Singapore Impressions

Today’s Guest Poster is Gorgeous Dunny, with the first part of his commentary on his pre-honeymoon trip to Singapore, the UK, and America with the wonderful Sim. I found it fascinating, though definitely open to questioning (which I’m sure GD will appreciate). I have also made the editorial decision to publish the piece in two parts (and I’m hoping to persuade GD to expand – slightly – on the second part of his argument). Meanwhile, read, enjoy, and comment!

Millenium Hotels

On our journey to the UK, I organised stopovers at Singapore and Zurich. Neither had much to do with any curiosity about either place. However, my excellent deal with my travel agent involved fitting in around Swiss Air’s services. They don’t come to Australia, so another carrier, Qantas, was used to get me to Singapore, joining Swiss Air a day later. I was also concerned about the ‘sardine can’ effect of prolonged Airbus travel in Economy Class. The two breaks allowed my aged legs some respite, even though that break was just over one day (30 hours) in Singapore, staying the night with Sim’s nephew before leaving the following night.

Unexpectedly, that visit made a considerable impression on me, forcing me to revise my preconceptions of that curious city-state.

My view was a typical Australian leftist one. In particular, its founding Prime Minister, Lee Kwan Yew, shaped that perception because he was front and centre of everything to do with it for thirty years. From the mid-60s on, our Australian leftist view of the world was shaped by weariness with the Cold War.

We did not share the US aim of containing Soviet and communist expansion. Most of us only had limited knowledge of World War II and the early post-war years’ battles with totalitarianism. Prominent left-wing writers like Koestler and Orwell offered many warnings but were generally glossed over. Many of us felt that the worst human rights abuse excesses of the Soviet were likely exaggerated for Cold War propaganda purposes. Later evidence, along with the crushing of Hungary (1956) and the Prague Spring (1968), put beyond doubt just how bad life was in the Soviet Empire. However, at the time we took a simpler view.

On our own (Western) side we had in the US the show trials of the House Un-American Activities (HUAC) hearings, McCarthyism, and the ‘Atom Spy’ trial and execution of the Rosenbergs. In the propaganda stakes it helped promote the idea that each side was capable of such abuses.

In our Asia-Pacific part of the world, we were impatient for the end of imperial colonialism. We saw the struggles more in terms of national autonomy than as Cold War targets. That put us at odds with the dominant American view. As figures like Lee Kwan Yew emerged, with his ‘left-wing’ nationalist program, our sympathies were with him rather than the American-CIA view. Prominent Australian Labor identities such as Don Dunstan became close friends and allies.

That view did not last. For reasons of local stability (Singapore had – and still has complex ethnic diversity – public dissent in both the media and politics was restricted. Some were jailed, deported, or otherwise discouraged. That seemed incompatible with our own ideas of representative government and democracy. Ours were inspired by the classical Athenian democratic system, albeit refined over the centuries of the Westminster system. The American and French revolutionary documents on the rights of mankind further embedded our notions. Indeed, it is best conceived as an ongoing model, amended as disasters such as wars and genocide rendered necessary.

Some things remained sacrosanct. Freedom of speech and of dissent seemed most important, since many of us were in a minority most of the time. It was hard to feel the same about someone willing to give those freedoms less priority. To compound the problem, Lee Kwan Yew, having struck out separately from the Malaysian Federation, became concerned about his country’s own security and autonomy. He improved relations with the US by committing some troops to LBJ’s Vietnam War. None in the Australian Left could feel much sympathy for him over that. Was he just another Asian despot?

It’s 25 years since he was the major influence, but the model he established survives and prospers. At the same time, the Anglo-American democratic model has struggled over the past 35 years as corporate, banking and media tycoons wield ever greater power. We have seen a massive redistribution of public assets and accumulated wealth to the private sector, and from lower incomes to the highest incomes, with no apparent improvement in our economy. Why is it so, when the first 30+ years after the War were so prosperous?

For the first time I have wondered if Plato might have been right. He rejected the Athenian democratic model because the emotions of many uneducated voters could be manipulated by rabble-rousing. Demagogues could get control through playing on those fears and anxieties: Fear and Loathing, as Hunter S Thompson so perfectly coined it to describe Richard Nixon 47 years ago. We see it played out daily in English-speaking countries against refugees and asylum-seekers.

The problem with Plato’s alternative of the Philosopher King is: how do you find and elect such a person? Over the centuries there has been an occasional king or prince going close to Plato’s ideal. Alfred the Great comes to mind. No doubt the Renaissance era produced many princes aiming at that standard. In more recent times I’d put Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt (America) and Ben Chifley, Don Dunstan and Gough Whitlam (Australia) in that category. But that’s not many amongst all the leaders we’ve had over the years.

