The starstruck broadsheet press

It’s election time, the season of celebrities and worthies adding their names to open letters and political advertising. A range of them have put their names on an ad designed to pressure Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull to change his mind on Gunns’ Tasmanian pulp mill. And why wouldn’t they? When it comes to this kind of thing the Fairfax press especially is as starstruck as Who magazine’s celebrity-obsessed readers, with The Age giving their opinions prominent front page coverage this morning. According to The Age,

Among the signatories are film director Phillip Noyce, actors Bryan Brown and Rebecca Gibney, playwright David Williamson, celebrity chef Kylie Kwong, Fairfax Media deputy chairman Mark Burrows, Rowena Danziger, a member of the Publishing and Broadcasting board, and Leo Schofield, a former director of the Sydney Festival.

But why should we care what any of these people think about this issue, or indeed on anything else except on things related to their narrow area of achievement or expertise (and perhaps not even that)? Would-be serious papers like The Age should show far more scepticism than they do.

The only signed advertisement I have liked appeared in the SMH a month ago. It was a full-page memorial for Ken Dyers, leader of the wacky Kenja cult, who killed himself rather than face (yet more) charges of sexually assaulting under-age girls. No need for too many tears in this case, I expect. But the signatories were, I thought, unwittingly but amusingly subversive of the whole signed ad phenomenon. Take these examples: Simon Winn, qualified carpenter; Linda Beachley, receptionist; Stevana Geurreiro, Dip, Make-up Artistry; Shane Grant, baker; Chloe Pape, hair stylist; David Pilkington, refrigeration tech; Eoin McGettrick, locksmith. All good, if unintentional, satire on the idea that occupations confer authority on opinion.

77 thoughts on “The starstruck broadsheet press

  1. Depends what you mean by ‘belongs’.

    “Justice Wilcox ruled the Noongar people continue to have native title of more than 6000 square kilometres, covering Perth and its surrounds.

    The ruling means Noongar people can now exercise native title rights over land where native title has not been extinguished by “legislative or executive acts” such as freehold land. “

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  2. Depends what you mean by ‘belongs’.

    Ok let’s go tot he dcitionary and find out shall we?

    Be owned by; be in the possession of

    “This book belongs to me”

    Be suitable or acceptable

    Be in the right place or situation

    Be a part or adjunct

    I know Russell that as a green party memeber you have great difficulty understanding this concept. i hope this helps.

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  3. JC,

    you of all people should not be bringing up arguments like the high-court or government says this (which changes every few years anyway, cf. Wik vs. now), so therefore it is, unless you’re position on government ownership of land and attribution of belonging has markedly changed of late. Thats just a poor populist argument hinging on the bad decisions governments make.

    I might note here that we could use his position to find some technical reason to solve the pulp mills problem. For example, compare “Its the governments forest, so it belongs to the government. Because it belongs to the government, the government should do what the people want with it. People want to use it for tourism/do nothing with it/turn it into pulp, so thats we should do.

    etc.

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  4. Conrad

    If I had my way the only bit of land in public ownership would be the parliament and even then I am sure Macquarie could do an effective leaseback, so your preaching to the converted.

    1. Russell has value, price and ownserhip confused.

    2. if the mill is profitable and doesn’t take subsidies I am all in favour of chopping ever tree down that’s allowed. We use those trees to build things with… see.

    So I am not sure what your point is.

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  5. “you have great difficulty understanding this concept” – not at all. The OED has one of the meanings of ‘belong’ as:

    “4. a. To be connected with in various relations; to form a part or appendage of; e.g. to be a member of a family, society, or nation, to be an adherent or dependent of, to be a native or inhabitant of a place;”

    So in that sense the aborigines belong to the land, and the land belongs to them!

    “Russell, do you work for an MP?” Sacha is that an insult?

