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  • Aug, 2012

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    Owning The Press–and Democracy

    Jennifer Hewett, may I introduce to you a man by the name of A.J. Liebling. While Hewett may live in the world of the Fantasy Review, Liebling lived in the real world of media, where power and democracy often clashed.

    Liebling, a long-time American journalist, observed quite correctly that, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

    Which doesn’t seem to occur to Hewett, or she simply wants to conveniently smudge the truth. Today, she’s acting as the willing mouthpiece for The Empty Suit, leader of the Coalition, who is bent out of shape by the government’s inclination to make some modest attempts to preserve a modicum of freedom of speech. Hewett, on behalf of The Empty Suit, attacks Wayne Swan:

    Add to that Abbott’s attack on government bullying for claiming Gina Rinehart is a “danger to democracy’’ over her refusal to endorse Fairfax Media’s existing editorial charter. Case closed apparently. It’s surely in the public interest to have greater controls on media “bias’’, on institutionalising the ability to demand corrections and on who gets to own media outlets to pursue their own agendas. Hear, hear, Wayne. [emphasis added]

    Wait just a minute. Who is the burden on exactly? Wayne Swan and the government? Or Gina Rinehart? Recall, as we discussed a number of times, even Malcom Turnbull was on the side of the position that Rinehart had to sign the editorial independence charter:

    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.”

    Rinehart cannot even agree to a basic requirement to adhere to a code that has been broadly accepted, the questions should be aimed at her motivations, not Wayne Swan’s motivations. But, in the world of the Fantasy Review, reality plays a very small role.


  • Aug, 2012

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    Swan Sings Bruce

    Who knew? Wayne Swan hearts Bruce Springsteen. But, the main point here: Swan is singing the right tune.

    The poor folks at the Fin Review are wringing their hands over Swan’s new digs at the wealthy and the powerful (subscription needed) :

    Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan will ramp up his verbal attacks on Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest today by accusing them of using their wealth to treat the courts, Parliament, and the media as personal playthings.

    In a speech lauding the political messages of US rock star Bruce Springsteen, Mr Swan will argue the billionaires have run “blatantly self-interested” campaigns since he accused them in March of threatening Australia’s “fair go” ethos.

    “One tycoon is using his money to challenge the principle of fair taxation through electioneering; a second is using his money to challenge it through the courts; and a third is using her money to challenge it by undermining independent journalism,” Mr Swan will say.

    The comments are likely to reignite debate about whether the Gillard government is more focused on wealth distribution than wealth creation, and suggest Mr Swan is worried about the party’s loss of its traditional working class support base.

    What we love about this is that the journalist, not surprisingly, doesn’t bother to observe — because he isn’t capable of either grasping this fact or isn’t free to actually write it — that Swan is right on the money. The Palmer-Reinhart-Forrest trio, along with other extremely wealthy people, do not care about the future of the country. As I pointed out yesterday, this is a matter of priorities: do you want to make the country healthy, prosperous for all and fair, or, as one mining baron has just done, are you more interested in buying an exclusive home in Singapore.

    Instead, it is an entirely false, if predictable, premise to counterpose, as the Fin Review writer does, “Wealth distribution” and “wealth creation”. I could write a treatise on this (for example, pointing out how putting more money in peoples’ hands through wealth distribution creates more wealth by giving people the ability to purchase goods) but let’s just consider one point I made last week: investing in the National Disability Insurance Scheme–which requires public funds investment, which, by definition, is wealth distribution — actually will create billions of dollars MORE in wealth over the coming decades. So, actually, economically, factually, wealth distribution creates more wealth.

    I hope Swan keeps singing this tune. The Prime Minister, I think, made a real impression on the public with her steadfast defense of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and her staring down of recalcitrant state premiers who didn’t particularly think much of looking after the rights of the disabled. People want to hear truths that connect with what they see happening. Admittedly, sometimes the electoral benefits might either be slow to catch up or do not align right away. But, I think voters reward people who are truthful and courageous.

  • Jul, 2012


    What A Bank

    Have we got a bank for you! If the community-helping tasks like interest-rate fixing and bad mortgages wasn’t enough, HSBC has a whole new line of offerings for you…

    Per this report:

    The global bank HSBC has been used by Mexican drug cartels looking to get cash back into the United States, by Saudi Arabian banks that needed access to dollars despite their terrorist ties, and by Iranians who wanted to circumvent United States sanctions.

    Gina, here is your kind of bank– need someone to move money so you can snap up shares of the Sydney Morning Herald? HSBC is your kind of place.


  • Jul, 2012

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    Slowdown: Warning Shot

    If you want to know why we need a significant tax on the billions being pocket by Gina and the gang, look no further than China and the nervousness circling the globe on the stability of the economy. Eventually the party of the resource boom will be gone–and only Gina and her gang of robber barons will benefit.

    The warning:

    EXPECTATIONS that China will today release its weakest quarterly economic growth figures in three years have added to market pessimism on the mining sector.

    Yesterday, Australia’s top mining stocks suffered another selloff as investment banks continued to trim forecasts for commodity prices and share prices, with Credit Suisse downgrading its target share price for both BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

    And you have to connect this to the world economy:

    Australian shares are set for a weak start after Wall Street slipped on earnings fears and European markets closed lower following another spike in Spanish bond yields.

    This is not rocket science: everywhere in the world, austerity is the order of the day. People don’t have money to spend. People are afraid.

    What we need to do here is see the mining boom as our seed corn: you sock it away for the harder times surely to follow. Not in Gina’s pocket. But, in the public’s pocket.

  • Jul, 2012

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    The “I, Gina” Show Has More Acts To Come

    Life is too short and, so, yes, one has to pause and reflect: why spend time thinking or writing about a loathsome human being? The “I, Gina” show is truly grotesque, a swirl of demented perversion flowing from the twisted mind of one person. But, independent media being the hallmark of a democracy, we can’t just turn our heads from a person best relegated to a seedy peep show in some red-light district.

