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The Correspondent March-April 2003 PDF Print E-mail
The Correspondent
(Journal of The Foreign Correspondents' Association)
March-April 2003


Newsletter Index FCA Honours 'Thorpedo'
Champion Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, known to his legion of fans around the world as Thorpedo, has been named Australia's Face Abroad for 2002. The new award, chosen by members of the Foreign Correspondents' Association, was announced at a special ceremony in Sydney on January 22.
The presentation was made by Sydney Lord Mayor Frank Sartor who gave the award to Ian Thorpe's mother, Margaret. Thorpe himself, who was competing in Europe, appeared via a video link-up from Stockholm.
"This is a great honour," Thorpe said. "To represent the country in sport is one thing but to win an award representing all of Australia is the ultimate accolade".
On his return to Australia Thorpe more than repaid his debt by giving a press conference at the Sydney Media Centre - his only media commitment during his sojourn.
Ian Thorpe
FCA Honours 'Thorpedo'
The swimmer, who defeated 15 other prominent Australians to snare the Face Abroad gong, told a packed room that he was delighted to accept the award.
"I feel very honoured to be on the same list as these other people voted on and even more pleased to have been chosen as Australia´s Face Abroad", he said.
The award is for the person who, in the opinion of the foreign press, best represents Australian culture, attitude and ideals -- and someone "who gives an insight into Australian society, the Australian people and the Australian way of life".
FCA members chose Thorpe from a shortlist of 15 nominees, including Bob Brown, Richard Butler, General Peter Cosgrove, Russell Crowe, Alexander Downer, Malcolm Fraser, Cathy Freeman, Lleyton Hewitt, Peter Hughes, Barry Humphries, Thomas Keneally, Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue, Greg Norman, and Karrie Webb. Both Nicole Kidman and Malcolm Fraser scored well in the voting, but were clearly outclassed by the 19-year old world champion from Sydney.
"Ian Thorpe is a good first up winner of this award," said FCA president Agneta Didrikson. "He is athletic, honest, fresh faced and reflects Australian values, at home and abroad. It is well deserved."
At the Sydney Media Centre, Thorpe was asked if he had any career plans after retiring from swimming. "I hope to keep on swimming until the Beijing Olympics, but you never know. I will only go on if I still like what I am doing", he said. As for life after the pool, Thorpe said he was toying with a number of possibilities but had not yet made up his mind. "I want to find an occupation that I can be as passionate about as I am about my swimming," he said. Apart from his swimming and media commitments, Thorpe has also launched a trust to promote better health and education among young people in Australia. The Fountain for Youth Trust is now working with indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

Newsletter Index Remembering Russell Spurr by John Tulloh
One of the FCA's founding members, Russell Spurr, died in Sydney on December 20, 2002, aged 80. His career in journalism spanned 65 years with a break for wartime duty with the Indian Navy.
Russell settled in Australia in 1985, moving here from Hong Kong after an extensive and adventurous international career of chasing, reporting and analysing the news.
Contrary to modern opinion, Russell demonstrated that a university education was not essential in order to succeed in journalism. He began his career at the age of 15 on the Brentwood Gazette near his hometown in Essex, England. Three years later he joined the Grimsby Evening Telegraph.
Russell and Rosemary Spurr, John Tulloh
Russell Spurr and wife, Rosemary, with John Tulloh
World War 2 intervened and he wound up in India where he joined the Indian Navy. After the war, he returned to Grimsby before moving on to the BBC. But it was far-flung places which really interested him. His career was to take him to Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, India and Canada before he made Australia his home.
Russell became the Far East correspondent for the London Daily Express during its heyday under Lord Beaverbrook, covering the Korean War, Dien Bien Phu and the rising nationalism in South East Asia.
He then moved on to TV, including a stint as a producer/reporter for ITV's famous World in Action weekly documentary series. He scandalised Hong Kong with an expose of what many of the locals regarded as the unthinkable: police corruption.
It was China with its Communist rule and Cultural Revolution convulsions which really interested Russell. He became a China-watcher and, unlike many of his brethren, managed to get access beyond the Bamboo Curtain for first-hand reporting and even filming.
Russell became the Hong Kong bureau chief for Visnews (now Reuters TV), covering China, the final years of the Vietnam War and the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. He then moved back to print journalism to become deputy editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review, also based in Hong Kong. In later years, he published several books on Japan, Korea, China and his own autobiography. Russell suffered a stroke four years ago, confining him to a wheelchair. But he continued to write and some of his articles appeared in magazines worldwide. Each day he searched all the major news sites overseas to stay in touch with the commodity which had dominated his life. Many FCA members will have happy memories of the annual summer party hosted by Russell and his wife, Rosemary, at their Killarney Heights home. The last was to celebrate 50 years of marriage. Russell is survived by Rosemary, and their three sons.

