IN THE current issue of The Spectator, not available online, columnist Neil Brown QC addresses the recent lecture by Fairfax’s Fifty Grand Vizier Greg Hywood, whose curious assertion it is that his newspapers’ declining sales are of no consequence whatsoever. While some might see Hywood’s remarks as confirming that Fairfax has entered the final of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of dying (acceptance: “I don’t want to struggle anymore”), Brown prefers to focus on the folly of surrendering news coverage to angry, aggrieved adolescents, many of whom are well into middle age. As any parent knows, it is folly to argue with a teenager. They change the subject, ignore logic and evidence, are never at fault, always know so much more than their unenlightened elders and, most annoying of all, cannot conduct a conversation without recourse to ad hom assaults. In a domestic setting the solution is straightforward: tell the little snot to pack his bags and get out, an approach that worked wonders when Young Master Bunyip was going through those difficult years. In Melbourne, the populace has delivered much the same message to The Phage, which is no longer welcome in the homes of citizens who prefer not to be hectored and have their trust abused. Unfortunately, that has not entirely removed the aggravation, as the paper continues to linger on the front porch, screaming and whining and demanding to be re-admitted in order that the lecturing and sermonizing (and the financial support) might continue as before.
There is prime example of that racket in this morning’s edition of the Phage, which features a report by environmental editor Adam Morton on the great savings to be achieved by going ultra-green. His example is a $100 million “eco-village” to be built at Cape Paterson, which he reports has been given a wondrous endorsement by the author of a study “backed by a state government agency.” If Morton was just a little older, a bit more of a big boy and better able to embrace fact above sentiment, he would have noted that Victoria’s environmental bureaucracy was packed and stacked by the former Labor government and that many of its public utterances and private leaks should be taken as the voice of the now-Opposition. While the absence of that background information is an unfortunate omission, it is small organic potatoes when judged against another, rather more important item of information missing from Morton’s handiwork.
The chap he quotes, the author of that government-backed study, is a gent called Anthony “Tosh” Szatow, whom a reader unaware of how The Phage these days prefers to report matters close to its green heart might assume to be an independent analyst. Szatow’s message, as transcribed by Morton, is certainly compelling:
The 220-house Cape Paterson proposal aims to be operationally carbon neutral. It promises a minimum 7.5-star rating, solar photovoltaic systems big enough to cover energy needs, high-efficiency lighting, heating and cooling, solar hot water, rainwater tanks and a fleet of electric vehicles.
According to a review by energy consultant Anthony Szatow, funded by government agency Sustainability Victoria, the carbon-neutral approach could save an owner more than seven years and $120,000 in mortgage payments compared with a new six-star house.
Savings on energy and water bills were expected to top $200,000 over 25 years.
So who is Tosh Szatow? Let the eco-village’s developers explain (emphasis added at the Billabong):
Anthony Szatow, known to most as Tosh, will be joining the Cape Paterson team on a full time basis from July 2011. For the last two years he has led the national intelligent grid project at CSIRO. The project aimed to understand the value proposition for local energy solutions Australia wide, and how that value could be most efficiently realised. His research has increasingly focussed on the role of business model innovation in reducing emissions and transforming the energy market. Originally attracted to the Cape Paterson project by the holistic approach to sustainability, he aims to help demonstrate the power of business model innovation as part of the development, with a view to making clean energy more affordable than the alternative. He hopes the project can set a new benchmark for best practice residential housing development and catalyse innovation across the property sector.
Worth noting, although The Age does not, is that the same project almost perished last year, when an independent study recommended against its approval on -- wait for it -- environmental grounds! That suggestion was ignored by Planning Minister Matthew Guy, who must have a blinding constellation of seven-star ratings floating before his wide, green eyes. One day, like Young Master Bunyip, Big Ted’s government may grow up and realise that it was elected to dispute and dismantle Labor wasteful enthusiasms, not endorse them in order to curry favour with a dying newspaper.
Especially a newspaper that presents as an independent voice a green careerist who crunches improbable numbers to assert that his full-time employer’s controversial project is – Surprise! Surprise! – a huge money-saver for the prospective home owners on whom its financial success depends. What’s next, the unquestioned echoing of Chris Scott’s appraisal that the Cats’ hold a mortage on the 2012 premiership? Without, of course, any mention that Scott is Geelong’s senior coach.
Given that he is trousering $50,000 a week to helm Fairfax, you might think Greg Hywood would feel obliged to do some house cleaning. Then again, with so much muck in the stable, perhaps no amount of cash can cover such heavy lifting.
Best to brand such Mortonesque brochuresmanship as more of that “quality journalism” -- and then Hywood can go straight back to the pleasant business of gloating over his latest bank statement.