Saturday, 24 December 2011

Saturday photos

About the only sliver of blue sky I saw all week.

One loner kayaker.

I wrote a comment on another blog this week that I rarely see commuters on bikes with fat tyres, suspension and mud guards - so what do I see the next morning? Exactly that. This is the first set of mud guards that I've seen in months. It sometimes drizzles lightly in Sydney, but more often than not, we seem to get torrential downpours. Apart from a few winter months, the rest of the time it's warm enough to not worry about getting wet.

I've seen lots of touring or tourist cyclists this week - and all of them have been grey haired. The above pair were the most casual of the lot - others were in full racing kit and were heading in the opposite direction to me. Must be something about the holiday season that brings them out.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Every day carry

Fascinating blog, thanks to a Very British Dude.


And if you are drunk, even walking, let alone cycling home, can be another bad decision. One 29-year-old male just overbalanced on the footpath and fell on to the road. The car coming towards him only barely stopped in time.

In fact, every night an ambulance gets called to a male cyclist who is drunk and has been hit by a car or just lost control of himself and crashed.

I definitely won't be cycling anywhere this Christmas. Just getting home sober has been enough of a challenge this week - what with the drunken pedestrians weaving hopelessly all over the footpaths at 4 in the afternoon. It must be a bloody shocker by 10pm.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Friday photos

Grown man, with a good sized bald patch, on a scooter. What should one say about this?

Yes, it's a very grey and gloomy photo. That's because it was utterly bucketing down when I took this photo. Funny how photos don't capture rain.

I was sure this bloke had some sort of electric motor on his bike, because for a small fold-up bike, it moved very quickly.

Sadly, I think he was just fitter and stronger than I.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

So much for political correctness

I was having a rest in a park yesterday afternoon, having been for a long leg-busting ride. I'd starting get leg cramps on the way home, and they got so bad, I had to pull over for a bit of a rest and stretch. I never get cramps - and these were something else. Imagine having a couple of strands of barbed wire inserted into your hamstrings - that's what it felt like. Absolutely awful.

There was a group of teenagers in the park near the seat I was occupying - I know most of them, as they are contemporaries of Junior. I also know a few of their parents - not in a got-their-phone-number-in-your-phone kind of way, but enough to know how to contact them if need be. ie, I know where they live, having dropped most of them home at one point or another over the last few years.

These teens are the arty, goody-goody group. They're not seriously academic or sporty - they're musical and they paint and they do drama and that sort of thing. They're not in with the drinking crowd or the dope smoking crowd at school - they're like a gang of Guy Sebastian's, without the church on Sundays thing.

They've also had 10 years of the most politically correct education possible, having been shunted from one female dominated state school to another. I've met the principals of the schools they went to/go to - all are wet as fish. You'd therefore expect these kids to be as soft and squishy as an underset blancmange and totally tuned in with the Greens agenda.


It's a thoroughly modern group, meaning it includes a black kid, a fat kid, a kid I am sure is gay, a muslim kid and a couple of thorough-going nerds. Instead of being sensitive to these aspects of their friends, they were loudly telling extremely rude jokes and stories about niggers (yes, teens have no trouble shouting that word very loudly at each other), their mothers, jews, muslims, the disabled, poofters, gooks, paedophiles and so forth.

Some examples:

"What did the blind, paraplegic orphan kid get for Christmas"?

Answer - "Cancer".

"What happened to the nigger when he looked up his family tree?"

Answer - "A bird shat on his face"

"Why did the Jews wander in the desert for 40 years?"

Answer - "They heard someone dropped a coin".

"I was going through a couple of magazines down at the local mosque and then my gun jammed".

The last one was a new one - all the other jokes they told were doing the rounds when I was that age.

It was impossible to sit within one hundred yards of them and not get an earful of this. Plus the desire amongst some to have anal sex with the girlfriends of the other kids there, or to fuck their friend's mums. The question, "Does your mum give good head?" was asked a few times.

And then like teenage males everywhere, they started fighting in a friendly manner - piling on and chasing each other around and trying to dak the nerdiest of the nerds, and then trying to entice the girls with the group to do some lesbian stuff.