I’m not sure if Lee Kwan Yew, his colleagues and successors, are in that category of philosopher king. But on the fleeting evidence I saw, I’d have to consider that possibility. Singapore is a major success by any measure. On the simplest measures for example, the unemployment rate has been around 3% or less for decades. During the Global Financial Crisis in 2009 it went briefly above 3%. Average age life span is 80 years for males and 85 for females. It is 4th in the world on life expectancy. It has had the world’s lowest infant mortality rate for over two decades.

It has functioned largely without what we’d consider welfare state provisions. There is no minimum wage, there are tax haven provisions for large investing companies, greater inequality of incomes and yet few examples of serious poverty. It has more millionaires per capita than any other country, and paradoxically a home ownership rate above 80%. Those without means do have access to public hospital treatment and exemptions from school fees. It is a curious balance: a free and competitive capitalist market and yet a firm hand of regulation to ensure that the greater public good is served.

In just a generation, Singapore moved from a 3rd world country to 1st world status. This seems to have occurred with neither a traditional left-wing nor a right-ring approach to the economic and political world. There were more things that fascinated me in my brief visit. The most outstanding was housing.

It included the complete range from the fairly basic, through middle- and upper income to the elite. The latter differed from the rest not just by the quality of their apartments, but by the lower-density accommodation. Even then, there were at least two and more likely four dwellings on a site. For all other social groups it was multi-story, high-density apartments. Some, including Sim’s nephew’s apartment, had so many multi-story apartment buildings that they took on a ‘village’ concept, which included a security guard entrance.

Always they were neat and orderly, with excellent gardens at the entrance and within the complex. The prevailing feeling within the complex seemed to be one of respectful friendly politeness, without intruding on privacy. The public access areas were immaculately maintained. It was middle-class, but other less well-off complexes seemed to have just as much pride in appearance.

I could not help contrasting with the Australian inner city experience of high-rise accommodation, and of the English ones so often featured in TV police series. Those all seemed hellholes of welfare dependency with little pride or self-respect. Vandalism, petty crime and larger crime or violence all festered there. Singaporeans seemed to have adapted to high-rise much more readily.

Sim, once a resident, explained this phenomenon to me. Very early in Singapore’s modern history it had introduced a Central Provident Fund. It functioned as a compulsory superannuation system for every wage and salary earner and was deducted from wages. The aim was to provide a pension for the individual upon retirement. The money deducted was invested in public housing. Wage-earners, after they had accumulated superannuation capital for a few years, could borrow against that asset to purchase their own unit. Not only did they have a pension on retiring, they had secure home ownership.

The brilliance of this scheme is that tenants had ownership and a stake in the success of the project. So pride and self-respect were easy to encourage, as well as community: they had a joint interest in its success. Perhaps that is a key.

The example of Sim’s nephew is useful in another instance. He is a professional in his employment. Sim is unsure in what field: either botany, horticulture or soils science. Currently his employer is a major golf club. His work is to do with maintaining and developing the greens, parks and trees in the course. The course is built on reclaimed land. Its water is a combination of treated sewerage and low-salt swamp water. Plants tolerant to these conditions and conducive to tropical conditions are selected for growth. It was a natural evolution of his earlier work, involving reclaiming the land and developing a green belt, to his position at the club. His story represents a microcosm of Singapore as a whole, except that for the nation it was much more complex.

US News

As it evolved from self-governing to independence, first (briefly) through the Malaysian Federation and then alone, the dominant concern was how to make Singapore viable. On the surface that did not seem easy. It had few natural resources, apart from a deep-sea port docking facility they’d persuaded the British Navy to leave intact for them.

The golf course is part of a larger project aimed at gradually expanding the main island available to the country. Originally the State aimed at increasing the land available to housing. However, the poor quality of the water and land available soon convinced authorities that a more effective method was to develop such land with parks and forest. This proved to be successful. A dream of Lee Kwan Yew’s was to recreate a tropical rainforest. This project fitted that idea, as well as giving the island much-needed ‘lungs’. The parks and recreation areas that were created led to the golf club where Sim’s nephew is currently employed. Earlier he’d been in the reclamation team helping to create these sites.

Originally, he was from an impoverished village in northern Malaysia. He’d won entrance to University of Singapore, probably through scholarship or low cost entry. There, academics monitored his progress and referred him to suitable employers. He gained employment even before he’d completed his Masters and post-graduate studies. Now in his forties, he is a Singaporean with his own unit and car. He visits his aged father once a year, but Singapore is his home.

Singapore has made big state investments in infrastructure – in education (from pre-school to technical and tertiary), science, transport (its air and sea terminals are among the world’s largest and most efficient; it has an efficient network of road and rail), communications, power, health, and housing. It has a well-paid public service, that remains fairly free from corruption.

The challenge facing Lee Kwan Yew and his colleagues was how to develop a viable country with such few natural resources and advantages. Shipping and transport, plus banking and commerce, were partly in place prior to independence. Some skills would also have been there from the old defence base days. But what to do for the longer term to support a growing community?

