Essential Report

Elisabeth Needs To School Gina

Aug 24, 2012

It’s only in the strange world we live in, where the “free market” isn’t roundly derided as a failure, that a speech by a media executive calling for the world to “reject the idea that money is the only effective measure of all things” makes you sit up and take notice. Particularly when that executive’s last name is Murdoch. Not Rupert. Elisabeth.

Last night, Elisabeth gave the MacTaggart address at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival. I can’t say what this means long term, whether the 44-year old executive who runs News Corp’s Shine Television used the speech to embark on a long campaign that takes on the very world view espoused by the Rupe and Elisabeth’s younger brother James, both of whom have been at the center of the hacking scandals, not to mention paragons of the global media industry.

But, she did make a splash, per the Sydney Morning Herald:

In marked contrast to the dry economic rhetoric preferred by both her father and brother, she said that people needed to “reject the idea that money is the only effective measure of all things or that the free market is the only sorting mechanism” and said that “the absence of purpose” could be “one of the most dangerous own goals for capitalism and for freedom”.


But she repeatedly gestured towards liberal values with references to progressive political figures, including “one of my heroes” Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela whom she watched walk from prison “through my tears”.

I can’t help but note the vast difference between the views of Elisabeth, at least as stated in this one speech, versus those of Gina Reinhart. While Elisabeth seems to want to open up new voices and encourage democracy, Gina is trying to sell off one-third of her stake in Fairfax—a move which has further depressed the stock— because she was unsuccessful, so far, at using her wealth to muzzle people.


A Matter of Priorities

Jul 31, 2012

My favorite philosopher, sometimes, is a US bank robber. A guy named Willie Sutton who, when asked why he robbed banks, replied, “That’s where the money is”. Which comes to mind when we think about the Queeg of Queensland’s refusal to come up with money for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

There is no shortage of money. Period. We don’t need to be cutting government spending because money is cheaper than it’s ever been or worrying about obsessing about very small deficits, when the choice is whether we fund the NDIS or a whole host of other projects.

But, what really brings this into sharp relief is reading about the housing options available to a few:

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart has reportedly spent $S57 million ($43.8 million) on two units, off the plan, in the Seven Palms Sentosa Cove condominium project in Singapore.

A company linked to Mrs Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting purchased a unit on the third floor of the four-storey complex for $S23.3 million as well as a top-floor unit for close to $S33.9 million, according to Singapore’s Business Times newspaper.

There is plenty of money, certainly, if the richest among the people pay a fairer share of taxes. While we have heard a lot about a mythical inability to pay to make sure people with disabilities are afforded fair treatment (we are in a country where a child is expected to wait two years to get a wheelchair), we have not heard — but certainly we’d be happy to publish — the Queeg of Queensland’s plea to the richest among us to pay higher personal taxes, or a fair resources tax, and perhaps forgo, uh, optional housing choices so that children who need wheelchairs get them quickly.

To channel Willie Sutton, if you want to know where to go to find money so children can have wheelchairs, we’re happy to provide the addresses of a few people who are kicking back in Singapore.


Slipping Away?

Jul 23, 2012

Hate to say, “we told you so” because that won’t pay the bills. But, remember, when we pointed out that China was slowing down and it was downright foolish to let the American Disease infect the thinking in Oz? Well, the mining boom’s last act is coming faster than you think–and that’s a huge warning to take seriously.

It’s upon us:

AUSTRALIA’S budget surplus has evaporated and its mining investment boom has only two years to run, according to Deloitte Access Economics.

The forecast marks a watershed in assessments of Australia’s prospects, implying in the words of this morning’s Access publication: ”The strong bit of Australia’s two-speed economy won’t stay strong for more than another two years or so”.

The sad thing is that it doesn’t have to be a rocky road. If the mining barons, and their political patron– the man in The Empty Suit, leader of the Coalition– would stop resisting, blocking or whittling back serious taxes on the staggering riches a few people are pocketing from every Australian’s birthright, there would be plenty of money to invest in economic strategically smart efforts that would help the country blossom even when the mining boom evaporates.

And if people would stop wringing their hands over a non-existent deficit problem, we could even be plowing money into projects now.

The head aches.



