Response, at last, but not so freely

Response, at last, but not so freely

It's been a month but Institute of Public Affairs freedom fighter Chris "Luxem" Berg has finally - sorta, kinda - responded to CBD's queries about whether or not legal action against two journalists by Australia's richest person, Gina Rinehart, has any consequences for freedom of speech.

To recap, "Heidel" Berg has written a mighty tome on the importance of free speech but didn't seem to have a lot to say about Rinehart's lawsuits, which could see The West Australian's Steve Pennells and BusinessDay's Adele Ferguson jailed if they refuse to give up their sources.

On Saturday night, under questioning from Fairfax Media reporter Ben Schneiders, "Ham" Berg sprung into action on Twitter to elucidate his position - although the resulting stream of tweets left CBD's tiny mind slightly confused.

After initially saying he had "avoided talking about this issue to avoid any suggestion of impropriety", "Ice" Berg went on to ask, in his usual hipsteresque all-lower-case: "would it be a free speech issue if i were subpoenaed? i'm not a journalist. what applies to journalists should apply to all."

"You still won't state what your position on the issue is. As an author on free speech that's gutless," Schneiders responded.

"i've said you're conflating privileges with free speech. i can't defend shield laws according to my own model of free speech," "St Peters" Berg said. He also urged Schneiders to read his book, which apparently explains everything.

Dutch wind

Australian tycoons trying to hitch a ride on Julia Gillard's palanquin into China might want to take a few pointers from Ditlev Engel, chief executive of the world's biggest wind turbine maker Vestas.

The turbine-trim Dane had an inside role when state-owned China Merchants floated the very first "red chip" stock in Hong Kong back in the early 1990s. Engel's mainland boss "taught me to be strategic, to keep an eye on the long term". That can be tricky, though, when your stock sinks (80 per cent from its highs) and your company holds 24 board meetings in a year, as Vestas did in 2012.

Part of the problem is China. Dozens of companies have flooded the turbine market, sending prices tumbling. Oddly, about a third of new turbines are yet to be plugged into the Chinese grid such has been the torrent.

Vestas' China unit - notably 100 per cent owned by its parent - has resisted joining the fray, betting many of its local rivals won't survive. The Danish company also has an edge not enjoyed by US and European makers of solar photovoltaic panels that have seen China snatch most of their markets. At 250 tonnes a piece, shipping turbines all the way from China is pricey. And technology advances are likely to see even bigger blades in the future - such as Vestas' V164, triple the weight, with a rotation area the size of three soccer pitches.

Tilt at that.

Sleep at the G

The nationwide festival of corporates sleeping rough isn't confined to the St Vincent de Paul Society's CEO Sleepout (see CBD, last Tuesday). Melbourne's most famous sporting ground, the MCG, is also to play host to executives - and others - dossing under the stars for charity.

As of lunchtime on Sunday, Bank of Melbourne chief executive Scott Tanner was the leading fund-raiser for the Sleep at the 'G event, which raises money for Melbourne City Mission, with $3900 pledged.

His supporters include Bank of Melbourne director and business veteran Elizabeth Proust, who has pledged $500, Sportsgirl owner Naomi Milgrom ($500), Amcor director Graeme Liebelt and the Beck family's Beck Property Group ($1000). The event is open to all comers and is on April 18.

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