Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Hypocrisy Hall of Fame’s special accolade, The Janus Two-Faced BUMM Award was up for grabs again this week, and two of the usual suspects stood out from our local mob of twicers. And one entry could be – literally – deadly.

Have you read about the latest asbestos scare in Townsville? Well, not in the Townsville Bulletin you haven’t, because what is left of the paper’s staff (another 17 sacked this week) has yet again been exposed to deadly asbestos dust. And News Ltd’s cavalier attitude to the potentially fatal situation may attract some official attention. If not, why not?

You may also recall The Magpie’s occasionally bestowed Janus Award, named for the two-faced Roman god. And the BUMM part of it stands for Barefaced Unmitigated Monstrous Mendacity – mendacity being the $50 word for untruthfulness. In other words, lying.

Mayor Mullet made a spectacular grab for the silverware this week with one of her most selective pieces of hypocritical grandstanding. But the current title holder, Lachlan ‘Harry Potter’ Heywood, editor of the Astonisher, wasn’t about relinquish the trophy he currently holds, and made two entries in the BUMM Award in an effort to keep it on his mantelpiece.

And the Dutch seemed to have overlooked the old saying that not every problem requires a regulation or law; you’ll never believe who they’re going to fine now.

If you’re the slightest bit interested in any of this little nest of trinkets, you can peruse the following at

The PM using sign language to reply to an Opposition question.

First up, the quote of the week which had The 'Pie rolling around at the hilarious innocence of it, came from a young school pupil in Canberra, during a visit from the Prime Minister. 

Ms Gillard leaned over solicitously and asked the nine-something ' What's happening today?' 

'Not much,' the girl answered. 

So much for the awe in which the office of Prime Minister is held nowadays.

From one ranga to another, a word about Prince Harry’s nude ‘romp’, that vague word that can mean different things to different people, but generally means just one thing to the tabloids.  Perhaps he should now be Prince Hairy, and by squinting a bit, The ‘Pie will allow that it does seem that the curtains do indeed match the carpet for this royal ranga.

But the whole matter puts The ‘Pie in mind of the droll quote from Aussie ballet prancer Robert Helpmann. Asked why he turned down a lucrative role in the nude musical Oh Calcutta!, Bobby said he didn’t indulge in nude dancing’ because not everything stops when the music does’.

Speaking of unnamed things dangling in the air, in matters closer to home, it’s been a week of unsaid facts swaying in the breeze..

In politics and in business, it is generally accepted that there are occasions when what you don’t say is far more important than what you do say. And if you do say something, careful placement is just as important as careful wording.

But all entries in this week Janus BUMM Award used a ploy that made the judging all that more difficult – it was what was not said that featured in all instances. Lying by what is called ‘the sin of omission’.

Jenny Hill, our own Mayor Mullet, hit the big time mid-week on national breakfast telly and in the Sydney Morning Herald (a day before The Astonisher awoke from its slumbers on the issue) with her futile blast at Telstra for making the unfeeling and unnecessary – that’s The ‘Pie’s view - decision to sack 126 Townsville staff, a move estimated by economist Colin Dwyer to cost the local economy about $8 million. The positions are rumored to be heading up to Asia.

Now Jenny Hill has a history of hovering around television cameras like Banquo’s ghost, and she quite reasonably saw the Telstra move as an opportunity to lift her sagging profile a bit. So she blasted away, telling Telstra what she thought of the move, how damaging losing 126 jobs was to small regional economy like Townsville’s and what a terrible plight for so many families and so on (she sure knows how to milk it when the camera’s red light is on). For some mysterious reason, in just about every interview, The Mullet made a somewhat irrelevant reference to the fact that she held some Telstra shares herself. So? It was a bit like a little girly showing off her new dolly.

She said she was so incensed that ‘if Optus or Vodaphone or somebody wants to get in touch with me, we can do a deal’.

Oh, really?  The council majority may well agree with your sentiments, but if they don’t, here comes another Steggles Award for egg on your face.

But hang on a minute.

Let’s have a look at what you didn’t say, you forgetful old Mullet, you.

Is this the same Mayor Mullet who a few short weeks ago lambasted council CEO  Ray Burton for allegedly ‘withholding’ a year-old report which suggested savings be made by sacking 270 council staff? And that you believed that the report should belatedly come before council and its recommendations implemented so you could find the necessary savings to fund your lavish campaign promises of a rates freeze and a water rebate? Yep, that would be you, Jenny.