They then discussed their desire to get hold of some guns and "shoot some shit", and as I was leaving, they had started a small harmless fire and were running around it like proper little savages, swearing their heads off. I haven't heard language like that since I was in the infantry.

I rode away smiling, happy that a decade or more of bringing these boys up in an almost testosterone free environment has had no impact whatsoever on their inner beast - it is alive and well and kicking and screaming to get out. And remember - these are the good kids from decent, middle class families where the parents work and aren't divorced and don't have booze and drug problems and arrest records as long as your arm.

I also thought of my poor parents, and what a handful we must have been at this age. Because unlike this lot, we probably would have been drunk, attempting to score dope and doing our best to impregnate all the females. Obscene things would have been undertaken with a blow up doll if we had one (they didn't have inflatable sheep back then - we just had real ones).

When we got older and acquired cars, one of them probably would have ended up on its roof or side by the time the night was over. Some nights were spent drunkenly escaping from the Police and trying to find places to dump the street signs that had been pilfered. I had plenty of practice at propping against a wall with my arms outstretched and my legs apart so as to avoid chundering cheap red wine on my shoes.

If we were in some out of the way place, like a farm or on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition, lots of things would have been set on fire and much port would be drunk. Not necessarily in any order. Rifles and shotguns would have been taken out of unlocked wardrobes and various things merrily ventilated. When we got older and acquired explosives, things would have been blown up. And I do mean "blown up".

I was starting to think that mine was the last generation of males to have the sort of violent, drunken, dangerous fun that we had, and that the Feminazis had ruined it for the current crop. Unfortunately for the Feminazis, nature is stronger than all the indoctrination that they can throw at young males. Nature, for once, is winning.

These young blokes will be utter meat heads for a decade or so, and then they'll slowly mature and end up being captains of industry, politicians, diplomats, artists, entrepreneurs and senior government officials - and sober, conservative, law-abiding fathers to the next generation. Somehow, we turned out OK. I have faith that the next lot will do the same.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Friday photos

I blogged the other day about a retard that didn't want to give way to an ambulance coming our way on lights and sirens. 2 minutes later, I was on the ANZAC bridge, and I went past a 4 car shunt. Nothing too serious - just lots of broken glass and pushed up bonnets. However, it was ironic that as I took this photo, I could hear the wail of the ambulance siren getting closer. I don't think they were heading for this multi-prang - no one looked like they even had a bruise. Impatience and stupidity behind the wheel leads to smashing into other things, which might lead to a trip to Emergency or the morgue.

Not that drivers are alone in being stupid and impatient. I was driving home from a late night shopping trip last night, and a drunk woman in a pink dress stumbled out of a taxi up ahead and then staggered rapidly across the road right in front of me. I had plenty of time to brake, as I was half expecting her to do something stupid, but alcohol and impatience and roads definitely don't mix well.

Electric bike lady - got overtaken by an electric bike today that must have had a HUGE motor in it - it was flying.

The sky - haven't seen that for a while.

Ninja cyclist - dressed in black from head to foot. Even his ninja backpack is black. Blends in beautifully with the road.

Why is it that some people are just incapable of walking on the left?

This bloke must ride a lot - he's got a great tan.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Big ship, low bridge

From where I was standing, I was sure a bit of radar equipment was going to end up dangling from the bottom of the bridge.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Kids with no books

From the Guardian (not something I read every day):

Three in 10 children in the UK do not own a single book of their own, with alarming implications for their future prospects, according to new research. The survey by the National Literacy Trust also shows that boys are less likely to own books than girls.

The survey of 18,141 young people found that four in 10 boys did not own any books, compared to three in 10 girls. Children who did not own books were two-and-a-half times more likely (19%) to read below their expected level than children who had their own books (7.6%), and were also significantly less likely (35.7%) to read above their expected level than book-owning children (54.9%). The online survey took place in November and December last year, with the majority of participants aged between 11 and 13 years old.

"People tend to think that literacy is an international development issue, [but] actually we have got massive literacy problems in this country," said Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust. "To be brutally honest we weren't expecting [the number of children without their own books] to be so high. We know that book ownership in this country is really strongly linked to literacy issues and social mobility."