Newsletter Index President's Report by Agneta Didrikson
There have been some big changes over the last few months. The FCA has launched a new website, taken The Correspondent online and found a new home in the city. Whew!
I realise that some members do not entirely agree with these changes - indeed, there are mutterings that the FCA is becoming "too corporate". Others accuse the board of losing its political independence; one member even complained that I should not have been photographed standing next to Alexander Downer.
There have been complaints, too, that some of our events were not properly advertised. Or that the speakers are boring or not newsworthy. Some members want more social events, others want more newsmaker lunches.
Despite these criticisms the FCA has, in fact, hosted a wide range of speakers, launched the Face Abroad Award and continues to represent the interests of correspondents.
The death of Ann Oakford left a huge gap in our organisation. Rebuilding has not been easy, but it is happening.
Our new executive secretary, Nina Fudala, has worked tirelessly to establish an up-to-date members' database and re-organise our finances. The board, too, has been highly energetic. Remember, they give up their valuable working hours to write invitations, seek out sponsorship, produce a newsletter etc.
But there is one mea culpa. Everyone agrees that the Christmas Party was hugely disappointing - believe me, we have learnt from this mistake.
Far more serious are suggestions that the FCA has in some way "sold out" to corporate interests by forming an alliance with the Sydney Media Centre. There is, in fact, nothing sinister about this arrangement. As you will all know attempts to secure a base at the NSW Parliament came to nothing. Peter Higgins and Kathie Melocco stepped up with an offer to use their new facilities in Park Street. No agreement was signed, no fees changed hands. The Sydney Media Centre does not have access to the FCA database - neither does it represent the FCA or its members. Should a future board decide to hold its functions elsewhere it will be free to do so. In the past the FCA raised money by holding lunches, but for the past couple of years these have run at a loss. To survive, the FCA must learn to be leaner and hungrier. Corporate support (from suitable companies) is one way, but we also need new members - hence the recruitment drive and wine offer on page one. More than anything else the FCA really needs the ideas, energy and support of its existing members. Rather than standing on the sidelines, why not pull on the boots and get stuck in yourself? Whatever you can offer will make a difference.