I am only guessing here, but I think the post-war success of Japan would have had a big influence. In David Halberstam’s The Reckoning (1986) he outlines how the Japanese auto industry overtook Detroit. A similar success occurred in white goods and electronic manufacturing. The Japanese and American manufacturers had key differences in approach, beyond the more obvious ones like job security.

Japan focused on long-term goals of market penetration. As Halberstam noted, Japan was run as a free enterprise oligarchy except that, contrary to the US, the corporations were subordinate to the Ministry of Trade and similar bureaucracies. Trade set specific requirements in export products on quality control and reliability. They were higher priority than immediate sales volumes. That differed from US and Detroit corporate and economic thinking in manufacturing at the time. Critics referred to the US trend as ‘planned obsolescence’.

That is, factory assembly dominated to such an extent that it was thought more economic to keep production rolling than to have wasteful stops for quality and safety assurance, or factory shutdowns. Why repair a product that can simply be replaced for not much more cost? And if manufacturing costs are downwards on economies of scale, why not simply get a new car every year or so? It led to a greater emphasis on sales and marketing than product.

In addition, the US government listened to manufacturers, not the reverse as was happening in Japan. The US manufacturers relied heavily on the sales-oriented dealers for innovations. These were along the lines of more fins and gimmicks, more power and speed and so on. The priority was sales and production. Durability was less so. The Japanese trade experts noticed it in their research, concluding that there were opportunities through quality control and attention to customer needs. Design, fuel economy, reliability, driver-passenger comforts and safety all got higher priority than Detroit had given them.

Something similar happened with electronics and white goods manufacturing. Japanese products soon gained a high reputation for quality and reliability, which contrasted sharply with what seemed the ‘throwaway’ attitude to low-cost manufacture in the US.

Singapore seemed inspired by this example, as were other ‘Asian Tiger’ countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Realistically, the small size of Singapore was against car making but there were real possibilities with electronics. It set about luring some of the major players, such as Hewlett Packard and Apple, to Singapore. It offered a low wage and tax rate, plus a stable government, good infrastructure and a reliable workforce. The quid pro quo was for the companies to add technical skills and knowhow. Thus value was added.

The same technique seems to have worked with many other industries, for example, chemical and fertiliser production. Always the support infrastructure is put in place, whether transport, accommodation, power or communications. It helps that Singapore is relatively free of corruption and rent seeking. That allows for a greater concentration on economic, social and environmental benefits. There seems to be a fairly free flow of information between government, education and training, and industry and commerce. In general, I’d describe it as a meritocracy.

There has been similar progress in other aspects of government. After the initial pro-independence leftist moves and then rapprochement with the US, Singapore has settled into a non-aligned status in foreign affairs. It will trade with anybody, including the then maligned apartheid South African government and the Israeli government. Israel, in fact, has supplied weapons and training to Singaporean armed forces. Valuing its independence, Singapore has established a strong defence force, with its air force having bases in Australia. It is a strong participant in trade and friendship groups such as ASEAN and CHOGM.

Locally, it has worked hard at making its country more liveable. In addition to the attention given to housing and parks, road traffic in such a densely populated small geographic area is well regulated.

Car ownership is high but owners pay additional taxes to have access to downtown areas. Parking and standing of vehicles in ‘traffic flowing’ areas is not permitted. Even the taxis do not drop passengers at a street address but instead move into an adjacent off-street loading bay. There are strict and costly penalties for abuses of these laws, making infringements rare. Office building planning is also regulated, judging by the frequency of off-street loading bays.

It is a sharp contrast to other Asian cities. Although there is a high percentage of car ownership, traffic flows quite smoothly. In addition to the strict rules on parking and loading, an efficient public transport system helps prevent traffic jams. I visited a downtown shopping part of Changi and was surprised by the ease of parking. The short walk into the shopping centre was through a park, which was shared by pedestrians, cyclists and children in safety and harmony. In the centre was an enclosed market-type area. It is very clean and orderly compared with other Asian market areas but prices are low.

We did not stay long enough to have long discussions with locals apart from Sim’s nephew. The impression I picked up from casual conversations was that there was very little discontent. People were cheerful and helpful. It brings me back to my first question, can there be satisfaction in a society where some of the known democratic traits as we’d see them are missing or restricted?

I’d have to say that on what I saw, it is functioning at least as well, and probably better, than most English-speaking democracies. In matters of opportunity and access, the pathways seem much smoother in education, housing, health, employment and industry. It seems inconceivable that such a modest island-state could viably support 5.5 million people with such infrastructure, which is world-class by any reasonable measure.

That it started with such few comparative advantages makes it even more interesting. It seems to have set on a course similar to Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries. That is, the modest population has ensured that there can be very few advantages from economies of scale in manufacture. So the only option, having avoided trading blocs, is to be as competitive as possible in worldwide markets. The heavy emphasis on infrastructure investment has been critical in that respect. It extends to such things as having ‘charging stations’ at the airport for your mobiles or laptops, and free Wi-Fi just about everywhere.