That's just sad. I come from a book owning family. Between our house and the houses of my parents and siblings, we have somewhere in the order of 10,000 books - and the majority of that is serious, non-fiction. Our family simply loves to read - anytime, anywhere. We all have the ability to lose ourselves in a book - to get so engrossed in what we are reading, we don't hear anything that's going on around us.

For once, I trust the results of this survey - I've been into plenty of houses where I've gone from one end to the other seeking a bookcase, and have found none. I like to poke around in people's bookcases to see if they have anything worth reading - whenever friends visit us, they always borrow a couple of books (sometimes an entire bag full) and swap them over on their next visit. I've seen houses that have massive libraries of movies on DVD and video games, but no books apart from the Yellow Pages. Plenty of people just aren't into reading books.

It's all about choice. We choose to not have pay TV or video games, and we only have one TV in the house. No one gets a TV in their room, and I'll die before putting one in the kitchen or dining room. We have no budget for books - if anyone in the family sees a book they want, they can have it, no questions asked. The money we save on pay TV and video games etc is instead spent on books. We spend at least half an hour every night reading between two and four books to the young kids. And I mean every night. Not every school night - every night. That's our choice, and I am in total agreement with Mark Latham that it's the right thing to do. Others choose differently, and they reap the results.

You can lead a kid to a library, but you can't make them read.

Insanely impatient idiot

On my way home last night, I stopped for a red light in Pyrmont. As I stood there waiting for the green, a siren started up nearby and it steadily got louder as whatever emergency vehicle it was on approached us.

Just as the lights went green, I caught my first glimpse of an ambulance approaching from our right. It crossed onto the wrong side of the road to get around the line of traffic stalled in front of it.

I was in the bike lane. Off to my left, there was a cyclist waiting at the lights out there on the road with the cars, and the cyclist patiently waited for the ambulance to get past (as did the cars in the lane beside him).

Behind the cyclist was a red car. In the red car was an impatient idiot.

Although it was clear to all and sundry that an ambulance was tearing up the road on lights and sirens, and everyone was waiting patiently for it to get by, the idiot in the red car started beeping at the cyclist in an effort to make him ride across the intersection in front of the ambulance. The cyclist put his hand out behind him, giving the motorist a "stop" signal - as in, "You'll just have to wait until the noisy thing with flashing lights on it goes past us". All that produced was more honking from the driver.


The ambulance tore past, and as it did so, the traffic lights went orange. The idiot in the car was honking madly at this point, so the cyclist went straight ahead through the intersection. The red car took off as well and turned right, tooting loudly as they tore through what was now a very red light.

If the cyclist had given into the idiot in the red car and failed to wait and give way to the ambulance, the red car would have turned right and driven straight into the path of the oncoming ambulance, blocking it from proceeding further. Instead of having to wait for 15 seconds, they'd have been stuck in a face-off with an ambulance.

I don't know what gets into some people. I was surrounded by quite a pack of cyclists (like below), and we all just muttered and shook our heads at the stupidity we'd just witnessed. The moron in the red car is the sort of person who will either be taking a trip in an ambulance before Christmas, or they'll be responsibly for putting someone else in the back of one.

The sooner I am allowed to cycle tooled up like this, the better.

NSW Police hunt wanted murder suspect.

Me and my big mouth

Came home tonight and felt very chuffed. Told the missus, "Hey, the old blog got linked to today by two monsters of the blogsphere".

"That's nice. How did you do that?"

"I read a really long and boring financial report and found one line worth reporting on".

"Well, if you've got enough time to sit around reading financial statements, you have too much time on your hands. Go and fold all the laundry".

Like I said - me and my big mouth.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Greenpeace, and their interesting accounting euphamisms

Greenpeace Annual Review 2010, page 19

Whilst looking for some info in the latest Greenpeace annual report, I came across this wonderful set of euphemisms.

Greenpeace puts out two reporting documents each year - a glossy Annual Review full of pretty pictures and nice graphs, and a very unglamorous set of financial statements. You can find both sets going back several years here.

The top picture is an extract from the glossy review. Under expenditure, its lists two items:

  • Investment in New Supporters - $3.281 million
  • Communication & Campaign Information for Supporters - $1.947 million
These two add up to $5.228 million, or 31% of everything Greenpeace raised last year.