Are The Chinese Lying–And What That Means In The Mines

Jun 25, 2012

Before they shuffled off for the weekend, you kind of wonder weather the PM, or the Empty Suit (leader of the Opposition) orr Gina, the mining baron who is busy with her “I, Gina” show, had a chance to catch a story in the paper of record on the other side of the planet, which, if true, could mean a huge headache for the economy here at home. The upshot: China might be lying about its economic health. Uh-oh.

The New York Times weighed in with this nugget:

As the Chinese economy continues to sputter, prominent corporate executives in China and Western economists say there is evidence that local and provincial officials are falsifying economic statistics to disguise the true depth of the troubles.

Someone apparently is going around counting coal cars (talk about boring jobs–does that person get extra pay?):

Record-setting mountains of excess coal have accumulated at the country’s biggest storage areas because power plants are burning less coal in the face of tumbling electricity demand. But local and provincial government officials have forced plant managers not to report to Beijing the full extent of the slowdown, power sector executives said.

Electricity production and consumption have been considered a telltale sign of a wide variety of economic activity. They are widely viewed by foreign investors and even some Chinese officials as the gold standard for measuring what is really happening in the country’s economy, because the gathering and reporting of data in China is not considered as reliable as it is in many countries.

Indeed, officials in some cities and provinces are also overstating economic output, corporate revenue, corporate profits and tax receipts, the corporate executives and economists said. The officials do so by urging businesses to keep separate sets of books, showing improving business results and tax payments that do not exist.

What might this mean…nothing good:

The executives and economists roughly estimated that the effect of the inaccurate statistics was to falsely inflate a variety of economic indicators by 1 or 2 percentage points. That may be enough to make very bad economic news look merely bad. [emphasis added]

If the point of the story isn’t obvious: If China’s economy is actually very bad, not just bad, then, it will get worse here. Or to put a more fashionable for the season spin, perhaps inspired by the cacophony of sneezing and hacking rumbling from office pod to office pod, if China is coming down with an economic flu, it’s going to spread fast across Western Australia and every corner of the mining boom.

So, maybe all those regular people who aren’t feeling as optimistic as the Reserve Bank keeps telling they should be feeling know a lot more than the people in charge of monetary policy.


“I, Gina”: A Love Affair With Oneself

Jun 22, 2012

The long-running theatrical show “I, Gina” is now spreading its wings at the Sydney Morning Herald. One thing we need to make clear, just so we’re not surprised or shocked: Gina Reinhart does not understand democracy, nor does she care one bit about the future of the nation–except, of course, in the way the nation can help promote the “I, Gina” drama, at the expense of the rest of the peons who scurry about her ankles. For billionaires, it’s always about them. Their power. Their wealth. Their control.

No better illustration of the contradiction between the “I, Gina” philosophy and democracy can be found in the saga playing out at the Sydney Morning Herald. One the one hand, we have Gina, rolling in with more than 18 percent of the stock of the company stuffed in her pockets, demanding, oh, yes, DEMANDING three seats on the board of directors AND the power to hire and fire editors. On the one hand, you could say she is tone deaf to the criticism that she’s trying to eviscerate–silence–the newspaper’s voice, tone deaf because the concern rises up from both sides of the political aisle:

”What this will do is destroy the credibility of the Fairfax mastheads,” said the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy. ”And if you were to start turning it into just a pro-mining industry gazette, well, I don’t think you would say the rest of the shareholders in Fairfax would be too excited about the collapse in readership.”

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull also said the board’s reluctance to give Mrs Rinehart board seats was understandable ”without a commitment to supporting editorial independence . . . If Fairfax, for example, were seen to be a mouthpiece of Gina Rinehart and a ‘spokes vehicle’ for the mining industry that would undermine its business model dramatically.”

But, no, this is not about not hearing other voices. It’s about not caring. The “I, Gina” show, a love affair with oneself, has no interest in a Media Charter of Editorial Independence because it contains words like “city”, “state”, “nation”, “integrity” and “independence”–all of which convey the radical idea that the space we occupy is bigger that “I”. Does not compute!

Of course, that the “I, Gina” show can rampage through the country is the logical end result to promoting a belief that, for the sake of the glorious “free market”, rich people can do as they please. Mostly.

–Jonathan Tasini


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