If we compare Singapore with our Australian Westminster democracy, we can see the differences. We have representative government, the separation of powers, especially an independent judiciary, and freedom of speech, press, and assembly. In Singapore these separate concepts, so important in how we define democracy, are somewhat fused. The State seems to place a higher priority on harmony and getting things done economically and competently.

Social controls seem tighter than we’d conceive in Australia. As with most Asian countries, severe penalties do occur with drug abuse, ranging up to death penalties for dealing or smuggling.

I understand that alcohol consumption is somewhat controlled and quite low. Sim tells me that Asians have a low tolerance and choose to drink moderately. We know from our media that corporal punishment still occurs for things such as vandalism. On our visit it was conspicuous how clean and orderly it was.

So, is Singapore a State system closer to what Plato imagined? Sim offered me an alternative view: that it was not Platonic philosophy but applied Confucianism. Confucianism, it is claimed, provides guidelines for living a full life and aiming at the greater public good. It extends to such things as family duty and responsibility and obligations to the community and the state.

Is our system necessarily superior to Singapore’s? It’s a question well worth posing. We would mostly argue that in our culture certain freedoms and power constraints are essential. Yet an underlying assumption of democracy going back to Plato’s time was that the equality of the vote depended on having an equality of information to all on which to make a voting decision.

And that gets to the heart of the fault that I see in current Western English-speaking democracies. We assume that a relatively fair electoral and voting system is what we need to guarantee our democratic rights. It is important, especially considering how it can be manipulated. But it is only one thing.


650 thoughts on “Singapore Impressions

  1. Love the IN and OUT trays, Marise!

    Sums up Your Government’s attitude to “defence” nicely.

  2. I’m repeating this from last night. I think we all need to take notice.

    But let’s not think Scrott made this decision all by himself. He had help. These rich boys from Sydney’s eastern suburbs really stick together. Moss was one of his main backers when Turnbull won preselection for Wentworth in 2004.

    Moss was still donating handsomely to Turnbull’s fundraising Wentworth Forum in 2009.

    A bonus Loon Pond from 2009.

    Since August 2009, when the affairs of the Wentworth Forum were splashed all over the media there has been little heard about it. They have all run for cover. But that doesn’t mean they are not still supporting their rich mate. If you search carefully you still find the odd mention.

    What a nice little reward for services rendered. A comfortable spot on the board of the Reserve Bank. Who will Turnbull appoint next? There is quite a list of Wentworth Forum donors all waiting for their rewards.

  3. Just a little added extra – another member of Turnbull’s Wentworth Forum was Matt Handbury, recipient of $10 million in government funding for a rain-making enterprise. The funding was organised by the then Minister for the Environment Malcolm Turnbull just before the 2007 election.

    Just to make things a little bit more incestuous – Handbury is Rupert Murdoch’s nephew.

    You can’t help wondering how much of that $10 million found its way into the coffers of the Wentworth Forum, a sneaky move to give St Malcayman a bit of extra campaign money.

    Why aren’t the MSM asking about all this scandal in their adored Malcolm’s past?

  4. I went to see the premiere screening of The Hateful 8 yesterday at the Orpheum cinema in Cremorne, Sydney. This was not the Q&A version with Tarantino present on-stage. It was more the “dress rehearsal”, where the cinema’s technical staff were supposed to have their final run-through on a challenging presentation before The Great Man himself turned up for the evening gala presentation.

    The movie itself was quite good: the usual indulgent hyper-violent Tarantino stuff, with the twist of being touted as an Ultra Panavision “roadshow” release, and an almost all-film post-production process.

    It was basically a Whodunnit set in one large room, with luscious lingering departures outside to a blizzard set in glorious Colorado forest country, with all the visual starkness that white snow, dark forests and craggy mountains can give to a widescreen composition. Who were the baddies and who were the goodies (especially as they were dubbed the Hateful 8)? It hardly matters.

    For the record, I liked it. Probably 8 out of 10.

    A “roadshow” release is one where only selected cinemas are set to show the movie. In the case of Australia there are less than 10 designated for this purpose. A condition of being selected was that the cinema had to have 70mm projection equipment and the special projection lenses needed to expand the image to super-widescreen (an aspect ratio of 2.76:1).

    A typical roadshow presentation has designated accoutrements attached to it. Everyone gets a program, there is an overture, the movie itself is presented flawlessly with a special effort from cinema staff. There is an interval where you can waste large amounts of money at the candy store in the cinema. The music starts up again, and everyone takes their seats for the second half. I’ve been to many of them, especially when I was a kid. They are what gave me my love of movies. Roadshow presentations are a cinema “event” and in the 1960s cinemas went to a lot of trouble to “get it right”.