After reading that, I sat there wondering, "What the fuck does that mean"?

So I read the more boring financial statements.

Greenpeace financial statements 2010, page 29
In the very boring statements, which only idiots like moi read, there appears to be a more straightforward explanation. "Direct costs of fundraising appeals" came to $5.222 million. Interesting that the numbers don't add up across the two reports.

What got my attention was this - why exactly do Greenpeace feel the need to use terms like "investment in new supporters" and "Communication & Campaign Information for Supporters"? Why can't they just come out and say "cost of dressing up idiots in koala suits and having them annoyingly shake buckets at people in the street"?

What have they got to hide?

Saturday, 10 December 2011

David Shoebridge and depreciation

I'd like to say "Hi" to David Shoebridge, or the staffer in his office, who keeps tabs on his Google News feed. God, that must be a boring task. Imagine having to trawl through the backwaters of the blogsphere, forced to read blog posts like mine, and then pen a response. Glad to see the time of our elected representatives and their minions is being put to such good use. And this from a bloke who is mortally offended at the running costs of a Police boat and the maintenance costs on the Police water cannon.

Here's David's comment:

1.Your facts are wrong - the recent figures came from the November 2011 budget estimates - and direct answers on depreciation from the Police - not from the 2010 estimates.

Below are the two of the questions from David Shoebridge at the Oct 2011 Budget Estimates committee, and the answers from Michael Gallacher. This Q&A session revealed the maintenance cost of the cannon, the depreciation rate and the operating cost per hour. However, it did not cover the purchase cost of the water cannon, which was revealed at the 2010 committee hearing - that cost being $472,000, and not the $700,000 that David would prefer you to believe. Given that the cost of $472,000 was revealed in 2010, why did David do nothing to correct the erroneous SMH article which quoted an estimated cost from 2006 of $700,000?

I guess because if you want to make a figure look big and scary and bad, you use the bigger number (even if it's out of date). Especially when you're bagging an evil monster truck designed to scatter stinking swampies.

My biggest gripe about the 10% depreciation rate is the way it was spun as "rapidly depreciating in value". Did that spin come from Jo Tovey at the SMH, or from David Shoebridge?  Let's look at that 10% rate, and decide whether it is a "rapid rate" of depreciation.

Here's an extract from Greenpeace's financial statements for 2010.

You can see that in 2009, they started with $356,845 worth of vehicles, disposed of some vehicles, bought some new ones and deducted depreciation of $53,503. In 2010, they started with $343,298 worth of vehicles, did a few trades and deducted $40,835 in depreciation.

In other words, Greenpeace's vehicle fleet depreciated at a rate of between 12% and 15% over those two years. Given that context, do you still think that 10% depreciation for the Police water cannon is "rapid"?

Greenpeace depreciation expenses, 2010

Greenpeace also offer this lovely note to their financial statements, informing us that the depreciate motor vehicles over 4 years. 4 years! No one tell David - he'll flip his wig if he finds that out.

Greenpeace and their 4 year motor vehicle depreciation policy

And in case you are wondering what rate trucks should be depreciated at, the ATO offers some handy tips for commercial vehicles:

The Commissioner’s effective life for trucks and trailers is currently capped at 7.5 years and 10 years 
respectively, however the date of acquisition needs to be taken into account when using the Commissioner’s effective life. If you choose to use a different effective life, you need to be able to substantiate the effective life you are using. The 14 factors set in TR 2000/18 can help you do this.

For trailers and trucks acquired before 1 January 2005 but on or after 21 September 1999, the Commissioner’s effective life  determinations were five years for heavy haulage trucks, 62/3 years for trucks generally, and 10 years for trailers

Wow, imagine that. According to the ATO, the effective life for trucks is 7.5 years. I'll leave you to do the maths on that one, and to work out for yourself whether 10% is a "rapid" rate of depreciation.

It must be embarrassing to now know that every accountant in the country that read this story died laughing at the idea of 10% being a rapid depreciation rate for a truck. Even the Greenpeace accountants must have had a wry chuckle over their soy tea. The Fairfax accountants probably died of embarrassment, shaking their heads at how little their reporters understand finance and accounting. Are you going to blame your pet reporter for that clanger, or claim it as your own?

