Thursday, February 09, 2012

There's nothing like a government-backed free market of opinion like your ABC ...

Is this the worst-graded image ever to grace a television current affairs program?

Has the ABC lost all knowledge of colour temperature, fill and key light, and warmth in an image? All the pond has is a plasma TV with factory settings, but even it shrieks something is not right.

And here's the Mickey Mouse set up (screen cap taken from online, where dullness takes over). Don McAlpine would be rolling in his grave.

It's not as if Chris Uhlmann, surely the most awkward and dull presenter to front (well you could hardly say to grace) an ABC current affairs program in ages, doesn't need some visual help, but they've done this "contemporary, live, dynamic, from the heart of nowheresville" routine for a couple of days now. Enough already, though it does get the pond up out of the chair and doing other things licketty split.

A helpful service performed by other ABC workers toiling away in the garden.

Yes Phillip Adams has cranked up again, and by golly, he's in fine form talking over, interrupting and badgering his guests, and providing his own views on everything, since it seems the views and insights his guests might offer are never enough (and so a recent story on Tim Burstall became a story about Phillip Adams' views of Tim Burstall).

Amazingly the great man did allow that Burstall had something to do with the revival of the Australian film industry, though as everyone knows it was all the work of Phillip Adams. (But if there's any more mentions of Rudd for P.M. the pond might well run out of radios to smash).

But why does the pond indulge in direct exposure to pain and suffering all the time? Well as Nietzsche once put it: A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.

Which naturally leads us on to The Drum, home for the IPA's Chris Berg, who performs the amazing feat of writing about the supermarket business without once mentioning Coles or Woolies or their cosy duopoly by name.

Yep, you can scan Farmers feeling the squeeze of marketplace realities, and the only direct mention of the two giants is enclosed in a quote from an analyst on the Radio National program PM.

Berg himself doesn't concern himself with the doings of the two biggest players, and their market-distorting, power-wielding ways. Instead he prefers to natter on endlessly about "supermarkets", as in sentences such as:

Sure, supermarkets should be able to defend themselves.

It's the most extraordinary effort, a look at retailing in Australia, which blithely ignores the stranglehold of Woolies and Coles, and hares off in to a fine flurry of free market sentiments and Adam Smithisms, as if somehow the presence of IGA and Aldi meant there was something like a free market operating in Australia in this area of retail.

As if somehow anyone could select a spot in a mall and start up a supermarket, and never mind the costs and regulatory complications that protect the incumbents. It's the same fine logic that leads Murdoch hacks to propose that if you don't like the current crop of newspapers, why you should hare off and start your own, rather than doing the simpler thing, like Chairman Rupert, and inherit a going concern ...

Anyhoo, the Coles and Woolies cosy duopoly - oh we just love that phrase, cosy duopoly, all the more so because it's true - will be pleased to find Berg in a state of Bergian free market ecstasy and rapture (and let's hope the supermarket giants recognise his and the IPA's good work and tickle the till with a little donation for a day's work well done).

You see, everything is for the best in the best of all worlds in a free market, which happens to feature a cosy duopoly. Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations, don't you know, and incisive insightful maxims like this one:

We work so we can eat. We labour so we can relax. We don't consume in order to produce, we produce in order to consume.

Now you might argue:

We eat so we can work. We relax so we can labor. We don't produce in order to consume, we consume in order to produce.

And you would have hit the level of glib fatuousness, dressed with a sprig of perversity, on hand in Berg's scribble.

You see all the current problems in the marketplace - a cosy duopoly in supermarket retail - are actually all the fault of the producers, and the knaves and lickspittle lackeys that support them (including such organisations as self-styled consumer group Choice, as opposed to the IPA, which doesn't style itself as anything, seeing as how self-styled bunch of lobbyists might not ring in the ears too well).

Meanwhile, it is common knowledge that farmers make out like bandits, and life on a diary farm is just an endless round of barn dances and line dancing. (Yes head off to a dairy farm near you and see what joy it is, tending the moo cows day and night).

Anhyoo, in a grand Adam Smithian Bergian flurry, Berg rounds on troublesome mercantilists, cartels and monopolists.

We look forward to his next article, attacking Coles and Woolworths as vexatious cartels and duopolists sheltering with the aid of mercantilists who can't even tackle poker machine reform because it might tread on Woolies' toes.

What's that? Sorry, the pond forgot. It's all the fault of the farmers:

... troublesome competition is what has made us in the 21st century wealthier than at any other time in history.

Yes, consumers always demand that producers make things better and cheaper. And not all firms can meet those demands. This is exactly how the system should work.