    Alas, not so much today, or at least not so much at the Orpheum cinema at the session I attended… which was a disappointment given their committment to preserving cinema as part of the way of life in Sydney.

    First, before the movie even started, there several loud clicks and pops from the sound system. The kind you get when you switch from one audio channel to another, or when you turn on an amplifier. We nearly jumped out of our seats a couple of times when a big bang went off as they adjusted volume or applied power to their amplifiers (or whatever it was).

    Finally the curtains opened and the lights went down. On the screen was a very large orange and black graphic, with the word “Overture” written across the screen. For those not familiar with roadshow presentations of this type this is NOT the way to do it.

    The way to do it is to start the overture music with the lights up and the curtains down. The overture is a mood setter, something to take you from a well lit cinema gradually into the special world of the movie, where you will be asked to suspend disbelief for a couple of hours. Gradually the lights dim and just as the overture is completed, the curtains rise in near darkness and the studio logo comes up. Then the film commences. The transition from reality to movie is complete.

    DVDs and Blu-Rays have “Overture” slides over the music at the beginning because the studios think home viewers are too dumb to realize that the blank black screen in front of them isn’t some kind of equipment malfunction. This should not be the case with a relatively sophisticated cinema audience who have made the effort to attend the premiere screening of an “event” movie.

    The Orpheum management later told me that some numpty at Village Roadshow (the distributors) had required this naff practice. All I could think was that this numpty had been brought up on a diet of too many Blu-Rays and DVDs with the word “Overture” scrawled across the screen during the opening music, just in case numpties like them might think their TV’s had blown up in the 2 seconds between pressing “Play” and the first bar of overture. I had visions of a know-all 20-something on his or her way up the corporate ladder who had no basic understanding of how big movie events should be presented. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it was some joke from the inner recesses of Tarantino’s quirky brain. But all I could think was that he was attending in person that night, for the Q&A. I finally had a reason to be glad we didn’t get tickets for it, because we would have been squirming in our seats with embarrassment.

    So the few hundred of us attending were forced to watch the word “Overture” for 5 minutes as if something was happening (which it wasn’t). Morricone’s music, sounding a little like his score for The Thing (turned out that they did use some The Thing music outakes for H8) was still magnificent, full of foreboding and menace, but that damn word was so distracting. They might have a been a little more honest if they’d put “(in case you didn’t realize)” under it. Worse, the film was jumping a little in the gate (which was surprising for a supposedly brand new print). The dreaded “Overture” word was flicking up and down, and sideways. Quite distracting.

    What was more distracting was that there was a hot spot in the middle and near vignetting towards the corners and at the edges. An even field of yellow-orange backdrop was most unevenly presented on the screen. It was pale cream in the middle and near-brown at the edges. Well, if you’re going to make a paying audience stare at one word for 5 minutes, their eyes are going to wander over the whole screen and pick out the obvious flaws aren’t they? I don’t know whether this was a projection equipment problem, or something to do with the screen being glass-impregnated high-gain (and hence directionally reflective, like a traffic sign – from the sides nearly black, but from straight on, over bright). High-gain screens are used because screen areas are so large and projectors so (relatively) dim, that the exhibitors need all the reflectivity they can get. So they cheat a little and use a mild form of traffic sign technology to get that bit of extra brightness. The downside is that from wherever you sit you lose a little illumination at the peripheries, and you receive a visual wallop in the center. If the film is Ultra Panavision, this is only accentuated, due the the extreme width of the image compared to its height.

    We also noticed that the masking was underdone. We could see gate artefacts at the top and bottom – hairs and other junk on the film plane that usually is masked out if the black masking curtains are properly set. The bottom border was soft, again from the masking deficiency. 6 inches of tighter masking would have solved this problem.

    In my time I’ve seen everything from Ben Hur and 2001: A Space Odyssey to Lawrence Of Arabia in their original relase roadshow presentations, several of them in glorious Cinerama (at the old Sydney Plaza cinema, now sadly a MacDonalds hamburger restaurant). My memory of these epics is that they were perfectly presented, with great care and attention to detail. Each film had a detailed presentation manual, with audio and visual cues times precisely supplied so that the cinema staff could show the film in the best way possible. And that’s without commenting on the movies themselves. Call me a presentation nut, but in the industry I am now in, high-end Home Cinema, you wouldn’t get away with what I saw yesterday, not even in a budget cinema. We line our projection systems up with laser levellers, and special proprietary jigs. We calibrate the color temperature of the projector to the nth degree. We assemble optical components in clean rooms. The sound systems are perfect, the best money can buy. The rooms are equalized with custom baffles and special sound reflecting/absorbing walls. The customer is paying a fortune, and we want him to brag to his mates, with all the “word-of-mouth” flow ons, so we go the extra distance to make things as good as they can be. Some of these customers pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for what we provide to them. The high quality of the on-screen results still astonishes me, and I’m supposed to be a jaded professional.