So, in a nutshell, you’re right up Telstra for the rent, as the saying goes, telling them they should consider the community before sacking people, but you would think nothing of giving 270 council staff the bullet just to satisfy your over-weaning ego – an ego which, using Mr Dwyer’s calculator, would cost the local  economy around $17million.  

As ever, resident doodler Bentley proves he is a man who thinks outside the square - he's come up with a win-win situation, at least for the Federal Government, who will soon be hosting plenty of idle hands at a site which would be an ideal setting for a call centre.

But nice one, Mullet, and you were leading the race for the Janus Award until the head of your public relations department, Lachlan Heywood, Astonisher editor, ambled on to the scene.
Selective reporting by the editor?

The Magpie was wondering why the Bulletin was being – by its standards – so circumspect and generally low key about the Telstra sackings – and lagging somewhat behind the pack on the issue to boot – but then The ‘Pie was blinded by the light when he ploughed on through the story and came across this buried gem towards the end.

Quote:’ 'The Telstra restructure comes on the same day as the Townsville Bulletin announced its classifieds call center would migrate to Brisbane in October. As part of the change, 17 positions will be affected, although staff have the opportunity to be redeployed in Brisbane or other areas of the business.' Unquote.

The way it was written made it easy to miss, especially being way down the lower end of the story ... no screaming headlines 'Local paper axes another 17 jobs' or mention that it brings to more than 60 the sackings from the paper in the past two years. 17, eh? There’s another $4million out of the Townsville economy according to Mr Dwyer’s rapidly over-heating calculator, and at 60 sackings, the loss is around $8million.

You’ve gotta luv the bit about ‘… the Bulletin announced’. Really? To whom? And was there a press release? ‘Fat chance’ would be a good guess.

The ‘Pie will refrain from preening himself too much, but feels compelled to point out that this is the first mention in The Townsville Bulletin of its sackings since The ‘Pie started reporting them here shortly after resigning from the paper almost two years ago.

But all this is small beer in the light of the seemingly reckless attitude towards staff safety. God knows, you chaotic fat cats down in Sydney's Holt Street, you’re getting rid of a lot of the locals from the workforce, do you have to take the risk to possibly killing or maiming those who remain?

First, some background for the hypocrisy award, some of which has already been aired in the email give-and-take of this blog.

There are certain ‘hot button’ words that send The Astonisher’s reporters into a frenzy of overblown, overwritten tripe, and chief amongst them is the word ‘asbestos’. 

The Townsville Bulletin's shock-horror asbestos pic.
By way of demonstration, just a small sample of such reports would include this most recent one about some policemen who had to undergo some extreme WH&S rigmarole after falling through a roof during a drug search, gussied up with this posed pic. Then on June 11, there was another asbestos yarn, a save-the-kiddies beat up if ever there was one, (much of the alarm engendered by the Bulletin’s reporting style of this issue); and just to show it’s nothing new, this one, involving a sky-is-falling yarn in July 2010 involving school kids in Wulguru, is among the many that have been hyped up over the years. 

Now, The ‘Pie doesn’t take this issue lightly, and the dangers can be very real, but there are ways of informing the public without sinking to tabloid depths.

So how does the following suddenly get the cold shoulder as a front page screamer, although it is more dire than any other story on the subject?

Last October, Mary Vernon, in one of her last columns, wrote inter alia the following:

‘No sooner was I adjusting to the looming end of my Townsville Bulletin career than the roof of the Bully offices started leaking showers of asbestos on the desks below which was rather alarming.
Hurried evacuation was the order of the day and suddenly workers from the contaminated end of the building were all crammed together in the sectors determined 'safe'.
Tempers were a little frayed by the unaccustomed crowding and anxiety, but so far we're managing pretty well.

And that was it.

Not a dicky bird about the situation in the news columns, let alone a screaming front page about slack management practices putting valiant journos and other staff at risk.

But hang on, fair’s fair, though the staff were told that ‘if they felt like it’ they could get a medical check-up on the company! There then followed an extensive removal of said asbestos, involving lots of hastily and loosely applied plastic sheeting, while the troops toiled away in those ‘safe’ areas. Just who informed management they were safe with all those particles floating about has, like everything else, never been explained. 

But, gentle reader, you may be assured that if it was another company in the same situation, there would be editorial howls, to quote another old saying, from arsehole to breakfast time. (No, Mystified of Mysteron, I don’t know what that means either, but you get the drift).