I have another gripe with the SMH story, and that's how some words were switched around to change the emphasis on the costings. This is how the SMH put it:

The government spends $3000 a year on servicing its water nozzles and pumps and on mechanical maintenance.

This is the actual response from the Minister for Police:

"The cost of basic mechanical servicing and servicing of water pumps and water nozzle is approximately $3,000 per annum".

Note how the words have been switched around to put the water nozzles and pumps first, and mechanical maintenance last? When you read the story, that puts the emphasis on the water cannon (evil) and not the truck. Because what is "mechanical servicing"? Well, it's the same sort of thing as when you take your car to your mechanic for a 10,000km service. Oil gets changed, brake pads swapped, filters cleaned or replaced and so on. Shoebridge and/or Tovey have fiddled with the words to make us think that the evil water cannon is a horrible drain on the taxpayer, when for all we know it cost a hundred bucks to service the water nozzle and $2,900 to do a 50,000km service on the truck. It's all about how you spin it.

David Shoebridge then left a 2nd part to his comment:

2. I find your comment about hating police both offensive and transparently wrong. You might like to see some of the work my office has recently done in supporting police - it can be found here:

Well, read the questions below and see whether you think Shoebridge is really supportive of the Police or not. After reading reams of hansard blurb and committee transcripts, he seems to have a thing about "Police brutality" and "Police shootings" and gets worked up into a lather about whether Police are wearing ID badges properly at riots and protests. Personally, I find question 71 below to be offensive and transparently wrong. "What investigations are current or planned to assess reports of police violence in this removal?" David, I suggest you go read up on Janus.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

How do you price a water cannon?

How much did the NSW Police water cannon cost?

Was it $700,000 or was it $472,291.35?

If you ask Josephine Tovey at the SMH, you'll get the first answer. If you just happened to ask the then Police Minister back in September 2010, you'd get the second answer.

Jo Tovey, as seen on Twitter

So how did Ms Tovey manage to inflate the purchase cost by 48%?

Simple - it appears she relied on that trusted source of information called.... the Sydney Morning Herald. Back in August 2007, the SMH ran a story on the unveiling of the truck. That story is now quoted by Wikipedia (so it must be true). In a rather stunning bit of cut'n'paste journalism, Ms Tovey recycled a story by Andrew Clennell and blended in some old news from the cop-hating Greens MP, David Shoebridge.

Picture from 2007 story
Notice anything similar about these two photos?

Picture from 2011 story
I lifted the following bits from the 2007 story:

The black truck with a fire hose on top made heavy work of it but eventually managed to knock over 120-kilogram pylons for the television cameras.

Yesterday, 18 months after Morris Iemma announced that the State Government would buy a $700,000 water cannon for the riot squad in what was widely depicted as a stunt in the wake of the Cronulla riots, the Premier unveiled it yesterday with a demonstration at Homebush Bay

The head of the public order and riot squad, Superintendent Steve Cullen, confirmed that the truck held 12,000 litres of water but would not say how long it could keep firing water, except to say it was more than five minutes.

That explains the following lines from Josephine's 2011 story:

THE state's $700,000 water cannon is rapidly depreciating in value and has still never been used, new figures show.

The four-year-old device, a large black truck that can carry 12,000 litres of water which it fires from its roof, is depreciating at 10 per cent a year, according to figures provided by the Police Minister, Mike Gallacher, in response to budget estimates questions on notice from the Greens.

Err,  no.

David Shoebridge, a Greens MP who appears to loathe the police, guns and tasers (not necessarily in that order) asked a few questions of the Police Minister at a budget estimates committee on 17 September 2010. She at least got the bit about a Green asking the questions correct. He didn't ask any questions on this topic at the latest budget estimates meetings on 27 October 2011. These are not "new figures". They are old figures. And they are wrong. 

What she failed to comprehend is that the answers were provided by the then Labor Minister for Police, Michael Daley. At that time, Mike Gallacher was the Opposition police spokesman, and didn't take over as Police Minister until after the state election in March 2011.