    Go see the film (especially if you like lots of vicarious blood), but don’t expect today’s generation of cinema technicians and numpty distribution “executive” flunkies to give you anything like the dedicated pros of the 1960s gave their audiences. They knew how to entertain. They understood the “Wow Factor”. They were proud of their work. So, if you really want to see H8 as it should be seen, wait until it’s out on Blu-Ray, make friends with someone who’s got a decent home cinema, and go over for dinner and a show.

    Oh, and tell them to blank the projector until after the “Overture” slide is finished.

    There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. Something like, “We live in a shallow, uneducated world, where near enough is good enough… except no-one understands what ‘good’ means anymore”. Our brains are bombarded with PR crap, urgers and sleeve tuggers who have little understanding of history or art. We put up with crap substituted for quality because our attention spans are regarded as being measured in milliseconds. One day the 3-word slogan will be reduced to 2-word and then 1-word. Or will a “look” be enough to sway votes and move nations? If so, then we will be truly f*cked.

    “Cockroaches, start your engines! Humankind is goin’ down!”

    • Bushfire finished his superb critique of the presentation of QT’s epic with

      “There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. Something like, “We live in a shallow, uneducated world, where near enough is good enough… except no-one understands what ‘good’ means anymore”. Our brains are bombarded with PR crap, urgers and sleeve tuggers who have little understanding of history or art. We put up with crap substituted for quality because our attention spans are regarded as being measured in milliseconds. One day the 3-word slogan will be reduced to 2-word and then 1-word. Or will a “look” be enough to sway votes and move nations? If so, then we will be truly f*cked. ”

      Very well expressed and so very true.

  5. Also being overlooked – Rickman perfectly cast as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility.

  6. [–]teheditor[S] 4 points 3 minutes ago
    In early March 2013 I was told by a senior ABC manager that ABC Management was expecting the Liberals to win the next election and that Malcolm Turnbull would be in charge of the ABC and that they didn’t want to upset him. From this point on I documented everything.

  7. Mark Scott told Senate Estimates in 2014 and 2015. I wasn’t sure if Scott knew what I’d been told in 2014. I can tell you that when he told Estimates, in 2015, that they were looking at maybe closing the Technology and Games portal that I’d already been told it absolutely WAS closing. That was a few days beforehand.

  8. The Most Heartwarming Political Story Of The Year Is Actually About Bill Shorten

    it appears that the media and the “I hate Shorten” brigade on twitter’s attempt to Ed Milibandise him backfired spectacularly.

  9. I knew when I was told to stop publishing on the NBN (three years ago) that this day would be inevitable. It’s been a constant source of amazement that management have acted like people wouldn’t notice me going from full-on NBN coverage to absolute zero and not ask why. They’ve been asking me constantly throughout this time – such is the interest in ABC and NBN – to the point where it’s literaly made me ill and I’m still recovering. I hope this will start drawing a line under things and let me move on, but let’s face it, the stink caused here will linger.

  10. The best outcome for me would be for other people to come forward. I can’t and don’t believe I’m the only one. But I also know all to well just what pressure and vindictive methods are used to defend core management… I’ve got it all documented after all. It’s very unpleasant.

  11. Good suggestion.
    Matthew Rimmer
    ‏@DrRimmer No doubt @NickRossTech would be better off appearing before a Parliamentary committee to address these issues under privilege. #NBN

    • Don’t kid yourself, kaff’..remember the saying about not starting a Royal Commission unless you know it’s outcome. The senate inquiry could just as easy skirt around vital information.

  12. I was the only Technology editor in the entire organisation. Noone else really covered it. However, when it came to doing the ABC’s pre-election guides to party policies, the NBN one was done without me. It looks like it came from Malcolm Turnbull’s office. When I spoke to the creator of it (I forget who) about the fact we’d posted something that we knew was untrue, he said the team had decided to go with a ‘he said she said’ line to avoid trouble.

    A constant theme at the time was that, having been beaten up by The Australian and Media Watch and not allowed to defend myself, many people (especially colleagues) thought I’d done something wrong (they didn’t hear otherwise) and tended to avoid me. So that was normal at that point.

  13. Sally Cray was hired from Malcolm Turnbull’s office as the Head of ABC’s Corporate Communications. Shortly after the election she returned to her old job as his Chief Policy Advisor. I think she was replaced by people from The Australia’s media section.

    I recently received the emails that Cray received and sent back to The Australian. This link contains commentary from another ABC entity regarding my subsequent Comcare claim and the original bullshit article from Page 3 of the Australian (where only my name is correct)

    They really stood up for me didn’t they? And apparently I was officially “reminded of ABC Editorial policies” because they told me via The Australian! I don’t want any other ABC employee to be subject to that and so I’m drawing attention to it. Also, look what happens when instead of replying “No” to the question of “Was he disciplined” you skip round it. The commentary then goes on to say that the ABC has no influence over what’s written in other media. Orly?