So, just when all that’s now died down, despite the fact that there remains a major risk from the asbestos roofing sheets that have been battered by scores of storms and several cyclones over the decades, as well as internal cladding disintegration, guess what?


In the last couple of weeks the asbestos pixie has again sprinkled her deadly white dust down on hapless Astonisher staff, this time in the advertising department and, for all The ‘Pie knows, members of the public who regularly traipse in to pay exorbitant sums for a message in the only game in town.

Questions are now being asked as to why it reportedly took a whole week to move the staff from the latest affected area. But whatever, once again, staff are now huddled together in what have been described by management as ‘safe areas’ just so the profit imperative isn’t interrupted with something as pesky as people’s safety in the face one of the most debilitating, and possibly fatal, conditions known in this country.

Perhaps The 'Pie is a born cynic, but here's something to note, which News Ltd no doubt knows: asbestosis, often leading to it's evil offspring mesothelioma (cancer of the pleura) generally only becomes apparent after 20 to 40 years following even a single exposure.

The paper is rumoured to be looking for temporary premises – the old Channel Ten building on The Strand has been mentioned – before it’s new home on Flinders Street West is ready. But it seems the WH&S horse has already bolted.

Nice one, News Ltd. What’s your side of the story? After all, you’ve got the means to tell us. And be honest, (ha!), if this had have been any other organisation, it would be a braying front page, with a scolding, horrified editorial, wouldn’t it?

Are you getting the message yet?

This is yet another glaring reason why The Bulletin cannot be, and isn’t, trusted.

And irony corner – in today’s issue, there is a report on the plight of RAAF personnel who were exposed to deadly chemicals while servicing fighter jets.

If the D word for the Astonisher is ‘deadly’, the D word across in Holland and Belgium  is ‘dopey’. Netherlands lawmakers are debating whether those who make incorrect weather forecasts should be fined, because incorrect forecasting can have a major impact on tourism. Well, duh! Up in Belgium, the local burghers intend to not fine but sue the local weather bureau for the same reason. Read the yarn here

But the best droll comment on this cunning Baldrick-like plan came from James Patterson of the Institute of Public Affairs, who suggested it was a good thing that climate change advocate Tim Flannery isn't Dutch – Flannery has been so spectacularly and consistently wrong with his warnings and timelines of runaway weather and sea changes, he'd be bankrupt under these laws.

Enough now, it is away to Poseurs Bar, where there may be some lying by the sin of omission when the old bird assures a suitable companion that he is interested in her only for her sparkling wit and intelligence – and the way she chews her chewing gum.    




  1. Hi Pie, I have images of the Asbestos roof in the Astonisher's office. It concerned me, no one has informed me officially that the roof had to be removed because the tiny particles filtered onto the computers. I will be happy to provide more images of the area and more.

    I'm wondering if the assigned photographer from the Astonisher was wearing a mask at the time the image of the police was taken? Did he fill in a safety form to state he too might have had unknown contact with asbestos while on assignment? The police image shows the dangers. The Astonisher's signage stated it was dangerous. Not one person (award winning journalist) looked up and thought that there was danger? Not one award winning journalist?

    Well Jenny, made it to the big time. Sunrise, SMH and she's got shares in Telstra. Paid into her superanuation account (tax payers) Ms hill, what about a 0055 call centre for the telstra workers or a hot line for illegal refugees needing free broadband?

  2. Forget Vodaphone and Optus - why isn't the Mayor meeting with the Bully to save jobs? Outrageous to rip profits out of the place and not even return the local community employment and career options.

    1. They know you're a gonna in twenty years time, therefore you're not worth the effort.

      The hush hush hush cover ups that have gone on in there are amazing. Amazing cruelty. Atil, should hang her head in shame.

  3. I understand your favourite Media Pest and Political Hound "Water Man" and unsuccessful Inderpendant Council Candiate has been appointed (or self appointed) The Branch Secretary of the Thuringowa Branch of the Labour Party . I would guess no one else wanted the position Will he stand as an Inderpendant at the next State Election ?

  4. I hope the staff concerned are keeping a record/diary of the the incidents of this asbestos dust problem.As i understand it medical problems may not arise for 20 years or more so record keeping is essential Dates / Times etc it may well save a lot of angst in later life.

    1. Pie keep this blog up so in twenty years time we have dates and an accurate record of the incidents.

      Mary vernon's published piece is gold hopefully, will help people.