Hilariously, Jo offers the following description of herself: "I write about state politics for the SMH". FMD.

Oh look, Jo Tovey and Antony Lowenstein are buddies. Or twitties.
Now, to be fair to Jo, the 2007 story was based on a press release from the then Premier, Morris Iemma. Unfortunately, that press release appears to have disappeared down the memory hole. I have just spent a fruitless hour searching for the original so we could see what old Morris had to say back then. The closest thing I can find is this set of Legislative Council Questions and Answers from 4 April 2006:

Unfortunately, no costs were mentioned in the answer. But of course the question was posed by another cop-hating Green, Lee Rhiannon. 

This is not what I would call an accurate, well researched bit of journalism. But then again, Jo does "write" for the SMH.

Word of advice, Jo - don't believe everything the Greens tell you. And as for you and Antony Lowenstein Twitting at each other.....

Thursday photos

The Carbin Tax must be working already (all praise the Carbin Tax), because the earth has cooled considerably since it passed the Senate. It's been a miserable week in Sydney - cold and wet and grey. I packed away my leg warmers some time ago - I was bloody close to pulling them back out again yesterday. The photo above is not gloomy - this is Sydney on a "sunny" day. Normally, I would have been down the beach for my first dip about 6 weeks ago. At the moment, I'm not even thinking of going anywhere near the salt water. That would be madness.

The bloke on the left had managed to find his leg warmers this morning. I saw one lady cycling in something that looked suspiciously like a ski jacket! I haven't bothered trying to dry my shoes for a week - I just put them on wet in the morning and put up with it. If I stuck them in the dryer at night, it wouldn't help much. They'd be soaked within 2 minutes of leaving the driveway.

People seem to have acclimatised to the crappy weather. For the first few days, I had this path to myself morning and night. However, those that like to keep fit must have gotten sick of being cooped up inside, and they started pouring out onto the paths yesterday. It was wall to wall joggers, all pounding along in the rain. I had a hard time passing them as my bell filled up with water - instead of making a nice loud "ting" that says, "Please move over and let me pass", it was making a dull, quiet "thud" that no one could hear.

See the shiny thing around his right ankle? They seem to be getting more popular. The idea is that a small reflective thing that is rotating quickly draws the eye, making drivers actually notice you on the road. It's a nice idea, but I still maintain that the only proper way to deal with aggressive arseholes on the road is to carry a pistol and open fire on them from time to time.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Runover bride

Underneath the Harbour Bridge is a popular spot for having your wedding photos taken. The latest trend is to have the bridge and groom stand in the middle of the road, probably because it gives you a great shot with the bridge and Opera House in the background.

If these people saw how taxi drivers flew around this bend, they wouldn't be standing in the middle of the road.

Depreciation. Fairfax vs the NSW Police

We're back with Josephine Tovey from the SMH and her silly Greens-based story on the Police water cannon.

THE state's $700,000 water cannon is rapidly depreciating in value and has still never been used, new figures show.

The four-year-old device, a large black truck that can carry 12,000 litres of water which it fires from its roof, is depreciating at 10 per cent a year, according to figures provided by the Police Minister, Mike Gallacher, in response to budget estimates questions on notice from the Greens.

Gee, that sounds terrible! A police vehicle is depreciating at 10% per year! How shocking that the Police should allocate $70,000 a year for depreciation out of a total Police budget of $2.68bn this year and $3.2bn next year!

Let's just gloss over the fact that she totally stuffed up the initial cost of the water cannon - it was $472,000 rather than $700,000. Instead, let's look at depreciation and  how it works at Fairfax.

For starters, Fairfax Media allocated $114 million for depreciation last financial year. That is 1,628 times more than Josephine imagines the Police allocated (and 2,425 times more than what the Police actually allocated).

Fairfax based this depreciation on $722 million worth of property, plant and equipment. Josephine was horrified that the cops are depreciating the riot truck at 10% a year, yet if you divide $114 million into $722 million, you find that Fairfax are depreciating at over 15%!

And it's not only physical assets that get depreciated - intangible assets like tradenames (eg, the Sydney Morning Herald) may also need to be depreciated or amortised. In this case, Fairfax are amortising some intangibles at 5% per year.