    • ” I recently received the emails that Cray received and sent back to The Australian. “…Bejesus!!..I’d love to see those!

  14. A comment

    ]noisymime 5 points 18 minutes ago

    We had Malcolm Turnbull appear 3 times on Qanda as the Communications Minister and there wasn’t a single mention or question of the NBN on any of those appearances. So you have a Communications Minister, in charge of one of the largest public infrastructure rollouts of the last 30 years, appearing on a public question and answer show 3 times without a single mention of this project. You would have to be exceedingly naive to believe that wasn’t deliberate.

  15. tlbd

    Thanks, I found the site very confusing, it’s too busy…..I’ll just keep reading your updates.

    If I had had any doubts before this that the abc was knobbled, and not only on the nbn, they have vanished completely. Unfortunately not many people who trust the abc know what is happening.

    • You need to refresh the page.

      On the left you have “sorted by”. Select top (which gives you the most “upvoted” comments”, which are the ones Nick Ross is answering).

      To see Nick’s comments, do a search on “teheditor” and they will be highlighted.

  16. That Redditt AMA. with Nick Ross is very interesting..mind you, we in social media have been screaming that such a thing was inevitable for a long time…that bastard Scott!

  17. A former ABC staffer accuses the ABC of gagging debate on the NBN for three years and the MSM barely mention it. Only The Oz has bothered, and that was just an attempt to smear Nick Ross. Their ABC has, of course, denied everything. Fairfax? Crickets.

    This goes all the way to the PM – the gagging started because the ABC wanted to make Turnbull, then Communications Minister, happy. And yet no-one wants to talk about it.

    Once again it’s only social media and online sites like Delimiter who are dealing with it.

  18. For God’s sake someone..if Delimiter puts up those emails..grab them before they get “disappeared”!

  19. Sally Cray ABC nobbler in chief for covering Truffles bare arsed lies re NBN. We golly gosh. What was young Sally doing before joining the ABC ? Labor, add this to you enquiry list next time you are in government. The whole NBN thing stinks.

    Sally joined the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as Head of Corporate Communications at the end of 2010, following five years in the office of The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP. ………….most recently as Chief Of Staff during his time as Shadow Minster for Communications and Broadband.

  20. A long one:

    In July 2013 it had become apparent that the fallout from Media Watch and The Australian (and Commsday and the response of other journalists in my field publicly goading me etc etc) – all without being able to defend myself – that I was incredibly tense and having huge problems sleeping. I was diagnosed with Hypertension by my GP (Stress and Anxiety). It was becoming clear that all my ABC colleagues were avoiding me (requests for me doing radio and TV slots dropped from several per week to several per year) and I could not mentally move past Media Watch’s beat-up which has driven me to distraction virtually every single day for years.

    It also hurt that I had huge NBN articles on Copper and Telehealth (over two years’ research for each) that were (near)complete that I couldn’t publish even though the public and politicians REALLY needed to know about them before the election – at least the Libs might change their tune if they knew about the state of the copper and enormous revolutionary benefits of telehealth. Amirite?

    The stress continued for the subsequent two years and I was on meds for very high blood pressure. I was hospitalised with chest pains on one occasion and put on a Holter monitor for a day on another. Eventually I went to a Psychologist who helped me with techniques for dealing with stress.

    But it didn’t go away. I was unable to address the root causes and knew that one day it would all come out anyway – which I dreaded. In Feb 2015 I wrote this article (the first major one I’d done in ages). When it went viral I actually got panic attacks as I thought some pollie would complain and I’d be put through everything again.

    All this time I respected what my boss had told me – to keep quiet and let the news cycle pass and you’ll be alright. I’d also been repeatedly told throughout that time (by many entities) that I’d be phased into the main News online team at some point “soon.”

    So when I was told that funding was being cut to my Tech Site (several months ago – because “traffic”) it was a total betrayal – I’d kept quiet to protect the ABC and management for years and damaged my health doing it.

    I was given an impossible mission to stay on at the ABC (build a tech audience on the business site even though it had been made impossible on the tech site). I acted grateful but knew it was bullshit and contacted unions and lawyers and was told about Comcare. Unions also told me that this was how the ABC often managed people out – marginalise them.

    Comcare is like Work Cover for the public service. It means I can get income insurance and support due to a work place injury without work admitting liability. Amongst many other things.