Uh huh. So the current cosy duopoly is how the system should work, because consumers are demanding that farmers be screwed to the wall, perhaps because city folks are envious of how rural folks make out like bandits and live high on the hog. And if they don't like it, we'll get our garlic from Peru and our grapes from California, and that'll teach those food localists a thing or three.

Well Berg, in his usual way managed to generate well over three hundred comments, so the ABC - which must take a Murdochian view of hits and comments - should be well pleased.

But strangely the comments didn't run the Bergian way, with the first out of the block muttering about the likes of Bayer, Monsanto and CropLife Australia, and IPA funding ... and others wanting to propel Berg to Pluto ...

Another wanted a piece explaining how downloading sports on the mobile phone for free was the way to go, and when you think about it, free is the ultimate form of market pricing, and suddenly the pond was alright with the use of intellectual property for free, since what need is there for the arbitary and crude restricting of rights imposed by copyright and the Hollywood cartel of monopolists who control movie entertainment world-wide ...

All in all, it was an exhausting experience, but wondrous to see how Adam Smith remains a fundamentalist text, even if removed from current realities (sssh, whatever you do, don't mention Coles or Woolies), right up there with the Bible and the American constitution, and not a whit nor jot of the text needs to be altered.

Sadly, the pond simply didn't have the energy to follow up in detail on Peter Reith's explanation that Labor, not the media, responsible for party woes.

But all the same the pond couldn't help noticing that his epic defence of a free print media (otherwise known as a cartel or cosy duopoly) concluded thusly:

... as long as that political uncertainty of purpose and direction remains, the press will report every last snippet of internal Labor conflict and fill the front pages of our papers with scurrilous tales of leadership ambition.

The first comment out of the block - there were over five hundred - noted Reith's use of the word scurrilous:

1. grossly or obscenely abusive or defamatory
2. characterized by gross or obscene humour
3. Expressed in vulgar, coarse, and abusive language (here)

Yes, in the process of defending the media, saying it was all Labor's fault, and not the media, Reith ends up defaming the media as publishing grossly abusive, vulgar, coarse, abusive - scurrilous if you will - defamatory and slanderous tales of leadership ambition.

Well he was always more comfortable with attack dogs and mercenaries and children overboard and telephone bills than he was with a dictionary.

Oh each day, there's time to take a trip down the rabbit hole, and as Nietszche said: When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.

Or as he wrote shortly before he went as mad as a bandicoot deprived of cheap supermarket- supplied worms, beetles and grubs, and the thoughts of Chris Berg and Peter Reith, Was ihn nicht umbringt, macht ihn stärker.

As for the ABC ... what a valuable community service it performs, with people out and about exercising instead of wasting time watching the box or idling away on the intertubes ... and how soon can the BBC snatch Mark Scott away from us?

(Below: more Nicholson here).


  1. If there was a shred of integrity left at the ABC, Chris Berg would be required to disclose the funding of the IPA and sources of (potential) conflict of interest in relation to his columns. That it doesn't bother or care shows how far it has fallen.

  2. Just to keep things in balance, DP, I've asked The Global Mail about their Conflict Of Interest policy. Specifically, what they would consider a COI.
    Had to send it to Monica Attard because their Contacts page doesn't work.
    Will let you know if I get a reply.
    In the meantime, Peter Timmins' is excellent.

  3. Thanks EA, and to any literalists who think we've consigned Don McAlpine to an early grave, he is of course rampant We were only referring to his good early work at the ABC, before escaping into the high flown world of the Hollywood DOP. Think "rolling in his old ABC grave" as the metaphor ...

    The point about conflict of interest is that in any other context a columnist would require to disclose their status (employee, academic) and any perceived conflicts (personal connections, funding). So Peter Reith cops this:

    Peter Reith was a senior cabinet minister in the Australian government from 1996 to 2001 and then a director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development from 2003 to 2009. View his full profile here.

    But all Berg cops is a reference to the IPA and promotion for his twittering:

    Chris Berg is a Research Fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs. Follow him on Twitter @chrisberg. View his full profile here.

    No mention of the way that the IPA is actively out there lobbying on such matters

    Does the IPA get any funding from operators of supermarkets? Who knows, but if the answer's in the negative I'd love to see a disclaimer asserting that the IPA has not received any funding, gifts, donations, or report writing commissions from the major supermarket chains in the last ten years .. And then let's see similar Bergian tracts on climate change, tobacco, alcohol, mining, etc, treated with the same sort of rigour. In the pond's dreams ...


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