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  6. Russell, I’m not sure what your point is. If you want to stop someone from logging old growth forest, the most effective (and moral) way is to buy it yourself. Using legislation to prevent people doing what they want with their property is effectively mob rule. If the land is currently state owned, and you don’t trust the state, and then lobby for the conversion of that land into private property. As has been argued on other blogs, one potential solution to Aboriginal dispossession is granting them freehold title over crown land. I would support this, not because I believe in the Dream Time or any other such sky god stuff, nor because I believe in the noble savage, inexorably linked and custodian of the sacred land, giver of life etc. etc. I’d support it because it would draw a line in the sand over the Aboriginal issue and combined with reform of property rights to include mineral rights and welfare reform to eliminate “sit down money”, would lead to more prosperity for all Australians. I really believe that Aboriginals would interact with the evil capitalist tourist operators, land developers and miners, and that they would be compensated fairly for access to their property. Conservationists like yourself who couldn’t stand the idea of Aboriginals (or any other Australian) using their land as they see fit, would have to stump up the reddies to make it worth their while to sell you the land so that you can conserve it. There would be no force, no mob rule, and no majoritarian democratic decision over how I could use my property.
    A resource that has alternate uses has different values to different people. Price at the point of exchange is the best indicator of how much it is valuable to any one individual. Old growth forest may be considered priceless to you, and if you never sell, it in effect would be priceless. Price only means something when you agree to buy or sell it. Just ask Sydneysider homeowners who thought they were sitting on goldmines before housing prices started to slide. Something is only as valuable as how much someone else is prepared to pay for it. If it is not on the market, then it’s value in price is unknown, and therefore priceless. Buy the god damn land.

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  7. Brendan – as you know I prefer a more communitarian way of life than you: individuals can own things, and individuals together can own things. And if we value certain things we can regulate to preserve them no matter who owns them. Thank goodness Fremantle Council fought the good fight against developers in the 1970’s – not many individuals could have afforded to buy up the beautiful Victorian West End buildings, but as a community we were able to preserve them. As a community we placed more value on preserving the buildings than on the right of individuals to knock ’em down to make money.

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  8. How about cold hard cash, infrastructure, schools, or medical centres, something the Aboriginals actually want more than they want their land? Try to be a bit more practical Dave, beads have little value except in Fort Lauderdale during spring break.

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  9. Russell, that is crap. As a group of individuals, you could have bought the buildings and conserved them. Instead, like a thief in the night, the council changed the conditions of contract on the land title, with the threat of gaol to back them up. Mob rule is no more attractive if it is used to enforce “community values” like good architecture or to lynch criminals. There are peaceful and non-violent ways of acheiving the things you want, and yet you resort at first pass to mob rule and the threat of violence.

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  10. Brendan — almost all old growth forests are owned by the government, so “their property” in this case is the governments. If the goverment doesn’t want people to log it (for whatever reason), I don’t see what the problem is.
    If people want to turn trees into pulp, they should negotiate some contract with the government, buy the land off the government, or when that fails, plant their own trees which the government has no control over.

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  11. Brendan – you think democracy is ‘mob rule’ ?- you should see what living in a fascist country is like.

    No I couldn’t have contributed to buying expensive properties – I was paying off two loans on my hovel in North Freo: one was at 17%, the other at 21% (that was the bad end of the 70s, not those early golden Whitlam years)

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  12. Conrad, have you read my post at all? The problem is that if you want to protect the trees when the state owns the forests, then you have to have the state on your side. A change in government, and the forests are up for logging. You are relying on the electorate forever agreeing with you. If crown land was converted into private land, conservationists could buy the land and lock up the trees for ever, and not be subject to mob rule or the inconsistencies of politicians. Property rights can be used to do the things that you want.

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  13. Russell, the Australian electorate agreed with the Governor General’s decision to dismiss Whitlam, they promptly voted in the Liberals. Democracy is great, huh?
    You didn’t value Fremantl’e heritage enough to even contribute a bit of coin? Couldn’t give up some small luxury to preserve historic Fremantle? You obviously didn’t care that much. It is easy to be the big man and put other people’s money to your good works, much harder to do it with your own, hey? You paid the high interest rates voluntarily to keep something that was valuable to you, can’t you see that? You could have sold up and rented in the suburbs and helped preserve historic Fremantle with the money you saved. You selfish, selfish man, valuing your own wellbeing over those of future generations.

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  14. (that was the bad end of the 70s, not those early golden Whitlam years)

    If only every government was like that. We were so fortunate to have him for those few short years.

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  15. Brendan — I don’t disagree with you about the effect of selling the public land off, but since that is never going to happen, you need to start thinking of alternative ways of allowing looging.
    I really don’t see why this is a fuss incidentally — the government can simply sign leases for many years (as is done with property etc. already), in which case anyone setting up businesses doing logging has some idea of the value of investing in infrastucture. If the government then breaks the lease due to whatever reason (e.g., popular pressure) then those people with the leases should be able to sue for compensation. This is just standard business practice, and I don’t see what the big deal is.