    It’s an enormously lengthy process but Comcare agreed that the ABC had injured me psychologically and sided with me. However, the ABC HR Dept has a person who spent much of the last few months of last year creating a dossier against me which went through all my emails and conversations etc for the past three years in an effort to show that the ABC hadn’t injured me and that they’d been a good employer. The spin and lies and bullshit in this dossier (which I have a copy of and is hundreds of pages) is unbelievable. It included anecdotes which could only have come from my boss which transformed from being conversations into ‘proof I was some maverick journo who wouldn’t do what he was told’. This was incredibly stressful and my stress and anxiety ramped up further. Also, depression was creeping in to the mix too – I was regularly seeing my GP and getting a K10 psychological evaluation assessment each time. Anything over 20 is bad. I peaked at 38 before Christmas.

    I also had an ABC caseworker assigned to me to help with Comcare. She was very nice and assured me I could tell her anything in strict confidence. Then I got another batch of bullshit from ABC HR via Comcare which included information which only three people at the ABC knew about. My caseworker had basically told the whole of HR (who had been working with my boss – and the information was mainly about him) and god knows who else and it was being used against me in my Comcare claim. When I asked her why she would do such a thing I got a letter from the Head of HR telling me not to contact my caseworker again – another would be assigned if needed.

    So at this point I was in an impossible position. My reputation was harmed by what had been said about me publicly, I was now “extremely severely stressed,” “extremely severely anxious” and now had “moderate depression” too. I was on strong blood pressure meds, I was being pushed into starting anti-depressants. I was waiting for Comcare to rule on the ABC’s request for reconsideration, I’d been betrayed by my ABC caseworker and boss and the head of HR was covering it up. And then some. Just to rub things in I’d also got the emails sent to the whole ABC regarding how great Mental Health week had been at the ABC.

    I started on the antidepressants which are horrible. The depression goes away but anxiety goes off the scale and there are other side effects like massive fatigue and being completely unable to concentrate. I was on them for about a month and came off them earlier this week and am starting to feel better for that. There’s no way I could do this if I was still on them.

    I’m still stressed and anxious but the depression looks like it’s gone. Maybe it will come back with the fallout from this. But I’m starting to feel better now I’ve left.

    unfortunate addendum The above is a very watered down (rapidly typed) version of events and any use of them as proof of something against me for official reasons like Comcare (as has happened before) should be avoided.

    EDIT: Bugger me that’s long. I’ve just been typing in a tiny text box and lost track of time.

    • That’s a “telling” piece. I hope some flak falls on the ‘deserving” folk for THAT little bit of dirty work….sounds awfully like the sort of tactics used against BB’s partner..

  21. In early March 2013 I was told by a senior ABC manager that ABC Management was expecting the Liberals to win the next election and that Malcolm Turnbull would be in charge of the ABC and that they didn’t want to upset him. From this point on I documented everything

    And didn’t Their ABC do everything they could to bring about that election win, from shamelessly promoting Abbott and opening almost every 7.00 pm news session with ‘the LOTO says’ to sabotaging Labor pressers and running derogatory ‘news’ stories about Julia Gillard. Not to mention stacking the panels of Insiders and Q&A with Liberal friendlies.

    You have to wonder how different it all might have been if Labor had not given Mark Scott another five years back in 2011. Thy should have booted out the bastard when they had the chance.

    • I’d wonder if Labor could bring a civil case against the ABC. for “swinging” opinion in favour of the LNP.?

  22. You have to wonder how different it all might have been if Labor had not given Mark Scott another five years back in 2011. Thy should have booted out the bastard when they had the chance.

    The MD’s appointed by the board, not the government, and we all know how badly Howard stacked that.

  23. leonetwo

    Not just Mark Scott . He would have brought aboard quite a number of like minded bastards that also needed the royal order of the boot.

  24. I know they’ll try their damnedest but I can’t see how the ABC can wiggle out of this.

    And it’s not looking too good for Waffles.

  25. The board appoints the MD and prospective board members are selected by the allegedly ‘independent’ nomination panel. That panel of four is now stacked with Liberal friendlies including Neil Brown, a former Liberal politician, and Janet Albrechtsen, who spends her spare time enjoying the company (to put it very politely) of Michael Kroger.

    This is the panel that advised the board to accept a Murdoch hack as the next managing director.

  26. Waffles will fly off to the US this weekend, as usual running away from a brewing storm. No doubt he hopes it will have blown over by the time he gets back.

    Labor needs to get onto this in parliament first day back, and stick with it. A senate inquiry would be a good idea. Not that the MSM will mention it, of course.

  27. leonetwo

    I think all this just goes to show the different, and more lenient, standards that are applied to the Liberals as opposed to Labor. Imagine the howls of outrage if Labor tried to do this.

  28. This is a must-read from Nick. It’s very long

    Do a Ctrl-F on “At a time where NBN coverage in the mainstream media and press had been absolutely toxic and wrought with lies for years, Media Watch finally addressed the NBN issue in just one episode. The entire episode focused on the ABC Technology Editor, one of very few journalists who was trying to inform the public of the facts. The episode was a total beat-up and exhibited some of the worst journalism to come from the ABC probably ever.”

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