Don't show the above to Josephine - Fairfax are depreciating websites over 2 to 4 years, which implies a depreciation rate of between 25% and 50%!

Long lived physical assets of course get depreciated at low rates over extended periods. Printing presses get depreciated over 20 years by Fairfax, but if Josephine keeps writing like this, they'll be worthless in much less than 20 years.

The above numbers are all in millions of dollars. Josephine was horrified that the Police are writing off $70,000 per year on a truck - Fairfax wrote off $27 million on software, and $74 million on plant and equipment.

Even worse, Fairfax wrote off $649 million worth of mastheads, goodwill and customer relationships last year. That's nearly 1/4 of the entire Police budget, yet Josephine doesn't appear to have noticed this massive depreciation at the core of Fairfax.

Crap like this is possibly responsible - plugging Earth Hour at the expensive of balanced news coverage.


So what area caused a big slab of these write offs? That's right - "Metropolitan Media", which I imagine includes The Age and The SMH. Metrepolitan media was written down by over one quarter of a billion dollars last financial year - chew on that, Josephine.

Josephine, if you bother reading your own annual report, you might notice that the number of individual shareholders has dropped from 50,843 in 2007 to 37,974 at the end of the last FY - a 25% plunge. The number of people who think Fairfax has a future is depreciating just a bit slower than the Police water cannon.

However, your share price has dropped even faster than the water cannon - plummeting from $4.36 in 2007 to $0.98 at the end of the FY (and $0.85 today).

Ponder that, you financial illiterate.

Untangling the ownership of EarthHour

According to the 2011 Annual Report from WWF Australia, Earth Hour is a  "grassroots environmental campaign that had its humble beginnings in Sydney in 2007."

Grassroots? How can it be "grassroots" when it was conceived and run by a major multi-national media corporation and a huge muti-national environmental outfit?

WWF Australia Annual Report 2011

 According to Wikipedia:

Earth Hour was conceived by WWF and The Sydney Morning Herald in 2007, when 2.2 million residents of Sydney participated by turning off all non-essential lights.

The Wikipedia entry also notes that:

The Australian, a competing news outlet, said that journalists at Melbourne's Age newspaper claimed they had been pressured not to write negative stories about Earth Hour because of the parent company's sponsorship arrangement. The Australian went on to say that on April 10, a statement from the journalists claimed that "Reporters were pressured not to write negative stories and story topics followed a schedule drafted by Earth Hour organisers".

What exactly is the "sponsorship arrangement" that Fairfax Media has with Earth Hour?

A quick delve into a few years worth of Fairfax annual reports shows that it is a lot more than a "sponsorship agreement". Fairfax Media actually owns 33% of Earth Hour Limited.

Fairfax Annual Report 2011

 And Earth Hour Limited first showed up in the Fairfax annual report in 2009.

Fairfax Annual Report 2009

The annual reports don't provide any breakdown as to the revenue, expenses and assets of Earth Hour Limited.

Search result for Earth Hour annual report
And funnily enough, although "Earth Hour Limited" is listed as a company that Fairfax has an interest in, I can't find an annual report for it anywhere.

Whois Lookup for earthhour

The WWF registered the domain name, so I tried searching through their annual reports as well - no luck. They talk about Earth Hour as an event, but report nothing about it financially. 

WWF key management personnel compensation

What I did discover from searching the WWF reports is that the top three managers at WWF Australia took home total compensation of just under $500,000 between them last year - that's from a total income of $19.4 million for the entire organisation. In other words, the top three managers creamed off 2.5% of all donations. Also, they took home a whopping $65,000 more in 2011 than 2010 - a 19% pay rise.

If you divide the total package by three, it comes to an average of $165,000 each. However, we know that the CEO will be getting more than the other two, and by my reckoning, that puts him into the top 1% of Australians. Who knew that the ranks of the fat cats would include the CEOs of small environmental organisations like WWF?

Anyway, to get back on track, all we really know about Earth Hour limited is that it is 33% owned by Fairfax Media. Everything else about the company is secret squirrel. I wonder if the usual SMH blather about Earth Hour 2012 will include a disclaimer that Fairfax owns 1/3 of the operation?

I doubt it.