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  16. Ah Brendan – this is what civilisation brings us: I can eat, have a roof over my head AND participate in the life of the community by voting. I guess you would like to bring back property votes?

    I think your ‘future generations’ are already here and very glad that ‘old Fremantle’ was valued for what it was, and saved from the developers.

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  17. Conrad, I don’t really care about the logging per se. The problem with crown land is the uncertainty in rights that any user of that land has. This whole idea of trusting the state to be a fair player is an anathema to poor, rich, capitalist and conservationists alike. The state is adept at playing off one group against another, politicians will always use the resources of the state to maintain power. Crown land is a significant resource, and as long as the state controls vast swathes of land and the mineral rights beneath our feet, we will never be sure that what is ours is ours and what is yours is yours. Secure private property rights prevents cosy deals like the pulp mill in Tasmania because without power over the land and what grows upon ir or lies beneath it, the state is unable to overide the wishes of its owners. Sure, if the land was owned by the pulp mill proponents, they’d be free to do with it what they will. But they would have had to pay market price for the land and its trees and competed for access to the resource with conservationists, tour operators and others who might have an interest in the land. Under state control, the pulp mill proponents get access to land for a bargain through rent seeking with their friends in Hobart and Canberra. That is the problem and that costs more than some conservationist buying the land and locking it up for ever more.

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  18. I think we a probably in agreement Brendan about the results of governments mismanaging land usage, where one group gets favoured over another, for mainly political reasons.

    Alternatively I don’t believe that the State is ever going to give up the land under dispute (some of it is in world heritage zones for instance, so there you are in an even more impossible situation). Thats why my suggestion is to use business leases like everything else. I don’t see why 30 year leases and so on with conditions specified couldn’t be used (these are common all over the world — often 99 year leases are used). If some conservationist wants to pay more than tourist/logging operators to the government in that time to breed koalas (or whatever), its all fine by me.

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  19. Russell, what is to stop a future government from repealing the council’s decision to “preserve” historic Fremantle? If a conservationist charity owned the buildings, earned rent form them to preserve them, it would not matter what the state did. Civilisation began a long time before universal suffrage. No Roman or Greek voted to preserve the ruins in their midst.

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  20. Conrad, I don’t think that land reform is impossible. Put it this way, Estonia was a nation under a socialist system where everything was state owned. They moved to a capitalist system of private ownership and aren’t doing to bad for themselves.

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  21. “what is to stop a future government from repealing the council’s decision to “preserve” historic Fremantle?”

    Public opinion. People are free to argue and persuade and convince others to believe as they do – that’s democracy, not always perfect (look how the media crucified Whitlam) but I’d choose it over money power. We’re trying to move away from money power to … people power, ideas power!

    Maybe democracy is suited to lazy people – instead of continually gearing up to organise and fund raise, time and time again for every building or piece of bushland, we can just convince people that passing a regulation is the way to go. We can just create a Heritage Council and watch it go about the business we’ve given it to do. Someone like Jamie Packer might inherit hundreds of millions of dollars, but why should that mean the rest of us have to live in a world shaped by his decisions, just because he can outspend us?

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  22. Russell,

    You have to live with other people’s decisions so that they will live with your decisions. Once you try to take property rights off of some people because you don’t like their decisions,, the likelihood of you being affected by a swing in public opinion or the fickleness of government increase. I’d really like to live in a world where community minded people like yourself would be free to go live on a self-sustaining commune in the South West, free from state control, so long as you respect my decision to live in a McMansion and drive around in my Landcruiser smoking big fat cigars and enjoying 12 year single malts (although not while or prior to driving mind) and haggis flown in from Cuba and Scotland respectively. Go, do your thing, just let me do my thing. Be free damn it.

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  23. “Go, do your thing, just let me do my thing. Be free damn it.”

    Which takes us back to poetry, again:

    No man is an island, entire of itself
    every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
    if a clod be washed away by the sea,
    Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
    as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
    any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
    and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
    it tolls for thee.

    — John Donne

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  24. John Donne is one of my favourite poets, but I prefer his cheeky poems, such as The Flea. Our discussion has little to do with the metaphysical poets. Pointing out that man is a social being and mortal only re-inforces the need for us to co-operate voluntarily, which is what Donne is doing in The Flea, trying to convince his fiancee to sleep with him through clever word play rather than forcing her to accept his will. You seem to prefer the idea that we all need pushing around to acheive the ends you think will serve us better. I disagree.

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