Vital story struggling to get out

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 12:00am

A media invite rolled through the Business Post fax machine yesterday.

'Real-Time Webcasting of Signing Ceremony', screamed the title.'Skynet Teams with Chinese Youth Communist League and Kite Network to Explore China Market'.

It informed biz reporters that the press conference was scheduled for today. A strange feeling of deja vu swept through the news room.

On September 4, an identical missive summoned hacks to an identical event scheduled for September 6. The press gang was to visit Skynet's Wan Chai offices to witness the Beijing ceremony via satellite video link.

But the next day a fax headed 'Rescheduling of Press Conference' arrived, blaming 'technical problems in the installation of satellite and bad weather in Beijing'. There would be a 24-hour delay.

But another day brought yet another delay, and the conference meandered down the calendar to September 11.

When that date came, so did a fax, headed 'Cancellation of Press Conference'. There was a brief apology, but no explanation.

A mere three hours elapsed before the next press release.

Omitting any reference to the mistakes of the past, the firm again promised reporters a chance to experience 'Real Time Webcasting'.

But by then, Lai See had begun suspecting that the 'ebc' should have been removed from that last word.

Pulp friction: Lai See's Melbourne agent spotted a familiar face at the World Economic Forum yesterday - our very own ex-legislator Christine Loh.

She was involved in a panel discussion on 'sustainable development' - how to make Asia less fetid.

Kicking off the discussion was Richard Pratt of Pratt Industries, who just built an eco-friendly pulp factory north of Sydney. Australia's a nice, clean place to live, he said. But it could use more dosh. Why don't we get some of those smart Chinese businessmen to move in and make it a nice, clean, rich place to live?

The premier of New South Wales (also on the panel) then chimed in that there were already loads of Chinese entrepreneurs all over his state and that his wife had just learnt Hokkien.

Christine then piped up. Shouldn't we be looking for ways of making Asia a better place to live, she ventured.

Mr Pratt merely chortled.

For those of you who've been using the wrong definition, 'sustainable development' is a verb meaning 'to get rich spewing filth into the environment and move away when it gets too gross'.

Whitewash: Lai See just returned from London. There we saw something that surprised us.

It was a shop. But not just any shop.

This was the Freemason's gift shop. There it sat, right out in the open, in the shadow of a Masonic temple.

What happened to the shroud of secrecy, the coded greetings, the web of intrigue?

The mysterious organisation's gift shop window was aclutter with masonically logoed ties, cuff links and golf balls. Also the 'ballot balls' they use when voting candidates in or out.

If everyone drops a white ball into the box, you're in.

But if an enemy decides to oust you, a black ball seals your fate.

Whole packages of the things are now available in the gift shop. They're sold in sets of 10. There's just one slight problem. All of them are white.

So you can go through the motions of democracy, but there's no way to vote out an unpopular person you don't want.

Lai See suggests that the Government pick up a few million sets for our next round of elections.

Graphic: whee14gbz