    So, there was a reason, per Adele Ferguson, for yesterday’s sale of 86.5 million shares by Reinhart:

    Rinehart is the richest woman in the world and, if her track record is anything to go by, she will never give up – no matter what the cost. In the case of Fairfax, she took a financial hit yesterday as she cranked up her lobbying for up to three board seats and calls for the chairman, Roger Corbett, to meet virtually unattainable performance measures by the annual general meeting or step down.


    Her latest move is linked to her wanting to retain the right to sue the directors of the Fairfax board if she becomes a director. The way company insurance policies work is a director holding a shareholding of more than 15 per cent causes problems for the coverage of director and officer insurance. Insurance companies will not cover directors in the event of a spat that results in legal action. Corbett asked Rinehart to sign a waiver that she could not sue her fellow directors. She opted instead to reduce her shareholding to below 15 per cent. [emphasis added]

    I just wonder: why would anyone want to remain a director of Fairfax with this lunatic on the loose? You basically now understand this–she wants to be on your board, to mess with the editorial content of the newspapers, AND, if you don’t see it her way, she wants to be able to sue you.

    This is the way a lunatic treats the world, whether it be her children or her peers: you are mine, I own you, I decide your life.

    Message to Fairfax directors: run for the hills.



  • Jun, 2012


    Curtain Comes Down On “I, Gina” Show–For Now

    This is worth coming back to from yesterday. The “I, Gina” show has had its show cut short, at least in the Fairfax boardroom.

    Though, in the bigger picture of fair treatment, the Fairfax board is nothing to root for when it cuts the jobs of hundreds of workers but the CEO takes no hit, one has to applaud this:

    THE board of Fairfax, publisher of the Herald, has rebuffed Gina Rinehart’s bid for a seat because she will not agree to its charter of editorial independence.

    In an explosive statement released late yesterday, Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett made his first public remarks on the mining magnate’s attempts to gain seats on the media group’s board, expressing regret an agreement could not be made ”on terms acceptable to the company”.

    ”I regret that agreement has not been reached for Mrs Rinehart to join the Fairfax Media board of directors. I hope that this might be possible in the future. However key elements yet to be agreed include acceptance of the charter of editorial independence as it stands and the Fairfax board governance principles as agreed by all existing directors,” Mr Corbett said.

    Like The Terminator, the “I, Gina” show will certainly be back because satisfying a twisted ego and narcissism is a feat that never ends. But, for now, it’s worth celebrating.


  • Jun, 2012

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    Do we need foreign workers?

    Rita Mallia speaks of the importance of unemployed locals getting the first pick of mining jobs as well as her union’s proud multicultural ethos.

    Importing foreign workers has rocketed during the mining boom. Last year almost 90,000 workers were employed under 457 visa grants allowing them to stay and work in Australia for up to four years. The number of visas granted is up nearly 50 per cent on last year.

    Since Gina RInehart received permission to bring in 1700 workers for her Roy Hill mine and the subsequent uproar, a Resources Jobs Board has been created.

    The CFMEU’s Rita Mallia tells 3Q 60,000 people have already visited the website — putting paid to claims that Australians don’t want to do remote mining work.

  • Jun, 2012

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    With “White Knights” Like This, Who Needs Enemies? Show Gina The Door.

    The “I, Gina” show kicked into high gear last night. Now, her lordship is threatening–oh, please, wait while we cower–to walk away from Fairfax if she doesn’t get her way. It may be raining on some but Fairfax should see this as the sun shining through and bid her goodbye–and, if possible, add a swift kick in the backside on the way out.

    The day dawns and bring us this news:

    GINA RINEHART hopes to be a ”white knight” for Fairfax Media, but might sell her shareholding unless she is offered positions on the board without ”unsuitable conditions”.

    The mining entrepreneur told the ABC’s Four Corners program, via her company Hancock Prospecting (HPPL), that she would be prepared to sell the 18.6 per cent chunk of the company’s stock that she holds and consider investing again if her demands were later met.

    ”Fairfax’s largest three mastheads [including the Herald] have been declining in circulation for five years, a long time,” Hancock Prospecting said. ”Fairfax’s share price has also declined … approximately 90 per cent.

    ”HPPL had hoped that Mrs Rinehart may be viewed by the board as a successful business person and a necessary ‘white knight’ with mutual interest in a sustainable Fairfax, however unless director positions are offered without unsuitable conditions, Mrs Rinehart is unable to assist Fairfax at this time,” the statement said. ”HPPL may hence sell its interest, and may consider repurchasing at some other time.” [emphasis added]

    There is so much wrong with this story it’s hard to decide where to begin. First, can someone please point out, in the story, that a “white knight” does not include arriving on the scene and, as a first act, commence to soil  (this may still be a “family site” so just trying to be somewhat restrained) a fundamental principle of the business, in this case, editorial independence. Indeed, the Fairfax board is showing, so far, a modicum of spine on that principle, which, not withstanding the awful unconscionable cuts ordered even though the CEO and top management is not taking a hit, one has to give those folks credit for:

    The Fairfax board has been resisting her push, and insisting she abides by the company’s Charter of Editorial Independence, which states that board members do not interfere with the content of the newspapers. Mrs Rinehart, reportedly, will not agree to that charter.

    This being a family site, let us just say, mildly, Gina, go fuck yourself. There are some things that very rich people do not understand and that is principle. Principles that are stronger than (a) the whims of a rich person and (b) principles that are more important to society than the needs and ego of one person.

    The Fairfax board should go further than simply resisting. End the charade. Tell the “I, Gina” show it’s not welcome in this town.