Newsletter Index Messing around in boats by Paul Cotton
"Send it down, Hughie, see if we care" is the cry of those who tramp the sodden hills of New Zealand.
It was heard again on Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day when FCA members took advantage of a new relationship with the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia to man the media boats for the start of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart yacht race.
Paul Cotton, Sir Edmund Hillary, Lady June Hillary
Paul Cotton with Sir Edmund Hillary and Lady June Hillary at the launch of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race in December.
Photo credit: Urs Bucher
The Sydney Media Centre had christened its new premises with a pre-race briefing organized by Rolex who are the new sponsors for the famous race. Skippers and crew from the most favoured maxis gave FCA members the inside word on prospects and plans.
The big news was that Rolex Ambassador, Sir Edmund Hillary, was to start the race and on December 26, 2002, he fronted up to FCA members in the briefing tent at the yacht club.
Retired as bee-keeper, mountaineer, Antarctic explorer and diplomat and presently Knight of the Garter and philanthropist extraordinary for the Sherpa people of Nepal, Sir Edmund was as chipper as on the day in 1953 when he "knocked the bugger off".
It's 50 years since his ascent of Everest and Ed told us he will be in Kathmandu on the actual anniversary day. Celebrations will follow in London, New York and Chicago. The Hillarys boarded the start boat and the FCA yachties were placed on a number of sturdy fishing boats. Your correspondent was aboard `Wahoo' and we were positioned abeam the start line when Sir Edmund fired the brass cannon.
The boom of cannon fire was sufficient to rouse Hughie far above us, he swung into action and the heavens opened over our heads. The leading yachts soon proved to have the legs of `Wahoo' and we raced towards the Heads just astern of `Alfa Romeo' from New Zealand and `Canon Leopard' from the United Kingdom. Peter Higgins of the Media Centre, in a swish blue striped shirt, was soaked first by rain and then by spray and spume. All the while he delivered a splendid commentary on events for the TV camera before him. Urs Bucher, dressed Swiss style in a heavy-duty parka, showed his agility managing two cameras while swinging from the rigging in heavy seas. Above us on the flying bridge Captain Ahab pressed on well outside the heads in a mounting gale until we were concerned he might taking us to the Derwent River instead of Rushcutters Bay. Finally Peter cried `Enough' to the skipper. We huddled, steaming in the cabin and thought of our President who had mentioned that she was looking forward to the champagne and oysters on the start boat. What was she missing? Another great FCA experience.

Newsletter Index Posing in Phnom Penh by Mark Chipperfield
Anyone harbouring Quiet American fantasies should don a crumpled tropical suit or close-fitting silk dress -- and head for the Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom Penh.
While the rest of Cambodia lurches from one crisis to the next - most recently anti-Thai riots over ownership of the Angkor temples - the FCC shows no signs of flagging.
Offering a second floor eyrie overlooking the wide brown expanse of Tonle Sap, the FCC bar and restaurant is the perfect place to catch an afternoon breeze or sink into a deep armchair with a copy of The Cambodian Daily.
In a city famous for its superb cuisine, the FCC may not be the best or cheapest place to eat, but it is convenient and friendly; and the beer is always icy cold. So popular has the FCC become with the backpacker fraternity that its British owners have now opened a branch office in Siem Reap. FCC Angkor, a stylishly converted consulate building with an `outdoor dining terrace' and shopping arcade, is more Conran than correspondent, but nevertheless well worth checking out.
Located on Pokambor Avenue, next to the Royal Residence, FCC Angkor is the perfect place to chill out after a torrid day tramping around the temples, wat?
Facilities at the Phnom Penh FCC are also being upgraded, with a larger upstairs restaurant and a downstairs patisserie-cum-internet café.
Old timers, however, can rest easy. The FCC's famous long bar (which once supported the likes of Ernest Hemingway), clubby hotel rooms, swirling overhead fans and all-day English fry-up remain the same.
Only the hotel tariff has changed. Expect to pay between $US45 and $US65 a night to stay in one of the three bedrooms on the first floor. All have ensuite bathrooms, comfortable beds, telephone and computer (with online access), mini bar and daily laundry service; everything for the correspondent on the move.
Would-be Fowlers and Pyles should be warned, however, that these days real journalists are about as rare as Cambodian roads without potholes. That said, the FCC is still a great place to see and be seen. It also has the advantage that even if your motorcycle driver speaks no English he will certainly understand the word `FCC' and know how to find it. For more information: The Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia, 363 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; phone 855 23 210142 or www.fcccambodia.com

