get richer?, 26 June 2013)

Would you like to know more?

September 15, 2012

Independent Media Inquiry

Green Army: Research and Development

Joseph Pulitzer (1847 – 1911):
Nothing less than the highest ideals, the most scrupulous anxiety to do right, the most accurate knowledge of the problems it has to meet, and a sincere sense of moral responsibility will save journalism from a subservience to business interests, seeking selfish ends, antagonistic to public welfare. …
(The College of Journalism, North American Review, 1904)

A former publisher of The Wall Street Journal:
A newspaper is a private enterprise owing nothing whatever to the public, which grants it no franchise.
It is therefore affected with no public interest.
It is emphatically the property of the owner, who is selling a manufactured product at his own risk.
(p 47)

John Hartigan [Former Chairman and CEO, News Limited]:
Great press campaigns shape new laws and change history.
They build [(and demolish) bridges] between public opinion and public policy.
(p 40)

Greg Hywood (1954) [CEO, Fairfax Media]:
Fairfax does not believe there are problems with the integrity, accuracy, bias or conduct of the media which warrant further regulation.

Bob Cronin [West Australian Newspapers]:
[There is not a] scintilla of evidence … that journalists [(and editors) are] inaccurate and biased … lack integrity [or] ignore accepted press principles.
(p 103)

Editorial Policy [West Australian Newspapers]:
[T]he rights and privileges extended to the newspapers’ journalists by the nation’s political and judicial institutions bring with them a duty to report the workings of those institutions fairly and accurately in the public interest.
(p 128)

Editorial [The Australian]:
We believe
  • that [Bob Brown] and his Green colleagues are hypocrites;
  • that they are bad for the nation; and
  • that they should be destroyed at the ballot box.
(7 September 2010)

[In 2012, according to Ray Morgan Research, journalism was rated fourth-last in a list of 30 [occupations for honesty and ethical standards ahead] of real estate agents, advertising people and car salesmen. …

[The Australian Broadcasting Corporation] is consistently identified in surveys as the most trusted [and] least biased media organisation in Australia …
(pp 106 & 111)

September 2, 2012


CSIRO: Climate Science and Solutions

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation: Sources And Sinks In Agriculture And Forestry

  • Agriculture and forestry can make a valuable contribution to lowering Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by reducing their own direct emissions and by increasing the amount of carbon stored in soils and landscapes.
  • [Soils] and forests … store large quantities of carbon [— potentially enough] to offset up to 20% or more of Australia’s emissions during the next 40 years.
  • Forest plantings [and] reduced land clearing, provide the most immediate, significant, and realisable carbon sequestration opportunity.
  • Nearly a third of Australia’s terrestrial carbon is stored in tropical savannas …
    [Savanna] fires currently contribute 2–3% of the nation’s total accountable emissions and have an important bearing on rates of carbon sequestration.
  • [Sheep and cattle] emit methane as a by-product of digesting feed. …

(p 97)

Mitigation Strategies For Energy And Transport

  • Australia has an abundance of clean energy options from which to choose. …
  • Renewables are expected to feature more prominently in Australia’s energy mix by the 2020s.
  • [Development of coal] carbon capture and storage for base-load power generation … will depend critically on the [carbon] price …
    Prolonged uncertainty [over pricing could delay investment] in any technology that may be ‘stranded’ by subsequent policy decisions.
  • Energy saving technologies, demand reduction, and distributed power generation will help to lower national carbon emissions.
  • Changes in the transport sector will be driven … by oil [rather than] carbon prices.
    Electricity may become the transport fuel of choice [supplemented by] LNG gas, diesel, and biofuels.
    Hydrogen fuel cells may eventually replace batteries in electric vehicles.

(p 109)

Reducing Energy Demand: The Imperative For Behavioural Change

  • The Australian public will have a powerful influence over the pace and extent of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies and actions adopted by the nation. …
  • There is considerable scope for individuals to reduce their own carbon footprint, and there is growing public support for a transition to a ‘green economy’.
  • Face-to-face communication and knowledge sharing to overcome the gaps in knowledge are critical.

(p 127)