    2. Wow. John Nankervis has learned how to switch off the Caps Lock.

  5. Hey Pie. Do you an email I can send something on?

    1. Err, you've contacted The 'Pie to ask if you can contact The 'Pie? And you sign yourself anonymous? Have a think about it.
      However, all emails are checked before being posted - boy, do some of them instantly attract the delete button - so anything you send me, mark it Not For Publication, and provide a return email address and/or phone number- no return address on an email which presumably would be making certain claims will instantly go to deletion heaven.

  6. I recently renovated an old house in Hyde Park. As I worked for James Hardy & Coy (as it was then known) in the early 70's, I knew that practically ALL homes built before 1982 contain asbestos sheeting. I ensured that the builder had an asbestos removal licence and was aware of the fact that the bathrom had asbestos sheeting.

    The builder and I had to comply with stringent conditions, including me having to put the tenants up in a motel for a week and having all sorts of sniffing contraptions used on a regular basis. The signs and tape lines that I had to erect scared the hell out of my neighbors as well.

    The Bully-tin building is obviously very, very sick. Air-borne asbestos dust is lethal. Given what I had to go through for 6 sheets of intact sheeting, how the bloody hell are people still allowed within a 100 metres of the building, let alone work in it???

    I would suggest setting fire to the place, but that would probably be useless to even attempt, given the amount of asbestos it contains.

    Remember the ABC building in Brisbane? There were suggestions that there was a cancer cluster in staff who worked there. Nothing was ever proven and no cause found, but the building was closed and staff removed to other locations. Just to be sure.

    1. Err, Grumpy, it is a legal sin to urge others on to illegal naughtiness as in 'setting fire to the building' so The 'Pie is mighty relieved that you counselled the futility of such a move. The asbestos is not the only dangerous irritant in The Bulletin building but certainly is, unlike the staff, the only thing that's fireproof.


    The move follows a push by the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia, whose president Barry Robson said "There's no safe level of asbestos exposure"

  8. I heard this week that some of the photographers at the Townsville Bulletin have also lost their jobs. Can anyone confirm if that's correct?

    1. Most of the snappers have had a hard time within the Astonisher. If you're up the top end, you're protected and assigned the 'better' topics and receive more flexiblity when it comes to getting holidays.

  9. We can only hope that they start from the top shooter down....Hey Mr [poo poo]?

  10. Pie, when you look at the image of the police officer and then compare what they (The Bulletin) are doing to their staff it's as if the danger doesn't exist and that they 'don't get the danger because they can't see it' Where are the award winning journalists reporting this in their paper? (Note: This comment has been slightly edited to make the writers view a little clearer - if the writer - yet again a blasted anonymous (really, c'mon folks) feels there's been an injustice to the words, please contact The 'Pie again.)

  11. Here's a bit of free advice from a legal eagle mate for all Townsville Bully staff - past and present - who have more than likely been exposed to asbestos down at the Ogden Street bunker.
    Get your lawyer to write a formal letter to New Limited setting out the dates and times that asbestos fell from the roof, and what immediate action (if any) News Ltd managers took to protect the staff.
    Ask too, when New Ltd management first became aware of the asbestos problem - my spies tell me it was at least six years ago.
    The letter should also ask for proof that News Ltd did actually employ experts to find a "safe area" to transfer staff to, and that this "safe area" was actually "safe" at the time they were relocated.
    If you don't formally complain about it now, chances are your claim won't be taken seriously when you end up in hospital in 20 years time.

  12. >Class Action

    Perhaps the staff may be reluctant to pursue such a course whilst the down sizing continues?

    1. In the workplace, there is such a thing called an exit interview. It’s the chance for an employee that’s leaving on their own accord to provide feedback to the organization. Basically, an exit interview is a chance to leave on a positive note, offer a few minor, correctable observations and leave with good will, or you can burn that bridge and go out in a blaze of fury. Either way, hardly ever does management really take into account or implement new strategies based on said interviews. See, the organization is run by people (for the most part) and their ability to handle that feedback is pretty limited. Also, they just don’t care. They are in power. You are leaving. Enough said.

      It's the worst experience Ive had in my lifetime.

  13. Pie, you provide us a the lawyer as a collective.. and we'll collectively seek action.


    This is another. This house also contained deadly asbestos particles. Reporter and photographer attended the scene/.

  15. If we review today's content online from the Astonisher.

    News from Cairns news, Brisbane story- Newman, local JCU pr release-fees, Local news about a harmless snake, Bowen news story. No photographer's credit either.

    Busy day.

  16. Always good and most importantly, entertaining.