Newsletter Index Turning green in Tasmania by Agneta Didrikson
"Clean air and water and power from hydro and wind," David Crean, Tasmania treasurer.
"Mining and logging and dam-regulation is still dominant in the state," Christine Milne, former MP and environmentalist. Five members of the Foreign Correspondents' Association were invited by Brand Tasmania, an arm of the State Government, to Tasmania in late January to examine Tasmania's image as `the clean and green state'. We started in the state's northwest corner at Woolnorth Windpark, where six turbines from Denmark now produce clean power.
Before the year is over there will be 36 turbines and in a few more years the full park will consist of more than 70 turbines. The power will then be `exported' to the mainland through a new cable under Bass Strait.
Along the north coast we saw Dr Carey measure the world's cleanest air at Cape Grim Air Monitoring Station. But she was not allowed to give an opinion regarding global warming, Kyoto Protocol or greenhouse emissions. Interesting!
James Boag's Centre for Beer Lovers
Left to right: Jimmy Pozarik, Joelle Dietrich, Agneta Didrikson, Corina Juergensen, Sid Astbury in front of James Boag's Centre for Beer Lovers at the 1820's Tamar Hotel in Launceston, Tasmania.
Handmade paper in an old paper mill (Burnie) and paper sculptures to excite tourists led us to the `Killing Daisies' -- a natural insecticide is made from pyrethrum daisies and supplies 30 per cent of the world's demand.
At Field Fresh in Devonport we found out the difference between brown and red onions and why Tassie onions were so in demand in Europe and Japan. While in Launceston the boys from the city's Boag Brewery tried to turn us into beer drinkers.
Did you know that the Tasmanian abalone industry turns over A$125 million and provides for 25 per cent of the world consumption? We also learnt about the illegal trade in abalone and the state's poachers.
One apparently got 18 months jail and a fine of one million dollars a few years back. Tasmania is a very inventive place. One of the interesting things we were shown was an `Old Mac', not a new hamburger but a special new boot for horses. Designed by former farrier Dave Mac Donald this specially designed horse boot has special shock absorption qualities.
Instead of metal and nails, the Old Mac is a Nike running shoe for our four legged friends. The New York Police force is going to use them after a 12 month trial and they are going fast in all the European countries!
So, the answer to the question is yes -- this state has a lot of clean and green industries. But we did not see the other side of the medal -- the threatened wilderness nor the logging areas.
FCA members who went on the trip were as follows: Agneta Didrikson (Scandinavian Financial Press), Sid Astbury, (DPA), Joelle Dietrich, (Le Figaro), Corina Juergensen, (freelance Germany) and photojournalist Jimmy Pozarik (freelance USA).

Newsletter Index News in Brief
Journalists protest against Mugabe: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has protested to the International Cricket Council (ICC) over their declaration that Zimbabwe is a "safe venue" for cricketers, while ignoring a pattern of violence against media and journalists.
IFJ President, Christopher Warren, says the current arguments about the Cricket World Cup go beyond the choice faced by individual cricketers and their personal safety.
"We cannot ignore the fact that journalists who work in Zimbabwe, whether covering cricket or not, face intimidation, threats and prosecution if they fall foul of the government," he said.
The IFJ has also protested strongly to President Robert Mugabe about attempts to force sports reporters coming to Zimbabwe to sign gagging orders that will stop them reporting on events other than cricketing activities.
Freelance Convention 2003: The annual Freelance Journalism Convention, organised by the Walkley Foundation, will take place in Sydney at the Y on the Park Hotel, April 4-6, 2003. Final details are still being worked out, but the convention always attracts good speakers and lively panel discussions. For more details contact Amanda Hendry, National Events Co-ordinator at the Walkley Foundation, on 02 9333 0918. See www.walkleys.com for more details.
Sander honoured: The Dutch-born journalist Sander Thoenes, killed during post-ballot violence in East Timor during 1999, has been honoured by The Overseas Press Club of America. Thoenes, a journalist with the London Financial Times, received a posthumous citation in the OPCEs Hal Boyle Award for his reporting from Indonesia and East Timor.
Victory over Telstra: A small win for the FCA in its ongoing battle with Telstra's Internet arm. BigPond, our previous service provider, has finally removed the old FCA website from the Internet. And it only took four months! Since this was achieved with only five telephone calls, two faxes, a letter (never acknowledged) and several broken promises, we probably got off lightly.
 
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